Should gyms prioritise looking 'hot' over getting fit?
Love Island mania has hit Ireland harder than hay fever this summer. We’re all rooting for Doctor Alex to find that special someone in the villa, screaming at the telly for the girls to STAY THE HECK AWAY FROM ADAM, and smugly chomping on our Chinese because we called the adorable Dani and Jack as the perfect couple from the beginning.
But we’re not the only ones jumping on the bantz bandwagon (like Olivia jumped into the pool last season); FLYEfit, a chain of low-cost Irish gyms, unveiled a new campaign that has been criticised for its ‘mocking’ and ‘body shaming’ tone.
There’s no escaping Love Island… but you can escape Love Handle Island! Who's seen our latest ad campaign on the streets of Dublin? pic.twitter.com/A1k5Rw05gH
— FLYEfit (@flyefit) June 20, 2018
On Wednesday, FLYEfit, which has branches across Dublin, tweeted, “There’s no escaping Love Island…but you can escape Love Handle Island” along with an image of their new advertisement on a bus shelter. Again, the advertisement used the “Escape Love Handle Island” slogan but added, “Stay hot this summer. Aoife will keep you fit.” And people are not happy.
I am glad I haven’t seen this and might I be so bold as to suggest you might have the cop on to remove them? Talk about alienating, insulting and downright patronizing
— Susan (@Susan_Brown__) June 22, 2018
Go away with that body-shaming ráméis
— (((A lady on the Internet ))) (@occularmandible) June 22, 2018
Now, a gym promoting weight loss is nothing new; lotsa gyms promote weight loss as a benefit and it’s a reason many gym bunnies join up in the first place. When advised by a medical professional and done in a safe manner, weight loss can have positive health outcomes like decreasing the risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke. The problem is that although FLYEfit’s promise of keeping clients ‘fit’ does promote a health benefit of exercise, the campaign emphasises becoming ‘hot’ as the primary reward for sweating it out which, when combined with the demand to ‘escape love handles’, essentially equates attractiveness with being thin.
Firstly, responsible promotion would place emphasis on the health benefits of exercise and weight loss rather than those that contribute to society’s often narrow perception of beauty. Secondly, love handles are not always an indicator that a person is overweight or is at any health risk. Finally, you don’t have to be thin to be hot. End of.
Hey @flyefit when I workout I focus on strength but do you think I should focus on trimming body fat instead? Because even though I have a healthy BMI and waist circumference, I have love handles. Am I not hot? Please advise.
— Abaí Ní Ógáin (@aniogain) June 24, 2018
Many Twitter folk have pointed out that this campaign could also be harmful to FLYEfit’s business. FLYEfit’s cost and locations mean accessibility is integral to its brand image yet many have viewed this message as intimidating, with some expressing that they’d feel embarrassed to go to a FLYEfit branch lest they be met with the same mocking tone of this campaign for having ‘love handles’. Probably not the best way to get people through the door.
FLYEfit replied to multiple critical tweets with Love Island reaction GIFs that basically dismissed the concerns of those who spoke up and led some to question who was managing their social media and PR. Again taking to Twitter, FLYEfit responded to an article published by DailyEdge.ie which deemed the campaign ‘toxic and harmful’ to explain:
We are not body shaming anyone. Love Island is a popular show on TV and all this campaign does is profile our personal trainers in a light-hearted way. We pride ourselves in gyms that cater for all levels of fitness 24/7 for only €29 a month. There’s no shame in that.
Denial and self-promotion? Not the ideal response in our books. While body shaming obviously wasn’t FLYEfit’s intention, that’s what’s happened and the company doesn’t get to decide whether or not people feel their bodies are being ridiculed. We reckon FLYEfit should have a crack at listening to their potential customers and pursue a course of action that is mutually beneficial.