What’s wrong with this picture? The obvious answer, thanks to my Perez-style arrows (which is why you will never have to worry about me photoshopping anything on this site), is that this “health” segment on Oprah’s website is sponsored by Hersheys. Not that there is anything wrong with a little chocolate indulgence now and then (or, you know, daily.) But calling it health food and stamping it with Bob Greene’s “Best Life” seal of approval seems disingenuous at best. I’ve done Jillian Michael’s diet and exercise routine and let me tell you, chocolate is nowhere on the list of approved foods. All the trainers on The Biggest Loser will tell you that you may eat a bag of m&ms but then you may also get kicked off at the end of that show for not being committed enough to your health.
But I have an issue that goes beyond dubious corporate sponsorship. Read the actual text, taken from an Oprah segment interview with the trainers from The Biggest Loser.
Question: If you could do one exercise for the rest of your life, what would it be? Why?
Jillian Michaels: Running because – although I hate it – it’s most effective at making my butt smaller.
Bob Harper: I love to run so it would be that. It is a great cardiovascular exercise and a great calorie burner.
Both trainers give the same answer – running – and yet for wildly different reasons. The female trainer would run even though she has said time and again that she hates it. With all the exercises out there to chose from, why would she condemn herself to an eternity doing the one that she despises? Because it makes her butt smaller. Apparently hell is treadmills and skinny jeans but no Spanx.
On the other hand, the male trainer not only picks what he loves doing but he does it because primarily it will strengthen his cardiovascular system and enhance his long-term health prospects.
Jillian Michaels is exceptionally dedicated. She has already proven her will to lose weight and her willpower to keep it off at all costs. According to all the statsitics, she is an abberation, albeit the abberation we all wish we were. But what of the rest of America, as in the women who sit in their living rooms and watch The Biggest Loser? What kind of message about exercise does it send to them and to their young daughters, also watching and learning about what it means to be a girl?
To me it says that exercise is to be hated but must be done anyhow because you are nothing if you have a big butt.
The results of my “Why Do You Exercise” survey came in close, with 35% of the nearly 700 respondents answering “Yeah, I say it’s primarily about my health but I love that it makes me look better too.” while 29% of you answered, “It’s mostly about my looks – the health benefits are just an added bonus.” I’m wondering now though how it would have panned out if I had asked people to specify their gender.
I am inclined to posit that the trainers on The Biggest Loser are representative of our society as a whole. That men are more inclined to think of exercise in terms of its salutatory benefits – and thereby are more likely to make it a life-long endeavor – while women are taught to think of it in terms of our, ahem, bottom line. Most men will continue their weekly pick-up games even if their waistline doesn’t shrink because they are having fun reliving high school glory days and smacking each other on the rear (kind of not socially acceptable in the office.) While many women will opt to do a form of exercise they don’t necessarily enjoy (anyone else see in the stepmill a modern-day Sisyphus paralell?) and then give up in frustration when the desired proportions are not achieved. Studies have shown that people who exercise primarily for their looks are more likely to get discouraged quickly and less likely to stick with it over the long term.
In addition to the message perpetuated by Ms. Michaels, women are also treated to the alternate Hollywood view of exercise, courtesy of Alessandra Ambrosio, Victoria’s Secret model and mother of 3-month old Anja. When asked how she regained her world-famous body so quickly after childbirth she replied, “I only do yoga once a week or so, but that’s it for now.” So exercise is to be endured in order to gain a svelte figure. Unless it doesn’t work and then you should sue your parents for losing you the genetic lottery. Now I’m depressed.
Which is probably why Hershey’s sponsored the interview.
Your thoughts? Am I remiss in generalizing the opinions of two individual people to the population as a whole? Is there a gender difference in how the sexes approach physical fitness? Does this approach differ because men & women often see radically different results from the same workout? And who wants to smack Alessandra Ambrosio now??