Where do you go for fitness advice?

We are bombarded with health and fitness information. Infomercials, magazine ads, and the latest and greatest books and workout DVDs. On my way into the gym to teach a group class this morning, the TV caught my eye – Tony’s 10 minute workouts. Oh Tony! The 10-Minute Trainer series boasts the ‘breakthrough’ super-stacking technique and promises rapid results. I stopped to watch a bit (mostly waiting to see the name of the program to look it up later). Another marketing scam — ?!?!!!

Do you go to Tony Horton and Beachbody for advice?

Who do you trust?

This past weekend I was invited to participate in a group workout at the park. I provided some of my expertise, but I was truly there as a participant with a goal to meet other individuals interested in fitness. Towards the end of the afternoon – I sat back and watched and listened. A fitness enthusiast provided ‘training’ to inexperienced individuals.

(If you do not know much about fitness, an enthusiast who has been working out and is excited might seem to provide some good advice. Unfortunately, very few can offer sound advice. And remember, we are talking about YOUR BODY here. You only get one body in your lifetime. So I ask, who do you trust?)

It is not that he was giving bad advice or guidance. It was incomplete. Exercise form and technique were a disaster – I had to turn away and bite my tongue. I could not watch. While I do not want to see anyone get hurt, I was focused on placing myself in his shoes and I would not like it if someone stepped in to correct (whether the individual was right or not). And given the situation, I knew the risk of injury was low.

If you are a fitness professional – what would you do?

This situation has me thinking about who we trust for advice and how I can continue to educate and share – reaching one person at a time.

Who do you go to?

It is easy to trust friends and family when it comes to health and fitness advice. We trust them with many decisions in life – relationships, occupations, financial investments, etc. But do they have the answers?

Do you have a friend who has successfully lost weight and kept if off?

Do you have an uncle who coaches high school football and loves to workout?

Do you have a sister who has always been thin (but also never eats and possibly struggles with disordered eating)?

While any one of these individuals could have valid and helpful advice, I will strongly advise against allowing them to become your expert and your go-to for health and fitness advice. Health and fitness is a science – requiring education.

Qualified professionals

I have a post dedicated to qualified fitness professionals, please read it. Not all ‘professionals’ are created equal. Further, not all fitness facilities require trainers and staff to be educated and certified. While education and certification are not everything, they do provide validation that the individual has studied the science. (Note: not all certification are created equal, you can read about that in the above post as well.)

If/when you hire a trainer – ask about and verify his/her education and certification.

Food for thought

The Biggest Loser receives a lot of publicity. The trainers have been deemed experts – and they sell millions of books and DVDs, appear on numerous talk shows offering advice, etc. I personally would not trust any of the trainers with my life. These trainers qualify as fitness enthusiasts.

Jillian Michaels – no degree and no current certification (and not a respected certification)

Bob Harper – no degree, AFAA certified (has a degree but I have not been able to find what he studied)

Dolvett Quince – no degree and no certification

On the other hand, Extreme Makeover Weight Loss Edition’s Chris Powell is a former athlete with  a degree in Exercise Science, with concentrations in biomechanics and physiology and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS).

You can read my reaction to the beginning of the most recent season of The Biggest Loser.

The bottomline

I feel like I am beating a dead horse at times. I will write about it and talk about it over and over. More than likely, your friends and family are not your best source of health and fitness advice – regardless of how much time they spend in the gym. It is important to trust your body – the only one you get – to a qualified professional.

Beware of fitness enthusiasts – many do not know the proper form and technique and regularly suffer personal injury.

Beware of celebrity experts – many are just that, celebrities.

You only get one body – it deserves the best.

Treat it kindly. Treat it wisely.

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Tears of RAGE: A response to The Biggest Loser

For the first time in years, I turned on The Biggest Loser. I wanted to see the contestants and hear their stories. Thirty-eight minutes in, I had to ask my roommate to turn it off. Tears of rage were building up in my eyes. I have aggressive tendencies, and I was becoming more and more angry. But not just angry – FURIOUS. Why do we set these desperate individuals up for failure? And publicize it so? It makes my heart ache. I tried to distract myself. I wasn’t going to post about it – until I couldn’t sleep.

The little I saw…

I saw a few people’s stories in what I managed to watch – they are desperate for the help that they truly want and need. But is allowing them to fail within the first 20 minutes setting them up for success? Jillian, on numerous occasions, told the teams that “this is no place for quitters.” Is falling off a treadmill as a result of physiological inability quitting? Honestly. Is this something that you would willingly sign up for? Are the children perceived to be more fragile? Why were the trainers so ‘nice’ to the children when they are likely more resilient and able to withstand the torture?

The most infuriating aspect was the way the show trivialized the fact that the young man passed out and needed medical attention – almost immediately. They exploited this situation, when they could have excluded it, and continued to bring the camera back to the situation to ‘check up’ on him. How far is too far? This shows is unrealistic and an unprofessional representation in the fitness industry. I would NEVER push a client that far, it is unethical (breaching our professional code of ethics).

Two years of trying…

One young man’s story was highlighted, as he had been applying for the show for 2 years. He mentions how he promised his son 2 years ago that he would lose weight. Other than applying for the show, what has he done in the past two years to keep his promise. (I honestly do not know and I am not judging him, he happens to be a convenient example.) The Biggest Loser is his answer… and the vehicle to him keeping his promise. But is it a sustainable solution to is problem or a quick fix? These leads me to ask myself …what do people really try before taking such extreme measures and putting themselves into a risky situations?

BOLD MISSION…Not so original…

This season, The Biggest Loser is taking on childhood obesity. Marketing this as a bold mission – do the executives realize they are not the first? Shaq’s Big Challenge was instrumental in my decision to live my dream and pursue my passion. I don’t see much about this as bold…

“Get out of my gym!”…

I have not heard anything as degrading and demotivating since…well, since I accidentally watched a (train-wreck) episode of Losing It With Jillian. Enough said.

Where’s the psychology…

Experts know that working out and exercise is 90% a mental task (if not more). Even Yogi Berra knew this about physical activity and sport, “Baseball is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical.” We also know that 100% of overweight/obese individuals have unhealthy relationships with food – most of them prone to emotional eating. Is Jillian’s screaming “you are abusing yourself” in someone’s face after they have fallen off a treadmill an evidence-based psychological approach to the ‘problem’? The Biggest Loser gym is supposed to be a positive environment built to cultivate change, build self-esteem, and promote health and well-being. Well, the first rule to building a positive environment is to eliminate all negative terminology, word usage, innuendos, tones, or anything that could be perceived  as negative. So please tell me…is that gym a positive place?

There is something to be said about ‘tearing people down to build them up.’ In fact, I utilize this strategy quite frequently with clients – after I have established rapport and I know the individuals physical limits. Do I encourage my clients not to quit? Sure, but with positivity such as, “what are you working for?” Do I scream? Sometimes to be heard over the music…

I am NOT ‘mini Jillian’…

I have been likened to Jillian on more than one occasion. It upset me at the time and it upsets me even more tonight when thinking about it.  First, I am far more educated than she is. Second, while I have a “get s@%t done attitude,” I am not rude, demeaning, nor belligerent. I am honest with my clients – and sometimes too blunt, but all because I refuse to lie. (The media lies enough for the industry and makes my job 100X harder than it needs to be.) I take care of individual’s hearts and souls – they have trusted me with their LIVES!!!! I do not take that for granted, for it takes courage to step out of the norm and fight for change.

I strive to set a high bar for my profession. I let my originality shine, through my heart. I am my own woman, not to be mistaken for anyone else. I have no desire to be in Jillian’s shoes…because I am on the battle ground doing what I love, safely and effectively helping individuals – daily – achieve their optimal potentials!!

The bottomline…

My heart goes out to the contestants of The Biggest Loser and similar programs. I worked for a weight loss resort this last year and experienced first hand what these strong, courageous, and desperate men and women desire and work for. NOTHING about the journey is easy. I pray that they each find the support, encouragement, and education that they need to change for the better and to LIVE LIFE.

I truly wish that the media would publicize and ‘exploit’ a safe, efficacious, and efficient program for weight loss. Yes, we are facing an epidemic. And there are many professionals out there who have programs in place that are worthy of this exploitation. How about a show that follows real-life clinics, programs, and situations. Chris Powell and The Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition is a whole lot closer to this than The Biggest Loser. But then again….what sells? The exact things that fill me with tears of rage.

And I’m a WORLD CHANGER…

I jokingly tell my closest friends that my goal in life is to be a world changer. I laugh when I say it, but you know what? I AM a world changer – I’ve changed hundreds of lives for the better. I’ve changed their worlds! So no more joking…I am devoted to being a world changer.