Equinox’s ‘Skinny Fat’ Awareness Ad Wants to Control Your Mind

Thanks to a helpful tipster, we get a chance to deal with this charming ad tonight. You can always rely on a very expensive palaestra such as Equinox to ignite whatever tinderbox of social insecurities or paralyzing hypochondria you've managed to suppress just long enough to feign confidence while you're surrounded by people grunting, gyrating, running, and performing the ant-like task of moving weighted steel from one place to another. "Skinny fat" crassly refers the physiological phenomenon by which a woman (since the poster clearly isn't targeting men) has large amounts of visceral fat, which, unlike subcutaneous fat that she might grab with her hand, i.e. fat that's visible and palpable, is buried deep within the abdominal cavity where it pads the empty spaces between her organs. Visceral fat, moreover, is thought to pose increased health risks such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and increased risk for future gallbladder surgery because of its proximity to vital organs.

That's what the phrase "skinny fat" refers to, but this ad refers to something very different. The model — undistinguished except for her gauntness and carnival-mask of bangs — hides her limbs behind a giant red circle. She seems ashamed, hardly displaying the self-confidence advertisers have strained to associate with such lithe people. A woman that thin? Isn't she supposed to be merrily spooning yogurt into her mouth or eating a crisp salad? The phrase "skinny fat" undermines all of a viewer's expectations for what it means in the advertising world's hall of mirrors to be so skinny and throws that person, who's so far bought into the warped physical ideals propagated by fashion, fitness, and celebrity magazines, suddenly off balance. "Skinny fat," as a phrase plastered over a thin model, only pays lip service to good health because its real aim is to make anyone who happens to spot it feel self-conscious enough to renew a gym membership or pay for personal training sessions.

While the ad does hint — feather whisper, really — at preserving actual good health, concerns about serious health risks stemming from something like an abundance of visceral fat are things for people to discuss with their doctors, not with some former Nordic bodybuilder named Fjord. But obviously, this isn't a new issue, so let's all get in a time machine back to 2007 and consider a passage from the Jezebel Manifesto:

4) THE AFFIRMATION CRAP LIE If women's magazines have done their job, if they have kept your attention and your subscriptions and you have devoted precious hours to consuming it, you are probably unlovable. You wonder whether Mischa Barton is skinny-fat, and whether you, too, might be skinny-fat (or simply fat!) You are insecure about things you probably didn't know it was possible to be insecure about. (Are you an effective cuddler? Find out in June'sCosmo, page 132!) (No, actually really! It's a real story!) You fret that your lipstick is bleeding and your fine lines are deepening and that during oral sex you might not be handling his balls correctly, and most of all, that you aren't projecting enough confidence, probably because your posture is bad. Is it any wonder that you now need affirmation that you are worth loving at all? Incessant reminders of what a goddess you really are? And that he is never going to love you if you don't love yourself. But wait, why should you love yourself? These magazines have made you boring as fuck!

Abdominal fat and what to do about it [Harvard Health Publications]