It’s two months until Christmas, and the reality TV stars of Britain are beginning to crawl out of the woodwork to sell their fitness DVDs.
The peddling of various miracle workouts has already begun in earnest and former stars of The Only Way is Essex or Geordie Shore are ready to fill the stocking of those desperate to follow in their weight loss footsteps.
Despite competition from online workout gurus like Kayla Itsunes and Joe Wicks the fitness DVD market is still huge.
The fitness DVD market has been valued at £200million in the US. Last year eBay reported that sales of exercise DVDs increase by 150 per cent in the weeks immediately following Christmas. At the beginning of 2015 Geordie Shore star Charlotte Crosby’s 3 Minute Belly Blitz became the biggest selling workout DVD in this country for 15 years, selling twice as many as Disney animation Frozen in its first week onsale.
Of course when these DVDs come out their subjects are in the best shape of their lives. The most recent of these is Frankie Essex, former star of TOWIE and sister to professional ignoramus Joey Essex. Her “journey” to a size 8 from a size 16, and two stone weight loss, has been firmly documented online and in showbiz magazines.
There’s nothing negative about encouraging people to move more and be healthy, but nothing about the majority of these undeniably impressive weight loss “journeys” is transparent.
Most of it is inspired by a paycheck at the end, and they’re often promoting themselves rather than inspiring a desire for good health.
Having worked at a top selling celebrity weekly magazine for three years I, more than many, can identify the tell tale signs that a DVD is on the way.
Whether it’s Essex, Crosby, her Geordie Shore co-star Vicky Pattison or former Brookside actress Jennifer Ellison, they all fit the same format.
First of all we see the series of pap shots from the celebrity’s holiday. Their weight gain is immediately made obvious in several ways: the subject will be grabbing their belly, or tucking into a huge portion of fish and chips, drinking a pint of beer or walking down the beach with no make-up or fake tan on (the indignity!) – all of this will be done in an ill-fitting bikini to further accentuate matters. They’re intricately posed to make sure they look the worst they’ve ever looked. Then the workout photos begin: personal training sessions (always in a public place which a paparazzi just happens to have stumbled upon).
They’re always in unflattering workout gear, tiny shorts and a crop top: belly on show, pained expression on face.
Finally, we have the unveiling of the new body which comes with the official announcement of the workout DVD.
Normally the celebrity is standing next to a cardboard cut out of their former “fat” self. And they’ve usually dropped from a size 16 to a size 8 in a matter of months.
When members of the public, or the – often young – fans who follow these stars on social media, see the extreme results they’ve achieved within months, of course they want the DVD. It’s pitched as the surefire way to drop the pounds you’ve gained after Christmas without going to the gym.
And when the stars’ new bodies are unveiled there’s a fresh bout of pressure to have the “perfect” figure. What’s left out is these women often have personal trainers, money for food delivery services, not to mention schedules which allow for a daily workout. They’re not leaving the house at 8am and getting back at 8pm like many of their fans. The results which the DVD buyer expects also aren’t always realistic, and losing huge amounts of weight in a short space of time often isn’t sustainable or healthy.
It’s an easy paycheck for a reality star, however. Janet Street Porter accused former Big Brother contestant Chanelle Hayes of having a “long term plan” when she revealed she had gone from a size 8 to a 16 earlier this year.
“You’re not going to suddenly unveil a fitness DVD on us are you?” she asked Hayes, who replied that she wasn’t planning to, but added, “If someone said to me I’d give you £30,000 to do a fitness DVD, I’d drop whatever weight you’d want me to because I’m a single parent and it’s about paying the bills.”
While there are bona fide celebrity DVD workouts – Davina McCall, for example, has 11 highly praised programmes – the reality TV star’s DVDs are often a one off. They’re offered the money, they take it and work-out and diet obsessively for months in order to get their paycheck.
After that the weight-loss is often reversed within months. Someone taking inspiration from a celebrity’s weight loss and trying to be the healthiest they can be is only ever a good thing.
But the conveyor belt of reality TV stars’ weight loss feels tired and unfair to those who buy into it.