8 Minute Read | by Gino De Blasio
It was a standout scene in the 1998 film, There’s Something About Mary. Ted, played by Ben Stiller was driving to Florida to find his high school prom date, with whom he still hadn’t quite gotten over.
In any other circumstance you could argue that this boyish infatuation was borderline stalker, but it was the Farrelly brothers (1). Their reign as comedy storytellers in the 90’s and early 00’s meant that they could make this heightened obsession seem particularly normal.
Tired, driving alone and being just a pleasant guy, Ted stops to pick up a hitchhiker who is clutching feverishly to his red duffle bag. Things get progressively worse, quickly.
The hitchhiker engages Ted in a conversation. It’s about an exercise video called, 8 Minute Abs. Ted is aware of the regime, he should be, in 1998 it was the talk of the fitness world and video rental stalls across America and beyond.
“This is going to blow that right out of the water. Listen to this: 7 Minute Abs . . . Think about it. You walk into a video store, you see 8-Minute Abs sitting there, there’s 7-Minute Abs right beside it. Which one are you going to pick, man?” The hitchhiker had a foolproof plan, worthy of the Dragon’s Den (2) it seems.
Ted, not being a fool replies, “I’d go for the 7.” The hitchhiker was happy, it seems that if Ted was to be an investor, he understood the business plan to a tee! But then Ted, being Ted quipped with his own business busting idea of ‘6 minute abs.’
“No! No, no, not 6! That’s crazy! Nobody’s coming up with 6. Who works out in 6 minutes?” The hitchhiker, whilst slightly unhinged, was also kind of right.
In the late 90’s the premise of short, intense, circuit workouts or better known as HICT (High Intensity Circuit Training) were going to revolutionse the fitness and diet industry. Cut forward to today, and we have people like, The Body Coach and Intensity’s Sean T showing the benefits of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), the difference, 8 minute abs was meant to be just that, 8 minute abs.
Yes, in 8 minutes (until you read the fine print and watch the video to be dismayed at the disclaimer that they want you to repeat the circuit another two times) you too, could have a body like Owen McKibbin or Gabrielle Reece (3). Let’s not mention anything about diet, genetics, injury prevention etc etc…
So in 2014, when the NY Times unearthed the power of, yes, you guessed it, 7 minute abs (some 16 years after the Farrelly brothers comedy of unrequited and semi-stalkerish love) it was a bit of a revelation to many within the health industry.
This is the equivalent of Bill Murray’s groundhog day in the fitness world.
The 7 Minute Ab workout as detailed below fashions itself on this self propagated belief that in 7 minutes a day you can achieve adonis features and find enough time to do a marathon session of World of Warcraft (4).
As the NY Times put it; “An article in the May-June issue of the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health & Fitness Journal does just that. In 12 exercises deploying only body weight, a chair and a wall, it fulfills the latest mandates for high-intensity effort, which essentially combines a long run and a visit to the weight room into about seven minutes of steady discomfort — all of it based on science.”
This seems like the brainchild of someone who has been awake at 3am for many, many weeks. Convinced that you need to change your life, TV stations around the world feature adverts for things like “Ab Chair Extreme – Get Extreme Abs with just one sit up ” and “Magic Vegetable, Fruit, iPhone Blender – Extract ALL of the Goodness because it whizzes really really fast!”
Where things like the Body Coach and Intensity have shown to work* programs lasting 8, 7 or even Ted’s magical idea of 6 minutes, the evidence is stacked against the claim.
It is like one of those videos that keep appearing in your social media newsfeed. You know the ones, where you are taught how to make, from scratch, roasted vegetables for example.
Enlist the help of actors with hands so beautiful that the prospect for a Zoolander (5) 3 appearing at the cinema is already in pre-production and you start to understand how we have gone from 30 minute TV food programs into the land of 20 seconds to 1 minute videos on the web teaching us all how to cook a range of food.
Food has gone from Jane Fonda (6) ‘Workout’ to 7 minute abs. It has taken 30 years.
Food has gone from Jane Fonda ‘Workout’ to 7 minute abs. It has taken 30 years.
From hot chocolate to giant Oreo cake, pot roast to mini pizza parcels and many many many more videos that engulf a social news feed, over the last eighteen months, we have seen the rise of “at home fast food” where the videos show more intricate recipes broken down into “5 easy steps.”
Buzzfeed, the apparent perpetrators behind this masonic growth has some insights into these “food hacks”. BuzzFeed’s chief marketing officer, said during a panel at the Paley Center in New York that ‘BuzzFeed is generating 2 billion views a month on Facebook with “food hack” videos.’
2 Billion a month. Even if Facebook existed in the 80’s, I don’t think Jane Fonda could have attracted 2 billion views a month; although she would have died trying!
And this is all great for those that want to learn how to make something new, something different but there are some real exceptions to the rule.
For example, when have you ever wanted to try to make, or even try, a cheese stuffed pizza pretzel? As Fortune magazine put it, ‘within 24 hours, that video had 37 million views, 650,000 likes, and 750,000 shares.’ That video today (April 24th, 2016), 88 million views, 1.7 million shares and 144,000 comments.
How about churro ice cream bowls? Cheesy zucchini cups? If yes, you have an outlet, if no, you have something in your newsfeed which is providing neither value or long term benefit to your food curiosities.
The other question is, are you really learning to cook?
The other question is, are you really learning to cook?
Take a random recipe book, and you will find notes on how to improve knife skills, how to chop vegetables, how to prepare sauces, how to create fresh dough and so on and so on… Is a 30 second video on Facebook going to show you any of these tricks?
The answer appears to be, no. “It taps into a simple truth: People love tasty foods and the kind of foods that remind them of their childhood, comfort food, or food that reminds them of an experience,” says Frank Cooper, BuzzFeed’s chief marketing officer. ‘But more importantly, Tasty and Proper Tasty have exploded on Facebook because the content is tailor-made for that platform. These channels exist primarily on Facebook.”
Whilst a TV programme can demonstrate skills, recipes and photographic shots which are the embodiment of #foodporn; cookbooks as informative as an intellectual tirade as Stephen Fry, the Facebook driven food video appear to be as vacuous as a Real Housewives of Atlanta episode. (Or so I’ve been told).
Barilla fell foul of this Facebook video logic only a few weeks ago. #carbonaragate featured a video produced by French media firm, Demotivateur. “The 36-second video shows pasta being boiled in the same saucepan as lardons of bacon — a travesty for Italians. They were further outraged by the addition of onions and crème fraîche to the recipe. The final insult comes when the video ends with a raw egg being plopped on top of the cooked dish.”
An Italian spectacle being ruined by France, the less we mention about the Mona Lisa (7), the better.
The need to be current should be applauded, but Barilla, like many others, could do so much more for the world of food if it just took a minute to consider that not everything worth doing, should be done, fast.
It’s not a case where time saving in these matters is going to add mass of value; anything but. Food like exercise shouldn’t be treated like ordering an Uber or choosing your AirB’nB. If you want to learn how to make a real souffle, then you need to read, try and then keep trying until you get it right.
No one “got abs” by simply doing just 7 minutes a day.
Quicker doesn’t mean better. Quicker doesn’t mean you’re going to get the same results.
1) The Farrelly Brothers were the ‘go to’ guys if you wanted to make a film in the 90’s or early 00’s that involved grose yet weirdly brilliant slapstick comedy. Creators of films like, Dumb & Dumber, Kingpin, Me, Myself & Irene, Shallow Hal and Stuck On You.
2) The Dragons Den is a TV Program designed to make ordinary poor people pitch ideas to condescending rich people who once had a dream and were successful. In turn, they dash the dreams of the poor by saying “that’s rubbish” or “no one wants that.”
3) Owen McKibbin was one of the first Men’s Health cover models; the dude broke his back but still managed to have ripped abs! Gabrielle Reece is a 6’3 beautiful model who was also an ex pro volleyball player and now presents a show on NBC with Sylvester Stallone called, Strong!
4) World Of Warcraft is an online game where teens and we’re pretty sure grown up men (who play in their underwear) spend hours of their lives forming allegiances and killing imaginary creatures. It’s a 2010’s version of Dungeons and Dragons. (4a) Dungeons and Dragons was an 80’s board game where teens, and grown up men would play in a basement (on their own will) forming allegiances and killing imaginary creatures.
5) Zoolander is a film based on the brainchild of Ben Stiller. It’s a mock narrative on the culture of male models through the eyes of Derek Zoolander and the trouble of being really really pretty all the time. It’s a hard life, Derek, a hard life.
6) ‘Workout’ was Jane Fonda’s first workout tape, released April 24th 1982. It sold over 200,000 units in the year, more than the Star Trek II movie!
7) The Mona Lisa is held at The Louvre; much to the anger of still many Italians.