Exercise DVDs: When Bodywork and the Self Collide

A friend recently mentioned to me that they wanted to do a workout DVD called “TapouT XT” , a program similar to Insanity but with resistance bands and MMA style workout techniques.

Since I didn’t actually have the time to watch it, I looked it up anyway and began to watch the half-hour long infomercial for the TapouT thing.  Most of the things that were being presented were similar ploys for other workout programs — showing real people and their results from the workout, claims that it is the “hardest workout in the world”, etc.

tapout 1

But one woman’s testimony caught my attention. One of the “success stories” on the infomercial was a woman who stated that she started the program because “my body doesn’t match who I am”. She said it just like that: “my body doesn’t match who I am”. Hm.

I found it interesting that this woman was defining her very self, the essence of her personality, as linked to the way that her body looked. She is perceiving her body as the “embodied personal self-projection” (Jan Brace-Govan), where her physical body is believed to communicate to the rest of the world for her.

The concept that this workout was serving as a form of bodywork (Brace-Govan), or conscious activity to create a specific physicality for all of these people, led me to look at other infomercials for workout programs. I happened to find infomercials for Insanity, P90X, and Jillian Michaels’ Body Revolution. Unsurprisingly, I noticed similar themes to the other video: participants “didn’t feel very good about themselves.” There was emphasis on time spent on their bodies, and a negative connotation associated with people who had excuses that prevented them from engaging in bodywork.


The point that I’m trying to make is not that I think these workouts don’t work and that they are the spawn of Satan himself. What I wanted to highlight was the fact that these videos use the unhealthy body image perceptions of their audience to convince them that they absolutely must invest in their product to gain social worth and acceptance. There is an inextricable link between morality and your body, and too often this is exploited so that people use their bodies to do all of the talking. This link is a social practice that is not based in any scientific data. And while the fact that women (and men, in this case) are compelled to believe that the only way to become who they want to be is by controlling their bodies is a whole different argument, it is important to remember that this kind of thinking is out there.

Body Revolution1

People are absolutely entitled to get in shape in any way that they desire — I just think that it is important to think about why we are making the choices that we make and what pushes us to work our bodies in different ways. How does your body define your person? Should it define your inner self?


2 thoughts on “Exercise DVDs: When Bodywork and the Self Collide

  1. Jonathan says:

    This is an interesting article! I think the advertising part really hits home, esp cause my Keystone is about using discriminatory advertising as well. I wonder, is there another way to advertise for these kinds of products?

    • thauge2013 says:

      The other question to consider is whether or not these companies have considered a different method of advertisement and have chosen not to implement it as well. If they were inclined to believe that a different method worked better, than they would change strategies, quite possibly.

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