diets · media · training · weight loss

Bodyshock TV: The Reality of Getting into Shape? Really?

CarinaOver the weekend a few people brought Bodyshock TV to my attention (including Sam–thanks!).  It’s a new internet TV show — or at least they’re trying to make it a show but if I got the promo video right, they need “you” (read: your money) to be able to achieve their goals.  Bodyshock describes itself as a fitness, health and lifestyle TV show.

Enter Season One:  Meet Carina. She’s a “really unfit” model (that’s just insulting). We follow her 30-day journey “from fat to flab” over thirty episodes.  The point of the show is to show us “the reality of getting into shape” and to “show the transformation you can achieve.”  In the promo video we see Carina running on the beach (the whole thing takes place in Spain), eating healthy food, getting her “before” fat pinched by calipers, cellulite massaged, enduring some sort of body scan that measures her health “inside and out,” doing squats, and (it looks like) being tended to after passing out beside a tree, and doing a whole host of other fitness-y looking activities in her crop top and workout shorts.

We also meet her personal trainer (a walking fitspo!  I mean the woman is buff!) who outlines the S.M.A.R.T. goals that have been set for Carina.  The main goal was for her to lose 7 kilos (that’s just over 15 pounds) and 3% body fat in 30 days.

I really have no objection to people setting challenges for themselves and seeing what they can achieve in 30 days. I like challenges myself, as I‘ve said on this blog.   And I like that the name “bodyshock” suggests that this isn’t your ordinary workout routine. As her personal trainer explains, Carina works out three times a day during the filming.

But there are a few things I take issue with. First, let’s be frank:  Carina’s before body is just fine.  She’s slender and while she may carry a bit more body fat than is recommended, 32% is hardly shocking.  To say she goes from “flab to fab” (that’s what they do say) is a bit of an exaggeration.

Second, the tagline for the Carina season of the show is horrible: “Carina is a model who wants to find her true-self. See her shred [sic] fat. Pack muscles. 30 episodes of intense fitness and diet. 30 days of blood sweat and tears.”  Is this really the way to find our true selves? By shedding [I assume they meant “shed” not “shred” but perhaps there’s a usage with which I’m not familiar] fat and gaining muscle?

I don’t think these are unworthy goals. But if we’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that dieting and working out probably aren’t the best routes to finding your true self.  As a philosopher, I don’t want to get too abstract about what the ‘true self’ might actually be, but it better be a bit less dependent on having a lean and mean body than Bodyshock TV makes it sound.

Now let’s go to the suggestion in the promo that they’re “showing the transformation you can achieve.”  Okay — Carina has a personal trainer and a “wellness team” at her disposal. I’m guessing she’s not in charge of her own meals either.  Though I’d love to have  team of people devoted to my training for one month, it’s not within in my reach.

So it’s not fair to say that this is “the reality of getting into shape.”  It’s not most people’s reality. Most of us don’t have 30 days in southern Spain with a personal trainer, wellness team, and a chef.  I’m guessing too that most of us don’t have time for over 100 workouts in 30 days, which is what Carina did.

And yet educating and showing the reality of getting into shape is exactly what the producers claim is the point of the show. This seems at odds with the “shock” aspect, where they claim the point is to show the limits of what the human body can do.

The producer in the promo sets up Carina’s journey as the opposite of a “quick fix.” Well, it’s not a magic pill, but 30 days is pretty darn quick. I’m not doubting that someone under the right conditions (e.g. personal trainer, wellness team, south of Spain, no other commitments, personal chef) can achieve some dramatic changes in 30 days, the key issue is always how sustainable these changes are.  Not to doubt Carina, but since 30 days is really just a start, where will she go from there, when her team is gone and she needs to continue “her journey” alone?

The promised Season 2 is slightly more disturbing. In it, two “unfit” models compete against each other. The one who makes the most progress in the Bodyshock regimen wins a modelling contract.  Given what I know about how different bodies respond differently to the same physical challenges, and given how I feel about pitting women against each other in a way that forces comparison of bodies (it will all come down to aesthetics in the end, no doubt), I’m happier with Season 1 than with Season 2.

But neither gets at “the reality of getting into shape.” Why? Because that reality is not as fat-loss focused as the show makes it out to be, is much more long term than 30 days (which is really just the beginning), and, if it’s to be sustainable, has to involve a realistic schedule of activities that can be incorporated into our day to day lives and that do not require a support team.

If you’re curious, here’s the video:



19 thoughts on “Bodyshock TV: The Reality of Getting into Shape? Really?

  1. I totally agree with you. This is not a realistic situation. I can’t count how many times I have returned home from a Crossfit workout wishing there was someone there to prepare a healthy dinner for me, or that I had the forethought to have something healthy ready to eat. Who has time for 3 workouts a day? i guess it takes “a village” to help someone lose 15 pounds in 30 days.

  2. You really nailed a lot of the issues with this whole concept. One of the biggest ones for me is the 30 day-challenge structure of it. Like, great, you just crashed your way through 100 workouts in 30 days. What happens after that? How will you keep up a three-a-day plan after the show ends? It just reeks of “Biggest Loser” style stunt-fitness that posits fitness and wellness as a means to an end, instead of an end in and of itself. But I guess a tv show that is all about gradual, consistent and sustainable lifestyle changes is not nearly as sensational as Model Boot Camp.

    1. I forgot to say that it’s similar to the Biggest Loser. It’s not quite as harsh, however. I don’t get the sense that they use shaming and hollering and punishing as a regular part of the schtick.

  3. I think it’s common to say “shred fat” to make fat loss sound more XTREME. I think diet pill commercials like to use the phrase.

  4. I-dexa scan is what “measured her inside & out”. Those are actually really interesting to see. But, it is not within financial reach for nearly anyone as a “weightloss measurement tool”, besides the MOST useful part of them is that they measure bone density. They’re crazy expensive. This whole show is hardly translatable to real life situations, it’s just as far removed as a Biggest Loser-like situation is to the average American.

  5. I just have to wonder, is there no room in the industry for displaying more realistic, slow, sustainable transformations? I get that to maximize profit, things like this sell better but surely there is a market out there for people who want to actually see what it takes for a person with a job, kids, a budget, etc. to lose weight for good.

    I would LOVE to see a show that takes someone from square 1. That would be pretty inspiring, I’d think.

    1. I agree that it would be great to see something realistic in terms of both timelines and results (not to mention day-to-day life). So sad that reality tv is so removed from reality!

  6. For me, the unsettling part is the “getting to know one’s true self” in a manner that suggests it is only through achieving a certain body that one can find her/his true self. For me, it’s the whole package – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. I can’t know the true me if I don’t include all aspects of me. From everything you’ve described (and I’m not going to lose sanity points over the video and trigger myself for no good reason), it sounds like a tamer version of The Biggest Loser. Although, I wouldn’t mind the 30 days in Spain.

  7. The first season is nothing but a set-up for the second season, in which one model will be placed on a pedestal and the other will be shamed. The entire basis of these types of shows is to change someone so that they no longer need to feel ashamed of themselves – and so we see someone go from being an object of shame to an object who can be placed on a pedestal. The reality of what they will do with the rest of their lives as real people is immaterial. The message is that it is shameful if they don’t find a way to keep up appearances; if they somehow manage to maintain their new body, however, we will keep them on the pedestal. How wonderful and amazing for everyone – including young girls who will watch the show and learn that it is shameful for them to carry fat on their bodies, and that what they are supposed to do is to appear a certain way so that they can reasonably expect others to treat them like they belong on a pedestal, as opposed to like someone who deserves to be shamed. So in other words, young girls – you are just objects no matter what; you can be an object who deserves to be shamed (and will be!), an in-betweener who will largely be inconsequential, or a beautiful object who is entitled to a place on a pedestal. You choose.

  8. 3 workouts a day!?! jesus just reading that makes me need a nap. Working out 3 times a day should be no ones reality unless maybe you are a professional athlete.

  9. Using models to compete is quite smart of them though. For one, sex sells. For two, the obvious “body shaming” techniques used in other shows is obscured from view. And for three, the hope is that women will identify with the models (well, if even these beautiful models need help, then it’s not so bad that I do too!), and will love those who succeed and will place them on a pedestal as goddesses. Perhaps even worse, they will not feel too bad about shaming the models who lose, and might even take some wicked subversive glee in doing so, especially if they decide they don’t like her. And if they do like the loser, the viewers will never have to consider identifying with a “fat, disgusting loser”, but rather at most, with a model who didn’t get a contract. So in more than a few ways, I think this show is insidious.

  10. I agree entirely with your point about the “true self.” I too hope our truest selves aren’t unavailable to us if we don’t match what someone else decides “healthy” looks like.

    Something I have to remind myself of, as cliche as it might seem, is that it’s the process that matters (the journey, not the destination). You can’t separate how you get to the end goal from the goal. I like Geneen Roth’s take on it: “…if you force and deprive and shame yourself into being thin, you end up a deprived, shamed, fearful person who will also be thin for ten minutes.”

    Focusing on making healthy choices one day at a time and then letting my body weigh, look like, and be what it does as a result of that (trusting that when I’m doing healthy things my bodyu will by definition look like whatever healthy really means) has been the biggest step in helping me find sanity with training and nutrition.

  11. So maybe I am being silly (and I haven’t watched the video), but in the picture you have it just looks like the difference between the Before and After shots is that she stood up.

    The way she’s posed in the Before shot is going to maximize the “OMG! Rolls!” factor, while the way she’s posed in the After shot (i.e., standing up straight) is going to minimize rolls, bulges etc.

    (See this article)

  12. Well personally I think it is a good idea! No your right, it isn’t a normal persons ‘reality’, but it is her ‘reality’ so I would be interested to see what can be achieved in 30 days by doing workouts constantly.I know that from me working out 6 days a week for 60 days, i dropped my (excuse the term) fat like mental! Plus I always hear my friends saying that they can’t loose weight, but they never pushed themselves!

    And from what I have seen on Facebook (I have looked up the models personal page), not only has she kept off the weight, she looks amazing and entered competitions as a fashion model. So sorry, I don’t agree with some of the comments here, anything that promotes healthy options and workouts is good in my view 🙂 yes of course there are things here to exaggerate their point, but isn’t that marketing tactics used in everything that is commercial? Don’t hate people! She looked great before, but now she looks amazing!

  13. WOW… for you 32% body fat for a 19 year old is acceptable?? It is definitely not ‘slender’ by far, nor is it recommended. Maybe that is what is wrong with our society … ever think about that? So many adolescents these days that are obese thanks to the society that we live in. Should be really sugarcoat it for them, and say that being over the recommended body fat percentage is ok as long “as you are happy with your self”? What is wrong with saying that the way young girls are living these days is horrible? Yes the pitch is for sure exaggerated, but what i think you have missed the point is that they are putting a person through tests and workouts to educate and show people at home what they can do to improve their own health issues…

  14. This happens all the time. Hatters are gonna hate, but women generally hate seeing pretty women FACT. You are always going to see fault with that. I would like to see your reaction if they were showing a seriously obese woman go down several sizes in 30 days… come on people! get your head out of your asses!!!

  15. I think this is a hoax, its been a year since they start promoting this page and now they are asking for money. The “unfit model” is not fat and every body can loose 15 pound just following a 1000 calories per day diet like the old old scardale diet plan. By the way: isn’t this the naive 19 year old model:
    Definitly this is a intenet scam… my odds are we will never see this series come “true”.

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