Do you ever wonder “how did we get here – and how do we think it’s ok?!”.
Watching the morning news at the gym and it occurs to me that the round of commercials that I’ve just been subjected were all indicative of just how twisted our “normal” society has become.
Now, if something here offends you, I’m sorry that you’ve been offended. Not that I’m sorry I’m saying this, but that it doesn’t sit right for you. The truth hurts sometimes and my experience as a personal trainer and lifestyle consultant over the years has shown me that people will put a lot of passion and energy into defending their right to be unhealthy and make poor choices for their goals. Enough about that for now though…
Here’s what my two-minute commercial break showed me…
So… The ads on the news break consisted of Cialis (erectile dysfunction), Stressless.com (an online forum board, “counselling” options, product sales for items to help ease your stressful life etc), an ad for a new depression medication (with enough side effects to make depression sound pretty good actually compared to what the pills can do to you), adult incontinence pads, a new diabetes meter that gives you a light indicator as well as the number of your blood sugar (green is good, red is bad). And lastly, an ad for a sleep apnea clinic and nightly mask.
All this in two minutes or so. Enough time and enough input to make any person realize that what is being served on a platter to the general public is the portrayal of our society as one that is impotent, stressed, depressed, incontinent and diabetic. Nice snapshot…and not an inaccurate one sadly.
Something else that struck me is the actor portrayals in these ads. Every one of them showed the intended subject as an average mid-age looking person. The man needing cialis was probably around 40. Healthy and fit looking, active in the commercial and with what looks like a loving, romantic relationship (certainly made more so by erections on demand). The incontinent women were almost all under 50ish and disturbingly happy about wearing pads to pee in because “pee happens!”. The diabetic was a mother of young children with no noticeable weight issues (she did mention she was adult o nset type)… so “normal” looking.
What does this say? It says that normal is dysfunctional…and it’s ok. There’s a pill for that, there’s a gimmick to help with that. You aren’t shown a realistic version of who these items are for. That would maybe make you feel bad.
Now, granted, there are people who – through no actions of their own doing – have issues that need to be managed. Diabetes that is Type 1 is a horrible disease that can’t be cured and it’s a blessing that medicine has made the gains needed to mostly manage it. Depression and other forms of mental illness are a serious issue that, many times, needs medication to keep the person safe and help them get better. The impact of stress on our lives can be devastating and that is something that, sometimes, we have no control over. Bodies go through physical changes caused by age or occurrences that result in issues that need to be dealt with. All true.
But… and here’s what bothers me… these ads give the message – quietly – that it’s not your fault. See, it seems to say, healthy, fit, active people have all these problems so it’s not your fault that you have them too. What they don’t show is the reality that most of these issues are a result of people making poor choices and choosing to do the easy option. It’s so much easier to take a pill and give yourself injections and watch your blood pressure climb (it’s ok, there’s another pill for that too) rather than to change your eating habits and get off the couch and away from your desk for walks. Why start being more active and take personal responsibility for your health when you can just be lazy and indulge yourself in bad habits and then settle for a life lived less than what it could have been. Can you have a great life while living with limitations? Yes, absolutely. But can you have more options and more avenues open to how you experience this life and what you get to do if you are healthier and not dependant on medications and sleep masks and everything else that keeps you tethered? Yes, absolutely!
I’ve seen enough people who have become free and clear of years-long issues they thought they would never be rid of simply by working to lose weight and get more active and change their eating habits to know that a lot of times – that’s all it takes. Chronic snoring (even apnea) can greatly lessen or even disappear when weight is lost and blood pressure is back to normal. Pre-diabetic test results can turn around with diet and exercise changes. Incontinence can, many times, be “cured” by pelvic floor exercises. The options are there.
It’s hard work to push yourself when you don’t really want to. A fast food meal from the drive through is easier than making something at home. A couple of chocolate cupcakes might be more appealing than yogurt and fruit for snack time. Sadly, our culture has decided that it’s better to pander to the masses that want a way to manage the consequences of their own inaction or poor choices than it is to enable people to make changes.
That what I saw in my two-minute commercial break.
Now back to your regularly programmed life. Try to not settle for less than it can be.
Loved your post, sadly, it is dead on the money.
Marketting is such a powerful tool that is used without much regulation and ,as you pointed out so well, can be very destructive in turning illness into normality.