In many ways, “Revenge Body” follows the Kardashian family formula of putting it all out there — and then turning it into fodder for a reality show. When the Kardashians first rose to fame, the youngest Kardashian sister was often the focus of cruel headlines about her weight. After her very public estrangement from then-husband Lamar Odom, Kardashian found solace in the gym and has since undergone a dramatic transformation. In an Instagram post last year, Kardashian said she had turned to fitness “as a form of therapy and as a stress reliever.” “My workouts are not all about vanity,” she wrote. “They are about clarity for my mind and soul.”
But the term “revenge body” doesn’t exactly convey a search for inner peace.
In the premiere, which aired Thursday, Kardashian met with Will, a man hoping to get back together with his ex-boyfriend. On the verge of tears, Will told Kardashian that his ex had confessed to no longer being attracted to him. “I knew I had gained weight, but I didn’t know it was that bad, like I wasn’t attractive,” he says in the intro as the show cuts to him binging on greasy takeout and cake. “I don’t like what I see at all,” he tells the camera. “I see a fat, lonely person.”
Another participant, Stephanie, proclaims herself a “duff” (as in, designated ugly fat friend) and wants to “get revenge” on a longtime pal who made frequent, derisive comments about her weight.
This aspect of “Revenge Body” can be disconcerting. Kardashian’s team of experts covers many bases — she sets Stephanie up with her own dermatologist to address acne concerns — but we never see Stephanie or Will sit down with an actual therapist to talk about the root of their negative body image. Which is to say that “Revenge Body” isn’t any more problematic than other weight-loss shows that follow people pushing their bodies to the limit to lose sizable amounts of weight, ostensibly, for ratings. It’s par for the reality show course.
But is it healthy to use revenge as motivation to get in shape in the real world? “We all decide to better ourselves for a different reason,” said Lauren Imparato, owner of the New York City-based lifestyle brand Retox and yoga studio I.AM.YOU. “Our entry points to wellness are all different.”
Revenge can be an entry point, Imparato said, but she cautioned against directing it at other people. Instead, the payback should be directed at “those voices in your head — whatever it was … that allowed you to feel a certain way about yourself.”
Imparato advises her clients to make small changes to their daily lives that will help them better themselves in the long run — getting off the bus a few stops early to get extra walking in, or working in a 30-second breathing exercise to de-stress during a busy day. She details her philosophy in her book “Retox: Healthy Solutions for Real Life.”
Judging by her social media postings, Kardashian seems to support that approach, though she has increasingly faced criticism for what some consider an extreme weight loss.
On Thursday, many of Kardashian’s fans took to social media to say that they were inspired by the show — and praise how open the reality star has been about the benefits and challenges of her own fitness journey. Imparato said that open approach might be helpful to fans hoping to achieve a healthier lifestyle. “The more honesty that’s in the wellness world, the better, and the more transparency that’s in the wellness world, the better,” she said.
For transparency in “Revenge Body,” you sort of need to read between the lines. Most people don’t have access to Kardashian’s trainer, Gunnar Peterson, or her go-to stylists. The good news is that Will and Stephanie end up accomplishing major personal goals by the end of the episode, and both say they’ll continue their commitment to fitness. Stephanie sports a bikini for the first time at a pool party with her friends, where she confronts her critical friend. Meanwhile, Will’s ex never shows up to his rooftop reveal. “I don’t need him in my life,” Will says.
Correction: This post has been updated to indicate that Lauren Imparato’s lifestyle brand is named Retox, and does not have the same name as her yoga studio, which is called I.AM.YOU.