Warning: This is a very long read, but it’s something I feel strongly about and want to go into detail about, so bear with me. I do think it’s an important and beneficial read for everyone, but especially ladies and young ladies. It can be ranty, but that’s only because it really moved me to make a post, and I have to speak out on this.

Here is the summary:

TL;DR: 
Take ownership of your health and welfare, on your terms. Constantly educate yourself and always maintain an independent, informed locus of control. 

So this is what is going to be cover in the post:
I will talk about the context &  the encounter, while also tackling any fallacies about health and nutrition. I will finish off with my views on fitness & self improvement.

If you just want to read what I have to say on fitness and educating yourself, scroll to the end. Otherwise, keep reading.

How It All Started
I had an encounter yesterday that made me want to speak on something that I think is very relevant and pertinent to many people, in particular younger girls, as they are the most vulnerable demographic in this case.

I usually refrain from being too opinionated or outspoken on the internet, simply because when something is in black and white, and authored by you, you will be held directly accountable for it, and the backlash against it.

But this is an issue I have strong opinions about and I do want to speak about it.

Let’s get into it.

Context:

I actively post my yoga progress photos on Instagram because it’s a fun way to track the visual progress of my yoga journey as I improve on my existing repertoire of poses, while expanding my general vocabulary of asanas.

So, yes, I am one of those #fitness #yoga #yogaeverydamnday #weightloss type of people on Instagram. It’s a little embarrassing to admit because it’s a little shameless and narcissistic, but hey- if it doesn’t harm anyone, if it helps me out, and is a fun way to be a part of a community and to track my progress, why not , right?

Beyond fun filters and stickers, I don’t doctor my photos. I don’t push in that stray flop of flab peeking out, I don’t make my stomach smaller or shrink my thighs. I do however, use the liquify tool to yank up my blouse when it dips a little too low 😛

But I have a strict policy about doctoring my image: Instagram is a place to track all my fitness related endeavours and efforts, and I feel like I’m being dishonest and a little fake if I decide to change my actual physical physique with photoshopping. So there.

Now on to the main bit.

So…what happened???

THE ENCOUNTER
So, was approached by this lady on Instagram on Tuesday.
I’ll break it down blow by blow for you
(Username and profile picture mosaic-ed for their benefit)
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Nothing unusual so far, Instagram is full of friendly folk, and maybe she wants me to follow her or like her photos- not unusual to get messages like this. Do note- no prior interaction before this.

She seems ok. Yoga person, fitness buff, fitness coach to be or something. okay.  I won’t post a screenshot of her Instagram feed/profile out of respect for her identity, but it’s full of generic motivation posts like this one:
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Photo courtesy of Pinterest. 

Still trying to get me on board with her yoga challenge. Ok, sure.

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And this is where it starts.

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Um- excuse me?
First off- why the guilt tripping?
I’ve never reached out to this woman, or expressed any desire to work with her for my fitness and health goals, and here she is, decidedly barging in with a guilt trip and condescension.

Okay, no matter. I want to play nice, I don’t want to start anything.
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A few things that don’t sit well with me.

1) A short term challenge
Her challenge is a 2 week challenge that advocates clean eating.
A clean food diet, basically.
Now, I believe that real change is something that is organic and sustainable. (like the things she wants me to eat, I’m sure.) This means it has to come from you and has to be something that is sustainable in the long term. 

If you do a quick Google, there are multiple studies and articles that talk about why fad diets and just short term uber clean diets aren’t the way to go- they aren’t sustainable, and they usually do more harm than good.

I’m not ruling out that she as a fitness coach, could possibly catalyze some motivation for change in an individual with regard to their habits and health and welfare. 

But I do believe that the lasting, quality change for the better, in the long term, usually comes from you. This is because it’s your body and you are in control of what you do to it and what you put into it, and if you want to change something, you can. If you want to stop doing something because you don’t like it or it doesn’t work, you can do that too.

2) Her tone
Her messages are very condescending. She insinuates that I am obligated to participate and to do this- on her terms- for my body.
She is a stranger who has imposed her autonomy on me to try and create the illusion that I am accountable to her for my health. I am not.

And she’s not gracious about it either- she’s immediately passive aggressive and petulant when I politely say no again.

Not very professional or convincing a response from someone who apparently has my best interests at heart.

So at this point, I get a little annoyed:
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852119891_16677_7237075470223644874Firstly, pseudo psychology
There is a term for the situation where the flaws/problems an individual has with another is actually their own issues proliferating on another individual. This is called projecting and no it is not applicable here. Why? Because I don’t presume to impose my will imperiously on strangers on the internet.

Secondly, Contradictions
So many. Let’s run through them.
“It’s your health not mine so I have nothing to convince you of”
And yet here you are, questioning me passive aggressively and getting defensive when I decline the offer to join your health group. You’re strangely invested and pushy for someone who’s claiming to be not involved.

“I’m just trying to offer people who don’t know where to start to be at OPTIMAL health. Fueling our bodies the way they need to be because they take care of us our whole lives”
So first off- ma’am, I didn’t ask for help.
And what an assumption!
Just because I’m bigger (my BMI is at 28) does not mean I do not know about fitness.

The equation for weightloss is simple- CICO. Calories In < Calories Out.
Your output needs to be more than your input.
Yes, there are a multiplicity of intervening factors- you might have a thyroid issue, a slow metabolism etc.

But it doesn’t change the fact that if your caloric intake is less than your caloric expenditure- you will lose weight. 

I know this. But guess what? I also I know that eating cheeseburgers and junk food is going to kill me. It’s a conscious decision because I enjoy food, and it’s something that I have decided that I am willing to accept the consequences for.

Many folk know this too.

So it’s not a matter of ignorance- it’s wilful ignorance. People have made a decision that they prefer good food over crudites. And that is their decision.

At this stage, I figured that something was up.

I click into her profile again and lo and behold:
She’s a Shakeology coach.

To the uninitiated, Shakeology is a MLM (pyramid scheme) Herbalife clone that touts fitness coaching programs as well. Normal folk can also join their coach program to get 25% off their Shakeology order and other merchandise, if they show results (information is sourced from their website and Instagram profiles). Coaches then tout the products to potential clients and also recruit other coaches. But if I’m not mistaken, they’re not formally certified.

First off, I will say that I am principally against MLM companies and schemes.  They are unnecessary, not very beneficial and you won’t die if they don’t exist.

Articles like thisthis and this have done a good job of breaking down what is nutritionally problematic about meal replacement drinks, the problem with Shakeology and the general issue with MLMs and why they aren’t something you should stand for.

To summarize my view- Yes, Shakeology may have some natural ingredients, but not totally. There are some strange sweeteners in there (Google their ingredients list) and stabilizers like xantham gum as well.

My main problem with this drink is how it’s marketed.

On the website it says it’ll help you lose weight, improve your skin, help your digestion etc.

Now, it has pre and probiotics and lots of exotic fruit powders that’ll make any hipster vegan very very happy.

But it’s marketed as a meal replacement at 140kcal. That’s not a meal. And while it does ask the users to exercise too- it doesn’t change the fact that it makes the drink look like a panacea, a cure all, a magic drink.

It is not.

Because it’s not. Yeah, it’s $4 a day, on paper that sounds good,  but $4 can buy you actual fruit and whole foods that actually fill you up. Also if you look through fitness forums, there have been many complaints about the product and its side effects.

Which brings me to the problems I have with these companies:
1. Perpetuating the wrong ideas about nutrition
Magic powders do not give you everything you need. Satiety and nutritional density come from eating whole, actual foods, not meal replacement magic powders.

2. Creating a crutch mentality
It creates the impression that you need this to lose weight and be healthy because it really helps and works. Erm. Maybe. But this is an attribution error. You lose weight because you’re moving more, you’re hydrating better and you’re being more mindful about your diet- not because of a magic drink.

This then creates the idea to clients that they are reliant on this drink to remain healthy and that this is a quintessential part of their fitness/health regime. That their fitness, to some ostensible degree, is contingent on this product. It is not. 

CAVEAT (to be fair)
If Shakeology is a complement to your diet and fitness regime, then sure. But it should not be marketed the way it is right now. It is misleading and creates the wrong ideas about nutrition, the same way teatox teas do.

3. The Discourse it Contributes To
The company is also known as Team BeachBody, which in itself is problematic, because it perpetuates the ideal bodytype that everyone should be aspiring towards.

Several bloggers have already beat this horse to death- there is no ideal body type, and everyone has different bodies.

Even if I lost 20lbs eventually, I know I won’t look like Kayla Itsines- my body isn’t built that way. Yeah, I could look like a more toned version of myself, with a little more definition- but I’m not going to have that holy grail beach body.

And yeah, I do believe that at any stage of fitness- you should learn to love your body because it’s yours. You dress it, care for it- because it’s yours. You do it on your terms, in a way that suits you and that will work for you.

You compare yourself to who you were in the past- not to Gisele Bundchen, not to Gigi Hadid- pitching yourself against arbitraritly high standards of beauty set by celebrities. Who, by the way, have tons of help from nutritionists and trainers who cater to their fitness goals because they need to look good. They are also very genetically blessed, and that helps much more than you think.

To further this line of argument, read about what it takes to condition oneself to be a Victoria Secret’s angel– it’s no walk in the park at all.

4. There is no one size fits all approach to fitness. 
Shakeology/Team BeachBody perpetuates the idea- and this is evident in how they approach their clients it seems- that fitness is a one size fits all type deal. It’s not.

Kayla’s BBG works because it is a program that stands by the basic principles of weightloss- calories out > calories in. And of course, the targeted moves lead to toning of certain muscles, sure.

But guess what- her approach, while agreeable, isn’t for everyone either.

Everyone has a different path towards fitness, wellness and self love- it’s a tough enough journey, but having external noise and input from unhealthy sources and “coaches” do not help this at all. Guilt tripping and ultimatum issuing, making you accountable to them- it’s not the best way. It’s what I would call a problem solution mismatch. 

The key problem ( I think) with people’s fitness goals and why they never get results is a lack of consistency/discipline. If you keep to it for a long enough period of time, in the same fashion you planned (e.g: eating lesser calories and working out more) you will lose weight.

But we get sidelined- because we are bomboarded with our responsibilities and our lives. That is natural.

But at the end of the day- we are accountable to ourselves, because we experience the full physical gravity of our decisions. Any desire to change and stay on track- has to come from within. 

A fitness coach is a stop gap solution– it is temporal. Are you going to pay a fitness instructor till kingdom come to monitor your fitness? Most of us don’t have the funds for that.

Sure, it could catalyze something, but it does come with a price, and often, it’s not lasting because it shifts the burden of accountability to them momentarily. That’s all.

It doesn’t tackle the root of the problem, but merely shifts about the burden of accountability and addresses the symptoms that come with a lack of discipline and consistency to adhere to a long/medium term fitness regiment.

The discipline for change and to keep at it comes from you, or drawing from a community-yeah, maybe they could offer that.

But the thing is, while I don’t think all the coaches are bad people, and perhaps some of them do want to help, they are profit motivated.

This is their livelihood, a sole source of income for some, and this profit motive will convolute and conflate with real desires to help you. There will be a conflict of interest because if guilt tripping you into getting another purchase of mix gets them more commission- they’ll do it. Or they’ll get you onboard.

That’s problematic to me. You’re not inherently interested in my welfare- or maybe you are, to an infinitesimal degree. The profit motive and the desire to earn commission eclipses and outweighs the real desire to truly aid a person in a healthy way.

Guilt tripping and forced, saccharine motivation is not the way to go, and neither is hardselling.

Phew. Now, let’s see how the rest of the exchange developed.
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I do think she’s just a young woman trying to earn her keep and get healthy too, but I have to disagree with the way she’s going about it, and with the business she’s standing with.

I did not appreciate the way in which she just kept deflecting my words or points with a quote that didn’t make sense in this context.

Finally, I get sick of it. I don’t want to fight with her.
It doesn’t achieve anything to get ham fisted about this because she has her ideological slants and principle beliefs on the issue, and I have mine, so I offered some platitude and resolution to the matter.

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And I mean it.
I don’t think she’s inherently evil or bad- but I do take contention with the Shakeology approach.

Although it wasn’t directly touted to me, I think it does affect her perceptions and expressed opinions about fitness, and that is what motivated the insistent and pushy behaviour in this case.

I know she’s trying to make a living, but there are more amenable ways to go about it, and more professional and neutral ways of dealing with potential clients.

But beyond that- I don’t think it’s right to impose your opinion and ideologies about health and body image on others (especially if they’re not quite right!) in a manner that can be condescending.

———————

So this is my key message to you, the reader:
Educate yourself, and take ownership of your health. 

We are living in a society where social media is saturated with a staggering diversity of messages about health and fitness and ideology.
But with the ease of access to information, from clinical studies to scientific trials and experiments and thought articles- it’s important to keep yourself educated and informed on the many different ideas and products out there.

Read both sides of the argument, make an informed decision. But always expose yourself to different ideas and be receptive to the reality that something that seems like a great idea, has its downsides as well.
Be wary of pseudo science and buzz words that obfuscate and distract you from the real issues at hand.

But never forget to take ownership of your health and body.

You get there on your terms. If you need help, you can ask for it, but always articulate and manage your expectations and communicate them clearly to the individual you ask for help from.

You are in charge of your own body and its welfare and how you can improve on it. Love yourself. So take ownership of your body, keep researching and educating yourself- you will figure out what works for you, don’t let people decide that for you.

You are worth it, you are worth every ounce of effort, and worth the love you put into your body.

Do leave me a message/comments about your own experiences and encounters. Did I miss anything out? Let me know too.

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One thought on “The Fit Bit: On Fitness & Self Reliance

  1. There’s a reason why there are so many articles associated with MLM and cults/brainwashing.

    The people involved are not necessary evil (as you say). I wish there was a way to explain to her that people are being rude to her as a coach as a reflection of her passive aggressive pitch. Professional personal trainers and dieticians don’t have these kinds of problems… people running schemes (knowingly or not) do.

    Like

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