Fat-shaming fitness: UK gym under fire for provocative “fat and ugly” poster

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Amy Swales

When thinking of the best way to entice someone into your place of business, insulting them generally isn’t seen as the ideal approach (unless your place of business is, say, dominatrix-related).

That hasn’t stopped one gym company producing a billboard advert entreating “fat and ugly” people to work out with them.

Fit4Less hopes to attract gym-goers in Derbyshire with a huge poster asking, “Tired of being fat and ugly? Just be ugly” and pointing prospective customers to its membership.

However while the company claims it’s “light-hearted fun”, the message has concerned many, with an anti-bullying charity denouncing the poster as “shaming” and potentially damaging.

Natalie Harvey, from Combat Bullying, says the advert contributes to a culture of body-shaming and is concerned it could have an impact on children in particular, given its location on the side of a supermarket where families are likely to see it.

And after speaking out about the poster in question, Harvey tells she is now having to contend with online abuse from those who believe the slogan is harmless.

She previously told the BBC: “I was terribly bullied as a child to the point I was beaten up and had a broken arm, just because my hair was different.

“I don't understand why we are using these kinds of advertising. It's almost like shaming people.”

Speaking to, Harvey explains: “It absolutely illustrates my point literally being told I'm an ugly fat bitch, I should be dead, I’m a sensitive lefty liberal – it’s ongoing. The world needs more kindness and we are creating a hate culture.

“I'm definitely not sensitive, I'm not a victim, but I think there is a time and a place for ads like this, especially as mental health is at an all-time high. Eating disorders, mental health, body-shaming; I work with children who have attempted to take their own lives. I'd sooner see positivity and love promoted on a community’s high street.

“Yes, we need to get fit, but let's inspire and motivate, not poke fun. Keep these ads for adults in adult-frequented places.”

The slogan itself has done the rounds on social media before, with an American company reportedly using it, and a Google search showing the same UK company using the slogan back in 2012 on a different advert.

The poster comes a few months after the gym chain made headlines in April with an alien-themed ad reading, “They're coming... and when they do they'll take the FAT ones first!”

The gym said in a statement that it “doesn't take itself too seriously and “the campaign is intended to be seen as light-hearted fun and we certainly don't mean to cause offence.

“By adopting a light-hearted approach we can reach a wider audience and gain the attention of people who wouldn't usually respond to traditional gym advertising.”

The Long Eaton branch manager told the Derby Telegraph the poster was “obviously humorous” and “if people come down, they will see all shapes and sizes – we’re friendly and fun.”

Image: Natalie Harvey


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Amy Swales

Amy Swales is a freelance writer who likes to eat, drink and talk about her dog. She will continue to plunder her own life and the lives of her loved ones for material in the name of comedy, catharsis and getting pictures of her dog on the internet.

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