The Message Behind The Message

Last week I had another opportunity to speak about my book, Happy Calories Don’t Count (neither does unhappy exercise), on the radio. While I was waiting for the interview to begin, I could hear the program co-hosts discussing an important community issue. Apparently, there is debate regarding a potential advertising sign along some stretch of highway. One of the co-hosts was suggesting that this would be undesirable because, “who wants to look at advertising?” The other co-host didn’t think that a sign would be so bad, and he always thought it was fun to try to figure out how the advertisers were trying to influence him and elicit an action. He liked to discover “the message behind the message.”

This “message behind the message” is the point to which I’d like to draw your attention. Happy Calories Don’t Count is a revolutionary paradigm shift from the traditional model of diet, exercise and weight-loss. And this perspective can be very difficult to achieve and maintain because in our culture, the messages behind every weight-loss related advertising message are the same: Your body’s shape and size is a sum total of calories consumed and burned. Losing weight or getting in shape is a lot of work. It is hard. It is painful.

I recently saw an ad for a weight-loss product, which focused on a pint of ice cream. The ice cream filled most of the page and the copy below read, “One pint equals 2,500 stairs.”  Another memorable ad plays off the more psychological and spiritual approaches to weight-loss. It featured a girl who thought she was losing weight because she was following a “wish diet,” but in “reality” she was losing weight because she was eating this particular tasty and filling snack bar. Various weight-loss programs claim to help you succeed because they alleviate the stress of losing weight by sending you pre-packaged and pre-portioned food.  Or they offer you meetings for support. Advertisers continually tell you that such and such is a desirable snack item because is only has so many calories but still tastes like dessert. Personal trainers can hold you accountable, while other fitness programs claim to deliver results by making exercising fun and easy.

I have no issue with any of the aforementioned products or services. My issue is with the fundamentally flawed weight-loss paradigm that is continually perpetuated in the message behind their advertising messages. Weight-loss is not a matter of balancing caloric intakes and expenditures. Weight-loss is not hard or painful. Weight-loss comes about easily and naturally from being in a state of alignment. When we can remember this, we, like my radio friend, can also find amusement in the “message behind the message,” and no longer be a slave to it.