Reclaiming movement part 2: My problem with the ‘fitness’ and ‘beauty industries: how and why they are out to con you

The biggest problem with the fitness and beauty industries is that their greatest motivation is for your money. This means they need to constantly sell you things – memberships, magazines, diets, clothes, machines to exercise on, certifications.

By the way some of this fucks me off. I cannot guarantee a rant free zone.

The only way that they can keep selling people things is by selling things that fail. If the things they sold worked, actually did what they ‘promise’ you’d be done, you would not need to keep buying.

Of course, like anything else there are differing degrees of integrity and quality in this industry. I’ll focus on how the con works, so you can get a better sense of how much rip-off there is in any particular case.

Let’s look at how much modern media runs itself. The majority of newspapers and magazines have largely given up the idea of education, integrity or truth. They do what will sell the most copies or generate the most clicks. This usually means defining a section of the population and telling them 1. What they already agree with and won’t put them in the tiring situation of having to think 2. What their advertisers want them to say.

Look in the magazines. What are the ads for – magic supplements, expensive clothes, expensive equipment. Do you need these things to be strong, healthy, mobile? Nope. In the next article I’ll give a you a list of things that I think are worthwhile – starting with absolutely nothing.

Of course I’m selling something too. I sell tuition, some books and a few t-shirts. But this article free, and the resources here are free and they work.

Selling what doesn’t work

There are many ways to sell what doesn’t work. One principle is to create unrealistic expectations. These pervade fitness and beauty literature, here’s what you are shown….

  • photoshopped models
  • models selected for ‘fashionable’ genetics – race, body proportions etc
  • professional models who work out hours per day demoing ‘get fit in 12mins/day

All of this leads us to the aesthetics trap. Apes that we are we judge by appearances. The appearance of potential for reproductive success is a big turn on, which tends towards certain body proportions – hip – waist – shoulder, as well as skin tone, symmetry and the company of other attractive apes.

These aesthetics can be faked, and exaggerated, and our ape brains can be easily fooled. make-up to hide skin tone, surgery to enhance shape, body ‘building’ towards ideal muscles and proportions, breast ‘enhancement’. Let’s not forget shallow insincere friendships. Clebs are not your friends, some of them may be genuinely kind, generous, caring etc but friends are best cultivated among the people you know.

None of this is new, it has just reached new heights through modern technology.

Aesthetics are sold as fitness goals. In reality aesthetics are side effects. They are side effects of good genes (can’t do much about this, so work with what you’ve got) and how you use your body. A well used body looks good and works well. A body built towards aesthetics is only good for posing, and doesn’t even look good to people who really know about movement.

Aesthetics are not a goal, they are a side effect. It’s like happiness – that’s not a goal either (and can’t be bought or sold, however glossy the advert) it’s a side effect of a life well lived.

The fitness industry, with few exceptions, is trying to sell quick fixes to the aesthetics and skipping over where the gold is.

The Yoga and Eastern fitness magazines do similar things. They are a little easier on the photoshopped models – bet you never saw an ugly Yoga model though! TaiJi magazines get a bit more leeway.

[cml_media_alt id='2140']ah Yoga models, sometimes serene but always slim and pretty[/cml_media_alt]

ah Yoga models, sometimes serene but always slim and pretty

They are still for of ads for clothes and equipment that you do not need. They are also full of articles with magic promises – asana flows, kundalini and transformative qi. The promises are backed up by stories of ancient masters from far away, and usually involve beards, miracles or both.

Rule of thumb, the more extravagant the claim the more likely it’s a bullshit attempt to sell a quick fix that does not really work. There is good knowledge in these communities though they tend to mistake their little disciplines for the whole world and not see the limitations.

Sometimes I think I’m turning into a complete cynic, but remember there’s sliding scale of nauseousness here. Not all of it wants to make me vomit.

More importantly I want you to realize that though you may need help and support getting healthier the actual resources you need are closer to home and less fancy – no need for robes, esoteric vocabulary, or guru dependency.

The staple that is not nutritious

A major staple of women’s magazines, bookshops and increasingly mens magazines is diets.

Dieting is an evil trap. It does not work, not really. Sure you can ‘lose weight’ by following a diet, but weight loss is a superficial goal. Sure being overweight can be debilitating or fatal, but weight on it’s own is a shitty metric and usually related to the aesthetics trap.

Think that lose 4Kg is a good goal for fitness? Well those ‘nice’ people in Islamic State will be happy to help you out. The average human head weighs 4Kg, a little decapitation et voila goal achieved! (I really hope that example is no longer topical soon).

Too extreme? Well what about losing just 1Kg of fatty matter? Then have your brain scooped out, if you are setting goals like this you are obviously not using it.

(so what is a better body goal? Base them on movement – the ability to squat comfortably for 10 minutes, the ability to do 10 pull ups and have easy shoulder movements – more on this next time)

So people read magazines with exaggeratedly aesthetic images and follow diet instructions like sheep so that they can ‘lose x pounds for summer’ because they’ve bought the idea that ‘looking good’ in a swimsuit will make them happy.

They follow diet instructions, ignore their actual needs, starve themselves possibly reach their ‘goal’ then go back to the way they were before, eat the same crap they used to, get fatter and then get into the belief that either 1. dieting is hard (no not hard, just the wrong tool) or 2. they are failures or 3. both.

[cml_media_alt id='2141']diet-403588_1280[/cml_media_alt]

Well you could just eat a tapeworm

So they buy the next bullshit magazine with the new improved diet and start again. Want to see how this works in more detail , and more importantly how to escape from it, a friend broke that code after years of yo-yo delusion and is publishing a book soon. The link will be here…

To eat well learn about food and learn news ways to choose what you eat. This is a different task than following a diet. More guidelines next time.

Gyms

The next target are the gyms. Modern gyms work on the basis that you pay your membership but do not come. Again there are some exceptions to this, but it’s generally true, and the cheaper the membership the truer it gets.

How do they manage this? Well they start with the unrealistic expectations I discussed earlier. They tend to be staffed by young pretty gym folk who have been working on aesthetics to add to the illusion.

But mostly the stuff that they expect you to do is a mix of mind-numbingly dull and not hugely effective. Like the newspapers they have learned to cater to what their public expects – not give the public anything like ‘truth’.

The public has been trained to expect machines, mirrors, screens, music. Women have been trained to believe that if they lift anything heavy they will turn into the incredible hulk but with a bra and less green. Actually I consider weights an incredibly valuable tool for men and women.

[cml_media_alt id='2142']Don't overdo the weights!!!! gasp, you might end up like Annie[/cml_media_alt]

Don’t overdo the weights!!!! Gasp, you might end up like Annie

[cml_media_alt id='2143']You have no idea how hard Annie works - you don't have to worry that you'll get arms like that (I like her arms).[/cml_media_alt]

You have no idea how hard Annie works – you don’t have to worry that you’ll get arms like that (I like her arms). By Anthony Topper [CC BY 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

There is a huge choice of machines that is confusing, and the machines ‘dumb the movements’ down’ in the name of safety so that any idiot with a minimum of training can demonstrate or use them. Excess of anything is not great, and excess of choice in gyms is the same.

[cml_media_alt id='2139']empty and sterile, you don't need this for health or 'fitness'[/cml_media_alt]

empty and sterile, you don’t need this for health or ‘fitness’

Then there are the treadmills of various kinds. If there is a mechanical metaphor for pointlessness it has to be the treadmill. Costs loads of money, uses electricity, messes up actual running mechanics because the brain was designed to push the feet off the ground, not catch up with moving mat.

Yeah I know, it might be cold or hot or wet or polluted outside so it makes sense to run inside. If it’s polluted maybe that’s related to the factories making treadmills and stationary bikes and the idiots who drive cars so that they can burn electricity to run/peddle on the spot. Remember I said I like elegance – this is not elegant. It’s fucking depressing.

[cml_media_alt id='2144']driven there to go nowhere[/cml_media_alt]

driven there to go nowhere

Gyms do their best to decrease sensation and distract from what you are doing. They treat their members like they’re made of porcelain because they might be sued if someone breaks. We evolved for rain and sun, rough unstable ground, heat, cold and darkness, thirst and hunger. Gyms give climate control and flat surfaces.

In gyms clients follow the instructions of instructors doing so that they do not have to learn how to use their bodies themselves. The implication is ‘you don’t know what you’re doing, we are the experts’ if you follow that kind of instruction long enough, you will eventually buy into that belief.

The point of all this

Really almost any movement is better than none, but the more it’s ‘packaged’ generally the more it turns me off.

This really is what I want. I want you take back your body, your movement from some faceless gym chain, from a sales driven editor pandering to stereotypes of beauty and put yourself into a community of people that you get to know, that you can learn with, support, discuss with, argue with, be supported by and move with.

 

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