Updated: Jan 26, 2021
Okay, kids - long rant coming. In fact, it's so long that I had to split everything I needed to say into 3 different posts. But I hope that they are all informative and help you make the best decisions for yourself and for your body.
Without further ado...Why You Should Think Twice About Trusting an Online Health Coach - Part 1:
There’s A LOT of crap on the internet. Someone watches a few YouTube videos on a given subject or saves a meme they found on some random page and suddenly, they're an expert. In the least offensive of cases, this self-appointed proficiency is incredibly annoying. In the most offensive, it's incredibly dangerous.
The health and wellness field is no exception. The rise of social media and the treasure trove of profitable opportunities it brings has a made for a veritable sewer of bullshit: misinformation, false equivalencies, dumb exercise videos with God-awful form, lots of “meal plans” or “diets” that aren’t based in any kind of research or scientific study.
Above: Right after this picture was taken, I can only assume the man on the ball broke an ankle. But hey! He squatted 135lbs while on an unstable surface! Cool, dude! That movement pattern will for sure come in handy for your job lifting heavy boxes inside of a bounce house!
What makes this whole situation even worse? Health and fitness businesses that rely on independent distributors to sell their often-times subpar and/or grossly over priced products.
Listen, I don’t want to yuck anyone’s yum here. If you love a product - more power to you. If a program has made you feel like the best version of yourself that you’ve ever experienced - that’s amazing and awesome and you should keep with it. If a business model has proven successful for you, and you haven't had to take advantage of others to achieve that success - great, I wish you the best of luck and nothing but happiness and financial freedom.
But what I do have a REAL problem with is misleading consumers, claiming expertise when you have none, and endangering the health of your “clients.”
Several companies in the health, fitness, and nutrition realm have bestowed the title of “coach” onto their independent distributors. Now to be fair, the term “coach” is unregulated; there are no quests you have to complete or golden chalices you have to drink from to gain access to the name. In most cases, you could call yourself a coach about anything you wanted without really ever having to prove yourself.
But I think most would agree with me when I say that when you hear the word “coach,” you assume that the person who claims the moniker has, at bare minimum, a slightly better-than-average understanding about the subject in which they’re coaching. You’d never want to hire a football “coach” that doesn’t know how to get the first down when you’re 3rd and 5. You’d never want to hire a business “coach” that can't tell you the pros and cons of an LLC or an S-Corp.
So back to these independent distributors, called “coach." What are the requirements to be a “coach” with these health and fitness companies? For one of them - you must live in the US, Canada, UK, or France. You must be 18 years of age. You must purchase a business starter kit and then agree to be billed monthly to continue your “coaching” business. Enter your credit card, click a few boxes - bing bang boom, you’re a “coach.” No courses you have to attend, no tests or practicals you have to pass, no having to prove you know how to do or “coach” so much as a jumping jack. No vetting of any form other than age, citizenship, and agreement to pay upfront and recurring fees.
(Side note: I’m sure that there are some “coaches” that actually do have an education in the health, fitness, and nutrition field. But to those people I say - you could (and likely do) have someone on your "team" who doesn’t know the difference between an ACL and an Amino Acid, and yet you both call yourselves health coaches...do you think that’s fair? Or even safe?)
“Coaches” will post on social media about joining 21-day “challenges” or “bootcamps” or "fixes" (didn't know I needed to be "fixed," but whatever). They’ll slide up into your DMs about whether you want to be a part of accountability groups they’re starting. They’ll throw a "hey girl!" your way to talk to you about weight loss when you’ve said…well…nothing about wanting to lose weight. If you decide to take them up on their offer, they’ll tell you to follow pre-recorded workouts and drink a specific brand of protein powder that’s usually 3 times as expensive as anything you’d find in a store. They’ll even ask if you’ve ever thought about “doing what they do," meaning being a “coach” yourself, despite the fact that you may have never consciously exercised a day in your life. (Spoiler Alert - that’s how they make any real money off of this “coaching” venture that they’ve started. Not by providing any type of actual coaching, not even by selling any product, but by getting you to sign up as a "coach" under them and start hawking the same workout videos and protein powders that they are).
Above: You'd think the lack of response would indicate that this person is not interested. Also, how cringy is that second message??
What these "coaches" won't ask you to do is fill out a PAR-Q (most of them probably don’t know what that is). They won’t ask about your health history or current activity levels. They won’t ask you about injuries or surgeries or specific goals beyond “losing weight.” They won’t personalize exercise or nutrition programs based on your specialized needs. They won’t want to perform movement assessments or talk to you about imbalances or the need to strengthen your TVA and glutes if you work a desk job. However, these are all things a certified personal trainer will ask you as a potential client.
To have people with no formal training touting themselves as “coaches” is not only incredibly insulting to the health and fitness professionals who have dedicated time and resources into proper education and certification, but it’s also incredibly dangerous - both for the “clients” and the “coaches” themselves (although I’m sure these companies have some sort of legal trickery up their sleeves to avoid suits against uneducated “coaches” giving bad advice).
If you're looking for a coach to guide you in exercise and other health pursuits, it is essential to work with a knowledgeable professional, like a certified personal trainer. This ensures that they the have the know-how to create custom programming for your needs and goals, the ability to identify and correct improper form, and the judgement to progress and regress your programmed exercises as necessary.
Lately, I’ve been seeing some disturbing things among these “coaches” that’s making a bad situation even worse. It was so offensive to me that I felt the need to address it publicly. I’m generally very non-confrontational, and a “live and let live” kind of person, but what I’ve seen is so completely against standard practices and medical recommendations that I’m positive there will be injuries as a result, if there haven’t been already.
We'll get to that in Part 2.