There are fitness wankers everywhere. The industry is becoming wankerfied. And, everday I have to remind myself of why I do what I do.
That is – why do I stay in the fitness/health industry when there are aspects of it that I absolutely despise? I was faced with this question the other day as once again I was ranting on about the state of the industry.
So it got me to thinking – why do I actually stay? Why not move on and leave it up to the gazillion other personal trainers to take over and have an influence?
I mean it doesn’t take much these days to become an expert and a *body* of authority on social media. Seemingly anyone with a good body and a penchant for ‘artistic’, carefully manufactured post-workout selfies can become a leader.
The source of this conversation was yet another poorly written social media post which was accompanied by an equally poor taste ‘fitspirational’ photo. It is no secret that I am critical of the ‘fitspo’ culture and the social obsession with the ‘perfect gym body’; it is what I fondly call the ‘wankerfication’ of the fitness industry. In fact, egocentric narcissists seem to be invading my newsfeed of late.
To say that I am sick and tired of seeing bare butts and big titties hanging out everywhere under the ‘guise of fitspiration is an understatement. As fast as I delete or block someone another photo pops up in its place – almost like the Hydra beast of mythological times.
I love the word ‘wanker’; I never use it anywhere else in my vernacular except for when describing various parts of the fitness industry, so without further adieu allow me to explain why…
In days gone by the word ‘wanker’ was used to describe someone’s sexual habit of masturbation, however, in more recent times the term is used to describe someone you hold in contempt, or as more commonly used in Australia and NZ, to describe someone who is egotistical and self-indulgent (to translate for my American counterparts it is the equivalent of being a ‘Jerk’).
I think the definition of wanker sums up parts of the fitness industry to a tee.
We see evidence of wankerfication in the form of multiple selfies (and for the record there are many different categories of selfies – we have the post-workout selfie, the during-work-out selfie, the pre-workout selfie, the not-going-to-a-gym-but-wearing-gym-clothes selfie, the bathroom selfie, porn-disguised-as-fitness selfie, food selfie, head-chopped-off-body selfie, the-cheeky-oh-I’ve-just-woken-up selfie, in-the-car-going-to-gym selfie, yoga selfie, 5-photos-of-the-body-in-one-frame selfie – the list goes on).
Unfortunately the rise of social media usage has made it easier for said wankers to objectify their (and others) bodies, to internalize their objectification (in other words their self worth hinges on them being an object of desire), to overtly sexualize fitness (squat in a g-string anyone?) and to body shame those who do not fit into the correct definition of a ‘good body’.
We see evidence in the ‘elitism’ of exercise. Performing exercise that is super hard core, punishing, ‘mentally crushing’ and done with the intent of ‘earning’ that rest, cupcake or figurative badge of honour.
We also see it in the gyms in the way that some (note I said some not all) Personal Trainers and coaches walk around with their ‘mightier than thou’ attitude and a protein shaker permanently attached to their hand.
Elitist food wankers confuse general public by declaring certain food groups as ‘bad’, encouraging the use of ‘detoxes and special diets’ and condemning those who don’t adopt Vegan, Vegetarian, Fruitarian, Gluten, Wheat, Dairy, Sugar and Fun Free lifestyles.
Of course I’m saying all this with tongue-in-cheek but there is a serious consequence to this industry wankerfication – people who want or need to participate and engage in exercise are choosing NOT to because they are put off, intimidated or scared of feeling judged (check out this article here-: http://snip.ly/10Zz – for the record I don’t agree with everything that the Kasey Edwards says but she makes some extrmemly valid points)
Here in Australia we have seen a decrease in the number of people engaging in regular exercise, 70% of Australian adults (i.e. almost 12 million adults) are either sedentary or have low levels of physical activity (http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/health-pubhlth-strateg-active-evidence.htm), and we are seeing an incremental increase in overweight and obese categories.
Simultaneously we are seeing a rise in eating disorders, disordered eating behaviours and low-self esteem (and as mentioned by Suna Kassier in http://snip.ly/OUjh eating disorders and obesity may be on the SAME end of the spectrum – NOT the opposite end as many think).
I’m talking Australia, however, these statistics and trends are global.
Naturally there are multiple factors that contribute to these worrying statistics, but it would be remiss of me NOT to mention the influence that ‘wankerfication’ has had on general public’s perception and therefore influence on behaviour choice. We must understand that our industry is constantly under scrutiny, and if we are to be taken seriously, or be successful (as in we engage a greater percentage of the population in regular activity and help shift the tidal wave of obesity) then we MUST stop acting like wankers.
Which brings me back to my original question – why do I stay?
Because I have a social responsibility to do so.
Right now the world is crying out for decent common sense approaches that cultivate meaningful transformation. People are hungry for change – they are questioning the status quo, are searching out meaning in their lives, and are realizing that there is more to life than having a rocking body.
People’s bodies and poor health is reaching a critical point, if we do not do something now then the world is going to be a dire place in the next few decades (the Zombie Apocolypse is a much referred to joke, but the sad thing is that the apocolpyse is here, now – in the form of sick, unhappy and distracted people).
I stay, because in an industry full of BS, hyperbole and superfluous tendencies there needs to be a voice of reason that is willing to take it on, and be a guiding light for the masses.
I also stay for the people that I have helped along the way and for all those others who I have yet to meet.
18 years ago I chose this profession (actually it chose me) because I loved working with people and I loved seeing them improve their performance. Helping people find their way through their body and using it to improve all elements of their lives by facilitating a healthy, well functioning body was the goal – as it is today.
Our bodies are something to be revered and honoured, a beautifully complex organism that allows us to do whatever we want. As such it should be respected and nurtured, not beaten into submission, punished, treated poorly or objectified (please note that there is a BIG difference between ‘objectifying’ one’s body and celebrating one’s body – I’ll touch on that in Part 2)
Some may read this post and tell me to ‘not be so serious’, or ‘to get over it’ (to be honest I’m guaranteed to get a few angry PM’s), but I have to be serious because too many people are sick, dying, hating themselves and simply surviving life rather than thriving. Too many people, who are desperate for help, seek knowledge, advice and inspiration from poorly educated, buff wankers who may or may not have competed a couple of times in their life and now claim to be a transformation coach (ok, that sarcasm was wankerish).
But honeslty, if us professionals and other fitness/wellness/health practitioners are to have a fighting chance to serve a greater number of people, we have to stop the elitist wankerfied behaviours; AND we must understand that if we are not standing up against it then we are a part of the problem, not the solution.
And that is why I do what I do. Fight the good fight.
In being a part of the solution (and not just providing a well orchestrated rant) in Part 2 I will provide some solutions to this wankerfication problem.
Until then ….
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