Beauty And Fitness Adverts: The Fine Art of Preying On A Bad Self-Image

IT’S the job of advertising to capitalize on human insecurities, primarily focusing on easy targets surrounding our desire to fit in and look good.  This is the Achilles ‘Heel of our psyche, chinks in the armor of rational thinking.   If an advertiser attacks these zones, it’s an assured victory – especially in the world of beauty and fitness products.


048_Stop Eating


“You know why she’s wearing the sweatshirt, don’t you.”


Yes, because she’s horribly ashamed of her body, even though she looks perfectly fine the way she is.  Unfortunately, thanks to ads such as this, girls like her will feel the need to “Stop Eating” (as the ad instructs) and become permanently self-conscious.  And if this advert doesn’t fully crush her self-esteem, the rest of the magazine will finish the job.

“Because right now, you’re a little overweight, too.  That’s bad.  This year’s bathing suits hide nothing.  Unless you start losing some, you may spend your summer in a sweatshirt, too.”

Holy s**t.  Can the makers of Shape be any overt in their plundering of a woman’s self-consciousness? This is basically an advert for bulimia and anorexia.  Each container comes with a measuring spoon and a razor blade.


shape detail


I hate to break it to them, but when you’re ingesting a shake, that’s technically still considered eating.  It’s free of much of the nutrients in real food, but it’s still eating.

Of course, there’s always the possibility you’re too skinny – in which case you’ll need another type of shake…


015_Put some junk in that trunk


You don’t see ads like these much anymore.  These days, there’s no such thing as “too skinny” – the more you look like a malnourished pre-pubescent heroin addict the better.  A few decades back, however, women had to be in that “sweet spot” – the narrow zone between too fat and too skinny.




“Convalescents recovering from colds, flu and other minor ailments usually find Wate-On’s extra calories beneficial.”

Finally, Wate-On is no longer available only for the bed ridden.

“You sure are popular since you put on that curvy weight”

Gain weight and get popular; thankfully, popularity has nothing to do with personality and character.  Although, I do wonder if her newfound popularity might have more to do with her micro-miniskirt and nipple declaring shirt than with her extra pounds of fat.  Just a thought.




“If you’re otherwise healthy but skinny, scrawny rundown and lbs. underweight, try correcting this common mistake in eating.”

What’s this common mistake?  Apparently it’s not getting Vitamin B1, calcium phosphate and iron.  It’s as simple as that!

“You may find that by correcting this simple mistake in eating you can easily add firm solid flesh”

Why is it that we human beings are so easily lured into diet plans based on flimsy, unscientific gobbledygook?  It seems all you need to do is throw in a few vitamins/minerals or other nutrients (amino acids, anti-oxidants, fiber, etc.) into your pseudo-health plan, and we take the bait.




“I wouldn’t be seen with that scarecrow”

Lest you be under the impression that advertising capitalized solely on feminine insecurities, this insert from the ad above demonstrates that men carry their own share of baggage, and are just as susceptible to the pressures of looking “normal”.   I think it’s no coincidence the brand name is “Numal”.

Of course, men have hang-ups other than physical girth to worry about.  A full head of hair is a must in our quest to look Numal  normal.




“There are over 7,000,000 men and women in America today that suffer from some correctable hair and scalp disorder.”

So, baldness is a scalp disorder?  And it falls out, not due to genetics, but because we don’t use the right hair conditioner?  It all makes sense now.

I think it should be noted that Head Start made a rather odd choice in the male model department.  He is clearly balding and has greying mutton chops.  What the hell?

The nice thing about beauty and fitness products is that there will always be a bottomless well of physical attributes available to capitalize upon. Just as baldness is a prime weak spot for men, breast size is for women.


003_My Romance magazine (July 1974)


“I gained 1 ¼ inches in 15 minutes!”

Really?  All it takes is a magical “Hydrotherapy Contour Cup” and some enchanted “Beauty Breast Crème” and you can have bigger tits?  Those poor women who underwent expensive surgery – we should really get the word out about this miracle!

Oh, wait.  You mean this is complete and utter nonsense?  You’re telling me that this is all lies, fabricated to line someone’s pockets with cash?  I should have known…. I’ll just buy the crème then.




If there’s one thing better than feeling good about your own physical appearance, it’s making other feel insecure about their own.  After all, what good is your bronze tan if it doesn’t turn your friends into pasty white self-haters who envy you?  The ultra-violet light will no-doubt result in an early death, but the leathery brown flesh is worth the self-loathing and covetousness it inspires in others.


018_Fat women are not attractive on the beach


And finally, we come to the mother of all snake-oils: the diet in a pill.  No exercise, no medical procedures, no diets – just pop a tiny little pill.  Diet pills not only prey on our irrational desire to always look “perfect”, but also our very human desire to avoid hardship.  But the funny thing is, these actually work.  You lose weight and actually have the added bonus of having more energy.  There is basically no downside…. unless you consider cardiogenic shock and cerebral hemorrhaging downsides.  You see, almost all of these diet pills were straight up amphetamines.


113_Screen and TV Album March 1978_0009


“Look after your figure (or no one else will)”
(Author’s translation:  Lose weight, or no one will give a flying s**t about you.)

The Firmaloss Plan pretends to be a plan, but really it’s just a bottle of nitrogen-substituted amphetamine analogs.  It comes with a book and an exerciser, but you can throw them both away.  The main thing’s the amphetamines.

Yet, for my money the best diet plan isn’t swallowing a pill, it’s pleasuring yourself in the tub…


104_Womans World October 1974_0003


“For a totally new, exquisitely pleasurable experience, use this subtle, stimulating exerciser.  See how quickly you tone and trim your entire body.  Using Sen-Shu is so pleasant you aren’t even aware it’s working as you squeeze and press against it.”

The Sen-Shu Exerciser for the win!   That’s “Sen-Shu” as in “sen-su-al”.    In mankind’s long history of quest to take the easy road to looking good, there has never been a better marketed easy-fix.

“Some people call it ‘the magic of the Geisha House’.  It’s not magic, but the Japanese are clever – and have you noticed how few of them are fat?”


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