A few years ago, I found a random fitness podcast and started listening. The host was giving out all sorts of strange advice that didn’t jive with the things I’d been hearing all my life. It seemed very odd, and a few times I even thought to myself, “This guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about!”
But then I realized something: he wasn’t trying to sell me anything.
This realization changed everything. A natural skeptic, I was finally free to trust in something that went against the grain because the message was untainted. And it also leads me to this post...
You will never stop hearing health and fitness “facts” and advice. It’s unavoidable. From the odd comment by a stranger at the grocery store to an old adage muttered in passing by a coworker to the thousands of messages that bombard us daily online, in magazines, on TV, and even in the news, it’s a never-ending barrage of expert advice doled out by anything but.
And it’s mostly all crap.
If I were only able to offer you one piece of advice to help you on your way to a happier, healthier, stronger you, it would be this: learn to scrutinize your source. Knowing how to quickly and effectively sort the baseless, worthless junk from the helpful and effective advice will prove invaluable in pursuit of your goals.
With this in mind, we’re going to explore some questions you should always have at the ready to weed out the garbage so you can focus on the good stuff.
Question #1: What Do They Stand to Gain?
Whether the advice comes from a friend or an instagram picture, this question is always where you should start.
Make no mistake, every message has a motive. This is not implicitly a bad thing, but it’s an essential fact to recognize. Motives can be altruistic or greedy, clear or subtle, but they’re always there, and understanding them is crucial.
There are three primary motives, I’ve found, behind most health and fitness advice: profit, trust, and a sense of fulfillment.
The pursuit of profit is invariably the most dubious motive, which in turn makes it the most commonly covered up. From talk shows to commercials to food packaging, the goal of getting you to buy a product is often cloaked in the guise of being good for you. This is sometimes more easy to recognize than others, but I encourage you to dig deep and really contemplate what’s going on.
It should come as no surprise to anyone when I say that major corporations do not have your best interests at heart. They stand to gain nothing from delivering healthy and effective products to you; rather, they stand to gain everything from making you think their products are healthy and effective (whether they are or not is, to them, completely inconsequential).
There was a time when this same scrutiny did not apply to our friends and family. Unfortunately, though, this is no longer the case. Companies like Beachbody have removed this automatic trust by churning out thousands—if not millions—of paid sales reps who roam around social media calling themselves “coaches.” Their intentions might be pure, but their message is tainted. Follow the money, and you’ll likely find it leads back to the marketing department of a multi-million (or billion) dollar company.
[Going into all the details of how multi-level marketing functions—and, more to the point, why it pisses me off so badly—is outside the scope of this post, but it will likely get one of its own in the future.]
One last thing on profit. It’s important to recognize that having something to sell and trying to sell you something are not necessarily the same thing.
Having something to sell usually comes in the form of “Here’s all of this great information and what you should know and sure, I’ll answer your questions. Also, I’ve explained this whole concept in greater detail in my book.” Sales of these products are mainly driven by securing a sense of trust first.
Trying to sell you something usually sounds more like “If you want to know the secret, you’d better buy my book!” Sales of these products are mainly driven by hype, buzzwords, and all manner of marketing strategies.
Seeking to gain your trust is the most common goal of people like me: folks who genuinely want to help. As a fitness professional, all I really have is my reputation. Without it, I cannot influence anyone or make any sort of lasting, positive impact on the world. If I can’t do those things, then why even bother?
Most of us get a sense of fulfillment from helping someone else out. It’s why we open doors for people, tell them when their fly is down, or give them gifts on holidays. The same can be said for helping someone look, feel, and perform better. Helping out, making a difference, improving the lives of other people – it makes you feel great! It’s no wonder people are eager to share their knowledge. (This can get us into trouble depending on where said bit of knowledge comes from, but we’ll save that for next time.)
We live in the information age, and it’s great. But in a world of unfiltered advice and messages, it can be difficult to hone in on the helpful and avoid the unhelpful (or even dangerous). Next time you find yourself facing a new piece of information, try asking yourself what the person delivering that message stands to gain. You’ll be glad you did..
Check out Part 2.