Wednesday, April 25, 2007

From the Snake Oil Department

Tonight my wife brought home one of those ladies magazines full of self-improvement schemes targeted at desperate women of the type who are not in the habit of thinking things through clearly.

The titles on the cover featured articles designed to help women lose "winter toxins" (toxins??? name one), another about how to make a "yummy slimming treat" which appeared to me to be a banana cream pie (I think the secret must be to make it and then give it to someone else to eat, who will then become fatter than you), and another article on how to "Drop one pound every day!" Last I heard, that accomplishment would require about a 3500-calorie deficit per day for the duration. It would be tough to do for someone who requires about half that total that on a daily basis.

Inside was an article under the title "Too busy to exercise?" (I reply to anyone making such a claim that the president of the United States is not too busy to exercise — so what's your excuse?)

There's a picture of an apparently "busy" lady lacing up a new pair of sneakers, Earth Shoes, said to "give wearers major health and beauty benefits." (Beauty too? From sneakers? Oh my, how impressive. Eleanor Roosevelt, may she rest in peace, could have used a pair in her day.)

It goes on to say: "Women (apparently not men as well) are able to reduce cellulite, build calorie-burning muscle mass and alleviate back pain, all as they go about their busy days." Amazing. I'm sure you're itching to know how this is accomplished so you can get a pair, and be done with this arduous business of having to run for miles every day.

Okay, I'll tell you then.

The secret is the shoe's "negative sole." (I know there's a pun itching to be given birth in there, but I'll resist.) "The shoe's heel rests lower than the toe box to simulate walking uphill at a 3.7-degree incline. The advantage: double[1] the butt and thigh toning (I'm sure they checked the figures), plus a 25 percent greater calorie burn compared with walking on a flat surface — but without the huffing and puffing of climbing a mountain." Well thank goodness for that. You wouldn't want to get all huffy puffy and tired from exercise, would you? What's the point of that?

If you believe that, then I'd like to talk to you about buying a bridge I recently acquired and am willing to pass on for a bargain.

Interestingly, this so-called "negative sole" performs exactly the opposite function as the $385 custom podiatrist prescribed orthotics both my wife and I have worn daily in our shoes since 1996, which are designed to raise the heel a bit in order to take strain off the achilles tendon.

In an unrelated sidebar on the same page, under a title that says "Smile file" is this quip: "There's one thing that's really great about waking up early, and it's not jogging or greeting the day — it's just that that's when they make doughnuts."

I'm not making this up. Perhaps the lady who wrote that can "tone" her butt and thighs wearing the Earth Shoes in an early morning walk to the doughnut store to pick up a dozen to eat before leaving for work?


Matt Curtin said...

It seems that many women's magazines are essentially the followup to the omnipresent Seventeen, which to its critics is known as being about nothing but hair and makeup.

Interestingly, not all teen magazines were quite the same. Just this week, NPR had a
discussion with the author of How Sassy Changed My Life. Hearing the callers on the show talk about the magazine and its influence on them.

In fairness, a comparison could well be made to various magazines that cater to men. There are plenty that carry the headline "washboard abs" and so on apparently every month. Of course, there is also the sort of thing that is uniquely male, what seems improbably ever to appear in a women's magazine, "Sixty Things Worth Shortening Your Life For" (as an example) from this month's Esquire.

One question that seems worth considering is how seriously such things as tips on diet and style are meant to be taken. That is to say, if it's written to be (and taken as) a guilty pleasure used to unwind, what's the harm?

Travis said...

"Too busy to exercise" means a few things to me. Too many extra non-productive things like reality TV and inability to park more than 25 feet from the door of the place you are going to.