The diet and fitness industry is growing at an incredibly rapid rate, and there are many positives associated with this expansion. For example, further research and practical applications into topics like diabetes prevention and management; non-drug management of depression; chronic pain; performance enhancement (non-drug); and the growing use of highly evidenced based nutrition and training, all assist many of us to reach our health, performance, injury recovery and quality of life goals.
But there is a dark side to this expansion. The diet industry is cashing in by attempting (poorly) to solve a problem that it arguably created in the first instance. It is reaping the rewards from keeping desperate and vulnerable people in a perpetuating cycle of guilt and relapse while absolving itself of blame.
Unfortunately many participants in the diet industry are self-serving. The industry advises futile strategies encouraging participants to buy more and more of their products; promote the message that you don’t look good unless you’re absolutely shredded/thigh gap/size X; tell you ridiculous things like you have no self-control unless you’re eating nothing but detox/paleolithic/keto/low this/high that foods, which is of course is ALL misguided. These messages just keep people that are struggling with their health or weight management goals in the system, making them believe it is the only way, that they have to follow these very stringent diet or training rules, that almost no one can sustain over the long term. Then when they inevitably fail, yo-yo and fall off track from the ‘plan’, it is somehow the individual’s fault. The ‘magic’ diet/program/supplement moves on blameless to the next victim, and the individual moves to the next even more extreme version with further damage to their physical body & self-confidence.
A very public example of these failed extreme approaches from so called ‘gurus’ is that of The Biggest Loser. The US version of the show tried to do a 6 year reunion of all the contestants, but they had to cancel it because 70% of them had either regained all the weight lost or added more. More on the issue with this particular show in my article here.
Since the 70’s there has been a rapid rise in the levels of obesity and chronic disease, right at the time when the diet industry really kicked off with things like Weight Watchers. This was also the time when ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos were first promoted, forever changing the public perception of what constituted a healthy body. I believe the growth of the two is intimately linked with the obesity rise.
The diet industry has cycled us through fat phobia, sugar phobia, superfood claims, detoxes and back again, yet the epidemic continues to worsen, whilst guru’s, supplements and diet industry professionals thrive. There are some great images below showing the change in consumption of various food groups vs the obesity rise.
Every day online and on social media platforms we see unqualified influencers, gurus and celebrities selling detox teas, “lose 10kg in 28 days”, “try this one trick your doctor won’t tell you”. It baffles me that people who theoretically are in an industry that sets out to help people can be so unethical and harmful. Moreover, it disgusts me. Thankfully, most of them get caught out eventually, through poor cookie cutter programs being exposed, growing complaints of failures to deliver on promise, but this doesn’t stop them amassing huge follower numbers on social media platforms and harming more people.
As an Accredited Exercise Scientist wanting to better my industry I don’t go out to engage in online wars, but my frustrations boiled over and I was recently blocked by a well-known Australian celebrity fitness guru, who was promising absolute bollocks in 28 days. After encouragement from work colleagues, knowing I could no longer stomach the falsified weight loss and muscle gain claims, I questioned the ethics and evidence behind the ‘product’. I detailed how fake the claims are through peer reviewed research, the dangers to susceptible individuals that false program results create, and the long term health risks and failure rates that they create. Instead of a healthy debate as the evidence stacked up against them, I was blocked. You can read more here about why these rubbish claim approaches never work and are dangerous.
I write this article as a tale of caution to the general public of the damages being done to your health, and for the frustrations I have in the damage done to the professionalism of my industry, by uneducated ‘fitness gurus’ and influencers, celebrity trainers and diet industries, unethically selling lies to us all. It’s a shame that in the current climate a celeb selling detox tea or 7-minute abs will get more air time than an Accredited Practicing Dietitian, Exercise Scientist, Exercise Physiologist or strength & conditioning coach.
Don’t take your training, diet and health advice from the person with the most followers, fanciest marketing pitch or biggest promises. Seek guidance from highly educated professionals, guiding you through sustainable and tailored programs and healthy eating plans.
Want diet advice? Avoid fads, stay off facebook/instagram and speak with an Accredited Practicing Dietitian. Understanding intolerances, deficiencies, tailored designs and the critical psychological element to adopting healthy eating practices for the long term takes expert advice and detailed experience.
Want the best out of your training whatever your goal? Avoid fitness gurus, online generic programs and celeb trainers with extreme promises, and a catalogue of photoshopped before and after photos, speak with an academically educated and highly experience coach. Read here on what to look for in a coach/trainer.
Your health and wellbeing is too important to put into the hands of someone unqualified, no matter how popular!
Written by Head Performance Coach David Smith
Feature image source: https://brainfall.com/quizzes/which-fitness-guru-are-you/