05/01/2016 12:09 GMT | Updated 05/01/2017 05:12 GMT

Protein World's 'New Year, New You' TV Advert Is Anything But Body Shaming

When I first heard that Protein World had released a new advert, I began sharpening my claws. After all, this is the brand responsible for the infamous 'Are You Beach Body Ready?' billboards.

But when I watched the 'New Year, New You' advert, I felt compelled to speak up - surprisingly, even to myself, to defend it.

When it comes to fitness, there's a fine line to be drawn. And I have just as little time for whiners as I do fat-shamers.

The reason Protein World hit the headlines last year was because of its 'Beach Body Ready?' advert. The ad, where vegan model Renee Sommerfeld loomed over commuters on Tube platforms, was criticised because of the perceived implication that only one body type was "beach ready": hers.

Social media outrage, an online petition and vandalism followed, but Protein World stood by their advert (albeit by sending a series of nasty tweets) and a subsequent investigation by Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) ruled that the campaign was "not offensive".

But the 'New Year, New You' advert cannot be tarred with the body-shaming brush.

Yes, this is an advert featuring women of a certain body type. But they are working out, not starving themselves, and they are happy, not looking in the mirror with a sad face.

When a high street retailer uses emaciated mannequins to sell clothing to women of all body sizes, that's wrong. When a perfume advert features only long-limbed glamazons to sell a fragrance to the masses, that's wrong.

But when a fitness brand, whose products are for people who want to change their lifestyle, use aspirational body types to market their products, that has to be OK.

I don't see anyone piping up about the body types of models used in Nike or Fitness First adverts. The difference here is the brand's legacy and we can't air dirty laundry for the sake of it.

Yes (some of) the women are wearing bikinis, but Protein World's 'Slender Blend' is about achieving a leaner body - which, like it or not, has to be on show to sell the product.

And while I'd have preferred to see the women swimming lengths in the local lido rather than gyrating on the beach, I don't see anyone complaining about the Adonis-like men on the Protein World website.

protein world

If it really is body shaming, it goes both ways

While I'm all for body image diversity, this is a fitness brand - not Dove Beauty.

The Telegraph's deputy women's editor Claire Cohen drew comparisons to Sport England's 'This Girl Can' campaign, which featured a range of body types, and called for ads to capitalise on "honesty not perfection". But, for me, these ads are simply not on a level playing field.

'This Girl Can' was launched by Sport England, a non-departmental public body, to tackle the stigma around women's sport and to motivate the inactive to get active; Protein World is a profit-driven business.

Even Nike Women's 'Better For It' campaign used one body type, albeit featuring an entire line up of fully-clothed models.

Of course, it's worth noting, the women in the Protein World advert are still "real". Speaking exclusively to HuffPost UK Lifestyle amid the 'Beach Body' controversy, star Renee Sommerfeld said she works hard to look the way she does.

"I am a real person behind the image. I work very hard and live a healthy and active lifestyle which is why Protein World chose me for their campaign. I couldn't work every day as a full time model by starving myself, dieting or not looking after my body," she said.

But if you're looking for "real women", Protein World have those too - just take a look at this, which is being circulated on their social media alongside posts from customers.

Granted, a handful of super-toned, beautiful women is the last thing you want to see after a month (or more) of overindulgence, but 'New Year, New You' isn't being pushed by Protein World alone.

New Year, New You isn't just about losing weight. It's about making better, sustainable lifestyle choices.

And, according to the product description on the Protein World page, Slender Blend is designed to "encourage the growth of lean, toned muscle", while the multi-vitamin supplements encourage greater wellbeing.

After last year's clanger of an ad campaign, I never thought I'd find myself defending Protein World... but as far as *this* advert goes, they're off the hook.