It had been a tremendous Christmas week. Pork, chicken or duck? I decided I liked all three at the same time. New York cheese cake? It tasted just as good on Day 3 as it did on Day 1. Ham off the bone? Yes please.
It was so bad it was good.
I knew, however, that I was sliding inexorably towards that annual tradition: “The Body Issue”. Women around the world know exactly what I am talking about. Our bodies truly are an issue. Because we are told so. And women’s magazines are here to help. They dedicate their first edition of each year to inspirational stories designed to help us shed those extra kilos.
There are so many options available. I could buy New Weekly’s “How stars lose fat fast!” or OK! magazine’s “Lose 7 kg in 6 weeks”.
Yet there is a particular thrill in Who magazine’s 30 page body special. This is because the Half their Size edition has been an annual tradition for years, via its affiliation with People magazine in the United States.
I am part of Who’s core target market of women aged between 25-54 years who buy this edition each year. According to a June 2014 Ipsos MediaCT survey, I am also one of 917,000 readers likely to devour its slimming stories. That such a significant proportion of the female Australian population assimilates the messages of a woman’s magazine, tells us something about the influence these stories can have on our sense of self.
Time Inc., the publisher of People, spruiks that the Half their Size double issue debuted in 2002 and is one of the brand’s most popular franchises. Featuring weight loss and body transformation stories, the aim is to “inspire our audience” (and make a few advertising dollars) “without the use of surgery or gimmicks”.
Well, that may be so, but there are a few photographic tricks deployed to make our ordinary slimmers enhance the visual appearance of their dieting success. No, this is not photoshop. It is all about the posture, gym clothes, hair, facial expressions and make-up.
As I piled sponge cake, custard, cream and jelly together to make a trifle of truly stupendous proportions, I started to turn the pages of Who’s “Look at us now! 12 week challenge”. Surely it wasn’t the sherry I was ‘tasting’ as I slugged it into the cake. There was something remarkable about the slimmers. Every single one of them was on tiptoes in their ‘After’ photo.
Is standing on tiptoe so remarkable? After all, we all stand like that. Not!
Less noticeable was the contrast between the gym gear in the ‘Before’ shots (eye popping shades of vivid colour) against what almost everyone wore in the ‘After’ shots (invariably black or grey). Backs were arched, arms were bent, hair was blow dried, and almost no one faced the camera squarely. Could it be that there was more than met the eye to these slimming success stories?
So with trifle safely completed and in the fridge (with a few healthy berries on top to kick start my New Year’s resolution), I decided to give the ‘Before’ and ‘After’ shots a go.
Here is my ‘Before’ shot. Apologies for the lack of a selfie stick but no one gave me one for Christmas.
Here is my first ‘After’ shot. Visual weight loss of approximately 2 kilos. I have done this by pulling my gym pants up.
Now I have changed into a dark gym top. I am also trying to master Sophie Age 31’s pose of standing on tiptoe on one leg and bending the other from the knee. This is a serious gymnast’s routine and I cannot hold it for longer than 3 seconds. But I do like how my torso has lengthened. Visual weight loss of another 2 kilos.
Time for a full length pose. This should help me accomplish my visual goal weight of losing 7 kilos in 60 seconds. I am standing on tiptoes. Trust me on this.
For those seeking to increase the degree of difficulty, here is my advanced posing master class. In the same edition of Who, Ricki-Lee tells us that she wants to be a “hot sexy bride” whilst lengthening her torso courtesy of one arm folded behind her head. I try it.
I cannot remember ever speaking to anyone, whether in a business meeting or casually, with my arm posed in this way. What would people say if I did so?
Who’s cover also displays Jennifer Lopez in her ‘After’ picture with both hands clasped together above her head. She looks great. I wonder whether, if I addressed a judge in court standing in this position, it would prove (a) distracting or (b) impressive.
All up, people can deploy tricks of the trade to improve their appearance as much as they like. However, the line between ‘to inspire’ and ‘to crush’ is a fine one when it comes to a woman’s sense of self. It would have been wonderful to celebrate some very successful weight loss stories with a ‘Before’ and ‘After’ comparison which was, well, a true comparison.
In any event, at least I can share with you an impressive weight loss secret. As long as you wander to the fridge on tiptoes, with your arm behind your head and your elbow bent, perhaps it may not matter what you eat!