When Khloé Kardashian's fitness and weight-loss show, Revenge Body, premiered last year, Refinery29 had lots of thoughts — pretty much all negative ones. The show's premise is that, in order to be accepted and respected by people who've wronged you in the past, you have to lose lots of weight. Sure, these contestants went on the show seeking help with specific fitness goals, but what about the millions of people watching at home who were left to absorb the problematic messaging as Just The Way Things Are?
Latreal Mitchell, a NASM-certified personal trainer in Los Angeles and a Revenge Body coach, wasn't sure how people would react to the show when she appeared on it last year. "I never watched one episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians; I’m not a big reality TV person," Mitchell says. "I didn’t know what to expect, because the Kardashian name can go both ways: People think negatively of them, and people love them to death and worship them."
And why not? Between suspenseful pregnancy rumours and hot product launches, the Kardashians have us all wrapped around their fingers now more than ever. So people are likely going to tune in to Khloé's show — even if, deep down, they know that portraying weight-loss as a cure-all for unhappiness is wrong. Given that, I spoke to Mitchell about her exercise philosophy, what it means to her to have a "revenge body," and how she hopes the show is received this time around. Mitchell and I may not have ended up on totally the same page, but hopefully this conversation will make you better equipped to tune out any negative messaging if you do decide to watch this season.
How would you describe your workout style?
"The cool thing about the show is there's a variety of trainers, and we all do it differently. Each trainer creates their own program for their client. I do HIIT training, a lot of strength-training, and I’m very much into functional movement and strength. I like to make sure people can move properly first. I spend a lot of time on dynamic warmups, and things like that, then go into strength-training. Sometimes strength and cardio, sometimes strength and heavy weights."
Is the Revenge Body philosophy — that you need to work out to lose weight and get revenge on someone who's hurt you — in line with your own personal approach to fitness?
"That's a challenging question in a sense. At the end of the day, 'revenge' isn’t really getting revenge against someone. Revenge is not an evil thing. You’re getting revenge by showing people that, I can be better and make myself better — and at any point that's the best revenge.
"I don’t think what I do or my training style differs from what the show is about. Every coach's goal is to get that person into the best shape of their life in 12 weeks. It's not like other shows out there that are a competition to see who can lose the most weight in this amount of time. It’s not like that, and thank God it isn’t, because that's not lasting."
At Refinery29, we focus a lot on body positivity and acceptance. Part of that involves moving the conversation away from what your body looks like, to what it does and how you feel. Do you think that this show contradicts that or represents that idea?
"People create things in their mind, so if you’re looking at something and you want to make it negative, you can make it negative. I don’t see this show as being something that is body-shaming. These people are coming to us and saying, I want help. We don’t just go on the street and say, You look overweight, come train with us! It doesn’t work that way.
You can look at it as a positive, uplifting show, or stir it and say it's negative, and people should be happy where they are.
"These are individuals who say, You know what. I tried this by myself and I can’t. And they come to us. People can stir the pot either way. You can look at it as a positive, uplifting show, or stir it and say it's negative, and people should be happy where they are. In most cases, the people who make those arguments aren’t happy with themselves; that's why they make the argument. It's a really positive show, and shows that you got to do it on your own, and that's not easy."
But some of the backlash has to do with the fact that by putting it on TV, you're reinforcing the idea that, in order to be respected, you have to be thinner or smaller. And that your self-worth is directly related to your body or weight...
"That's far from the truth. The bottom line is people have to love and be happy with themselves, period. I know tons of big girls who are my best friends in the world, who have zero desire to go to the gym, and who eat what they want. When I see them walk in the room, they own the room because they love themselves, and their body, and who they are.
"If you look at the results of the people on the show, no one walks away 'thin,' they walk away with a different frame of mind. Their confidence goes through the roof because they are confident that they can make a change. There's a lot of haters in the world, unfortunately, and every show isn’t for everyone."
What was the reaction like after last season?
"My experience has been really great, and I think people who at one time were Kardashian haters, this show can definitely change their mind about it. Khloé is definitely doing great things for people who would never have these opportunities or motivation to get stuff done otherwise.
"[The Kardashians] work hard. They work out hard, go to the gym, do those things just like everyone else — so you can never take away hard work. They make fitness and living their best life a priority, and everyone should."
For those who do watch the show, what do you hope that they take away?
"I hope that people can look at the show this time around, and see something that I preach all the time. You have to learn how to be patient, and know that you’re going to make mistakes during the process, and you can correct those mistakes. You’re going to see the challenges that people go through during this journey.
"I think people will hopefully walk away feeling like, Wow, this is real. This journey isn’t going to be easy, but if I persist I can have the results I want. That result is whatever it is for you. If you’re currently a size 18, and feeling good to you is a 14 or 12, go for it. Nobody is saying you have to look like a Victoria's Secret model to be accepted. You have to love yourself to be accepted. It's about becoming strong enough mentally to get yourself out of things in the past that would get you into bad situations."