Impact of Consumer Culture on Fitness in Philippines

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Being overweight in a physically-obsessed culture such as the Philippines is hard. It is depressing. Every day, we are bombarded with hundreds of advertisements insisting us to change the way we look. On the road, specific billboards suggest that being fat is a physical issue that need to be solved with the help of surgery. Television and radio news advocate that being fat is associated for being unhealthy and you would be prone from dying early. The more we scroll our social media feed, instantly, we see products and services for the enhancement of our body. The truth is, we cannot escape from it. It is everywhere.

The stigma on how so much negativity has been linked with the word “fat” (i.e. lazy, ugly, unattractive, and unhealthy) is alarming. Mass media messages are screaming that beauty, happiness, success and even romantic affair are only exclusive to people with perfectly built bodies. Because of this, numerous body acceptance and empowerment advocacies has become the current trend in contemporary media, particularly in social media. However, why media still standardizes beauty by conditioning our minds to what is only attractive are the photoshopped images of different models we see on advertisements? Why someone’s physicality is always the measure of our worth? Why every time we look at these advertisements, we feel dissatisfied about our physique? Why we allow beauty and weight-loss companies made us feel insecure about our body, when in fact, all they are doing is to capitalize on our insecurities?

Utilizing Raymond Gutierrez’s fitness journey as shown in his Instagram account, clearly it was a product of an advertisement campaign for canned goods, Century Tuna. Earlier of 2017, a shirtless and an arm-raised masculine physique of Raymond Gutierrez trended in social media. Netizen started to talk about his weight loss, including several TV shows, online portals and magazines featuring his journey towards achieving an ideal body.

In this particular case, Instagram have become an avenue where retailers and advertisers can market consumer goods in a way that will influence consumer spending. With the rise of user-engagement platform, like Instagram, there has been a steady rise in so-called ‘Influencers’ who become famous on social media (Abidin, 2016). Specifically, Richard Gutierrez, he became popular in the field of fitness right after his remarkable body transformation. He was able to reinvent his career from being a TV host turned fitness influencer or ‘fitsfluencer’ with about 695 thousand followers and counting.

According to Abidin, influencer is one form of ‘microcelebrity’ who gained a following on social media through the textual and visual narration of their personal, everyday lives, upon which paid advertisements written in the form of editorial opinions for products and services are premised (2016:86). It can be articulated from most of Richard Gutierrez’s Instagram posts and stories which are often associated to the brands and products that he is endorsing, including, a sugar-free flavored drinking water, “G-Active”, a sports apparel and active wear, “Adidas”, and recently a high-technology cosmetic enhancement and wellness clinic, “Aivee”, which I believe is responsible for maintaining his well-curved muscular physique.

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Thus, as Raymond Gutierrez’s fitness journey continues to strengthened fitness culture among his followers by promoting healthy eating and habitual exercise, he intended to use products as a way of representing his identity as well as cultivating a commercially successful career being a fitness ‘influencer’, in which different business, companies and advertisers are capitalizing on his body transformation journey to promote certain product and service at specific audience.

According to Thi Ngoc and Yang (2017), fitness culture is considered as a global, social construct, that bonds people who share the desire and ambition to have healthy lifestyle. Those people share the same values, attitude, and models for fit-looking body in terms of what they should eat, how often they should exercise, with whom they exercise with, and according to what set of rules are regulated by this culture.

As an individual pursuing a fitness-lifestyle with the intention of losing weight to have a better appearance and staying healthy, I followed Richard Gutierrez’s account to look for new workout routines and healthy recipes that could bring me closer to my fitness goal of losing weight. The body transformation journey of Raymond Gutierrez has become pivotal for me to push myself and get involve in the fitness community, and desiring that someday I can able to pull off that kind of transformation. While my fitness journey was still on the process, this research proposal was brought out of my academic curiosity to explore how body transformation journey posted in Instagram affects individual’s desire to embark on their own body transformation journeys, in a way that is bound to a capital system.

According to Cañete, the desire to progress in one’s material life is contingent upon the exchange of goods and labor through the process of paying for such with cash salaries to capitalist manufacturers (2014:97). Meaning, the desire to have an ideal body has resulted to a considerable capital expenditure in gym fees, buying healthy food, and physique-enhancing drug; in short, a lifestyle of devotional exercise, body care and personal grooming.

Within this context, fitness is best understood according to Maguire, as a field of negotiation, within individuals contend with the competing demands made to them by consumer culture. It provides opportunities to navigate, resist and comply with demands that the body be a focus of both work and leisure, that the body’s function and form (i.e. health and appearance to be maintained and improved), and that the body be disciplined as well as enjoyed. It is through such navigation and negotiation that individuals produce the body’s status: as a status object and site of investment, and an instrument of self-production (2007:3).

This research aims to uncover underlying messages behind these body transformation journeys posted in Instagram in the context of. the political economy of communication by exploring the political-economic forces that lead individuals to embark on their own body transformation journey, through interpreting the signs and symbols found within the text, but most specifically focusing on how these journeys are produced, distributed and consumed.

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