May 14, 2012

Good Looks (not health) Motivate Our Behaviour

You may be wondering why I have this pic here.
If more health promotion messages were about
humour and fun and less about the seriousness
of cancer and other chronic diseases...I have a
feeling more of us would actually be influenced
by the messages....don't you?
As I sit here contemplating life, my thoughts move into the explanations and motivations of health behaviour (yet again). I was thinking of tanning, skin creams, anti aging herbs, exercises for our "Aunt Edna's" (a.k.a. triceps; that's what a client of mine used to call offense to the Aunt Edna's of the world), and all the diets, powders, programs, and people out there with the answers to every beauty and aging concern going.  What really drives our health behaviours? Is it our desire to prevent disease? No. How about our need to feel energetic and alive? Nope. I know, what about the chance of living longer? Naaaaah.

What we do and what motivates us is really all about the search for beauty.  Think about it, why do we go on the StairMaster for an hour? If you answered, "for the health of it"...I would challenge that one. It's to lose weight so we can look good in our pants. Why do we continue to tan under sun lamps and on the beach? Not for our mental health but to obtain that "healthy" looking glow.  Why do we pay through the nose for cremes, powders, masks, and pills that promise youth in 4-6 weeks? You got it.

So if we know that the promise of beauty overrides the need for health...why are our health promotion messages all about health? I know walking down the street is better for me, but these high heels I"m wearing will kill me so I take the car (beauty before health). I know that 20 minutes of cardio is enough for positive health benefits but I do 60 minutes (beauty before health). I know drinking water, getting my sleep, and eating well will make my skin look better, but I buy the creme that promises the disappearance of fine lines and wrinkles instead (beauty before health). I'm sure you're picking up what I'm putting down.

So how could we, as health promoters, market the usual (in my opinion boring) health messages in a way that exploits our desire for beauty? ...You got me. I've seen advertisements for carrots marketed with swimsuit models or in ways you only see in energy drink ads. Could you imagine if a Sports Illustrated model was all over the Canada's Food Guide (like Paris Hilton was all over a burger from Burger King...remember that?) Health Canada wouldn't keep that guide on the shelves. Or if broccoli was marketed like a Guess Jeans commercial? The grocery store would be out of stock (get it....stock?).

What a fabulous thought. There is more research now suggesting that our traditional health promotion messages do not what does? What if the health promotion industry hired the slick advertising professionals that work their magic on the things that do us harm like energy drinks or weight loss meds.

I think health promoters need to rethink how they market health. We need to make it sexy, alluring, attractive, and seductive to the consumer. We need to make the idea of healthy behaviour sexier than the alternatives. We need to touch the deepest desires we all have; to look beautiful, to be successful, and to be loved. No matter who you are, we all share those desires. If you don't, you are wearing a cloth robe and sandals on your feet.

In the meantime, I'm heading to the gym to do something about my own Aunt Edna's (oh, and I can't forget to pick up a jar of miracle anti-aging cream on the way home).....kidding.....sort of.



  1. But it is the BEST feeling to look into a mirror naked and say hot damn. And I can only do that because someone (KC) taught me how to eat, rest, relax and just be..... Thanks Kathi

  2. I'm so glad you feel that way about your results, K.

    I would love to take the credit for your success, but the reality is you were ready to do it and you did it. I just provided the suggestions and template for action.

    ...but you can continue to tell everyone I'm fabulous and effective...I won't stand in your way.