I’ve been in the fitness industry for 8 years now. A lot has changed over that time. The equipment, the methods, the foods, the types of individuals who you see at the gym and much more. The biggest change I have seen has been our understanding of specific types of exercise and the types of food we put in our bodies. This is great! It means we're getting smarter and more efficient.
The one thing that hasn't changed at all, are the promises of a better tomorrow if you will only spend money on this product or service. They sound like this...
“No Diets, No Crazy Exercise, No Restrictive Eating! Simply take this supplement twice per day and melt the pounds away”
"Super mega mass protein powder: Gain muscle 10X faster"
"Freeze the fat away with cool sculpting"
Or my personal favorite...
“Free 6 week challenge. Lose 20lbs in 6 weeks and get your money back!”
We are all secseptible to this type of manipulation, myself included. The amount of money spent on learning what makes us tick, is unfathomable. Companies know what we're thinking before we think it. They know what to say to trigger us emotionally and push us toward a decision. The marketing game is at an unbelievable level. There are even phony blogs (not this one obviously), research studies and social media accounts aimed at keeping us confused. This is why you will research something like "Are eggs good for me?" and a simple Google search will bring back cases for and against the question. It can all be confusing and overwhelming.
The honest truth is...(Brace yourself here)
There are no tricks and hacks to losing weight, gaining muscle, becoming a better athlete or anything else for that matter. Let's dig into a few of the most common products and services that have tricked even the savviest of buyers.
Let's start with my personal favorite...
The 6 Week Challenge
This is going to sound suspiciously like HATE. So let me start off by saying, there are individuals who have done 6 Week Challenges and kept the weight off for good. Saying otherwise would obviously not be true and I believe anything that gets you motivated to get up and start living healthier is a good thing. Now that we got that out of the way, let's get real. The 6 Week Challenge is a business model, and every gym, bootcamp, or fitness center I know of, is operating for profit. These types of places do not make profit by giving clients their money back when they lose 20lbs. The fact of the matter is that only 25%-30% of individuals who enter a pay-to-play challenge, get their money back (A statistic given to me by a personal contact whom helps struggling gyms set up challenges). Of that, lets call it 30%, half of them choose to roll that money into continuing with another challenge/membership. All-in-all its a fairly business friendly model. For the 30% who do lose the initial weight, this is typically through exercising 6 days per week and an uber-restrictive diet full of chicken and brown rice. Clearly, i'm exaggerating. You can also eat tilapia, broccoli and egg whites. Okay, you get my point. After 6 weeks, or longer for those who continue on, of eating such a boring, bland and restrictive diet, it's time to cut loose! After all, it was hard work. You deserve it! Slowly, old eating habits begin to creep back in, the body is desperately in need of some rest from all the over-training, and the lifetime of bad habits come back to the forefront. The weight comes back with them. It's been a long 8 years for me. Time and time again, this is the story I have heard far more often than the success stories,
"I lost 50lbs at (insert gym here), but i gained it back because (insert reason here)."
If this sounds like you, it's not your fault! You were deceived into thinking you were doing the right thing. And you mostly were! You were trying to better yourself and live a healthier life. Bad habits die hard! Unfortunately for most, changing the lifestyle is not the goal when you enter a challenge like this. The goal is about quick results. If changing your lifestyle was your goal, then you received poor guidance. Being thin, staying lean and getting defined muscles (toned), are the result of months, if not YEARS of dedication to your goal. There is not a fitness model, body builder or athlete that will tell you, "it all just fell into place over a few months." Life doesn't work that way and neither does your body.
Cleanse and Detox
The definition of the word Detox is, to rid the body of unhealthy substances. In the fitness wolrd this means to restrict yourself from almost everything, at the same time. Our box recently completed a 21-Day detox. The participants eliminated dairy, sugar and grains for 21 days. All substances that have been shown to be toxic to the body and cause excessive weight gain. Here's what they didn't eliminate; Meats, vegetables, nuts, seeds, fruits and starches. Your body needs nutrients, both macro and micro. For most of the fitness world, when someone participates in a cleanse or a detox, it means that they eliminate most everything from their diet. Some people go strictly juices, others go strictly vegetables, and some eliminate all carbohydrates. The options and choices are limitless. Severe restriction, without proper guidance and supervision is dangerous. If you're diet was poor to begin with, then you are taking an already bad situation and piling on top of it. Food restriction causes physiological stress that today's body is not equipped to handle all at one time. Many individuals report illnesses after completing certain types of cleanses as they are depriving themselves from vital nutrients, and over doing it on others. The body likes balance because it keeps you healthy. Imbalance leaves you susceptible to a world of problems and even chronic diseases. Thousands of years ago, the body was able to handle food restriction differently but this was the norm for that point in time. Now food is plentiful and all around us, the body has adapted to this way of living. This is not to say food restriction is bad, the point is that there are a lot of wrong ways to go about a detox or cleanse. Making changes are hard, and making all changes at one time is damn near impossible. A better place to start is by cleaning up your diet eating only whole foods. After some time, and guidance from a professional, you may want to try a cleanse, detox or even fasting. You can't jump into the middle of a race without first crossing the starting line.
The red or the blue bill
Yes, I dropped a reference to The Matrix. We're talking about supplements. This can range anywhere from protein powders to "fat burners." The labels and advertisements from these products have some pretty bold claims. Surprisingly, most of them are not wrong. But they can be misleading. The first thing you should know about supplements, is that they are unregulated. There is no governing body who can dictate what they can or can't claim. While many of the companies do test their products, they only have to prove that their product is more effective than a sugar pill, a.k.a. placebo. This leaves the door wide open for all kinds of misinterpretation and will leave you feeling like you need these products based on what the label says. There are lots of companies who do clinical trials on individuals in an attempt to be less misleading. This is great! But it leads me to the second thing you need to know about supplements. The individuals they test their products on are not every day folks like you and I. They run clinical trials with athletes, bodybuilders and competitors. All of whom, are already in peak physical condition, specific to their craft. This is why I say that most labels are not wrong, supplements such as protein powders, BCAA's, Creatine and a few others can give individuals at the top of their game an added edge. For 90% of the population, these supplements are just a waste of cold, hard cash. Many of the benefits of protein for example can be had by simply eating healthy lean protein sources in your own kitchen. For our clients, we do recommend a clean source protein powder as a means to supplement a busy lifestyle. Not as a trick to help them reach their goal. A protein smoothie mixed with fruits and greens is a quick blend-and-go option for anyone with a hectic schedule. Other supplements such as BCAA's, Creatine, pre-workouts, vitamin stacks are simply unnecessary for you and I, if we are not serious athletes or competitors.
I mentioned "fat burners," above. I will be very straight forward with you. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A PILL THAT BURNS FAT! There are prescription drugs that will, but many of those drug companies have already been sued for millions of dollars due to unforeseen side effects and wrongful deaths. As for the "fat burners," or Thermogenics, you will see in your local supplement shops, they are a sham! Heating up your bodies core temperature because it "burns fat" is a ludicrous claim. The only thing you will be doing by taking these supplements is poisoning your body with chemicals. I was 280lbs once, and I sweat all the time. If being hot would make me lose weight, then why the hell was I 280lbs? If you are thinking about buying one of these supplements (or have in the past), go grab a very thick news paper, roll it up and hit yourself on the nose. Bad dog...
As always with any supplement, remember that it is a supplement. It is meant to supplement something that is missing from your diet. If you are eating right, then you will have no need for them.
Wraps, Cool Sculpting, and Dark Magic
We are all smarter than this one right? Mummifying yourself in seaweed while sitting in a sauna to lose weight? Wrapping yourself in ice until the fat is literally frozen from your body? Is this real life, or the plot to Frozen 2, where Ana and Elsa need to lose a few pounds before summer? I don't think I need to elaborate much further here. Show me one person who is permanently lost weight from these methods, with proof, and I will physically eat my own boxers after I complete a WOD.
There are some recovery benefits associated with these types of treatments such as; relaxing achy muscles and joints, sweating out toxins, increased protein absorption (through heat shock), and building up overall mental toughness through the excess heat or cold. When it comes to "weight loss," the only weight you will be losing is water weight. Your wallet will be a few pounds lighter as well.
Now about that hard work and dedication...
The answer will always be consistent hard work. An answer. i'm certain, that you have heard over-and-over again. A consistent week-in-week-out effort in the gym, not killing yourself 6 days a week for 2 months and burning out. Consistently making the best food choices possible, not completing a 30 day juice cleanse and ravaging your body of its needs and going back to bad choices afterwards. Constant dedication to your goal, not yo-yo diets and workout fads that don't last.
There are lots of tricks to losing a few quick pounds on the scale, but not without the cost of ravaging your body in some way. The monkey mind will always be drawn towards the path of least resistance. So when you see a success story, when a friend loses 20lbs during a challenge, or you come across a gimmick on the internet, SNAP OUT OF IT! Be excited for them and encourage them to continue down a healthy path. But tell yourself, "I'm doing this the right way!" By working on changing bad habits, building new ones and overhauling your lifestyle, you are setting yourself up for success for many years to come, if not the rest of your life. Many of those close to you however, will still be falling for the quick fix, and struggling with their journey.
Keep your head up! Work hard! Stay the course!