Deborah Rufus: My New Year’s Resolution — aTONEment.

October 2011. This is an important time of year for Jews who may be re-evaluating past behavior and re-committing to living a life of meaning and impact. It is a time for reflection, atonement and resolutions, and I do look forward to observing these seasonal rituals. I am told that Jewish New Year resolutions, however, are really not supposed to concern superficial things, so I’m traveling back in time to my New Year’s resolution from January to discuss my biggest disappointment this year.

My butt shoes and I failed each other.

Like many of my friends who are now in our mid forties, gravity has been a constant companion. Some folks rightly see that as impetus for improved diet and regular exercise. Others, however, yearn for a quick fix. Post holiday binge, I was ready for a concerted shape up effort. Surveying my posse of girlfriends in January to determine if anyone had tried the heavily advertised and promoted “toning” shoes, several expressed vague product awareness, but none had tried them personally. I was urged to become the guinea pig for the rest of the group.

The theory is that “toning” shoes, with unstable soles, work your muscles harder, which firms your legs and rear. So I bought some. I walked the dog in them, wore them to soccer games and baseball games, pulled them out of my office desk at lunchtime to replace my pumps. Despite what I would characterize as fairly dedicated effort over a sustained period of time, I did not notice any difference. (My husband told me that he thought I was making progress, but then again, he has to say that.)

I began to suspect that you probably have to wear the shoes 24 hours a day, including in the shower and in bed, in order to have any significant impact. And so, over time, the butt-firming shoes were abandoned, along with several other idealistic New Year’s resolutions.

The big news this week is that Federal Trade Commission has stepped in. Reebok apparently made unsubstantiated claims that the shoes strengthened and toned the buttocks 28% more than regular walking shoes.  Without admitting guilt, the company has agreed to refund up to $25 million to customers. Another “shape up” shoe manufacturer, Skechers, may also be in trouble for making similar bold claims.

Perseverance is an important lesson, and there is no reason to abandon hope. I recently found some brand-name “skin firming” moisturizer at the drug store. It’s clinically proven to reduce the appearance of cellulite for visibly firmer skin. It requires you to regularly massage copious amounts of the product onto what the label characterizes as “problem areas (thighs, hips, buttocks, stomach, upper arms).”

So, while this is no profound resolution, I do think I am starting the season with new resolve and high hopes.  I am also a little more slippery. Check back with me in a year.


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