For millennia, people have been searching for the magic formula, product, regiment, or elixir to engineer the ideal body. Fitness isn't very complicated, but it takes time and hard work, which is why it's so easy to market anything that promises an easy shortcut to a six-pack. It's why Americans spend $60 billion a year on weight loss products, and why an online fitness program called Kinobody has amassed a following of several hundred thousand subscribers.
Kinobody is the brainchild of 24-year-old Gregory O'Gallagher. You see, O'Gallagher isn't like other fitness gurus. He's not just selling a diet plan, or a set of exercises guaranteed to get you in the best shape of your life. He's selling a lifestyle.
I was first introduced to O'Gallagher's program through a YouTube ad. Based on that ad, that lifestyle he's promoting is, for some reason, weirdly reminiscent of Patrick Bateman's. The video, titled "The Real Bruce Wayne Revealed," is essentially a shot-for-shot remake of a scene from American Psycho. It opens with a drone shot over a dense Canadian forest, revealing a gargantuan stone mansion in a clearing. As musclebound O'Gallagher rises from his bed inside the mansion (with a leggy brunette still asleep), he explains that he won't eat for another eight hours. This strict dieting, called intermittent fasting, is the crux of Kinobody. After drinking a cup of coffee with the brunette on his mansion's veranda, O'Gallagher enters a Lamborghini Gallardo (Bruce Wayne had a Murciélago, but whatever) and peels off to the gym, where he'll sculpt his body.
If your initial reaction is Christ, what an asshole, you're not alone. But programs like Kinobody are at an all-time high right now. Fitness has never been more lucrative—in 2015, gyms, and health clubs pulled in a massive $24.2 billion in revenue, selling customers the dream of better bodies. Online, they're growing too: There's Instagram fitness queen Kayla Itsines (4.7 million followers); Cassey Ho (2.9 million subscribers), who sells a high impact Pilates course in just 28 minutes; and 22-year-old "fitspiration" model Jen Selter (8.8 million followers).
The Kinobody YouTube account boasts 163,000 subscribers, and its website is filled with success stories and impressive before-and-after shots. I dug around the fitness forums to find the backlash, but instead, I found that people were actually using this program without signs of buyer's remorse.
Despite looking like the world's biggest douche, it seemed like maybe O'Gallagher was on to something. So I reached out and asked if he'd coach me in his fitness philosophy, and he agreed.
When I met O'Gallagher in person at a hotel in Los Angeles, it confirmed that his body was real, but I was skeptical about the house, the car, and the model in his video ads. It turned out the mansion was his—or at least, his family's. O'Gallagher's father, Michael O'Gallagher, passed away in 2002 while O'Gallagher was a child, but not before founding one of the largest property rental corporations in Canada. O'Gallagher told me the model was a friend of his, Toronto artist Aurora Kruk, and that the Lamborghini had been rented, but only because "Lambos are more fun" than what he claimed was his normal ride, a Tesla.
To get me started on my path to fitness, O'Gallagher set me up with Kinobody's "Aggressive Fat Loss" program, which he said would give me the maximum results in the shortest amount of time. His other packages, which cost a flat-fee of about $50, have names like "Greek God," "Warrior Shredding," and "Superhero Bulking."
My "Aggressive Fat Loss" package came a couple of PDFs explaining the plan I would follow for the next month, as well as a "Hypnosis for Mental Conditioning Guide"—a strange fitness-oriented hybrid of The Secret and The Power of Now. There's a script for users to record on their phones and then play back while they're drifting off to sleep: "You are filled with the light. You are clear and radiant, glowing with the shining light in you room." (When I asked O'Gallagher about it, he said the hypnosis stuff was "just there for people who need that extra push." I decided to skip it.)
The package also came with an audio companion and numerous videos, for "virtual coaching." In them, O'Gallagher explains how to keep up with the diet… while also showing off his massive mansion and luxury cars, and spending a lot of time touching his hair.
Kinobody's exercise regimen was pretty standard—three days a week in the gym, alternating arms, legs, and abs—but the crux of the program is intermittent fasting. You're not supposed to consume anything but black coffee from waking until 2 PM, at which point you can have a small meal (under 400 calories) and then a larger meal (around 1,600 calories) around 8 PM. The idea is that fasting throughout the day and replenishing with food at night will "optimize catabolic and anabolic activity" and "fat mobilization."
This seems like bullshit, but according to some experts, intermittent fasting is legit. Dr. Lawrence Cheskin, a doctor and associate professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told me the diet is associated with positive results because "if you are intermittently restricting yourself, it's easier to stick with." Research also suggests that intermittent fasting can decrease inflammation, reduce fat tissue, and help weight maintenance.
But others, like nutritionist Dr. Mike Roussell, disagree. Roussell, a professional nutritionalist who oversees the diets of professional athletes, celebrities, and other upper echelon clients as the director of nutrition for PEAK Performance, a gym in New York, says intermittent fasting is really just tantamount to kicking your daily caloric can down the road. "Total calories matter, so if you eat all the calories you 'fasted off' in the subsequent days, or hours, you won't lose weight," he wrote in Shape magazine.
O'Gallagher doesn't have a degree in fitness or any professional experience in personal training. Any training he has, he's given himself. Teenaged O'Gallagher was "not popular, but not not popular," as he puts it, but when he started working out religiously, people started to like him more. "It gave me more confidence. Something to finally be known for," he told me. "It was an identity people could put on me—'Greg's really fit,' or 'Greg's really jacked.'" And so he decided to turn his method into a business.
That business seems to have less to do with substantive fitness advice than showing off. O'Gallagher's videos are a hodgepodge of movie scene montages, selfie-style motivational speaking, and "feats of strength," where O'Gallagher shows off his impressive moves in the gym without any sort of commentary on form or benefits.
But as much as O'Gallagher seems like a douche with muscles, that doesn't mean the program doesn't work. In my month of Kinobody, I lost eight pounds and took two inches off my waist. That's not nothing. Was I getting the lifestyle sold in O'Gallagher's videos? Nope. Intermittent fasting may have some superficial effects on the body, but the only way to fully achieve O'Gallagher's level of fitness euphoria is if you're getting your daily caloric intake delivered on a silver spoon.
Follow Justin Caffier on Twitter.