Jennifer Lopez recently kicked off her “Be the Girl” challenge through her Body Lab Web site, which describes itself as an “innovative, research-based line of health and fitness formulas designed specifically for a woman’s body.” In doing so, Lopez became the latest example in the argument for why taking fitness advice from celebrities is a bad idea.
Lopez is dangling the promise of chance to meet her and a trip to New York if you take on her weight-loss challenge through Body Lab, which heavily promotes its genesis as a company “by women, for women.”
“I challenge to you crack the cocoon and find the butterfly, to love yourself more than anything on the menu,” she intones in the promotional video, which is filled with feel-good, girl power-scented phraseology. Wait. So if you have a burger it’s because you don’t love yourself? How is this any different from the guilt and shame-based marketing of yore? No matter. Soon enough, we get to the meat and bones of the thing:
When I run, you run.
When I sweat, you sweat.
And when I eat, you eat.
The message is clear — join Lopez’s challenge and buy her Body Lab products so that you can “be the girl of your dreams.” You know: JLo.
Lopez’s Ultimate Workout Pack can be had for the bargain price of $99 (down from $164!). It includes the “7-Day Ultra Fast Slim Kit,” which is three different pills that promise “triple process detox and cleanse,” “thermodynamic total burn” and “probiotic replenishment.”
Unfortunately, this stuff is, in the words of North Carolina personal trainer Kat Whitfield, “fairly useless stuff for the people she’s trying to target.” Whitfield is the author of the book “Let’s Sharpen Our Bulls— Detectors!,” a guide to “navigating the super-saturated, over-bloated fitness and diet industry.” Whitfield has a degree in exercise and sport science from UNC at Chapel Hill and she’s certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine as a personal trainer.
“Pretty much any time you see the word ‘detox’ or ‘cleanse,’ you can rest assure it’s not legitimate,” Whitfield said, later adding that the benefits provided by detoxes, if any, are purely psychological.
Probiotics “can be helpful when it comes to intestinal and digestion issues,” Whitfield said. “However, this is a very complex topic that a lot of people have spent devoting their lives to researching. And to just tell someone, ‘oh, take this probiotic, it will reduce belly bloat and body waste buildup’ … is borderline irresponsible.”
As for the “thermodynamic total burn?” “Any pill that says it’s going to be increasing your metabolism or how many calories you burn during workouts, nobody needs to be taking that, especially not your average person,” Whitfield said.
Even Lopez’s “TastyShake Complete Whey Protein Complex” and “Tastyshake Thermodynamic Protein Complex” won’t help much, according to Whitfield. “It’s basically an overpriced protein shake.”
Of course, Lopez is hardly the only celebrity guilty of shilling the possibility of glamour and weight loss with dubious products and methods that sound like they’re based in science more than they actually are. Enter …
The Tracy Anderson Method
Whitfield let out an audible sigh when I mentioned Tracy Anderson. Despite a rash of articles debunking her methods and questioning her credibility — Anderson is on the record saying no woman should lift more than three pounds — Anderson is still kicking around. According to her Web site, she’s building a new gym (she calls them studios) in East Hampton, in addition to the five already open in London, California, and New York.
“She trains a lot of mothers who have to pick up their children who weigh 30 pounds,” Whitfield said. “Should they not be doing that?”
Of course not. If you’re paying Anderson’s $900 per month gym fees (plus a $1,500 “initiation” fee), you have a nanny to pick up your children and hired staff to pick up anything else, like a well-stocked designer purse.
Despite possessing zero certification in exercise physiology, Anderson has a veneer of credibility that’s been buffed to a high shine thanks to testimonials by Gwyneth Paltrow and Lopez. Even Tracee Ellis Ross swears by her.
“Being able to say you have celebrity clients is definitely a huge boost, but that’s how it goes,” Whitfield said. “The annoying thing about celebrities is they became celebrities — models, actresses — because they were attractive. They’re not attractive because of Tracy Anderson. Tracy Anderson got clients who were attractive.”
“Any time you watch or read an explanation of her methods, they are completely nonsensical,” Whitfield said. “They don’t follow any sort of logic. They certainly don’t follow exercise physiology principles. She’s just very well-known in the fitness industry for being dishonest.”
Anderson’s method focuses on what she calls “accessory muscles,” cutting your diet to less than 1,000 calories a day (something health and fitness experts generally do not recommend), and eschewing running and biking because she thinks they make you bulky.
“I do believe she said you shouldn’t run because it’s using the same muscles over and over, and you should do her dancing videotape because it uses all different muscles from different directions,” Whitfield said. “It’s completely untrue. All those bulky marathon runners, amiright? Sooo bulky.”
Most people have become savvy enough to know that you can’t achieve weight loss with a pill. It’s been some years since we’ve seen the Kardashians shilling QuikTrim, which netted the company a reported $45 million in sales. They were sued by consumers for promoting products the FDA deemed ineffective, including a cleanse. Before them, there was Anna Nicole Smith and her notorious ads for TrimSpa. And yet, like the products endorsed by the Kardashians and Smith, people bought Anderson’s workout DVDs en masse.
Perhaps the least offensive of the celebrity fitness fads is …
Model Fit is the gym frequented by Taylor Swift, Karlie Kloss and many a New York model, located at Terry Richardson’s old photography studio. According to its Web site, Model Fit ” is a unique, bespoke approach to healthy living.”
It’s probably a lovely space with very nice towels. However, if you are an average shlub, repeated visits will probably not result in a model figure. Unlike Body Lab and Anderson, it has yet to explode all over the country, and seems slightly more transparent about its offerings. Rebecca Harrington is The Cut’s resident celebrity diet and fitness guinea pig. Here’s her assessment:
Now, I am not in particularly “good shape.” One time I almost cried while doing thigh dancing at Physique 57. But ModelFit is one of the easiest fitness classes I have ever taken in my life. It seems to consist of moving very slowly and stretching a rubber band with your arm. There are a million breaks so that people can catch their breath even though no one is out of breath. I wonder how the models can exercise this way and still be models but then I realize this is probably the best thing for them. Models don’t really need to burn fat, per se. They just need to expose very small muscles in their torsos and keep wearing their hats.
Perhaps the best celebrity fitness advice to follow is from astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, who, while not known for his fitness prowess, seems to have the right idea.
A WeightLoss book written by Physicists would be 1 sentence long:"Consume calories at a lower rate than your body burns them"— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) January 12, 2011