For those who grew up in Canada in the 80’s and 90’s like myself, you likely remember those Body Break commercials. For those that don’t, I highly recommend that you look this up on YouTube, with the warning that you will be sucked into a time warp from which you will undoubtedly emerge blurry-eyed and delirious.
The Body Break videos were about promoting healthy lifestyles. Hosted by a dynamic couple – Hal Johnson and Joanne McLeod – they were decades ahead of the curve. Not only were they an interracial couple on TV in the 80’s (gasp!), but she kept her last name. Neither of these points was considered to be remarkable. Bless Canada.
Hal and Joanne were not about diets or cleanses. They showed you how to make inexpensive and simple healthy meals, the kind of advice that anyone from a teenager to the elderly could manage. By providing healthier options to our favourite snacks – and ones that do not require ridiculous economic investments or trips to special stores – they made food accessible for everyone.
They also promoted easy and fun ways to integrate physical activity in our daily lives, and in a sustainable manner. These were often not extreme physical activities, nor did they require expensive equipment or gym memberships. By touting the easiest physical movements – go for a walk! a run! skip rope! – they were making healthy activity open to everyone, regardless of class or financial situation.
There in lies the beauty of this innocent approach to health and fitness, which could only realistically have existed during the 80’s and 90’s. Would anyone engage with this approach to life in the age of fit moms, weight-loss shows, detox teas touted by Kardashians and celebrity cookbooks? Actually, perhaps the US would have never really engaged with the approach, which I get the impression was never particularly lucrative for Hal and Joanne. Not on the scale that public fitness figures would have made even back then. This really may have been a uniquely and kindly Canadian piece of art – a Canadian version of Richard Simmons minus most of the hair issues and the high endorsement fees.
In this day though, where body related issues are more actively fraught than ever, where girls in elementary school have body issues and where being a size 8 is considered ‘overweight’, perhaps we need to reconsider our approach to how we promote healthy ways of life. Maybe simpler is better.
Imagine this – major news outlet (American, for ease) is on commercial break, during the news hour because everyone records TV shows these days to watch later and skip the commercials.
On the screen appears a couple. Let’s keep them interracial, because there still aren’t nearly enough interracial couples represented on our screens. They’re cheerful and they’re fit. Not in a scary kind of steriody fit, but a normal fit, like they could do a handstand and help you move your furniture. They are cheerful and friendly. Approachable.
They chat about fresh vegetables and how you can eat local in cheaper ways. They discuss the health benefits of simple childhood activities like skipping rope, and give you some useable tips for office workouts that only take 10 minutes. They discuss how taking the stairs will make you feel like you accomplished a goal, and that sometimes it’s okay to cheat as long as you try harder the next day.
Can you imagine this? I can and it’s brilliant and accessible. Now imagine it playing in 30-second slots before those videos you watch on Facebook and Youtube. Maybe by bringing in something kind and gentle from the past we can change the body image issues of today.
As a final note, having Google imaged them before sending this off, I noted that these two look freaking amazing, and do not appear to have aged at all in the last 20 years. Clearly they are doing something right. Going to start a new fitness regime based solely on their commercials.
Ohhhh, Hal has a lasagna recipe that looks amazing. Be right back.
Keep fit and have fun!