What these get-rich-quick schemes are to moneymaking, the psychic hotline is to love and relationships. People who are just too dumb to be able to get a date by themselves use the psychic hotline. Apparently, people also use psychic hotlines to determine whether their spouses or significant others are cheating on them; even worse, many of these folks believe that psychic evidence is the same as solid proof. (I'm just guessing here, since the only research I've been able to do on the subject involved watching an episode of a Springer-esque talk show titled something like "Madame Sheila Helped Me Catch My Unfaithful Spouse in the Act.") I would be worried about all the marriages being broken up by telephone psychics, except that people who call psychics and pay 10 dollars a shot to find out whether Bubba's sleeping around probably shouldn't be breeding anyway.
The worst of these schemes, though, are those weight loss programs populating every cable channel from the Food Network (as if!) to the Cartoon Network (which is creepy). These commercials that insist you can lose weight immediately prey on people who already suffer from low self-esteem, regardless of whether they're actually overweight or not. Many of us probably know perfectly thin or at least average people who are convinced that they must lose 50 pounds in order to look good. These commercials just feed their obsessions with weight loss. Weight loss schemes seem worse to me than get-rich-quick schemes and psychic hotlines: they appeal to people of average intelligence who have a weak spot.
Even people of average intelligence apparently start losing IQ points when those weight loss commercials air. That's the only explanation I have for why people end up buying these products. For instance, watch the commercial for the 24-hour Hollywood diet. Go down a dress size in a day! From what I understand about this particular diet plan, it actually does work. At least, it works for as long as you drink only that dismal-looking diet beverage and consume no food whatsoever. Apparently, the moment a real morsel of food lands in your mouth, that's it -- you gain all of those pounds right back. The pounds probably go straight for your thighs, too.
Similarly, there's some sort of metabolism adjustment pill that claims to change your metabolism, so that you burn more calories. Again, the second you're off the pill, the weight comes back.
Let's not forget the "healthy shake twice a day and a sensible meal" diet, either. That one, I believe -- I've actually had one of those shakes, and they taste so horrible, I'm sure you lose weight just smelling one. If you're a real masochist, or you want to lose a lot of weight, drink the orange-pineapple flavored shakes. They'll make you vomit, which is a surefire way to lose weight fast. Why, just listen to the testimonial of any bulimic.
My favorite weight loss scheme involves the electronic device that you strap to your flabby parts. The device then delivers miniature shocks that turn the fat into lean muscle. Riiiiiiiight. The commercial insists that you can lose weight while sitting at a desk or watching TV (although they didn't mention whether or not you could eat potato chips while you flip channels).
All these commercials highlight several things that are wrong with our culture. For one thing, the emphasis is on speed. Not speed the drug, although I understand that some of those diet pills do mean it that way, but speed as in immediate gratification. The fact is that, unless you have a real medical condition that causes obesity, you can lose weight through long-term diet and exercise. Long-term means that you have to keep it up longer than the run of the Winter Olympics. Even though we all know that effort and sacrifice will create the results we want, what we'd rather have is a fast, easy way. So we embark on these endless quests for the ideal diet, the one where you aren't in the least tempted to eat a box of chocolate chip cookies for a midnight snack and you don't need to exercise beyond the daily "where did I hide the remote?" workout.
The men and women in these ads always look exactly like the kind of hard-body athletes you've always hated (you know, the ones you envy and simultaneously feel superior to since you know you outperformed them on the SAT by several hundred points). The focus on being as skinny as possible isn't a healthy thing for most people. We should strive for good health, it's true, but somehow I doubt that long-term good health will be delivered via "a delicious chocolate shake for breakfast and one for lunch" or electro-shock treatment for your love handles.
One aspect of good health that's completely ignored by weight-loss commercials is mental health, which, it's easy to forget, is as important as physical health. Almost every image on television tells us that super-skinny is the only way to be, but any health professional will tell you differently. We're all different, and sometimes learning to appreciate the way you are is healthier than fighting an endless battle against your dress size.
Although if you're happy drinking chalky diet drinks and shocking your stomach as you type, don't let me stop you. It's your gullible life. *