On Thursday nights I run a little boot camp for friends and colleagues. I set it up because I am big into my fitness and my friends wanted to get out and be a bit more active. When I asked them about their goals, most said they wanted to get a bit fitter, 'tighten up' a few things and generally have fun. None of them said they wanted to be "beach body ready".
Arjun Seth however, feels differently. He is the CEO of Protein World, yet another supplements company selling stuff to help you get fitter, lose weight and support the activities you enjoy. He is also the man who launched the "are you beach body ready?" campaign, which has been seen around the Transport for London network, sometimes on giant posters, with a picture of a ridiculously beautiful model in a bikini. The implication is that if you take Protein World's supplements, you too could be this beautiful, this fit, this perfect; this beach body ready.
It has provoked a backlash from a lot of opposition, believing the campaign is sexist, fat-shaming and racist. People, mostly women, have been defacing the posters, saying that they are always beach body ready and that it is not down to the campaign to tell them whether they are good enough to be on the beach. Protein World and Arjen have come back with their own 'tactful' responses, saying to one person "why make your insecurities our problem" and "here is a shoulder for you to cry on".
Of course, being me, I am going to come from a different angle and tell the anti-campaigners, Protein World and Arjen himself that they are all wrong. Though I do support (and have signed) the petition against the Protein World campaign. And here's why.
The issue is not fat shaming. Protein World is right that people should aspire to be healthier and we do have a huge issue with obesity. The issue here is the view from the company that you have to look like this stunning (and she is stunning, in my view) model to go to the beach. Let's be clear here; Arjen and his company are not running this campaign because they are altruistic, they are doing they are doing it to make money out of getting people to buy products in the forlorn hope of becoming this beautiful. And that's why I take issue with this campaign.
Beauty isn't just in one form, it comes in many forms. It comes from within and from without and it is wrong for Arjen and his crew to tell people what is and is not beautiful and to be seen on the beach.
Now, if it isn't about beauty and it is about health and fitness, I challenge Arjen to replace the picture with different pictures of different people, all who are fit and healthy, showing a result which is genuinely attainable for most people. There is no point showing people an impossible end-goal; it only makes people hate themselves more.
So Arjen, Protein World and everyone else. Stop being so beauty obsessed and encourage people to be healthier, fitter and happier.