Fitness Marketing – Call Out The Bull

So Monday was a day… A relatively well known British fitness company posted a tweet that was inappropriate at best and body shaming at worst. I won’t offer them free advertising by naming them. The gist of the tweet was a woman who had used one of their programmes and had lost a lot of weight. Fine. However rather than focusing on how much stronger she was or how much she was enjoying the programme this was posted as a before and after. (you can read my thoughts on them here..) In addition to the before and after the tweet signed off with “what’s your excuse?“ implying that to exist in a larger body that you are not trying to change you require an excuse and you must justify it to the world. No. Just no. I cannot even begin to describe how frustrating and upsetting it is that we still live in a world where this kind of conversation around larger bodies is normalised.

My good friend and Fitness Blogger Of The Year nominee, Hannah, immediately picked up on this bullshit. She quoted the offending tweet expressing her displeasure and making it clear that she would be unfollowing this company. You would think when a noted fitness blog calls you out that maybe you would think about your actions or at least remove the tweet. Maybe that’s what a decent person would do. What unfolded on Monday afternoon was far from decent.

Several men contacted Hannah asking for a full explanation of why this advert was body shaming or in some cases asking how it wasn’t body positive. Wow! It was particularly interesting and aggravating that the majority of people aggrieved by Hannah’s observation and comment were men. Men trying to tell us that the way our bodies are consistently being measured, scrutinised and deemed successes or failures is not body shaming. After the immediate rush had died down, another debate arose, this time with a woman I know personally. On first glance she failed to see how it was body shaming however after Hannah directly quoted the “What’s your excuse?” section I think she began to see where we were coming from although she wasn’t personally offended by it.

I think that’s part of the issue. The tweet didn’t directly shame Hannah or myself. In Hannah’s case she is slim with an athletic build and I am on the chubby side but not plus size, yet we saw the comments were wrong. So many people seem to exist in their own bubble. Rather than questioning why this language around larger bodies may be a problem, it doesn’t directly affect them and if anything, normalising the degradation of larger bodies makes smaller people feel superior. It creates a them and us mentality. Those of us who question the norms and look around see how much easier it is to exist in a smaller body within our society. If we start treating every body the same regardless of its size, shape or health status those with smaller bodies no longer have a privilege and to some losing their privilege feels like discrimination.

It’s entirely possible to go through life completely oblivious to these issues, buy into the nonsense that you are fed by mass media and continue to allow companies like the one mentioned earlier to profit off the low self esteem that generates but wouldn’t it be better to do something different. To stand up for all the people in your life who don’t fit those ideals. To stop funding a culture that contributes to eating disorders, low self esteem and poor body image in children as young as 3. Naomi Wolfe wrote that dieting is the most potent political sedative in women’s history. For how many more generations are we going to let that continue?

V ❤

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11 thoughts on “Fitness Marketing – Call Out The Bull

  1. Giana says:

    this was a very interesting post to read, I also dislike how a lot of brands just focus on the whole ‘omg look what they looked like before’ instead of encouraging the fact they’re just choosing to live a healthier lifestyle and look better for themselves. xx

    G | http://www.teawithgi.com

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    • sirvikalot says:

      Yes brands and society in general tends to always focus on appearance. Being smaller/slimmer doesn’t look better, it just look different but the media has brainwashed a lot of people to think thinner/smaller = good and fatter/larger = bad. It’s so disheartening to see that for a lot of people that’s how they automatically think, without questioning it.
      V ❤

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  2. Kate says:

    Sorry – this is gonna be a long one! – I tend to let most poorly presented diet/fitness wash over me but I saw your post and the phrase ‘what’s your excuse’ and one of the comments you received about people needing motivation massively angers me. I don’t need any external motivation, I have been trying desperately, for the last three years in particular, to address the weight issues that come with suffering from PCOS/insulin resistance. I walk miles every day, go to the gym, do a dancing class every week, eat far better than half the people around me and find it easy cause I love all the healthy stuff other people call ‘bland’, and I take Metformin to try and make my insulin more sensitive. And yet aside from some initial success in the first year I feel that I’ve made virtually zero progress and it is making me increasingly and dangerously anxious and depressed. I’ve seen a nutritionist, had a personal trainer and had an insane amount of blood tests by both my GP and a specialist consultant and none of them can explain my lack of decent weight loss. In fact the absolutely useless consultant, after months of not helping me whatsoever, eventually tried to imply that I wasn’t being honest about what I eat and that the solution is always ‘spend more calories than you put in’. I could have literally slapped her because if the answer was as simple as not being honest about food there is no way I would have wasted my time seeing her! Additionally I am living proof that that infamous line about calories just simply isn’t true for everybody and some researchers are increasingly starting to realise and investigate this and the way in which conditions such as mine can blow that whole equation out of the water. As a last resort I am looking into seeing an endocrinologist who might hopefully be able to offer a solution that fits me specifically instead of trying to fob me off with the same old generic answers that only work for a certain percentage of the population. Recently I’ve been comforted by seeing others online talking about having the same experience: taking metformin and exercising daily and either not losing any weight or even putting it on! So there is a group of us out there where the classic ‘exercise and eat well and you’ll automatically lose weight’ mantra just utterly fails. There is even some evidence that we might need to eat MORE than we’re advised and I certainly often feel that I was thinner when I ate anything I wanted and didn’t worry about it 😦 My parents have taken the same measures as me and had twice as much success which proves that my situation is more complicated. So when I see comments like ‘what’s your excuse’ or anyone saying ‘all you need to do is this’ it’s mindblowingly frustrating and upsetting. I also despise the assumptions that larger people are lazy (for example I walk 5 miles most days of the week and constantly volunteer for things!) or unhealthy (my blood pressure and cholesterol are literally perfect) and although I do think there’s a point on the obesity scale where the excess weight clearly becomes life-threatening I’m deeply saddened by what people call ‘fat’ these days. I have seen people comment on pictures of plus size models about how they ‘glorify/promote/glamourise obesity’ (don’t get me started on that bs!) and the women they are referring to are not even what I would call fat let alone obese! I’ve typed and deleted hundreds of comments challenging these horrible assumptions and mentioning my own experience but I just never feel it’s worth arguing with people on fb threads who can hide behind their screens and spout whatever ignorance they want to. For some people weight loss is comparatively ‘easy’ but for so many of us it’s a complex, frustrating, depressing cycle of misery where the normal routes don’t pan out and health professionals rarely have answers. Only a small percentage of overweight people are in that position because of sheer overeating or ‘laziness’ and even then we should clearly be recognising that a lot of bigger people are suffering from eating disorders/psychological issues that are just the flip side of established conditions such as bulimia. A further percentage are simply just naturally larger and have nothing wrong at all. The persistent ignorance is staggering, not to mention the way I have yet to ever find an answer to the ultimate question: ‘why does someone’s weight bother anyone except the person carrying it!’

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    • sirvikalot says:

      Kate, thank you for the comment. Fitness marketing and the mass media in general has so much to answer for. In your own case the only advice I would offer is don’t let the lack of weight loss get to you. Easier said than done in our society I know, but you said yourself you eat healthily, exercise and this is where your body sticks. You also pointed out your blood pressure etc is spot on so you’re going great exactly as you are.
      Often the point is totally missed by people from all walks of life – your worth, beauty and health are not related to a weight or size. And even if you were unhealthy you still deserve to feel beautiful and worthy.
      V ❤

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      • Kate says:

        Unfortunately it (and other body issues) does really get to me, virtually all the time and it’s affecting my mental health very badly. I have chronic self-esteem and self-worth issues which all stem from my body…I literally wish I could transfer my brain into a different one! I don’t have any desire to be stick thin, or even regular thin and I love curves but I very much feel fat and unshapely rather than large/curvy sadly. I often see women who others would deem ‘overweight/fat/obese’ and absolutely admire their figures and feel envious of them so for me it’s not about being super light or super slim, I just hate feeling like a mess. PCOS is a terrible condition that affects so so so many women and yet is barely understood or researched properly. Some of my symptoms are so severe I feel they’ve dictated and ruined my life for decades and yet no-one has been truly able to help me. It’s tough. People have told me the solution is just to accept myself as I am but I find that impossible when I feel so judged and sidelined by it. It’s starting to become unbearable and I don’t know what the answer is.

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  3. Rebecca Claire says:

    I absolutely loved this post and you are 100% right in everything you’ve said. The whole “to some losing their privilege feels like discrimination” thing really reasonates and there are so many things this applies to. I am fed up of people feeling butt hurt about their privilege!

    Rebecca, libfemblog.com xo

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    • sirvikalot says:

      Thank you so much!! So many people I know irl and online have read this and totally missed the point/asked me ridiculous questions about it and I was starting to worry I hadn’t been clear but I’m guessing that’s people reading what they want to read in to it rather than the words in front of them.
      V ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  4. hannahinternational says:

    It astounds me how so many people are completely oblivious to these damaging marketing ploys, but I don’t blame them. The media is entirely at fault. As consumers we eat up everything these people say…who are we to know better than the pros? (Supposedly, of course.) But it makes me mad to see it continue with such prevalence. HOWEVER thankfully people are opening their eyes to the bullshit they’re feeding us, and even if it’s only one person a day, I think that things are improving. You hear more and more nowadays about complaints about stupid marketing campaigns, so I think the situation *might* be turning a corner. Companies may still be creating shite advertisements, but at least people are calling them out more and more!

    Hannah
    hannahinternational.co.uk

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  5. Hannah says:

    So glad it’s. It just me that sits there thinking ‘SERIOUSLY, STILL – SERIOUSLY?’

    I think I’ve missed this story though, but I’ll have a little google now. My current fitness bullshit peeve is the FitBit television ad – that shows a mother going from poorly dressed and stressed out looking to radiant and glam, all because she bought a fit bit. It makes me rage and then cry a bit because not everyone see’s the bullshit. Im also pretty sure the narrator on the ad is supposed to be the women’s daughter, and the way they present her admiration for her mother because she slimmed down and glammed up is seriously screwed up.

    H xxx

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