Laurie Toby Edison

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Imaginary Solutions for Imaginary Fat Girls

Lynne Murray writes:

I started out to write about how we have this “let’s fix it” mentality around real health issues and I went looking for a great country western song, “The Talkin’ Song Repair Blues” by Alan Jackson.

But I got sidetracked on Amazon (which now sells cosmetics? Don’t get me started!) when I saw a product called FatGirlSlim by Bliss. Okay, the words Fat Girl got my attention. As Groucho used to say, “I resemble that remark.” ”

I’m sure the words “fat girl” mean something different to me than they do to the fatphobic women buying this product.

It’s a “slimming cream.” Yeah. Uh-huh.

Turns out it’s a cream. (WARNING: This link will take you into the belly of the beast of fat-fear, so go there at your own risk.) The cream contains caffeine to rub into your thighs and make cellulite disappear. Yeah. Uh-huh. And I’m not even going to talk about using a “bliss stimulator” on your cellulite.

On the Amazon site we find six blissful testimonials from FatGirlSlim users, who found their thighs got all tingly and looked better after the thigh-owners paid $25 for six ounces of cream and rubbed it on their thighs daily.

I could be wrong, but my guess is that women who target cellulite are less likely to be what I would call fat and more likely to be average-size women with fears of fat in some particular area of their bodies. I say this because when women I wouldn’t call fat bemoan how fat they are, they often zero in on one particular area with the fantasy that a cream will make it all better. Many (if not most) of the cellulite-fearing are nowhere close to fat by any sane measurement. Their imaginary “inner fat girl” is sometimes being addressed here.

I wonder if these women are only allowing themselves to massage their “unacceptable” bodies if and when they pay $25 for a “magic” cream that will “firm” their thighs. Otherwise would they ever think about touching their thighs in a gentle manner? If they thought about it, would they allow themselves to do it?

Of course, they will feel better (as one does when massaged, whether by oneself or others). Getting in touch with one’s body is good, but it’s so sad to have to pay so much money for a few cents worth of cream and sadder still to have to assume a judgmental attitude in order to touch one’s own body at all.

Cosmetics Cop Paula Begoun, a source of common sense on many silly subjects in the beauty business, nails this strange hysteria about cellulite to the wall in her Report.

I adore Begoun’s reviews of some of the products that cosmetics companies create in order to coin money over this anxiety, for example the anti-cellulite sneakers by MBT ($234 for 1 pair) advertised in the Bliss catalogue.

“This takes the award for the most flagrant, misleading, and disingenuous ad copy I’ve ever seen–well, at least for this year. I know, it can always get worse. Bliss puts it this way: “Like an invisible personal trainer, they subtly strengthen and engage, increasing precious blood flow to ‘problem areas’ every moment you have them on…. They tone muscles, better your balance, improve posture, help varicose veins and … have been known to swiftly sack cellulite. One British reporter measured a 50% reduction in a month.”

Bliss doesn’t offer any explanation of how these shoes can possibly do this (versus any other running or walking shoe), nor do they quote research or any form of medical proof, give the name of the anonymous reporter (but she’s British so that must count for something), or even suggest how you’re supposed to use these shoes. Can you just sit in them and watch your cellulite dwindle? Or do you have to jog? Or is walking okay, and does it count on a StairMaster? Do you have to wear them every day, once a week, when you exercise, or just any old time?

Do I really have to state that these shoes can’t do what’s promised any better than any other exercise shoe? That there are women willing to plop down $234 for these shoes makes me wonder if people will ever be able to tell fact from fantasy in the world of beauty.

Um, that would be a “not never–well, hardly ever” on the fantasy from reality question. Fantasy is what’s for sale. (I’ve got to say though, I was intrigued by the idea of an “Invisible Personal Trainer” in the shoe catalogue copy: sort of like a cross between an imaginary friend and an imaginary drill sergeant.)

In her product review section, Begoun also takes apart anti-cellulite “fashion hosiery” ($15 a pair), containing a chemical that also is prescribed as “a bronchodilator used to treat the symptoms of asthma, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema.” Just reading about it I’m starting to hyperventilate without even touching the product! Not that they would make anti-cellulite fashion hosiery in my size anyway; it’s strictly for the anxious average-sized woman who wants to banish the imaginary fat girl within.

Oops! I never did get to discuss how the we-can-fix-it attitude relates to the way we look at our bodies. Another time!

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7 Responses to “Imaginary Solutions for Imaginary Fat Girls”

  1. Vicki Says:

    Sounds like they’re putting tea in the hosiery, which is hardly the most useful or pleasant way to ingest it.

  2. Siobhan Says:

    I once experimented with one of those anti-wrinkle creams you smear around your eyes. I found that the twice-daily experience of focusing in on those little imperfections in my skin really had the effect of magnifying them and making me obssess over them. The wrinkles didn’t change at all of course. But my perception of them changed dramatically, making them so much bigger and more important – obviously I was going to need to buy more cream!

    I threw the damn cream away. Now my face looks fine.

  3. Lynne Murray Says:

    LOL, Vicki, I agree, a waste of a good beverage!

    Siobhan, it’s interesting how so many things that are marketed to improve the appearance end up by intensifying the very anxiety that prompted the purchase to begin with.

  4. Tané Says:

    The bliss catalog has been showing up in my mailbox now and then and it’s insane — their cosmetics include a tiny bottle of olive oil for $50 or something — but I find the black-sandals version* of those shoes appealing. They look nice and solidly clunky but also kind of streamlined, and I’m curious what they would actually be like. I personally would not want to pay anywhere near that much for shoes, but the New York Times runs splashy ads for tiny high-heeled shoes that cost even more. Too bad the black sandals don’t go for $5 on eBay!

    * http://www.swissmasaius.com/product_detail.php?line=sandal&shoe=k_san05

  5. Laurie Says:

    I have this vague historical memory that “cellulite” as a fixable beauty pathology was invented by Coco Chanel.

    Tried to do a web search but (of course) all that came up were Chanel creams to fix it.

  6. Amy K. Says:

    I had the exact same experience: went looking on Amazon for something else, and all of a sudden saw FAT GIRL SLIM staring accusingly at me. I couldn’t quite parse out what made me so angry about it, and you’ve really done a better job of expressing it than I did.

    I also wonder if you can absorb the caffeine that you rub on your skin. I mean, will it keep me up at night? The Nicotine patch makes you hyper so this…

    This may indeed have a slightly firming effect, making nearly-perfect thighs look vaguely more perfect. Nonetheless, the Dove ads for a similar product featured women that were more MY size, who were large-format but tight (no cellulite — they’re still models, albeit plus-sized).

    There’s no way I could ask for “fat girl slim” without feeling like the bully of 5th grade was making me say it so I wouldn’t have to eat worms.

  7. Cantrix Says:

    Nah, caffeine’s not one of those things that can be absorbed through the skin or have an effect on the skin with topical application. Even if it *could* be absorbed through the skin it’d likely just have the same systemic stimulant effect as drinking a caffeinated beverage and not actually perk up your wrinkles or whatever. (Check Paula Begoun’s site for references.)

    If you are using Firefox, get the Adblock Plus and filterset extension. Since using that I have pretty much never seen any ads, and if you do happen to see one you can block it manually. It is nice to wander the intertron and not have to see ads for stupid weight-loss products. (Not like there are any non-stupid weight-loss products, but hey.)

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