Friday, 28 December 2012

'Tis the season... to lose weight

With Christmas out of the way, and weeks of solid advertising preaching for the season of gluttony, it's time to feel the guilt. What sin! How could you? How could you eat two Christmas dinners and a box of chocolate? What you need now is a diet. But, don't even think about fresh fruit – no, what you need is the best in diet foods: low-fat cake, low-fat yogurt, low-fat ready meals. And don't waste time walking around the park – get a gym membership instead. New trainers, new trackies, new you. That's what you want, isn't it? A new you. A you you don't feel guilty for being. Purge away your sin and spend in the Church of Consumerism. Because you are not a person if you don't.

Every year is much of the same. Every year we are bombarded with the same message: 'tis the season. Somewhere along the line, the festive season went from celebrating love and life to celebrating stuff. Television, news, interwebs, people – everything is telling us to consume as much possible, be it food or stuff. Telling us that without such purchases, Christmas will be a disaster. Telling us not to let our loved ones down. And this line is embedded, one only has to look at the mothers among us to see the stress of ensuring everyone has the perfect Christmas.

But as soon as the day of eating too much food is out the way, the ads switch on us. The very same mediums that were telling us to eat as much as we could, now tell us we've all put on a few pounds. That we've let ourselves go and we simply must lose weight. If we don't, we're undesirable. They're making us feel guilty for doing the very thing we were so encouraged to do, but they're pretending to be on our side all the time. They're offering us guidance and a hand to help us through the difficult transition into that Better You.

In my inbox this morning I found a direct hit. LA Fitness encouraging me to 'join the new year's health resolution' (which, admittedly, I read as 'revolution' the first time. I don't know if that's my dyslexia, or if they engineered it themselves). The tagline reads: 'Start achieving your health and fitness goals today'.

I don't know about everyone else, but I was still on the 'let yourself go' part of the festive season; drinking beer and eating seconds. But it seems I'm supposed to stop eating in time for the next set of festivities: new year's. As we enter into 2013 I need to set myself some new rules for being a better person, and advertisers the world-over are promising to help.

LA Fitness isn't the only company encouraging a change of tact. The diet industry thrives off our insecurities, and this is a great time of year to hit out. It stayed quiet for a couple of weeks, giving us all long enough to eat more than we would usually, to ensure we're primed and ready to purge.

Happy holidays.

Follow Pennie Varvarides on Twitter @superpennie 

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Sustaining sustainability

It seems we've all hit a bump in the road. When the idea of sustainability started creeping up, it was logical and as such its spread made good sense. Picture your fair trade coffee or chocolate bar. People started taking responsibility for the way they ran their businesses and started looking at the long game.

See, if you run a businesses unsustainably, well, that's just it; it's unsustainable. You can't keep damaging the earth, for example, 'cause at some point it isn't going to be able to produce what you're willing it to produce. You can't keep digging stuff up and throwing it away, 'cause you eventually run out of stuff.

It's like going into your kitchen and seeing the cupboards are full and gorging, for days. At some point you run out of food. And at some point you need to restock. We'll what happens if you can't? Say somebody blew up Tesco or something, and that was it, no more. All gone. Destroyed. 

(Ok, maybe the Tesco analogy isn't really up there with clear and distinct bits of prose, but I'm just going to keep talking and hope you're following.)  

Nonetheless, the idea that actions need to be considered in terms of the possibility of it being able to be sustained over time, is great. Real great.

Now, at some point, this became another buzzword. It's a word people throw out there to feign green credentials ('green' is also one of those buzzwords. Like 'up skill' and 'solution'.) But it isn't even just that the word struggles to really mean anything anymore, the word also seems to drum up moans from the masses. The masses who class it all as voodoo or a trick, like wanting to make things last is crazy talk from hippy sorts or witches. It drums up distrust, as though somebody made it all up. Like it's just a theory and the environment is fine - and heck, who gives a crap anyway, right? It'll last longer than me, so what do I care?

All this social responsibility lark is hard work. Energy and materials are expensive, water is essential and recycling takes too long. And don't forget in our beautifully capitalist society we must all worship money and not waste it on frivolous activities, such as preserving the environment. The environment is just there to be raped. Screw the animals, screw the poor and screw our future generations. The world is over-populated anyway.

But the thing is, we don't really have a choice. Or, I guess we do: try and slow our demise down, or try and speed it up.

Sustainability isn't just about the planet and our futures and happy-clappy crap like that. It can also save you money. And one of the saddest things ever is that to get people to do good, you have to bribe them with cash. But whatever, it works. Maybe the reasons aren't so important, when the outcome is so great. So people, weighed down by the crushing costs of energy and governments trying their hardest to make life harder, are slowly getting used to the idea of sustainability; but differently this time. Because the first time round it was all exciting and loud and boomed of its importance, and this time it's almost automatic. Almost. Kids dropping waste in the right bins without thinking, office slaves not over boiling water on the tea runs and finance directors dishing out the upfront costs for energy efficient measures.

People are doing it. Slowly. But we really need to step up our game a bit.