Problems in the fitness industry...

I disagree with a huge amount that goes on in the fitness industry. While everyone is entitled to their opinion, I do have some concerns with how some of them are voiced and I think in some instances the wrong approach may have been taken.  

I read an article the other day and to be honest I was pretty shocked. It was publicly naming and shaming someone. And this sort of behaviour, while is absolutely necessary in some cases, is actually being done more often than not of late. Some trainers and coaches feel the need to pull others down in a bid to make themselves look better. This is not on. It is a pathetic attempt at self-promotion, or at least that’s what it comes across as some of the time.

If you are good at what you do, and you are passionate then this is enough in my opinion. I have respect for people who build credibility, practice what they preach, and are genuinely in this to help others. These people do not feel the need to tear others down in a negative way. It can often say more about the person saying it, than the one it is being said about. So many are too busy being “concerned” about what others are doing, and to be honest I think there are better, more productive things that they could be doing with their time. 

Now I know there are issues that do need to be addressed. I know there are coaches out there who offer cookie cutter diets and advocate dangerously low calorie and very restrictive “meal plans” and this is a huge problem in the industry.

I know the industry is unregulated and there are multiple people offering their services who do NOT have the right, nor the qualifications to do so.

I know there are qualified professionals – dieticians and nutritionists – who advocate bogus MLM products and are in it just to make a quick buck at the expense of the vulnerable and uneducated.

I know there are a lot of people who have literally no idea what they are doing. It is one thing to be naïve and be new – everyone starts somewhere. And as long as you take an interest, are passionate and are prepared to put in the work and learn then I think this is what the industry needs. Genuine people who are passionate. But people who have no idea what they are doing and are not willing to learn are dangerous. People who use lines such as “it works for me” “because I said so” and the like. These are the people that need to be called out.

The amount of people who compete once and then proclaim themselves a prep coach is still growing at an alarming rate. Good coaches are still few and far between and there are many coaches posing as good coaches offering supposed individual plans and giving the impression they know what they are doing, but when questioned they show little to no understanding of basic nutrition or science. This is an issue. There are STILL many coaches who give all of their clients the same “meal plans” - this is possibly the biggest issue at hand, purely because of the repercussions. These diets are generally far too low in calories, and severely restrictive. And because of the restriction and low cals the bodys’ only natural reaction is to crave more calories and eventually give in and binge.

I think disordered eating, and a full blown eating disorder are two quite different things. Yes I believe this is how many EDs can start, and if left alone can turn in to something very serious. This is the problem with these plans. The concept of cheat meals also adds fuel to the fire, allowing a blatant binge session where you can eat all of the “unclean” foods you like without guilt. Except because of the way you are told to think about food, there is guilt and lots of it. This leads to further restriction to “undo” the damage from the weekends binge. So the body is getting even less, yet is expected to do more (extra training usually accompanies this further restriction) which is a sure recipe for failure. You cannot expect your car to go further without fuel and your body is no different.

This sort of behaviour is all too common. And providing that no issues have been experienced previously, then this could be addressed by gaining control of your nutrition, having no restrictions, and learning to eat to enjoy food and also to perform in the gym. Simply regaining control and finding balance I think can help people like this, who have had these issues bought on by the restrictive nature of these diets or meal plans.

Then there are the bigger issues. EDs that have stemmed from other external problems or events in the past. These are very serious, and most are classed as a mental disorder. No amount of “nutrition help” or training or balance will necessarily help these people and they need to address these things with qualified professionals. This is where I think there may be a break down in the industry. I understand that people are passionate about helping others, and want to help, but as a fitness industry professional I believe you need access to your own network of professionals who you can recommend in certain cases. Most trainers would know a chiropractor, physiotherapist, nutritionist and the like that they can refer their clients too when needed. Yes a trainer or a coach will in some cases act like a councillor and listen to their clients and offer every day advice but when it comes to serious issues like EDs that can clearly not be classed as disordered eating, then this is when they need to refer them on to someone who is qualified to help.

There is a difference between someone who previously had no issues with their relationship with food, and has developed an obsession from a “bro comp prep” or “meal plan” to someone who has had years of problems battling with their weight, body image, relationship with food and other things. I am not taking away from people who have had major problems from preps, I am one of those people. But for me, simply regaining control of my nutrition and finding flexible dieting, has helped me a great deal. I no longer have a bad relationship with food, I am eating enough to fuel my body so there are no cravings or binges, and I love my lifestyle and my training. Yes I must track every/most days, but I also have a life, I can guess some of the time, I have a drink every now and then. It has not turned in to an obsession to hit numbers. Comp prep I will need to be more accurate but this is to be expected, and this is a welcome change from chicken, asparagus and egg whites daily.

I think being able to distinguish between these things is important. And being able to get people the appropriate help that they need is paramount to being a good person in this industry. Knowing when you cannot help someone, and when to refer them to appropriate professionals is important so your clients get the help they need. I understand trainers wanting to help their clients, I really do. But I disagree with anyone giving advice beyond their scope. So many personal trainers give nutrition advice that is less than ideal (to be polite). Many personal trainers are in these MLM scams, making money off their clients. Many are taking it upon themselves to take over their clients lives, telling them what to do for every waking moment rather than helping them help themselves and teaching them about making healthier choices.

I still think the fitness industry has a long long way to go. I think there are slowly becoming more and more people who are genuine, and want to make a difference and I think that is great. I get that people want to make changes, but they also must look at the way they are doing this. Naming and shaming others, trying to get one up on someone, rather than looking at a different, more positive approach I think is a mistake. Mud sticks. I wouldn’t bag anyone unless I am prepared to back what I am saying, 100% and I have my facts right. There needs to be more positivity, and less bagging others. The industry is bad enough as it is, without this as well.