It’s 2021 – why hasn’t Hong Kong caught on with body positivity and body acceptance? It’s time to talk about this city’s body-shaming ads and body image issues.
It’s summer, and I’m groaning. Half of me is getting so hyped for junk parties, yet the other half is grimacing as I look through the swimwear catalogue. Because I can’t picture myself looking picture-perfect in anything – not with a body like mine.
What if my cellulite shows? What if people find my flabs disgusting? Why am I so flat-chested? And yet my legs are so chunky? Why am I so bloody fat?
I believe I’m not alone in asking these questions, and having all the negative self-talk. While weight loss commercials exist everywhere in the world (problematic ones at that too), the frequency and degree of infiltration of those in Hong Kong may be second to none. Nobody in Hong Kong can escape the pressure to diet and be thin, thanks to the advertisements for weight loss and beauty procedures plastered all over the city. Oh, and don’t even get me started on how many of these ads there are in the MTR. With this dieting fad starting locally in the early 2000s, imagine how much indoctrination we’ve had over the past two decades?!
This sort of commercials are simply everywhere. They come home with us by appearing in magazines and on TV, constantly reminding us about weight loss.
The next station is: Perfect Shape
The product itself seems… fair enough. It seems to focus on enhancing performance, claiming that the product increases fat-burning during exercise. The issue I have with it is the slogan: I want to be healthy; I want to burn fat. It’s so repetitive during dinner time that I don’t even feel like eating anymore. Also, please repeat after me: burning fat doesn’t equate to being healthy. Burning fat doesn’t equate to being healthy. Burning fat doesn’t equate to being healthy. It’s important, so I have to say it thrice.
Don’t get me wrong, though. We all know being overweight can both be a sign and a cause of some detrimental health issues. So, by keeping our weight (and fat percentage) down, we can indeed avoid certain health risks. Plus, exercising is always beneficial – kudos to the brand for endorsing it (especially because many brands don’t tend to do that, as you shall see later).
Having said that, does having as little body fat as possible always make us feel happier and healthier? Not necessarily. I mean, if you’re a passionate body builder or an athlete, I salute you. But chances are, some of you reading this right now may very well have coped (or be coping) with some sort of insecurities about your body. And if you’re ‘unlucky’ (like me), these insecurities could have manifested in physically damaging ways, like obsessive calorie-counting and excessive exercising, or even developing eating disorders.
Promoting unrealistic body types
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Posted by 維特健靈 Vita Green on Tuesday, July 7, 2020
According to this magazine article, this model is 170 centimetres tall and weighs 104 pounds (or 47.1 kilograms) – that means her BMI is 16.3, which is severely underweight. If she’s naturally thin and happy with her body, that’s great. But, what’s the point of having a model advertise for a weight loss product when she’s already thin to begin with?
Is this the worst body-shaming ad ever?
This five-minute advertisement appears on YouTube regularly. With its clever animations and storytelling tactic, I always end up finishing the entire ad, even though there are so many red flags along the way. And you don’t need to understand Canto to know what’s going on in the story either: the guy finds his wife fat and unattractive, thus he cheats on her with a slimmer (and therefore ‘sexier’) woman. The wife swears to avenge by losing weight (huh?! Am I watching some sort of tacky TV drama?). But even after trying countless ways, like exercising and spending tons of money on treatments, she fails. That is, until her friend recommends this product to her, stating that these pills made her lose seven kilograms without dieting or exercising. Boom. Is there a tapeworm or something in your stomach? ‘Cause that just sounds unhealthy and super unrealistic.
Stop it, get some help
Nevertheless, I’ve never actually tried any of the products in this article, and whether they work or not isn’t my point today. The problem lies in the way these products are incessantly marketed: targeting insecure and impressionable people, promoting unrealistic body images, and putting down bigger bodies. While this issue had already been raised to the government over a decade ago, few things seemed to have changed – but who’s to blame? And what can we do, as regular citizens?
On a final note, if any ads make you uncomfortable, and if you believe the values they endorse are toxic to the community, feel free to speak out – whether it’s messaging the businesses in private, or reporting them to the authorities in charge of the platform such as the Communications Authority. Hong Kong still has a long way to go in terms of body positivity and body acceptance, so in the meantime, don’t let the body-shaming get to you!