The Cost of Results
We all want results, right? Most of us would love to be a little leaner/toned/fitter/stronger. Maybe we want the kind of results that gets us a barrage of likes and gushing compliments on our newsfeed when we share them. Why not, we see these fitness transformation images all the time. We consume them daily. We often don’t realise how affected we are by them.
I often ponder the cost of different levels of results in the fitness world. I’ve been witness to online behaviour from acquaintances that indicates low self esteem, body image and potentially poor mental health that is presented as “inspiration”. As a professional, I decided a long time ago that I don’t wish to be a part of that, or remotely contribute to that culture.
If these were my clients, alarm bells would be sounding. I’d be working with them on this confidentially, referring them out to health services as needed. But they’re not my clients, so it’s difficult to broach the subject and risk being labeled “negative”. Sadly it seems these issues are simply a cost of getting certain results.
My clients are “normal” people, like me. They work hard, they are busy juggling often conflicting commitments. They enjoy being fit, and working hard in their sessions, but they also generally enjoy a balanced lifestyle. There’s a dark side to some of the fitness images we are presented online.
I’ve known friends who have worked with coaches who “prescribed” them a non stop 8 week diet of chicken and salad amounting to under 1,000 calories daily, who weren’t educated on the how they got lean, and returned to their regular body composition once they were no longer being closely monitored, much to their disappointment.
I’ve known friends who have packed tupperware containers to socialise with their friends, so they don’t risk “eating off plan” on a strict diet. But they got some great holiday pics.
How much life was lost in the process?
Last year, I happened to listen to a Ted talk podcast with a talk by a championship US gymnastics coach, Valorie Kondos Field. Her talk is titled: “Why Winning Doesn’t Always Equal Success”. Valerie describes the crisis of the “win at all costs” culture we have created. She says sadly, many of the people that we applaud for “winning” in schools, business and the sporting world – leave the proverbial podium as damaged humans.
This got me thinking about the world of fitness transformations, and how this idea of the damage as a cost of success applies to this instance. How this is potentially impacting the everyday people that I come across in my job. Their expectation that the results they see online are achievable for them, because they see them so often. Surely if they just work a little harder, be a little more determined, that can be them too.
I’m not against amazing results in fitness, and I can appreciate the dedication to get there by people. But when we start applying these high level expectations that getting the lowest % body fat possible is achievable, healthy or even maintainable for the general population – without being upfront about the process – I think we risk damaging humans.
I think the temptation for some in the fitness world, of profiting from people’s “pain” is too prevalent. (for example, the perception of a client that getting lean for a holiday will instil the happiness they seek vs the relative misery inflicted by the process).
In my opinion, if more professionals and people are honest and upfront about the costs involved in getting particular results, then people can make informed choices about if they want to do what is required to achieve a goal. If it fits their values and the way they like to live their lives – instead of being exposed to potentially feeling like a failure.
To quote Mark Manson once again, we choose our own suffering. I think too often consumers in our industry are not given the option of choice. Next time you set yourself a goal, ask yourself if you’re prepared to do what is needed to get there – what you are prepared to sacrifice. The choice is entirely yours, not mine or anyone else’s. The role of a coach should be to educate, and guide – not dictate.