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My response to the “controversial” Peloton ad and “health shaming”

By December 8, 2019 No Comments

By now, most of you have seen and heard about the so-called “controversial’ Peloton commercial that released on November 21st.  A brief summary (since most of you have likely seen it): it features a husband, wife and daughter Christmas morning and the wife is delightfully surprised at her new Peloton her husband graciously purchased for her (they are pricey at well over $2,000).  The rest of the ad shows her “journey” over the next year and depicts the woman VLOGing (video blogging) her experience with the Peloton and at the end of the commercial she says, “A year ago, I didn’t realize how much this would change me”.  Commercial ends. 

So, what’s the big deal? 

My initial reaction to the commercial was, “Man, that was a stupid and cheesy commercial,” and then I went about my day completely unphased.  This is a fake story that is an advertisement meant to sell a product.   

But, in this sensitive society we live in, other people apparently interpreted the commercial in a far different manner finding the commercial to be “offensive” and “sexist” and various other descriptions about the cheesy commercial inferring there must have been “body shaming” that took place between the husband and the wife since she was already thin and fit and he gave her an exercise bike.  I’m not going to discuss every negative reaction to this as a simple Google search will quickly bring up a slew of these (if you are interested). 

Now, there are plenty of people (I would argue MOST people—remember, the media’s job is to sensationalize things and make non-issues a bigger story then what it should be) who either, like me, watched this ad and thought it was a cheesy ad and then went about their day or, interpreted the story in the commercial as a potentially positive thing as this wife and mother found a workout tool that she enjoys and keeps her healthy and feeling good.  

“Health shaming” 

The lady in the commercial is thin and fit looking BEFORE she started the Peloton workouts.  So what?  It seems some people took issue with this, implying that a piece of exercise equipment gifted by her husband means this dude is a misogynistic creep who wants his already thin and fit wife to workout more to appease some unrealistic standard he has set for her.   

Ridiculous. 

It’s ridiculous that anyone would imply this from a 30 second ad that doesn’t suggest this is the case at all.  In our overweight, out of shape and over-sensitive society there are many, many insecure people who seem to lash out at people who care about exercise, eating right, staying trim and fit and just healthy living in general.  Like I mentioned above, I didn’t think twice about the ad when I first saw it.  But after hearing all the criticism about it the following day, I watched the ad (along with all the negative press) and gave the ad some more thought and insight. I thought, “This lady is super excited about having a cool piece of equipment she can use to stay fit in her home.  It looks like something she really enjoys and it is having a positive impact.”  Why do I think that?  Because I can relate!  I am someone who has spent the past 20 years doing my best to achieve and maintain great health.  The majority of my workouts have taken place at home for the past 20 years.  I get super excited when I get a new piece of workout equipment, big or small, and can’t wait to use it.  I am consistent and fairly regimented with my workouts and it makes me feel amazing!  Yes, you can even argue it’s “life-changing” because by consistent use of my workout equipment I have more energy, confidence, stress reduction and am able to stay trim, tone and healthy.  And, not to mention, I am trying to give myself the best shot possible at preventing, or at least delaying, the development of chronic disease(s) such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer and cognitive decline.   

Health shaming is something that exists, unfortunately.  This is when people who are trying to make healthy decisions are shamed (and there can be many ways this is carried out) for making, or at least trying to make, healthy decisions.  There are many examples to this, and I’ve experienced many of these myself.  “You’re too skinny”. “Don’t eat that around Ryan” (like I’m going to lecture a co-worker about indulging in a donut or something or I’m going to be offended if people are eating bagels), “I don’t know why you care so much about eating well and exercising, when it’s your time to go it’s your time to go”, “Why are you so addicted to exercising”, “Did you see Julia? She’s so skinny, I wonder if she’s anorexic. She’s basically withering away?” (when in fact Julia is at a very healthy body composition and feeling great). “I’ll get the Mediterranean salad with olive oil and chicken breast please”…and then getting an eyeroll from whatever company you are with and a comment such as, “Why don’t you live a little?”. 

The list can go on and on.  If you are someone who has been “health shamed” you probably have your own unique story and example(s) of people’s negative reaction(s) to your quest for a healthy life.  Now, I’m not denying the existence of negative and unhealthy behaviors such as various eating disorders, body image issues or orhorexia, as these truly exist.  But I’m writing this in the context of people who approach healthy living with a healthy balance and prioritize healthy choices over unhealthy ones and incorporate this into his/her life as a priority.  It’s a shame that many in society use their own insecurities, whatever the root of those might be, in a negative way towards those of us who not only care about achieving and maintaining good health, but are actively taking steps to do just so. 

Back to the Peloton commercial…. I can think of several women I know personally who could be that woman in the advertisement.  One of these women is an accomplished physician who enjoys competing in triathlons.  She is dedicated to her training, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she actually owned one of these pieces of exercise equipment.  She is fit, trim and healthy.  If she woke up on Christmas morning and her husband bought her a Peloton, she would likely be absolutely elated.  Now, due to this Peloton, she can train year-round in the ease and comfort of her own home, especially in the cold, dark harsh winters here in Illinois and prepare for her upcoming triathlons.   

So, perspective is everything.  When I see a commercial, such as the Peloton one, I first and foremost see a cheesy commercial that is trying to sell a product.  If I am forced to waste time and effort truly contemplating the “meaning” of the commercial, I see a wife and mother who cares about being fit and healthy who loves cycling and is super stoked about receiving a Peloton.  She may or may not participate in competitive endurance events, but either way this piece of equipment benefits her life in some way, shape, or form.  Being a wife, mother and working professional (whether or not she works I don’t know) is stressful, and there are many unhealthy ways to try and handle stress: over-eating, alcohol, binge-watching Netflix, gossiping, over-spending binges on Amazon, relying on anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications to get by….the list goes on.  If this wife and mother is choosing healthy behaviors to combat the stress and rigors of life and is finding some degree of happiness, satisfaction and stress relief through her exercise program utilizing her new Peloton bike, who are we to judge her or her situation? 

Thanks for reading! 

Author Ryan Parnham

Hello and thanks for visiting my site. My name is Ryan Parnham and I'm a 37 year old husband and father of two from central Illinois (hope I haven't bored you yet). The reason I started this site is because I have a passion and desire to live the BEST life possible, and I want to share my thoughts and experiences with other people so they can educate themselves and change things in their lives to live the best life possible as well. I strongly believe that nutrition is one of, if not the biggest, factor in health, vitality and longevity. I feel I have a bit of a unique perspective on things given my professional and personal back ground. I have an undergraduate degree in nursing as well as a master's of science degree in nursing and am a board certified family nurse practitioner from the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP). I have been in the medical field for over 15 years now

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