Infomercials, celebrity-backed products and outrageous social media and internet advertisements – most are the modern day incarnation of the travelling snake oil salesman. Every once in a while, legitimate products rise above the faddish clutter. Though they’re rare diamonds in the rough. For the most part, these products and services are, at best, ideas that worked for a select few but don’t translate to the general public or, at worst, all out scams. With a majority of the population clinically overweight or obese living in a society that places a huge value on thinness, it’s no wonder products that promise body perfection in a relatively short amount of time are a tremendous temptation for even the most rational among us. But, there are costs well beyond the price tags for repeatedly falling for fitness scams.
They have a physical cost. Fad diets promote sudden weight loss that is followed by quick weight gain once the diet is over. The effects of yo-yo dieting are well documented to cause metabolic and insulin resistance problems, putting one at a higher risk of developing diabetes and other metabolic disorders. Fad exercise products and programs rarely follow protocols to ensure the safety of deconditioned exercisers, putting them at greater risk for injury.
They also have a psychological impact. Scam diets create a vicious cycle of failure that leads to emotional eating, instigating negative self-talk, shame and a complete sense of hopelessness. Similarly, fad workouts and exercise products lead to repeated failure to adhere to regular exercise, convincing an individual that she’s incapable of performing safe and enjoyable exercise.
Today’s post provides a simple set of rules for you to employ to quickly identify the difference between a fitness scam and a legitimate program or product.
Rule #1: Fitness NEVER comes in a pill. Whether something is touted as a vitamin, all-natural, fat-melting or increasing metabolism – it’s all bunk. These are all supplements and aren’t tested or approved by the FDA like other foods and medications. Some contain substances that can interfere with prescription medications or worsen the symptoms of health conditions. The healthiest and safest way to get macro and micronutrients that nourish the body is through consuming a wide variety of minimally processed whole foods. One cannot “melt” fat or instantly rev up metabolism. In order to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, one must consume healthy foods in proper portions and exercise to strengthen and build muscles to boost metabolism. No pill can substitute for healthy eating and exercise.
Rule #2: Fitness doesn’t have an end date. Whatever your new fitness plan – whether it’s a diet or exercise program – it will only work as long as you’re practicing it. If your diet plan uses specialty shakes or bars that replace meals; has its own measured-out, pre-packaged meals and snacks; includes weekly fasts or cleanses; allows a very limited variety of foods; or eliminates large food groups (carbs, meat, gluten, dairy) you will only lose weight as long as you’re following the plan. Once you’ve reached your goal weight and revert back to previous eating habits, you’ll regain the weight. Similarly, if you purchase a 30-day exercise video to help you lose weight and stop working out after the 30 days, the weight will return. Fitness is a lifestyle, not a short term program. Diets that teach you how to plan, prepare and portion a wide variety of minimally processed foods are the only ones that will promote healthy, gradual weight loss that can be maintained for a lifetime. Exercise works only when one is exercising. It’s a waste of time and money to buy into an exercise program for a finite amount of time.
Rule #3: Fitness isn’t quick and easy for anyone. Probably the biggest misconception is the idea that fitness is easy for the person who is already fit. I’m here to tell you that ain’t true. I don’t have shortcuts, I can’t let up on the gas pedal. If I skip a few workouts, cut a few corners, overindulge too many days in a row, I will feel it and it will show. The cold, hard truth is the more overweight and deconditioned one is, the harder she’s going to have to work and for a longer period of time to realize her fitness goals. If a product or program touts a large weight loss or a buff, muscular physique in a short amount of time, steer clear. It is physiologically impossible.
Rule #4: It is not possible to target fat-loss and muscle gain to a particular body part. I have heard and read it all: avoid dairy for a flat tummy; rock hard abs in two weeks; get a toned, lifted butt doing one exercise two minutes a day for one week. One can achieve an increase in lean muscle mass and a simultaneous reduction of body fat mass through proper diet and exercise, but she can’t control where the fat reduction will occur and by how much. Beyond that, it takes months of core work performed two to three times per week to achieve “rock hard” abs, ditto glute exercises to achieve a lifted, toned butt. And, while you do need to be sure you consume enough complete protein for muscle building, there’s no such thing as avoiding or consuming specific individual foods to achieve a flat tummy or any other body aesthetic. As for those exercise products that target strength training to one muscle group, you’ll be bored to death from using it before you’ll see any results. Just as the body craves and needs a variety of foods, so too is it true of exercise.
Remember these four rules when considering embarking on a diet or purchasing a fitness product. If it doesn’t pass the test, pass it by. And never be fitness scammed again.