Call it a battle of the fittest. Two popular fitness gurus are going head-to-head in Australia’s Supreme Court.
Kayla Itsines, the 23-year-old brainchild behind Bikini Body Guide, has sued Leanne Ratcliffe (aka “Freelee the Banana Girl”) and her partner, Harley Johnstone (aka Durianrider), for defamation in a series of social media blasts that allege Itsines’s $120 program starves people and that her partner, Tobias Pearce, who regularly appears on her social media accounts, is using steroids.
On Monday, as the Daily Mail reported, more than a hundred of Ratcliffe and Johnstone’s fans, deemed “fruit bats,” turned up at South Australia’s Supreme Court in defense of the two after they posted a video last week for support.
“We can agree to disagree whether this is a matter of free speech or a rather cynical attempt at ambush marketing,” Itsines and Pearce’s lawyer, Andrew Harris, pleaded to Judge Brian Withers. “Our principal goal is to have the materials taken down off the Internet.”
Itsines had requested that the videos be removed, but only some of them had been deleted. Others were set to private to be used as evidence in case the lawsuit progressed.
“We were just talking about eating disorders on YouTube… we were just sharing our views openly, based on public interest,” Johnstone said in court, though he couldn’t be reached for comment. “I would like to go to trial and get as much exposure as possible on eating disorders and Instagram diets.”
After realizing the traditional methods she was teaching weren’t giving clients the bodies they desired, Itsines, a personal trainer, created her own program focused on a lean diet and training routine. She shot to fame soon after for posting radical transformations of her clients’ bodies to social media, which has amassed over 2.4 million followers.
Fans fly in from 4,000 miles away to attend one of her free sessions, while she sells a variety of fitness and diet guides through her branded website.
“I’ve waited a little while to post this because I was too ashamed to show the person I use to be but here’s a progress shot of my 6 week transformation,” @aldinahodzz posted to an image on her Instagram account revealing a slimed-down and toned body. “Thanks to @kayla_itsines guide and a dramatic change in my diet, I’ve been able to cleanse my body and mind and change my life for the better.”
“Thank you @kayla_itsines BBG helped me so much in the past 19 weeks and I feel so good and full of energy,” @charlotte_bbq2.0 said about her body transformation. “Cannot be more grateful to you and the other inspiring BBG girls I follow on insta.”
Itsines’s workout routines feature a personalized mix-up of burpies, lunges, crunches, and an assortment of strenuous exercises, but some think her lifestyle is far too extreme.
“I want to focus on this starvation diet bullshit,” Ratcliffe states in one of her review videos of Itsines’s program. She was also unavailable for comment. “As you know I am completely against these diets that are under 2,000 calories. They are essentially starvation diets. The World Health Organization says anything under 2,100 calories is a famine … so you are starving your body into weight loss.”
Itsines’s 12-week plan suggests limiting your calorie intake to 1,600 a day, according to Ratcliffe. Her typical daily diet consists of eggs, avocado, and tomato for breakfast; chicken, avocado, and pumpkin salad for lunch; and a chicken and rice soup for dinner. She eats fruits and tuna salad as snacks in between.
“Yes, you will get ‘results,’” Ratcliffe continues. “But when are people going to be ethical in their recommendations because that’s completely unethical,” adding that her diet is “promoting an eating disorder.”
Ratcliffe advocates the exact opposite. Her “thrivation” plan campaigns for high-calorie intake, mostly through fruits like bananas, as well as ample water intake, a healthy dose of sun exposure, daily exercise and 8 to 10 hours of sleep. Ratcliffe’s most viral video shows the ripped woman downing 51 bananas in a single sitting.
Johnstone, a vegan advocate, has also posted similar negative remarks. His fitness blog claims to expose the real facts behind trendy diets and exercise, boasting that “not even 5 lawsuits have shut this blog down…the TRUTH must go on.” Together, their motto is “carb the fuck up.”
According to court documents filed with the Supreme Court of California, in May 2010 Johnstone allegedly added “untrue and libelous material” to a video originally created by internationally acclaimed health educator David Wolfe before re-posting it to his site.
In April 2012, Wolfe’s lawyers sent a cease-and-desist order to Johnstone for all use and mention of Wolfe’s brand.
“You have made various false, derogatory and offensive statements about Mr. Wolfe,” the letter detailed. “These statements constitute blatant acts of actionable defamation and trade libel under federal and state common law… They must stop immediately.”
Now, most of the defamatory information, including the parody videos, have been removed.
Needless to say, the duo have a tendency to piss people off with their “reviews.” And while they may simply be critiquing various workout plans and eating habits, the not-so-casual use of profanities makes it seem so much more personal.
“This is wrong and illegal,” Itsines posted to her Instagram account explaining her motives behind the lawsuit.
While she did not comment to The Daily Beast, Itsines has said that “statements have been made about me personally and my partner, Tobi, that are defamatory, misleading and deceptive. This is an internet troll designed to gain more exposure off another’s hard work and for that reason I will not mention them. I welcome competition and freedom of choice. But I do not tolerate the promotion of rude, nasty and hurtful information that is false.”