I am so ashamed!
Having to face up to and admit to some of the really stupid things I’ve done in my own life in my pursuit of health, experience & knowledge.
This article is possibly, one of the hardest & self demeaning, that I will ever have to write. I managed to sweep it all under that proverbial carpet - until now.
Why is NOW the time to explain why I have evolved into a passionately vocal individual? One who refuses to pander to, or accept the bullshit. The malevolent forces sublimely pervading my industry? Because I too, have been a victim of false promises & belief in the greater good.
Perhaps this article about my own experience with Slimming Clubs, will help you understand my passion.
After many years of additional formal study, it's time to come clean and air what I consider to be my "dirty laundry" in it's rank glory. I allowed myself to get involved in something so damaging to my mindset & sense of well-being. As an accredited coach in this field, this will always be, my bitter pill to swallow & I continue to regularly beat myself up about the mistakes I have made.
My need to verbalise it in words for the public domain, so that the long process of cathartic baggage, can hopefully be relegated to the past - where most errors of judgement belong!
Right here goes.
A few years ago, after my back injury, and subsequent enforced sedentary lifestyle. I gained weight, which further compounded the back pain issue. Like so many other patients , I trusted the NHS, when they recommended a Slimming Club to solve my woes.
Although I had studied basic nutrition years before, when I first qualified as a PT, I felt too overwhelmed & fraught with pain to tend to my own needs. I realised that I needed accountability & support. I had been taught to recognise that it’s not a weakness, but a strength, for a professional to seek support.
I attended that first session, with an open mind. I also decided I would “trust not only the system, but the process”.
I took proud ownership of my new books after a basic “sales talk” and then stood in the queue to wait my turn to pay my money & get weighed on the impressive looking scale.
This ritual lasted for more than 6 months . During this process, I even looked into the possibility of becoming a consultant. I went through all the interviews & training (which I later realised were no more than them closing the "sale"). Not surprisingly, I was a successful candidate and now all that remained was me to pay for my investment in my new “franchise business”. I had this uncomfortable niggle, in my pain addled & medicated brain, that made me decline this offer. My excuse was that I was unable to afford it.
It was at this point that I decided not to align myself with a “brand”, but invest considerably more money, in gaining world class certifications, in the scientific field of nutrition. This has helped me become an agnostic when it comes to brands, hypothesis or fashion. Evidence based science, without conflict of interests, is the only principle which counts.
Any diet program or method, will initially cause someone to lose weight, but it’s the methods & adherence to not only scientific principles, but the impact that certain protocols may have on an individual clients, that also has to be taken into consideration.
There is undoubtedly a positive aspect of being part of any “support group”. I met amazing people and I felt that I was a part of something sociable.
On the downside, ( I now know there were many), I became obsessed with food for the first time in my life. Prior to this group, I ate to fuel my body, now I was classifying food-groups as good or 'sinful"! My entire day, became consumed with how, what when to obtain, eat and record food. I avoided people and became irrationally angry at family meals, if anyone dared to present a morsel, which I perceived as bad.
My life also now revolved around the scale. As much as I had studied & understood the basic science, I found myself totally embroiled in a downward spiral of self hate & reliance on a number. That number, could determine how I felt that day. Suicidal or euphoric were the two competing emotions! On top of my injury & slight weight gain, I could now add depression to my growing list of ailments!
Before our weekly “weigh-in” I would starve myself on a liquid diet for a few days, and on THE DAY, I would refuse even a sip of water, until I stepped off the scale! I would find the skimpiest article of clothing, oblivious to weather, and god forbid any jewellery( my watch), the enemy of the all important scale diagnosis.
Ironically, this behaviour was applauded most weeks at this group. That loss in “number” recorded from the week before was all that mattered in life. As I was never really in the obese classification, I usually felt like a complete failure in comparison as other members were losing 4 or 5 pounds each week. I had a mere half a pound loss (if I was lucky).
I had started working out again and revisiting “the science”, which was contradictory to everything this “group” stood for. But when you get hooked on the idea of something, regardless if in the back of your mind you know, it’s akin to self sabotage, it’s hard to break the cycle! I was now firmly in the grasp of disordered eating! I convinced myself that the processed crap they were selling was “good for me”. Avocados & butter were mine enemy!
I even managed to convince myself that the methods they preached "must be the latest" and all the boring sciency stuff I learned, was probably outdated.
Even though I mostly lost weight, (40 pounds) this unsustainable way of existing caused skin breakouts, hair loss etc. I was also losing muscle mass and my will to live. The antithesis of health!
That scale ruled my life to the detriment of my physical & emotional health!
The fact I was now doing weight training and sticking to a 6 day training regime, meant that I began to lose not only body fat, but also I was unable to regain lean body mass (muscle).
This vicious cycle of disordered eating & self abuse, drove me to work out more - ignoring all signs that my body needed wholesome nutritious food and time for healing, repair and replenishment. Metabolically, my body was rebelling and in a terrible state.
I was emotionally a wreck who would cry during an advert! My energy levels were non existent and I knew deep down that eating as much pasta, and other sugar laden simple carbs was a recipe for disaster, so I started to rebel!
I became angry & disillusioned. When I had spent the entire week exercising really hard, starving myself of good food and cramming processed shit down my throat - all in my efforts to get to a number on the scale.
This unhealthy lifestyle that I had succumbed to, was considered an achievement and celebrated with “stickers & certificates". This same company took a delight in claiming credit for their methods at successful “weigh-in” for my perceived achievements. The fact that there was absolutely nothing that could be construed as healthy about what I was doing, eventually made me realise how incredibly shallow it all was.
The consultants are not trained in nutrition science or “coaching” and they are unable to recognise, respond or support the blatant signs of disordered eating that this sort of program can cause.
In fact most of the consultants are going through the same damaging abusive cycle themselves. Their own extreme weight fluctuations and causative metabolic damage . They generally end up weighing more than when they started their journey. They have convinced themselves, that they and their clients didn’t stick to the “program” when things go wrong.
While this entire experience had a massive and negative effect on me personally. So much so, that to this day, I’m conflicted & reeling from the residual effects and pure unadulterated outrage that the “system” is so flawed!
Unfortunately, these slimming companies are not the only guilty participants. The entire multi billion pound “health” industry, attracts & harbours charlatans in every niche. And the powers-that-be, seem to turn a blind eye or they endorse them!
The positive outcome, was that it made me passionate about studying science.
What irks me the most, is the knowledge that large corporate companies, who have the resources & reputation to actually make a difference in the lives of their clients, choose instead to pursue profit over morals.
Yes there are “success stories” that emerge. The percentages are always highly debated, but whenever I see a “slimmer of the year” who has kept their weight off (more than 5 years), I can almost guarantee that their transformation has had more to do with lifestyle change decisions (including structured exercise protocols), than following a formula designed to keep people in the continual loop of lifelong membership.
It's often argued that "it’s cheap as chips" on the pocket to join these clubs, hence the huge attraction and low standards or expectations.
My personal experience and as someone defined as “you should have known better”, this cheap program, ultimately became the most expensive & detrimental decision of my life.
It’s taken me years to get over (?) the many negative repercussions in being a part of this sabotaging cycle. I often try to convince myself that at least I now have first hand experience of this “game”.
Does this now empower me to help my clients who are also experiencing the same conflict?
The best I can do now, is support them and coax them back to health through understanding, science & long term sustainability.
Perhaps together we can help break the shackles and the devastating consequences of being a slave to that effing scale.