This video starring Mariko Takahashi and various human actors in poodle costumes with superimposed dog heads was made by Nagi Noda for the 2004 Athens Olympics as part of Panasonic’s “Capture the Motion” program of short films on the Olympic spirit.
Noda, who passed away in 2008 at the age of 35, wrote in her artist statement that the way poodles’ hair is cut reminded her of the definition of human muscles. The surreal video is a parody of the Susan Powter “Stop the Insanity Workout” and over the years it has become an Internet sensation.
It’s a funny video on its own, one I can relate to personally, but it’s also a clever commentary on the culture of fitness — and I don’t mean the healthy, 30-minutes of exercise five-days-a-week culture of fitness; I’m talking about the insanity of fitness as obsession, as a way of life.
Nagi Noda, “Fitness Video For Being Appraised As An Ex-Fat Girl” (2004)
My first encounter with fitness insanity came in 2005 when, opening a glass office door, I stood facing a pair of perfectly round boobs atop Robocop pecs. The pecs belonged to a person who was possibly a female, but who, after years of workouts and hours of Photoshop manipulation, now resembled a cartoon: Microscopic waist, balloons for breasts, sleek muscle and shine, synthetic Barbie hair and a mass of Black-lit teeth.
The cartoon lady adorned the poster cover of a certain fitness magazine, one which built its reputation and popularity on the appeal of such creatures. This was my first day as staffer at the magazine. I was fresh out of journalism school and eager to work at any place that would have me.
The publisher often referred to the magazine as the “fitness bible,” and the banishment of so-called fat was its canon — its religion.
When I watch the “Ex-Fat Girl” video I recall those two years I spent 40-plus-hours-a-week reading and writing about mothers who described themselves as “former big girls,” who would get up at 4AM to strength-train for two hours before packing their families off to work and school, only to spend another hour concocting fat-free meals in especially designated coolers to lug to their workplace, which they would leave during lunch to do an hour of cardio at the nearby gym, and which they would hit again after work before picking up their kids from school.
The day would end with scribbling in their fitness log about the day’s exercise and their measurements and how badly they have been craving chocolate and how the “cheat day” (when they would allow themselves a sliver of pizza) was, thankfully, only days away.
Their weekends would be spent preparing copious rations of food — low in calories and high in protein — for their special coolers and their six kids and their one husband who is never in the kitchen and probably masturbating secretly, silently, methodically in his basement office to pictures of fat-free women with round breasts and silky hair extensions just like his wife’s.
When I watch the “Ex-Fat Girl” video I think about how we once sat in the office and lamented that one of the last remaining fitness models with natural breasts was going under the knife. (The unspoken beauty standard in the fitness industry is that the bra looks like crap when you pose with only your pecs to hold it. And after years of fat restriction you only have the pecs to show for. So you get implants.)
I also think about the two (or maybe three) special issues of the magazine titled something like No More Chub and Run, Fattie, Run!
I think of how we’d joke about the insanity of it all because if we didn’t joke about it we’d all hide in a fatty closet and eat donuts till we exploded.
I think of a former co-worker who was gorgeous (but?) overweight and who would spend ten hours a day on her computer making very slim women look even slimmer with Photoshop. And of the other former co-workers who happily traded their brains for the treadmill.
I think about myself in the shrink’s office not really wondering at all why the hell my eating disorder suddenly flared up.
I think of that woman with the magazine who lost a lot of pounds and wrote sermonizing editorials about other poor fatties and her own ex-fattiness. Or the guy who once wrote to us asking to be introduced to one of the fitness models because he “didn’t want no girl with fat deposits.”
I think about a beautiful, fit co-worker, the nicest girl the world, who went temporarily insane while training to compete in a fitness event. She was very hungry.
I love how composed and normal the “Ex-Fat Girl” seems, despite the wackiness of her universe.
I saw that look of serenity and superiority during my time at the fitness bible camp. I know that the “Ex-Fat Girl” is okay for now. She’s on the right side of fatness, she’s safe from it.
As long as she continues to over-exercise with her poodle friends, eat clean and keep a picture of her old chubby self as a reminder, she has a chance of staying safe, slim and insane.
- Jowita Bydlowska