Body image

Marketing 101 for nutrition and exercise professionals - bikini shots guarantee 'likes' and sales

I searched and searched for a picture to go with this post, and I came across this one that I think sums up the topic perfectly.  A fictitious character with a physique unattainable for most, tanned and toned, bouncy hair and made-up face, wearing clothing which couldn't possibly be comfortable for whatever activity she is attempting.  The rise of the celebrity/model/attractive person becoming the next nutrition and fitness guru is getting under the skin of many, who are vocal with their concerns. 

I am certainly not the first person to write about this topic.  Not that I am particularly bothered by the endless pictures of young gorgeous creatures parading around in the tiniest of bikinis and active wear, promoting all manner of things health, nutrition and fitness.  It doesn’t seem to bother their millions of followers either. Funnily enough, there is a huge market for this form of health-promotion/self-promotion and these entrepreneurs are tapping in.  Is it just harmless (and clever) entertainment or is there a more serious side to the creation of these glossy images that so many people seek for fitspiration?.

No question, some people in this world, whether natural or cosmetically enhanced, are absolutely beautiful to look at.  The problem is that just because something is attractive to the eye, it doesn’t automatically equate to knowledge and expertise in all things beauty, health, fitness and wellness.  Of course, you can have perfect bone structure and be intelligent at the same time, but there are plenty of people out there using their appearance to their advantage (and to be honest why wouldn't you?).  But using an attribute to your advantage in a genuine way is very different to misleading people to believe that you are something that you are not. 

A beautiful AND intelligent colleague, Sarah Nehme, a first class strength and conditioning coach and personal trainer recently posted on Facebook ‘So over these fake-boobed, naked girls on Instagram calling themselves "fitness professionals" or "master trainers". If you need to get naked to sell it then you don't know much about it.’

Sarah’s post got a great response and created a lot of interesting discussion.  My immediate response was to agree with Sarah, although it has also got me thinking about the concept from different perspectives.

From a sports nutrition angle, you don’t see too many Accredited Sports Dietitians (personally I coundn’t name one) who work with professional sporting teams parading themselves on social media in their short shorts and crop tops.  Not that there is anything wrong with that- we can all wear whatever we like, but in the world of professional sports medicine and high performance sport, flaunting your body is not really the done thing (for the staff anyway!).  In fact I would say most sports dietitians almost go the opposite way and cover up a bit more at work compared to what they may do in other environments.  But is this necessary?  Do females working in predominantly male environments, which many professional sporting teams present, need a more conservative dress code?  This is perhaps another point of debate in itself, professional conduct and what is appropriate or not…..

When we move from the workplace to the social media domain we are looking at a totally different scenario.  Competition is fierce, direct and consistent.  Amongst the millions of nutritionist and personal trainers some individuals feel they need to show off their assets to stand out in the crowd.  I must have missed the marketing classes in my nutrition and personal training studies that recommended you should prove that you have knowledge and applied skills by stripping down to your smalls to show your worth.  But as a marketing strategy it works a treat.  Many self-described ‘nutrition gurus’ are very savvy business people who know what creates attention and do a great job promoting their wares.  You know what, good on them I say.  If they really do have a useful product or service that is sound then well done on your marketing skills and success. 

If you work hard to train and eat well then why not show off your result?.  Just don't promise to those who lack your amazing genetic make-up that they can look like you by doing what you do.  Don’t claim to be something that you are not, while giving out incorrect and potentially dangerous information that in the long-run can have a negative impact on a person’s health and psychological well-being (long after they have generously donated to your bank account).  It might be worth considering your own longer-term health too, both physical and psychological.  Receiving positive feedback from strangers about your appearance must feel great at the time, but how long will it last.  What about negative feedback?  If your messages are not authentic or accurate then negativity will eventually come your way.

In the end, these bikini-clad babes are holding the dreams of many of us in the palms of their fake-tan stained hands.  Most of us want to try to look and be our best.  Perhaps these online role-models are providing us with hope – who am I to ruin the dreams of thousands and bring reality crashing down to earth with my claims that the majority of these starlets don’t know what they are talking about.  'Surely if I eat like Miss M I will start to look like her?'  You know, I think most people aren’t naiive enough to think that. Maybe it’s the fantasy of it all that is compelling.   Perhaps that’s what it’s all about, the unattainable reality but with the glimmer of belief that we could look or be a little bit more like these new-age role-models of health and fitness?   Who am I to destroy anyone’s dreams and motivations.  Or should more of us be standing up and speaking up against those who take advantage of people’s vulnerability as they yell ‘so long suckers’ and ride into the valley on a white horse with their blond hair flowing and bags of cash in tow??

Or maybe the bikini babes have it spot on.  Perhaps exactly what I need is a good boob job, a fake tan, exceptional lighting and angles, filters and strategic photoshopping.  This seems to be what people are interested in these days.  Forget the science and evidence-based strategies, let’s just go for the latest active wear and and inspiring pose to get people out of their chairs and making salads.  One thing’s for sure, I would definitely have a lot more followers and be a lot richer!  Or I may just stick to my everyday clothes and continue my current day job……I'll keep you posted!

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