The deal with Kayla Itsines

And the limits of saying you want to “help women."

The deal with Kayla Itsines
A screenshot of a post on Kayla Itsines' Instagram.


This is the paid Sunday Ask A Swole Woman edition of She’s a Beast, a newsletter about being strong mentally/emotionally/physically.

The Question

Can you say more about what Kayla Itsines did? I am not sure why you think she is bad, but I’m relatively new to all this stuff! —Andie

The Answer

You asked for it!

Let’s break it all the way down.

Kayla Itsines is an Australian personal trainer-turned-extremely wealthy fitness behemoth.

After a few years as a personal trainer, Itsines released her now-famed Bikini Body Guide and Healthy Eating and Lifestyle Plan Nutrition Guide in 2013[1], and sold them as PDF e-books via her website in a bundle for $120 AUD. Since the guides were formatted as PDFs, they enjoyed viral popularity in the form of bootlegs traded back and forth online.

At the end of 2015, she launched an app, Sweat with Kayla, which contained the Bikini Body Guide programming (now renamed BBG, as it was often affectionately called by her customers), and charged customers $20 per month for access. As marketing for the app, she hosted a world tour of “boot camps” in 2016.

In covering her boot camp tour and app success, Bloomberg described her thus:

Itsines is the type of woman other women want to be. Her brows are shaped, her nose is straight, her frame is simultaneously muscular and supermodel slight. When she sweats, her skin shimmers like golden sand. She’s wearing her straight, brown hair in two French braids, and the only thing whiter than her teeth are her Adidas sneakers. “You look amazing!” Itsines cries as she jumps and lunges onstage, leading the women through four circuits of three to four exercises each.

Per Bloomberg, Sweat with Kayla instantly raked in money, outearning both the Nike+ and MyFitnessPal apps in the fitness category. In mid-2021, Itsines sold the app, now called just SWEAT, for a reported $400 million, in part on the strength of its revenue at the time ($99.5 million, including $53.7 million in the U.S.). This is Taylor Swift, private jet money.

According to The Cut, by that time the app had been downloaded more than 30 million times. The details of the deal are not public, but Itsines continues to endorse and represent SWEAT on Instagram, where she currently has over 15 million followers.

Her original program, the Bikini Body Guide, was a disaster that women now allege is to blame for their eating disorders.

BBG 1.0 workouts consisted of a staggering 28 straight minutes of high-intensity intervals (more on this in a minute) and a “clean eating” 1,200-calorie diet (more also on this in a minute) that produced genuinely scary results (more also on this, also in a minute). But it was no less true then than it is now that a skinny and tan young woman with visible abs is an extremely powerful marketing tool, and Kayla seemed only too happy to be the face and abs of her $120 program.

Now, mentioning the acronym BBG sends shudders through many corners of the internet. Sure, there are plenty of positive testimonials to be found under various Kayla-affiliated hashtags (more on how this may not be what it seems in, also, a minute). But there seem to be just as many people for whom the workouts were miserable, the diets were far too meager, and the mindset the whole program encouraged left them tired, miserable, and unhappy.

@k8prk If u bought the bikini body guide PDF in 2016 u may be entitled to compensation #fyp ♬ Major Bag Alert - Damickey Lillard