The demand for ‘body transformation’ packages, either through exercise, diet or weight loss, generally peaks around this time of the year. The reason for the spike in interest is because summer holidays are around the corner, so after some gains from a couple of weeks of personal attention, people head off for their vacations with a feeling of being in better shape. Also, the wedding season is five months away and most body transformation programmes last 3 to 5 months — making this the ideal time to start off.
While people turn to body transformation programmes for multiple reasons, the prime reason is usually to look better. “The concept of transformations taps into our desire to look good naked and the need for instant gratification,” says Abraar Khan Waryah, co-founder and head coach, Gridiron Fitness Studio in Kolkata.
Dissatisfaction with the way we look, conditioned by the images of attractive men and women peddled by the mainstream as well as social media, is what drives the demand for transformation programmes. In fact, Waryah feels these programmes often have little to do with either health or fitness. “As you might imagine, transformations are a deeply polarising phenomenon in the fitness industry,” he adds. That’s because most transformation programmes focus on superficial results and do whatever it takes to deliver those. That could be shedding a few inches or losing some pounds. To do that, they often employ extreme means and methods, which show results in the short term but may not be sustainable over a longer period of time.
Typically, all body transformation programmes include an intense element: extreme workouts, drastic lifestyle changes for weight loss and very strict diet and rules in case of a diet-centric body transformation module. Most times these interventions are not sustainable for the long-term. “Six packs sell whether they are sustainable or not,” notes Waryah.
At a time when people are a lot more aware of the importance of making healthier choices and adopting lifestyle changes and forming new habits that are sustainable so as to enjoy lifelong benefits, there are quite a few questions being asked about transformations. “Body transformations can be positive life-changing experiences for many people. They can, many a times, lead to a sense of accomplishment and new-found self-esteem. But, sustainability is always a concern with rapid, short-term transformations owing to their extreme approaches. Maintaining a high frequency and intensity of exercises will eventually cause you to burn out and crash,” warns Waryah.
Scientific evidence shows that our body dissatisfaction drives us to adopt risky behaviour such as eating disorders and excessive exercise. A study published in the Journal of Eating Disorders in June 2020 found body dissatisfaction to be a determinant factor for risk behaviour for eating disorders and addiction to exercise. Furthermore, the researchers found that women showed higher presence of body dissatisfaction than men. Anecdotal evidence shows that more women than men enrol for weight loss programmes and this is partly explained by this study’s finding that more women report body dissatisfaction than men.
According to Waryah, the quickest route to all body transformation modules is to lose fat. “One can’t hope to build a significant amount of muscle in a few weeks. But you sure can shed a significant amount of fat in a few weeks depending on your own body fat levels,” he says. In the majority of cases, people interpret fat loss and a slimmer waist line as successful intervention and think they have achieved their goals by the end of the transformation programme. However, once the transformation programme ends, whether the gains can be maintained or not depends on the motivation one has. “Depending on the motivation and mindset of the person (s)he might want to maintain this new-found body and confidence that (s)he has achieved or might get complacent and revert back to the old lifestyle and old habits,” warns Waryah.
Instead of looking for a quick fix, it is better to make conscious long-term lifestyle changes and adopt healthy habits such as better eating patterns and regular exercise. The benefits of such long-term lifestyle changes would be evident in elevated confidence and self esteem levels, better energy and improved health parameters. However, in order to do so you will need to find the right reasons to do so, say fitness experts. "It is important to start out on a healthier lifestyle and exercise programmes for the right reasons keeping your long-term health in mind,” says Waryah.