Beachbody, the multilevel marketing scheme of weight-loss-oriented diets and workout programs, is no longer Beachbody, as of this week. “We never intended for the name Beachbody to represent an ideal,” writes Carl Daikeler, the CEO of Beachbody. Uh huh. “But society now uses the term differently.” Does it, Carl?
This claim feels wildly outrageous. The idea of a “beach body” feels almost immortal, as if cavemen were plausibly once wondering if this loincloth made them look fat.
Yet what Daikeler is saying appears to be at least partially true: the idea of a “beach body”—a body “ready” to be perceived mostly naked at venues where near-nakedness is common, such as a beach—is a relatively recent invention. Searching Google Ngram, the appearance of the words “beach body” rise exponentially from the year 2000, the actual year that Beachbody launched. Before that, there was almost nothing, what can’t be more than incidental mentions.
Even searching for the term “ready for the beach,” I can’t find much other than the marketing copy for Wet ’n Wild Barbie, whose swimsuit changes color in the water, and this book I weirdly feel like I tangibly remember, Beach Body Art.
Obviously people being in states of dress where you can see their body and looking hot at the beach is a much older concept. The famous Muscle Beach, including its outdoor gym equipment, went up in 1934. (Amazingly, it was part of the New Deal’s Works Progress Administration. Imagine the publicly accessible gyms we would have if we still had any social services!). This was not that long after neck-to-ankle bathing costumes, but it was still almost a century ago.
But the idea of an aspirational, meritocratic, hotness-through-Puritanical-good-works “beach body,” is… much newer. It’s hard for me to believe I reached my teens before Beachbody even came into being. And yet now, “beach bodies” and even more so “bikini bodies” cough Kayla Itsines, are not only an ironclad cultural concept, they have an entire harvest season of preparation dedicated to them (a harvest season many have started to fight back against, but nonetheless).
Would it matter if beach bodies were not invented in my sentient lifetime? Not really, though it adds to the outrageousness of the concept. It is easy to forget how quickly we leapfrogged from “natural food stores are for hippies and jogging is for weird freaks” to the absolute mandate of projecting a picture of militant health at all times, one that exists in lockstep with being small and “toned.”
It remains profoundly silly, though, to claim that Beachbody, which clearly mainstreamed the term “beach body,” was ever about anything other than conventional hotness and weight loss, despite the “sorry you felt that way” non-apologies of Carl: ”part of this shift is also acknowledging the possibility that for some, we played a role in projecting the notion that fitness and nutrition are about chasing an ideal, and for that, I apologise,” writes Carl. We all know what you meant, Carl.
Still: This is not an industry that has ever concerned itself with facts, and Carl is not about to start. He breezes to the next batch of sentences about how the company will transition its branding to “BODi,” currently the name of its online class platform. And it is here that Carl gets very, very lost:
“Many exciting changes will come as we invite people to explore their fitness and nutrition through the lens of Health Esteem.
“The simplest first step can be as fun as learning how you can eat more dessert and be proud of it, without guilt or regret (truly).
“In fact, we’ll show you how dessert can actually enhance your well-being with our Gourmet Superfood Dessert recipes!”
“The content and approach we’ve created to achieve healthy results are proven… achieving a positive Health Esteem – our hope is that tens of millions more people will feel welcome and will feel like we do:
“You are successful the moment you realise that you can appreciate exactly who you are today… And that satisfaction can coexist with the desire to make changes that will help you feel even better.”
It doesn’t matter that what Carl is saying doesn’t make a ton of sense, because on its face: great. Throwing the concept of weight loss as the central raison d’etre of food and working out in the trash is something I have wished for for a long time. But the actual specifically destructive and endless cycle of Beachbody-style weight loss is exactly what has kept people hooked on its multilevel marketing scheme, and many things like it. What will be the new addictive mechanism in these Gourmet Superfood Dessert recipes? What will be the dark pattern of “Health Esteem”? In 20 years, will I remember a time before it? Or: Will this all crash and burn? Will it be all the same things, with just new words?
A business like Beachbody hardly ever makes a change without a direct connection to the bottom line. If weight loss and hotness were thriving as drivers of sales like never before, it’s deeply unlikely we’d be seeing this change. Maybe this floundering away from “weight loss as inextricable from health” won’t actually amount to meaningfully standing up again, as a business. But that is fine; it matters far less that things like Beachbody might be dying than the fact that they may finally be getting killed.
~Discord Pick of the Week: I'm thrilled to reveal what folks in the Discord have known for a while now: the second annual PLATESLAM event is coming December 16-17!! You can read all about it below. I highly recommend you also check out the PLATESLAM 2021 recap video, as rewatching it got me immediately fired up again, but also you will find inspo for picking your own artisanal, shade-grown PR!
Drink THIS in: A 94-year old woman who is continuing to set deadlift records. "'Oh, it’s something to do,' said Kuehn of lifting weights, setting records and approaching 100. 'I never feel too accomplished about any of it.'" AND a anti-hustle culture legend!
I’ve always said it’s important to take headlines at face value: Swearing makes you fitter. Picture me at a conservative rally reciting my longest string of curse words ever and rapidly growing in size like Bruce Banner transforming into the The Hulk.
The time Nietzsche took a forest bath and it led him to do his greatest work.
Loved this Rax King joint: RIP icon and blogging OG of Julie & Julia fame, Julie Powell. I’m shocked to hear anyone ever criticized Julie & Julia, hallowed be Nora Ephron’s name.
It’s time for opulent oatmeal. I hate steel-cut-oats elitism, but I’m a huge fan of upgrading the dried fruit in your oats from raisins to Montmorency cherries. You can get a huge bag at Costco for cheap!
The timing that it has; the taste that it has; the discernment that it has: the Oprah backs John Fetterman over her longtime snake-in-the-grass guest Dr. Oz. John Fetterman, welcome to Oprah’s List of Favorite Things!!
Take one of those deep, centering breaths one needs anytime we engage meaningfully with anything happening on TikTok because: fitness influencers are going cuckoo bananas over the workout-enhancing powers of sour candy. Even brands are on it.
You know what: they’re not wrong! I love to eat candy before and during a workout. Your body starts digesting those sugars the moment they hit your tongue, and there is no food it can deliver to your muscles in the form of energy faster than any simple carb. As I note in my Instagram post, the effect is probably particularly stark for someone who otherwise avoids carbs like the plague, like turning on a lamp in a room when the sun set hours ago.
There is nothing really special about sour candy, though. Any simple carb where not much fat or protein is standing in the way will do: bread, pasta, juice. What helps even more, though, is fueling your body generally speaking! You sure don’t need to do this.
Planet Fitness made (Twitter) headlines yesterday because two guys who are following a guy who is afraid fruit will kill him around the country to partake in his rallies are using the gyms to shower and go to the bathroom. No shade to this actual practice, which frequently comes up as a tip for people who have lost their housing: While cheap chain gyms have wrought some bad in the world, they are super-cost-effective places to take care of those basic needs. Hilarious to think about how a Front Row Joe would sneer at someone doing out of need what they are doing for fun!
In the “Not So Fast” Department: A study from last month suggested that people who train at lower intensities (RPE 4-6) in their back squat over eight weeks saw about the same improvement as people who train at higher intensities (RPE 7-9). I call bullshit on this; it feels obvious that in this subset of already-strong people, the people who trained at lower intensities were probably just well-rested compared for their one-rep max attempts to the other group, who were squatting as high as RPE 9 three times a week. Who designs these things?? Still, this fits with something else I’ve been talking about a lot lately: Sustained periods of progress matter way more than keeping up the highest amount of pressure all the time for eternity. Just one of my classically snappy sound bites
I watched Barbarian and it also left me wondering: Why are male horror directors so afraid of naked old women?
Not sure anything better is going to happen in my whole life than this Weird Al biopic.
The new season of Love Is Blind is a trip.
If you’d like to participate in a virtual tourist attraction: Go to the r/Fitness subreddit, which is now 10.3 million people strong. Click Read the Wiki > Workout Routines > Strength Training / Muscle Building and scroll down to the Barbell routines section, where you will find our very own LIFTOFF now listed in those ranks!!! Future Casey is now exactly where Past Casey would have found her 🤝
That’s all for this week! I love you for reading, thank you, let’s go—