Blood, sweat, profit: Has the fitness industry been hijacked by marketeers?

Revolutionary breakthroughs, silver bullets and simply amazing results -  In the murky world of extreme weight loss #goals, the curtain may have finally slipped a little. Amanda Cassidy on why she’s delighted to leave January behind.

Yes, I Fitbit. For the first time in my life, I know my resting heartbeat and have started to monitor my sleep patterns (8 hours a night, thank you very much). I’m confident that my health and fitness will dramatically improve thanks to this neat little watch that lives on my wrist. But the research is sketchy as to whether wearable devices actually work to boost your health.

Does it matter? Perhaps that feeling of control over things like my daily steps is enough of a boost than actual weight loss. Maybe it is simply an open and shut case of style over substance? It wouldn’t be the first time that the illusion of a quick fix has targeted our wallets...and our minds.


Take poor old  Scarlett Moffatt. Catapulted to fame as the quirky girl from the Channel 4 TV show, Google box, the 27-year-old went on to win I'm a Celebrity and emerged from the jungle to endless discussions about her weight, her style and her rapidly changing appearance. Once in the spotlight, and clearly viewed as an influencer for the younger female market, Scarlett followed the path of fellow reality TV stars like Charlotte Crosby and Vicky Pattison to showcase her amazing weight-loss journey via a DVD workout. She shed an incredible 3 stone, transforming from a dress size 18 to 8 on her Superslim Me Plan DVD and promised fans that if she could do it, "a professional couch potato" - then they could too...all for the price of a tenner. So far, so what?

The real miracle

But the issue is that it seems she didn't get into shape purely from doing the workouts on her DVD. Gasp. It transpired that the TV personality, famed for her love of fake tan and fake eyelashes, starved herself on a 600-calorie-a-day diet and attended a Swiss Bootcamp to shift the weight and tone up her tum. Her DVD has now been branded a 'sham' and people are freaking out about her 'betrayal 'to fans over the circumstances surrounding her weight loss. Scarlett herself has spoken out about how uncomfortable she was with own looks after dramatically changing her appearance, and has questioned why she wanted to look so different in the first place.

The logical side of us knows that there is an element of the miraculous behind these extreme weight-loss DVD or slimming teas  - especially as we glide into 2019. New year, new you, blah, blah, blah.  But why do we continue to buy into it when the cynic inside us knows otherwise?

The truth is that personal transformation sells. There will always be someone ready to take the cash from our outstretched hands while we devote more time to our quest for change - our stomach, our skin, our wealth, our mind. The less time it takes, the better. Lean in 15? Yes, please. Wear it on my arm, no problem – take all my money.

Operation transformation

We know deep down that an 8-week shred is probably too good to be true, but the temptation is too much to resist. We dare to dream that it might just work for us, and before we know it, we are filling up our Amazon basket with all sorts of extreme transformative products. I've done it myself - detox tea, skinny sprinkles, waist trainers, weight-loss aids. Some work of course, but let's be honest, most don't. The sensible side of us knows that there is no secret, no mystery. Changing for the better usually involves some good old-fashioned effort, and it takes more than 15 minutes of bum blitzing to get our dream body.


The issue is that change is a goal to which almost everyone aspires. Alicia Harmon is a private fitness expert. Originally from the US, she now teaches Yoga and fitness in Dublin and believes we need to stop losing the run of ourselves. "There is no secret to weight loss, no magic potion and no quick fix. For a healthy bodyyou need to maintain a healthy lifestyle. A balanced diet of nurturing foods eaten in moderation along with an exercise programme that works for you is half the battle. Sticking to it is the other half of the battle. For that, you need a healthy mind. My advice is to dump the heavy emotional baggage first and the body will follow. Don't forget, easy come, easy go."

The psychology of change

So is our personal satisfaction all down to self-esteem, confidence and simple psychology? Scarlett certainly eluded to this when she spoke at Body Confidence seminar for the Glamour Beauty Festival after she left the jungle. She admitted that the less-fake persona she took on after becoming a celebrity was, in fact, fake. "When I first came out of the jungle I went through a stage where I felt like I had to try and look a certain way. I wanted to try and get out of the stereotypical Geordie girl. I stopped wearing fake tan and wore WAG dresses. But I was really miserable. I like being orange and having eyelashes that go up to my forehead."

That’s not to say that there haven’t been advances in the way we approach health. Now with useful tools like YouTube, with the mere click of the mouse button, you can now have a personal trainer in the room with you. You can learn fitness techniques and bend a little bit deeper for longer – all while the dinner is cooking. With our increasingly busy lives, more accessible health aids can actually help those who otherwise might not have embraced their fitness journey.

Living up to the hype

Like anything, we all have to take it all with a pinch of salt. If something sounds too good to be true, then it usually is. While a wearable device might, for the first time in our lives, make us accountable for our health and force us off the couch, other more dubious marketing ploys disguised as fitness aids might actually set us back and knock our confidence when they don’t live up to the hype.

It also shows the influence that, well, influencers have over us. The industry has figured out that fans are watching their idols in great detail. They wear what they wear, they want to look how they look, and if they tell them something works, then they go out and invest in that too. It is a slick marketing machine that works scarily well. Scarlett Moffatt may have been caught out before, but there will always be money to be made from those who are most impressionable.


I'll have one of those, please

Young girls will continue to point to heavily filtered snaps of these instant 'celebs' on Instagram and ask trainers to make them look 'just like that'. They will go out and buy the make-up they suggest and the clothes that they wear and the gadgets they credit with their ’transformation’. Brands know they are onto a good thing - accessing customers has never been easier. Buying into it is a choice. A choice that even the most stoic of us find hard to pass up – especially at this time of the year.

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