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Freeze Your Fat for a Fee

Ethical Marketing in the Fitness & Beauty Space

By Jenell Riesner Published about a year ago 5 min read
Freeze Your Fat for a Fee
Photo by Drew Dizzy Graham on Unsplash

*A Note to Readers: This story contains content on eating disorders. Reader disgression advised*

I pulled my hood up and placed sunglass on my face for extra measure as I exited my car and walked across the parking lot. The storefront of a strip mall grew larger with each step until its awning was looming over me. I avoided eye contact with the vinyl window clings of life-sized women smiling next to enlarged photos of their stomachs. Red circles emphasized areas that contained fat or skin rolls. It reminded me of getting back a test in school, knowing it wasn’t going to be an ‘A’ by the amount of red ink that had bled through the paper. It was clear who the enemy was.

I first saw an ad online about getting rid of stubborn fat. I was 23 and had spent all of college yo-yo dieting, starving myself, taking diet pills, and working out excessive amounts. None of which seemed to change my already slender psyche. But my stomach wasn’t flat like the women I saw on TV. My skin still got pushed up in unflattering ways from the underwire of my bras. I didn’t have visible abs like my peers. So when an ad about a non-invasive procedure to reduce fat showed up on social media one day, I clicked it. What harm could a free consultation do? I thought to myself.

A digital bell dinged as I stepped inside the Med Spa. Two young women welcomed me. I removed my sunglasses after confirming the waiting room was empty. At first, I was mute when they asked, "What are you here for today?".

I stared at them blankly before muttering, "I have a 2 p.m. appointment."

"Great. Can I get your name?" One of the women responded with a smile that was almost hidden by the filler in her lips. She handed me my paperwork and gestured to a couch in the corner of the room. I took a seat, back-to-back with the women that hung from the windows on the way in. We were in cahoots it seemed.

The form asked me all sorts of personal questions. My name, birthday, medical conditions, and it even had me circle areas of my body that I wasn't happy with. I drew multiple circles. The field that was the hardest for me to complete was the section that read "What are hoping to achieve from today's appointment?"

The three lines they provided didn’t seem to be enough space. I wrote, “I hate my body”. Then I scratched it out and started over again. “I want to tone up my stomach. I can’t seem to lose fat in my midsection no matter how little I eat.” I paused, looking down at my answer before crossing it out again. This process continued for a few minutes before I landed on a simple, “I’m not sure” scribbled in the margins.

Then I waited. A rush of heat washed over me and then I started to sweat. Little beads of perspiration absorbed into my cotton tee. Why are you doing this? I asked myself fighting the urge to sprint out of the room and back to my car. Right as I thought I might pass out, a woman walked into the room and called my name. She gestured for me to follow her and we navigated down a long white hallway with posters of smiling women in bathing suits next to san-serif fonts spouting phrases like, “Show more of less.” and “Take Yourself Further.” Their slender bodies were covered with self-tanner in front of tropical backdrops. They most certainly had never had this procedure done.

I knew I could never look like them. My bones wouldn’t allow it, but I continued to my exam room. I stood in my underwear against a cold wall as the technician drew larger circles with a marker on the stomach and lower back, just like the women in the window. She encouraged me to lift my arms and see if the underside of my skin would jiggle, so she could circle those too. We discuss payment first. “You can get three sections for $2,600. Or add an extra section for $3,000.”

I started to do the math in my head. $3,000 was 8% of my annual take-home pay. I’d thought about all the dinners with friends I’d said no to out of fear they’d asked to spilt the check. Yet, I handed her my credit card anyway. Did I hate my body this much? I thought to myself as she ran my card for an amount that would take me years to pay off.

Once the charges cleared, I lay down while a large vacuum-like machine “froze my fat away”. I sat in stillness for an hour for each circled section, as the machine sucked my skin into a cold chamber that burned my flesh before it finally went numb. I took deep breaths of sterilized air to push through the pain. A single tear rolled down my cheek. When it was all over, I was sent home with compression wraps, deep bruising, and the feeling that my body had been run over by a truck.

I didn’t tell my partner what I had done. I was too ashamed. Instead, I avoided his touch and kept my body covered for three weeks as I healed. It was two months before I returned to the Med Spa to look at almost identical before and after photos. I listened to the tech try to point out the unnoticeable differences between the two photos before she gave up and said “sometimes it takes more than one round to get results.”

Even if I was foolish enough to go again, I’d met my credit limit. I left the appointment devastated and ashamed. My body was still the same body I had hated two months prior, but I hated my mind equally as I made my way back to my car. Every month for two years I was reminded of my decision as I slowly paid off the debt I had put myself in.

It’s been a decade since I experienced this, but I think about the story a lot now that I am in fitness marketing. It’s easy to prey on women who have been taught to not like their bodies. It can be very profitable. But at what cost? When is it our responsibility as marketers to think about the impact of our messages?

Culture drives marketing but marketing also drives culture. We tell people how to think and what they should value in great repetition. The power of suggestion over and over and over again. No one person’s willpower can muscle up the strength to fight techniques that are designed to hack your psyche.

Thoughts on how you approach marketing in a socially ethical way?


About the Creator

Jenell Riesner

Cheery on the outside, moody on the inside. Jenell Riesner (she/her) is a Writer, Marketer, and seeker of adventures. She is an insatiably curious human who loves podcasting, hunting ghosts, and taking road trips. Instagram: @jenell.riesner

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