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Dublin: 7 °C Saturday 15 December, 2018
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Why Flyefit's 'Love Handle Island' ad campaign is so toxic and harmful

Escape Love Handle Island? We’ll stay right here thanks.

FOLKS, IT’S SUMMERTIME and that can only mean one thing: it’s time for companies to seize upon your insecurities and make you feel a bit rubbish about yourself!

Earlier this week, Flyefit, a chain of low-cost gyms with branches across Dublin, unveiled a new campaign to coincide with Love Island mania. “There’s no escaping Love Island,” the company tweeted. “But you can escape Love Handle Island!”

The accompanying image features a woman wearing a white swimsuit and denim jacket, and is intended to resemble the promotional materials for Love Island.

“ESCAPE LOVE HANDLE ISLAND,” it reads. “STAY HOT THIS SUMMER. AOIFE WILL KEEP YOU FIT.”

At the bottom of the ad is a promo code to avail of free registration.

PastedImage-3829 Source: Flyefit, Facebook

The ad is reminiscent of a similar campaign that caused a stir three summers ago. Protein World’s weight loss supplement campaign featured a woman in a bikini and asked, ‘Are you beach body ready?’ It immediately prompted a backlash and was subsequently banned in the UK.

While FlyeFit’s ad is not as grossly offensive as that doozy, it nonetheless strikes a judgmental tone and reinforces corrosive ideas about body image and obsessive fitness culture.

For one thing, the ad’s tagline suggests love handles are inherently undesirable or somehow incompatible with summer. This is complete rubbish, of course. Love handles are nothing to be ashamed of and certainly should not be regarded as something to liberate yourself from. And honestly? Irish summers are too brief and fleeting to spend time worrying about them. Flaunt your love handles and get that Vitamin D, girl.

The ad also equates thinness with virtue. By featuring just one body type, it ignores the reality that there is no one size that fits all. Just because you aren’t conventionally thin doesn’t mean that you aren’t attractive. It also doesn’t mean that you’re a work-in-progress who just hasn’t gone to the gym enough. You can be fat, thin, short, tall, broad, slender, muscular, soft, able-bodied or disabled, and still be healthy.

More worrying are the repeated references to hotness. Exercise is a positive thing. It has myriad benefits and should be encouraged where possible. What shouldn’t be encouraged, however, is the notion of hotness as the ultimate reward for exercising. Especially when ‘hot’ is used as shorthand for ‘thin’.

Instead of imploring people to ‘stay hot,’ we should be encouraging people to stay active for their health and wellbeing. Not sending a message that you aren’t loveable if you don’t have razor sharp abs.

Flyefit prides itself on accessibility. It’s affordable and has branches all over the city. It’s disappointing then that they would consciously choose to send such an exclusionary message. After all, gyms and exercise can be intimidating enough without sending a message that could potentially put people off for fear of not being welcomed or, worse, looked down upon for having tummy rolls.

Summer is a time of year when self-esteem can get rocky. Instead of preying on these insecurities in the hopes that they will join your gym, it would be refreshing if the likes of Flyefit could employ a body positive approach to their marketing. One that doesn’t demonise love handles or relegate fat people to ‘before’ photos, but instead shows that exercise is for everyone and not only for losing weight.

Now if you excuse me, I’m going to retreat to my hammock on Love Handle Island.

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About the author:

Amy O'Connor

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