Over 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: