Breathe your way to health and happiness

Following in the path of Greer Childers, infomercial breath guru

Breathe your way to health and happiness

I have been having what experts would call a “bad week.” I’m currently sleeping on my friends’ couch after the electrical sockets in my room started sparking and burning the plugs of my devices; this may or may not be related to my apartment’s mouse problem, and it’s actually fairly low on the list of things that are currently upsetting about my living situation. Work has been overwhelming. I’ve had to learn things about the stock market. An ever-more-infectious virus is killing people at an ever-more-horrific rate, while our country’s vaccine rollout remains slow and flawed. We’re coming up on a year of no restaurants, no travel, no hugging friends. I’m almost 30.

One thing has offered me peace in a week that has otherwise seen me barely clinging to sanity, and it’s the Body Flex system by Greer motherfucking Childers.

Body Flex is a workout system that suggests that you can lose weight through intense breathing exercises. The opening of Greer Childers’s 1992 workout tape provides solid-sounding facts from real scientific experts, like the Olympic Training Committee, a Nobel Prize-winning cell physiologist, and Prevention Magazine, a periodical I assume is extremely legit.

I know that there are a lot of genuine benefits to deep breathing, but I don’t think that weight loss is one of them. However, I’m in a vulnerable place right now and could probably be induced to join a cult without much pressure, so I was taken in immediately by Greer’s empowering intro. “The difference between who you are and who you want to be is what you do,” she says. “If you do nothing, you’ll get nothing. I’m gonna show you what to do to get something.”

I want to get something, Greer!!

Greer Childers, at the time of this recording, was a mother of three in her 50s whose body weight was probably 30% gorgeous blonde hair. She stands in the corner of a room surrounded by indicators of a successful life (fake grapes, a eucalyptus arrangement, two Art) and occasionally crosses her tiny little feet while she talks, giving her the appearance of a Barbie doll brought to life. She enthuses that her system will provide “a face lift, a tummy tuck, and a complete body lift” without the need to diet or take pills, which was clarifying, because her quick, chipper speech had already made me wonder if she was on amphetamines.

This 1992 workout tape is, unsurprisingly, not very body-positive. Greer asserts that being “thin and flabby is definitely no better than being big and solid,” and says that either state can leave you feeling “disgusted and dissatisfied.” I hate all of that. However, Greer claims that her system also enhances your energy, and I’ve been averaging two to four naps per day lately, so I’m interested.

Body Flex gets points for being extremely easy to follow. I have almost no body awareness, and I’ve always struggled in any situation where I have to follow someone’s exact movements. But it’s pretty impossible to mess up Greer’s basic workout. You breathe in and out. I’ve been doing that for three decades. Does Greer’s particular style look and feel insane? Yes. Extremely yes. But did attempting to follow along relieve a lot of stress? Yes! Just try to imitate Greer’s vacuum-creating stomach-toning breathing regimen without laughing. You can’t do it. Laughter is the best medicine, and breathing is the best exercise, according to the Olympics, so the benefits here are obvious.

Clearly, you see how this system could give you a “tummy tuck and full body lift,” as promised. But what about the face lift? That’s where the Lion comes in.

“Not long ago, I taught a renowned plastic surgeon how to do this technique,” Greer brags. “And he said, ‘Greer, it only makes sense.’” I can think of no better endorsement than an anonymous plastic surgeon confiding in Greer that her facial workout checks out. A lot has changed since 1992, because Greer recommends contorting your entire face to prevent laugh lines, while today’s biggest beauty influencer, Kim Kardashian, swears by never smiling to achieve the same effect. Move your face too much or too little? I’m siding with Greer and her plastic surgeon friend. It only makes sense.

Curiously, I have heard of this exact method before in an interview with Catherine O’Hara, who said that she did facial exercises to prepare for For Your Consideration because her character was supposed to have a face lift.

You just lift. The more you do it, the more it stays! There are muscles behind your skin and face, and my mother did it her whole life. My mother never had a face-lift or any kind of cosmetic surgery. Her eyebrows were up here, God bless her, when she died at 81, with no wrinkles above. Her cheeks were up here! I’m not kidding. I wish I could show you pictures. When she was in her 20s, her eyebrows were down here. In her 80s, up here. And she would just hold her face like this. She had enough vanity that she’d look in the mirror, ask, “What’s the best way to look?” and she did it and it worked. She lifted her face naturally.

I’ve thought about this anecdote so often! Now I have even more questions. Was Catherine O’Hara’s mother a Body Flex adherent? Should I look in the mirror, ask “What’s the best way to look?” and then force my face to comply? I am pushing 30, after all, and my face is in a near-permanent grimace naturally. I want what Greer has.

There are some things we need to be clear about. These exercises don’t not feel like a sex thing. Greer Childers was sued by the FTC for false advertising. Greer’s website hasn’t been updated since 2003. Caveat emptor, I guess. I’m not telling you that Body Flex is legit, I’m just saying that just watching it made me feel a lot better.

I’m not the only one! Listen to these glowing testimonials:

  • “I started at a size 12/14 and I’m down to a size 5/6. It’s hard to tell somebody because you know you’re gonna get that reaction. Yeah, I just breathe differently and they say, well, you can’t. It’s too easy.  And I said, I know, it is easy and it’s simple to do.” — Becky Evans, Body Flex Success Stories on
  • “I’ve lost 30 lb in half a year, launched my own business and last, but not least, I got married!” — this blogger who also claims “Many women are worried about the insides of their hands. This exercise will help you to tighten them and get rid of extra centimeters in girth.”
  • “I saw the Improvement and the progress every week and I just got addicted and couldn’t stop doing it. I’m not one for exercising or being hungry. Hand on the Bible, so help me God. Just try it. You stay with it and it’ll work.”  — Jude, YouTube commenter

Greer Childers has written a book on her system, called Be A Loser!, and briefly rebranded under the name Shapely Secrets™️ after the FTC lawsuit. She seems like an aspirational grifter girlboss all around. The diet industry is evil and body standards are cruel, but breathing like an idiot did give me energy and endorphins this week. I will not be reporting back on whether I lose weight or train my face muscles to make me more beautiful or trim centimeters off my girthy inner hands, because I will not be continuing this program. My roommates would probably call an ambulance if they hear me going through the Lion in my room. But I bet I’ll revisit Body Flex videos when I’m feeling particularly uptight, so I must thank Greer for that.

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