The picture of health

Posted on January 14, 2013 at 9:24 am

You would think that the most effective anti-drinking campaign out there is the one Mother Nature invented – the hangover. That probably explains why so many public health messages use the graphic depiction of such consequences to dissuade excessive drinking.

But honestly, most people who have spent a night lying on the bathroom floor don’t need to be reminded of how awful it was. And despite that, it’s pretty rare to find someone who has only suffered a single hangover in their life – we just keep making the same bad decisions over and over again.

That’s why we are oddly drawn to another recent anti-drinking campaign – a smartphone app called Drinking Mirror that lets you visualize the long-term effects of drinking on your LOOKS. Ack.

Maybe this doesn’t have quite the withering effect on men as it does for women, but the idea of watching your own face morph until you’re guaranteed to never get carded again is enough for us to take pause before ordering that second cocktail.

Aside from its intense appeal to vanity, this app also has the benefit of being something you can whip out at any time – in the bar, at a party – as a real-time reminder of the damage you’re about to do to your future self. And of course, compare your journey to hag-dom to your friends’ progress.

But let’s think about it…even more interesting (and more inspiring) might be a visualization of how much BETTER we’d look if we made smarter decisions about our health – like how we might look 30 pounds lighter, or without the smoking habit, or if our skin had the healthy glow associated with well-controlled diabetes.

So here’s a proposal: the next time you’re tempted to make a not-so-great health decision, whip out a mirror – a real mirror – take a look at that beautiful self you see today, wink… and promise to do whatever you can to keep on loving what you see.

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  • Chris March 3, 2013 at 9:06 am

    What a terrible, shallow, vapid campaign. Appealing to vanity and insecurity doesn’t really strike me as a healthy way to go. I’m much more interested in the health benefits of groups- Malcolm Gladwell’s writeup of the Rosetans of Bangor Pennsylvania in “Outliers” comes to mind.

    Our medical profession deliberately isolates and decontextualizes individual humans to apply reductionist thinking to whatever their problem of the moment might be. This thought process can be seen at work in the bulk of our medical research as well. And it pervades this depressingly stupid piece puzzling over how to get people to drink less.

    Maybe if we lived in a healthier culture, fewer people would feel the need to engage at all. No aversion tactics needed. Carrots and sticks are for donkeys. Humans need culture, and American humans need it desperately.

  • Robin Martinez April 3, 2013 at 10:54 am

    What a terrible, shallow, vapid, and needed and powerful campaign! Start where you are. Move to where you want to be.