Yuekun (李岳坤) Li is a Sport Business and Innovation master’s candidate in the United Kingdom. He’s passionate about sports, health, fitness, and business. To converge his interests, Yuekun is dedicated to bringing attention to a phenomenon called fake natties, which he believes pervade YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media networks.
What’s a fake natty?
Fake natty is a nickname used to describe a certain type of a bodybuilder. It’s short for fake natural.
There are two parts to the phenomenon. Obviously, the fake part and the natty part.
The meaning of a fake natty applies to a bodybuilder that secretly uses performance-enhancing drugs to attain a strong, muscular appearance.
But in order to qualify as a fake natty, they must claim to have obtained their physique naturally. That’s where the natty part of the fake natty phenomenon comes in.
The fake aspect to the meaning of fake natties comes from the inauthentic basis and foundation of a given bodybuilder’s physique. This means that to be a fake natty one ought to have pretended they attained their physique naturally when indeed they did not.
According to researchers, including Yuekun, there are a large number of people on social media and in magazines with enormous arms, chiseled abs and beefed up glutes are on steroids. Many of them want you to think that they are not on steroids, when in fact they are. So, that’s what makes them a fake natty.
Tired of seeing fitness models on Instagram with so-called “perfect” physiques flaunting their bodies on social media, Yuekun is on a mission to bring awareness to fake natties. As a result, he’s spent countless months looking at people’s perceptions of anabolic steroids usages for cosmetic reasons. This is in the wake of a social media takeover among Gen Zs, iGens and Centennials. This feature is posted in our marketing category because of the need for integrity in marketing bodybuilders and fitness products. Yuekun brings a tremendous lens to this need.
Born & Bred East, Educated West
Yuekun was born and raised in China. He moved to the United Kingdom at the age of 18 when he started his undergraduate studies in Manchester. Yuekun says, “Even though many people consider me well-integrated into the Western society, deep down I still have my Chinese roots holding me down.”
Along with working on business development with an emerging fitness startup called Box Mind, Yuekun is in the final stages of his dissertation. His dissertation is the focus of this feature.
Tell us about your dissertation and investigation of the fake natties phenomenon.
The reason why I had this topic in mind was that I was at a crossroad two years back when I was doing my exchange studies in Melbourne, Australia. I did part-time work at a local gym and was surrounded by people who were very “serious” about bodybuilding.
Some of them were competing in local competitions and some were just normal guys who wanted to look very “convincing” because they were doing personal training sessions for gym members. I attended a bodybuilding expo and was approached by a local bodybuilding “guru”, telling me I had very good genetics and could potentially go on to win shows if I decided to take the “path not taken”. He gave me two weeks to contemplate on this life-changing decision and wanted to know my answer afterward.
I was lucky to have friends and family who helped me realize that my life is worth so much more than marginal chances of winning bodybuilding trophies. So I didn’t choose to “throw my life away”. After that intense experience, I understood how tempting it could be for young people to be lured into the world of PEDs and how uneducated most people are on this topic. So I wanted to use this dissertation as a project to get to know what goes on in people’s heads when they see physique images of fitness models every day and how they deal with similar temptations for immediate results.
I’m hoping that the learnings from this dissertation can serve as a little insight into the mind of the youth and assist with the public health and safety education and promotion.
No matter where my dissertation takes me, I prefer sports business to be done “right” in the sense that people involved in the industries should be pursuing profits with a certain level of integrity. Studying the fake natties phenomenon and the deeper meaning of fake natties has only enhanced my level of critical thinking. Wherever I end up working in the long-run, I’ll remain dedicated to working with strong ethics and integrity.
Tell us your thoughts on social media and how you think it’s helped fake natties get more attention.
Social media is a “dangerous” place sometimes, where people can get ambushed by large quantities of fitness-related contents bombarding their feeds. You may not notice at the beginning, but give it time, slowly but surely your whole judging criteria of what is a “nice-looking body” will be completely different from what they used to be. And that might be the start of a journey of no return… Why am I saying that? Because I too, am on that journey.
The constant image exposures to fitness models “living their best lives” on Instagram send people the subtle hints that convey a message, “if you can get your body looking like that, you can live your life like that too”. Little do most people know that this couldn’t be further away from the truth. But because of the infinite repetitions of such an impression, young people would get involved in physique modifying projects as they are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with their own body images and simply cannot wait any longer to live the kind of life their “mythical heroes” are living. This type of pursuit often leads to the use of performance-enhancing drugs like anabolic steroids, diuretics, and many other things that could kill you. In the process, some might succeed, most will not. But that’s not going to stop people from trying.
To some people this might sound like a story of people falling into a trap, to some others, this might sound like a story of people dedicating efforts to a goal. To me, it sounds like people are not thinking with their heads. In my opinion, unless you’re going all-in on bodybuilding and aspire to become the next Mr. Olympia, or there is a billion-dollar contract waiting for you to put your name on it, you don’t have any business with those dangerous drugs. If you’re telling me you need at least 5000+ likes on your selfies from your 20k followers on Instagram every day in order to stay away from depression, I would suggest you to go see a doctor and talk about your problems, not a drug dealer to buy some low-quality steroids and keep taking selfies.
How does your internship support your investigation?
My internship doesn’t directly support my dissertation, but it is in-tune with my goal. I’m working as the Business Development Executive at a start-up called Box Mind. It’s a new concept of service where we bring fitness classes into corporate offices. Giving the working population more flexibility and convenience to get access to physical activities. Our CEO Anna had a magical experience with the sport of Boxing herself, and hence she created Box Mind as a platform to focus on bringing people together to experience the “hidden” joy of exercising and hope to empower more women in the workplace during the process.
I too hold a very similar vision to Anna. Working out changed my life, and thus I want to help sedentary people get into exercising. BoxMind is a great place where I could use my business skills to achieve something that resonates with my personal vision.
What would you say is the biggest reason for wanting to combat, or at least bring awareness to the meaning of fake natties and its wider implications?
The common purpose of my dissertation, my future job aspirations, and my current internship is that I want people to focus on what really matters when it comes to sports. It’s about physical and mental wellbeing. Yes, it’s pretty cool to have a chiseled six-pack when you go to the beach in the summer, but that shouldn’t be the reason why people are lifting weights in the gym. I love the golden era of bodybuilding (1970s) because of the comradery and hard work the athletes displayed.
Nothing like the pretty boy sport that we see today where all people think and talk about is steroids. My goal is to get people back to the basics, go to the gym, do the workouts, build the body, but do it for the self-development within healthy boundaries. Have fun, and stay pure. It’s hard to achieve but that’s what makes it worthwhile.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the fitness industry. I think it’s amazing how this movement got a lot of people off the couch and into the gym. I think it’s brilliant how the motivation for people to get into exercising is at its all-time high. I think it’s fascinating that bodybuilding contests exist, and people are pouring their heart and soul into them. But what I despise it’s the fact that influential figures in the sport are dodging the conversation about steroids like a plague. When you have a sport where the president of the federation has been banned for misconduct on anti-doping policies by World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), you know something’s not right.
I’m talking about all these problems and the deeper meaning of fake natties because I personally care about this sport. I hate how everyday people automatically relate the sport to anabolics. Bodybuilding and fitness shouldn’t be about drugs; it should be about the pure joy and accomplishment of exercising and sculpting the body, it should be about the comradery among the fitness aficionados, it should be about the dedication and devotion to self-improvement. I think in today’s postmodern society people lose patience so easily, they can’t wait to get all the results they desire, and it’s pushing them to a point of overdrive. Little do they know that bodybuilding and fitness, just like everything else in life, it’s about the journey, not the end.
Yuekun (李岳坤) Li