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Celebrity fitness: hoax or inspiration?

Demystifying the reigning trend of celebrity fitness.

Celebrity fitness: hoax or inspiration?

As a celebrity trainer, let me assure you that the most clients I have turned down or refused have been ‘celebrities.’ Some of them are absolutely amazing people but others can be rude and downright obnoxious in their demands.

Our culture has come to idolise the illusion of ‘glamour’ over intellect and substance. This is especially true when it comes to the world of wellness. Look at actual athletes and Olympic sports champions if you want real inspiration. Following a celebrity for ‘fitness inspiration,’ in my opinion, is like trying to cook French food by watching biryani tutorials on YouTube!

I remember watching a video of Katrina Kaif and Alia Bhatt doing thrusters at the gym. Katrina instructed a struggling Alia to ‘keep going’ as Alia pushed through the workout with 2kg dumbbells in horrid form! Internet fans applauded the two actresses for ‘working so hard at the gym.’ Remember the video of Deepika Padukone doing chin-ups with 2 resistance bands concealed behind a pull up bar? Three of my clients came in citing Ms. Padukone as inspiration. I made them do the pull ups with the same resistance bands and they were shocked to discover that half of their body weight was borne by the bands.

Deepika is a fantastic actor. Alia and Katrina are glamorous, well dressed and great dancers. But none of them can be called a fitness icon. Serena Williams and Roger Federer are fitness icons.

That’s exactly why the appointment of Gigi Hadid as a Reebok brand ambassador was so controversial. The images from the campaign were attacked by gym goers and professionals because of the amateurish ‘fitness’ poses that tried to mimic an athlete. Many wondered why a leading sports brand would hire a fashion model to play the role of athlete. Critics and bloggers concluded that in the world of today, appearances and instagram followers matter more than substance. Hence a Gigi Hadid gets a campaign that ideally should have gone to someone like Brooke Ence.

Now let’s talk about Victoria Secret models and those laughable workout tutorials. Do you really think 2 sets of 20 butt kicks is going to get you a derrière like Gisele? Don’t follow those videos, ladies! They are just part of an extensive marketing campaign that glorifies the ‘Angel’ body type and encourages you to aspire to an unrealistic idol. Having worked at Milan Fashion Week during my university years in Italy, I can assure you that Victoria Secret models starve. Backstage at many of the top shows, there is an unspoken code of cigarettes, black coffee and white powder. Food is ever present but I’ve never seen the girls eat more than two bites. The fashion industry still ‘fears’ fat and in Italy ‘cellulite’ is considered to be a disease that must be cured! Milanese and French designers are notorious for using the thinnest models they can find, while London and New York are now becoming more accepting of body diversity.

Back lanes at the shows are full of side drug deals being made. Countless substances like adderall, cocaine and meth double as natural stimulants and appetite suppressants. Therefore, they are top choices for many actors and models who need to drop weight quickly. Of course, the stereotype isn’t true for all…but it applies to most.

Let’s also address the celebrity trend of ‘Pilates.’ As a balanced Body Pilates instructor, I can assure you that Pilates is a highly intellectual form of exercise that combines mind and body. There is nothing ‘glamorous’ about a reformer. When done correctly, Pilates will have you drenched in sweat and shaking within the first ten minutes. So when I see celebs holding a pose with ten layers of makeup, I feel like they are making a mockery out of Pilates! My clients ask me if the Reformer and Cadillac will ‘transform’ their bodies and make them look like Katrina Kaif and Kareena Kapoor.

For the final time, Pilates is a form of corrective exercise that strengthens your core, improves postural alignment and prevents imbalances in the body.

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I realise that Pilates equipment looks ‘fancy’ but it’s been there since the First World War and was invented to rehabilitate bed-ridden soldiers in detainee camps! Josef Pilates attached springs to the bed frame of his patients to reverse muscle atrophy and allow them to strengthen muscles without having to move. Pilates was inspired by the Greek notion of the idol man who attained perfect harmony between intellect, body and spirit. That’s the beautiful and poetic history of Pilates, now being polluted by the superficiality of ‘celebrity culture.’

Finally, if I see one more picture of another actress lifting 2 kg dumbbells and tweeting about ‘strongwomen,’ I will take it as an offence against womanhood. Selfies at the gym don’t count because we all know that serious gym-goers are too engrossed in their workout to ‘look pretty and pose.’ The whole ‘strong is the new skinny’ jargon is meaningless now. Strong has always been strong. I’ve seen perfectly petite girls perform perfect pull-ups alongside visibly muscular girls. Let’s stop judging women for being ‘fat’ or ‘skinny’ and simply applaud strength…lifting heavier, keeping good form, achieving perfect push ups and pull-ups …those are benchmarks that should be instagrammed.

I’d like to end by saying ‘buyer beware.’ Today’s world is based on virtual reality that is highly edited and sanitised. The truth is never told on social media. But there is also more information available than ever before. As an educated customer, you need to inform yourself about health, nutrition and fitness before you begin to blindly emulate your favourite celebrity. They might be lying on their social media or concealing part of the truth. Everyone wants more followers. Everyone uses filters. And they all want to take ‘pictures’ at the gym because working out is no longer about getting fitter. It’s all about portraying a certain image, exuding a ‘cooler’ vibe and staying relevant.

Fatima Zara Mallick is CEO and Head Trainer at FZM BOUTIQUE FITNESS: a concept wellness centre that offers tailored fitness solutions to a select clientele. FZM is a certified Balanced Body Mat Pilates Coach and a trained Reformer Pilates Instructor. She is a professional dancer, a Ballet Barre Teacher and a Piloxing Trainer (a fusion of Pilates and kickboxing). Additionally, Fatima is an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and a Crossfit Level 2 Trainer.

Fatima Zara Mallick

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