Don’t Change the Channel

By Beth Ritchie of https://propergrownup.com/ 

I. Love. Infomercials. I can spend hours watching them. Despite working in marketing myself I am still a complete sucker for all the marketing tricks and can’t help but get caught up in the wonder of it all.

I saw one the other day for a CD compilation set called Romancing the 60s, promoted by an aging Hollywood b-lister. I was fascinated and lost at least 10 minutes to it. I mean, do people even listen to CDs anymore, much less buy them? How on earth was this product making money and who even thought of it? And the cleaning products which make wildly astonishing claims of efficacy, is there anything more satisfying than seeing the super clean versus super dirty before and after pictures? I don’t buy much, but it doesn’t matter, I just find infomercials completely captivating and can happily soak up their positive vibes all day long.

And not only do infomercials provide me with an endless stream of useless TV to watch, I also credit them with introducing me to one of my most loved pastimes, exercise.

I need to explain just how much of a big deal this is to me. I have always been on the rounder side and not particularly active. As a teenager I was the kid hiding in the bushes and having a fag on cross country runs and I got picked last for EVERYTHING, so I unsurprisingly didn’t get that “athletic” label like many of my classmates.

I once attempted to go to an aerobics class at the local church hall (this was before the days of gyms and studio classes) and was told to sit down because my face got too red, this put me off working out in public for life. And, while I did regular tap-dancing lessons, it wasn’t enough to turn me into one of those willowy dancer types, I was more of a clomper in my noisy, ugly shoes.

As a teenager I also read somewhere that the force of frequent running on facial skin creates premature wrinkles, and it scarred me for life, so that put paid to me ever running for pleasure.

I did jump on every workout craze going though, which in the 80s and 90s were plentiful. Reebok Step, Rosemary Conley, Billy Blanks Tai-Bo, and I can even remember puffing my way through my mum’s Jane Fonda workout, a cassette and book set which wasn’t the most convenient way to workout (what does she mean? Pause the tape, flip to page 75…). But none of these workout programs really stuck, I accepted that I just didn’t enjoy exercise, I didn’t understand people who did, and I was OK with that. Exercise just wasn’t my thing.

So, like many girls of the 90s/noughties I got through my 20s being skinny on a strict diet of vodka, coffee and fags, and although I wasn’t giving Kate Moss any kind of competition and was probably unhealthy in the extreme, I felt ok about my body.

But in my late 20s, I gained 5 stone with each of my pregnancies, and I had to do something about it because I felt I had lost all semblance of who I was. After my first baby, I lost the weight through strict calorie counting, which was completely successful and got me back into my size 10 jeans within a year. But when I found myself in exactly the same boat 3 years down the line, and now with a toddler as well as a new born in tow, I wasn’t sure I could put myself through the denial again when I felt like I needed cake just to get through the morning.

But one night, when up doing a 3am breastfeed (which by the way, did not help me lose an ounce of weight, despite all the books/health professionals telling me it would “fall off”, no idea why it didn’t work for me) and while munching through on an entire bag of Tesco Finest chocolate chip cookies (my breastfeeding snack of choice), I caught an infomercial for an at home workout programme.

They kept repeating that it was “the hardest at home workout programme ever made”. They said it over and over again, and it must have triggered something in my brain because I have never been one to turn down a dare. So, with baby attached to boob, his head covered in stray chocolate chips and crumbs, something inside me clicked and said, “challenge accepted”.

That was 11 years ago and getting up in the morning and pressing play on my workout has become as much a part of my lifestyle as having a shower or brushing my teeth. Yes, I am now that person. Someone recently even described me as athletic.

And not because I enjoy the actual exercise, urgh no way, I’m not a complete masochist. What I enjoy is the challenge. The pushing myself to see if I can do it, testing myself. This approach has made me love exercise which I now credit as not only keeping my body healthy, but more importantly my mind.

And I got all that from a single late-night infomercial. So, as the announcement of another UK lockdown means we’ll likely all again be spending longer in front of our TV’s, don’t automatically change the channel on the infomercials. They might just provide something useful, and, if nothing else you can lose yourself in the incredible non-stick qualities of the latest pan. And don’t we all need something to hold onto in these difficult times?

  • Don’t Change the Channel

    Beth Ritchie