too good to be true?

[Disclaimer: Today’s post is part informational, part rant.]

There are a lot of similarities between keeping your body/mind healthy and keeping your finances healthy.

One is that if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Certainly you know that anyone promising you incredible weight loss is either making a false promise or is taking you down an unhealthy path.

Since I’ve started training, I’ve joined a slew of online groups, checked out various trainers, training marketers, etc. I have unsubscribed from most of them. I am frustrated (to say the least) at what I’ve found.

With very very few exceptions, everyone wants me to sell supplements (or wants to sell supplements to me). I am supposed to pitch my clients on how great they are. They are encouraging me to do this not so my clients can be healthier but so I can make more money.

That’s not how I roll.

Supplements have their place.

Weight loss supplements’ place, in my opinion, is in the garbage.

Other supplements can be good if you know what you need and are able to buy what’s on the label. (Since there’s no regulation for vitamins and supplements, many vitamins don’t actually contain what the label says they contain…) But I am a personal trainer, not a nutritionist or a dietician, and it’s my (strong) opinion that if you want help with the details of your diet, you need to go to a specialist (read: a dietician — “nutritionist” doesn’t require as much learning), not a personal trainer. I can help you with generalizations (eat more vegetables and less crap), but I can’t give you specific-to-your-body advice. (And neither can anyone else who doesn’t run blood tests.)

The other piece: all of the marketing stuff I’ve seen will either give me a six-figure income in the next three months if I just buy their $700 plan (right) or wants me to make ridiculous promises in order to get your attention.

“Lose 30 pounds in a month!”

That’s not how I roll, either.

Do I need to?

Whether you are a client of mine or not, please do not fall prey to the campaign promises that are so prevalent in the health and fitness community right now.

You want to lose 30 pounds before Christmas? Sorry. Not a good plan. Fifteen, max, if you start today.

I would love to see some long-term planning here. You didn’t gain 100 pounds in two months; you’re not going to lose it in two months. And are you losing it just to look better, or do you actually want to be healthier? You can be thin and not be healthy.

So when you are tempted to try out the “lose weight fast!” or “kill your appetite!” or “fat burning pills!” please consider: they’re working in an unregulated market, trying to make themselves rich — they’re not trying to make you thin or healthy.

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5 responses to this post.

  1. I am totally on board with you that thin people are not necessarily healthy, and that there is a better option to losing weight than some of the ways offered to people these days. However, a situation that happened last week made me see things in a different light. Allow me to elaborate:

    My bf came me to last week wanting me to get on board with this Body by Vi Challenge by Viaslus. He tells me it’s like a meal replacement shake or something and immediately I’m turned off. I say something along the lines of “No way. Replacing a meal of REAL food with processed crap is not healthy in any way, and I refuse to support that.” So he says, it’s supposed to be natural and other stuff and wants me to at least look at it. I tell him I’m not trying anything until I see the ingredients.

    So his friend sends a list of the ingredients for the shake, and I’m turned off by 2 things:
    1) artificial flavors
    2) sucralose

    As you know, Victoria can’t have artificial stuff in her food as she’s highly sensitive to that kind of thing. After having gone through what we did with her, I decided it really isn’t good for ANYONE – not just Victoria. Since then I’d chosen to keep artificial ingredients out of our lives as much as possible.

    So after seeing that, I explain to Rick that this is no good. I am even more against it than I was before looking at the ingredients, and tell him if he wants to do it, fine, but I will not support him in it at all. So the next day he and I went to lunch, and on the way he stopped to meet a girl from the company. I asked if he wanted me to stay quiet while they talked, or if I should let it rip about the ingredients and why they claim to be one of the best when they use that crap. He thought for a minute, and then told me I could say whatever I wanted.

    So I did. I asked first about the sucralose. Why would they use a product like that, and why not use something else that would be considered more natural. Her answer was interesting. She said there had been a lot of studies done for it, not just in this country but in others as well. She said they tried using agave and stevia, but the taste was just awful. The other reason they chose it was because it is considered safe for diabetics, and that was important to them. As for the artificial flavor, it goes along those lines. I found that the artificial flavors are actually in the flavor packets, however, rather than the actual shake mix. Still, I wasn’t on board. Fake food to replace real food? DUMB idea!

    Then she continued to talk, and Rick dragged me to a Visalus seminar. I have to say, I was actually turned off by 3 things – the third being that it’s a MLM type of company. So I’m at this seminar for a product I don’t believe in, and they are talking. Nick got up on stage and talked about why he founded the company, and talked about how almost 50% of americans are not just overweight, but OBESE.

    That got me to thinking. I sat there tuning them out – thinking about the spectrum of health. Obesity is a risk factor in practically any disease, especially diabetes (as fat cells inhibit insulin). Even in endocrinology, we learned that as much as a 5% decrease in body fat can lead to a significant change in an individual with type 2 diabetes. All these things can be related to obesity.

    Then it got me to thinking about myself. There have been different points in my life where I’ve gone from thin and healthy (eating good foods and/or just being active enough to burn it off) to heavy and not. There was a time, and sometimes still is, where I feel so tired. I know I need to lose weight but am just too freaking tired to do so. And when I DO exercise – I feel like I’m going to pass out or have a heart attack. That gets me to thinking about my children and shame on me for letting myself get to this point. It is so much easier to just buy food somewhere quick when you’re tired (from the extra weight you’re carrying around, the lack of nutrition from eating crappy) than it is to cook a meal. And it’s certainly more appetizing than eating an apple or a salad (you even have to make a salad sometimes).

    I think about all those people who would like to make changes, but they are already tired enough getting through a normal day – let alone changing their diet to foods that don’t taste good (I’ve heard that MANY times from friends who choose to eat unhealthy) and exercising. Yes, exercise gives you more energy and boosts your metabolism but STARTING and keeping that momentum is really not easy when your energy is depleted.

    So then I come back to the shake, with a little sucralose and artificial flavor in it and compare it to the average american meal (burger, fries, and a coke). When you compare the two – BOTH have artificial crap in them, the meal usually contains chemicals that are designed to addict you (and DO), the meal is devoid of pretty much any real nutrients, and the shake was designed by people who are trying to get people the nutrients and energy they need while helping them lose a little weight. I gotta say, when comparing the two, the shake is a better option than the average american meal.

    So if someone is going to eat 2 fast food meals a day, instead they could drink a shake (which is also fast food, technically, but has nutrients in it with minimal chemicals added so it’ll taste good enough to WANT to drink.

    Getting people from the far other side of the spectrum of unhealthy to move further in the direction of health, I feel this would be a better choice than the fast food meal and coke (or even in place of the coke!) and at least give them more energy. Think about the decrease in caloric intake – less to burn = better potential for losing weight.

    Do I think these shakes are right for everyone? Absolutely not. Do I think they are healthy? Compared to REAL food like fruits and veggies – nope. Compared to fast food or even some home cooked crap from a can with tons of high fructose corn syrup and other crap in it – absolutely.

    I think this begins to bridge the gap for people on the extreme other end of the health spectrum. I am not a distributor for them (yet, I say after realizing all I’ve written), but my boyfriend signed on. Not for the money, although money is good for paying bills, but to help people. He is excited that the site used for the Body by Vi challenge also includes meal planning and working out. Afterall, that is the point. To get people to a state where they have the energy they need, can workout, and eat right.

    Taking people from average american meal, couch potato america to move your body, fruits and veggies america is like leaping the grand canyon in a single bound. Some people won’t even try to find a bridge to walk or run over because they are just too far from it to try.

    So while I was totally against it before, I DO see a place for it in certain circumstances. I was also impressed by how much these people focused on helping others, rather than making money and selling their product. I’ve never done MLM, but if I was going to do it, I’d do it with Visalus for the people who could use the help.

    • Thank you for your awesome comment! It completely makes sense.

      I’m not completely against things like protein drinks, but I don’t think it’s my place to promote them or sell them. Yes, they’re healthier than other options. Lean Cuisine (for example) is healthier than other options, but I’m not going to promote those, either.

      Of course I am going to encourage people to move in the direction of health. (Check my philosophy page on my website.) I have clients now who are very out of shape and whose eating habits are not good at all. My job is not to tell them to change everything that they’re eating. At this point, I’d just like them to eat less. I’ve made a few food-specific suggestions, but at this point, I’m not even talking content, just volume. We can work on making healthier choices later. Really, people will do it, or will ask for help doing it, when they’re ready.

      That said, I’m not going to sell or promote products that are not in line with my philosophy on health and wellness. Protein/meal replacement shakes would be as close as I would come, but I’m being asked to sell pills. When I was training, my trainers worked hard to get me to buy pills. Pills are not part of what I do (I am trained in exercise), and they are not part of what I believe are good for health and wellness (in most cases). I will not sell them, and I will not recommend them.

      I’m being asked to create full-page ads saying that I guarantee you will lose a pound a day for a month. I’m not doing that either. It’s ridiculous!

      Does that make sense?

      • It absolutely does. I get it. When you get into the health/wellness field, people are going to come at you with whatever they think is the best for people (or the best way to make money and they don’t care about health). It is great that you are sticking to your values and not letting money or gimmicks get in the way of that. 🙂

  2. Posted by Lisa on 10 November 2010 at 16:35

    I applaud your integrity on this issue. Practitioners who also sell stuff are generally a turn-off for me, from local chiropractors hawking homeopathy to Dr. Mercola and his ubiquitous protein powders, etc. It just takes away some professional credibility for me.

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