I saw this meme a while back and it literally sums up my whole attitude to the fitness industry so perfectly I had to use it. I, of course am the fairy godmother in this meme. Poor cinderella represents the hundreds (thousands probably) of girls that believe there is a quick fix to getting the body they want. IT MAKES ME SO MAD. Honestly, people ask me all the time what is my secret? Train, six days a week for ten years. That’s what’s made me me. And the majority of people who look athletic or slim or whatever is desirable these days have probably exercised and eaten a balanced diet (lol) for several years too. The problem is when celebrities lose weight quickly and put it down to x, y, z. A type of tea, a detox, cutting out a certain food, a 3 min belly blitz DVD, a diet, a trainer etc etc. This gives people the complete wrong idea and low and behold (unless they’ve had secret surgery) they’ll lose their new figure/shape within a few months because how they actually achieved it is not sustainable.
There are a couple of problems at the root of this issue. Firstly is the compete and utter lack of education. And parenting, the government and schools have to take the blame here. It is wonderful that people want to act and change for the better. But thinking that drinking a skinny tea and buying some protein powder just shows how woefully ignorant people are and also that the fitness industry is far more successful at ‘fake education’ than the aforementioned groups are at ‘real education’. Yes, it is an uphill battle. Celebrities and the fitness industry are far more glamorous than being told to eat a rainbow (veggies) and to aim for 150 min physical activity a week. Charlotte from Geordie Shore is going to sell more fitness DVD’s than the government Food4Life campaign.
Point no. 2. Role models. The saddest thing for me is seeing Kylie Jenner and Lucy Watson on Puma campaigns because their endorsement sells. Why are Puma not using an athlete? Athletes exemplify dedication, hard work and wellness. They get up and train to reach a lifelong goal; not to earn millions. These are the role models of the health and fitness world not women who employ a PT to ensure they do not get bingo wings and to fit in to a certain dress size.
The last struggle is the biggest one. Health and fitness is suddenly super popular. Great, you think; people are finally beginning to understand that obesity is a big struggle and if they want to live longer (and healthier) than their parents did they might actually have to watch what they shove in their mouth and take some exercise. Nope. People want to exercise or diet to lose weight. It’s not a health goal it is a vanity driven. I have spoken in this very blog before about how I do not actually mind this; the fact that often it is a vanity driven motivation that spurs people into action. And I stand by this.
Once exercise has commenced however, I do think that these people should be encouraged by their friends, family, trainers to explore this further in order to help the change become a lifestyle change which sticks past them losing weight or doesn’t wane when/if they don’t reach their weight loss/dress size goals instantaneously. Ask why do you want to be a size 10? Find the answer. It might be because it is was easier to play with their kid when they were that size. It may be that they struggle to find clothes they feel good in at their current size. Now we are starting to get deeper. Why do they feel better when they weigh less? Maybe someone will answer that they can get more done because they have more energy? They like the buzz from exercise and their skin is better when their diet is more balanced. Maybe they need to lose weight in order to conceive a baby or their anxiety is better if they exercise regularly. These are the good answers.
I think it is fantastic that more and more people are trying cross-fit, hiring personal trainers, taking out gym memberships or doing bootcamps. But unless people identify with the core values behind exercise and a balanced diet (health, wellness, vitality) they risk being taken in by fads, and losing faith when their misguided endeavours do not pay off. Health is a lifestyle not a fad and it cannot be attained or achieved overnight. There are some wonderful campaigns that encourage and assist people to ‘get active’ such as #thisgirlcan, Park Runs, Change4Life and #GetSettoGo (mind.org.uk). Local councils also run great campaigns independently; there is a very successful couch to 5 km programme that runs on the Isle of Wight where I am from which is supremely popular. These campaigns emphasise the basics of health e.g. balanced eating and regular exercise. They also dig deeper as to why exercise is great (because it is) rather than claim to ‘shift a stone in a week’.
So come on people, rather than changing your diet every week and refusing to get a sweat on or skipping your workout because you’re ‘busy’ a.k.a would rather be doing something else try for a little balance and commitment. It may take a while to form the habit but chances are you’ll end up in love with being active and healthy. Ditch Instagram #fitspo (most of it isn’t real) and don’t be taken in by the fitness industry. There is nothing to fear by being healthy – you don’t have to wear lycra, eat kale or chug protein shakes. Find your own way and Get Real.