Obesity, who is to blame?

The western world is in the grips of a pandemic the likes its never seen before. As we progress technologically, physically large sections of the populace are degenerating at an alarming rate which is draining countries of insane amounts of money in lost work days and health care. Obesity is killing unimaginable amounts of people every year and it does not seem to be stopping. Yet anyone with access to the internet will find enough health related material to fill the ancient library of Alexandria ten times over. Look even further and the internet is awash with personal trainers, fitness experts, strength and conditioning coaches, basically someone for everyone’s tastes. We have huge sprawling gyms, small old style backstreet gyms and still we have the obesity epidemic sweeping the western world like a swarm of locusts. Why is that? From my own experiences being around a variety of gyms and spending a lot of time reading various internet forums, blog pages and health, strength, fitness and coaching sites the answer seems to be as plain as the nose on my face. Yet we still have generations who have been brought up with a mentality that (to quote a rather funny film),

  • Dairy group: Milk Duds
  • Fruit group: Sweet Tarts
  • Vegetable group: Corn Nuts
  • Meat group: DING. (imagine the microwave timer going off)

Not exactly a healthy approach to lifestyle habits but you can bet your last penny that they’ll be people out there who do actually think / eat like that.

I’m going to take a step backwards for just a moment to let you consider this:

Who is better educated, prepared to teach / coach these individuals to improve their health, fitness and possible sporting goals?

The university sports educated graduate, the internet based fitness expert / coach or the backstreet gym owner?

The university graduate leaves his schooling behind with a head full of the latest and greatest concepts on physical performance improvement. After numerous of years of studying and researching they have a head crammed full of ideas to help change the face of physical development and performance for the better. They can put together the most up to date programs with bullet points and references for man and beast. They’ve studies the works of Siff, Bompa, Yessis, Matveyev and countless others in their work on everything from biomechanics to periodisation. But a lot find it difficult getting their feet onto the ladder or in the coaching door because a lot of what they are about to teach is not well known about outside of the professional sporting sectors.

Now lets move to the gym owners. On the one hand you have these huge palatial franchise driven health centres, designed to cater for a wide variety of needs with pool, cardiovascular, fitness machines, free weights, kettlebells and at the larger ones there are dance and yoga rooms, large receptions and even eating areas for people to chill out in once their workouts are completed. These are marvellous places, all modern and pristine which would entice many a client quite easily like magpies to the shiny object. They offer a training “experience” that was not around twenty or more years ago but it comes at a cost and quite an expensive cost at that. Yearly memberships which you have to pay for whether you train or not. A sales team that will try to sell you clothing and supplements or even one of the gyms personal trainers to help you get that “beach body” you have always dreamed of. It all mounts up and you have to wonder how many people who sign up to these places with good intentions then only find that financially they have bitten off more than they can afford. Not the best way to start your road to a new healthy life.

The backstreet gym owner on the other hand usually has a completely different approach. All of the gyms I have frequented that you can describe as a “backstreet gym” have all been in the same mould of walking through the door to be faced with the owner sat behind the reception desk and the gym floor less than a few steps away. These guys usually have  hands on experience for man and beast. They sit there each and every day watching with an eagle eye each and every person that enters their gym. Checking their form and building a mental picture of what can or could be done to help the client. With these guys you usually find they’ll sit patiently waiting for you to bring something up in a post workout conversation as you drink your protein shake or amble across the gym floor whilst your training. Park themselves on a nearby bench and put forward a suggestion or two in polite conversation. Either of these methods people are normally at ease with because there is no sales pitch. No pressure just a gentle nudge in the right direction.

Then we come to those that flaunt their wares via the internet and other mediums. Time and time again I’ve found these people, either on internet forums or on their own websites with flash imagery and a blog post here and there. With a number of those who trawl the forums you will find a lot are based around the body-building communities with a few guys who’ve won a number of shows / titles taking on guys during their prep for up and coming competitions.

Break this down even further with the all flashy websites putting forward a mass of information which always sounds like its what you need to get the body you’ve always dreamed of. I find myself always drawn to one thing.

What’s these peoples training histories and where are these individuals qualifications for you to check out?

Some have and are university trained which takes us back to those individuals I spoke about earlier in today’s blog. Others are not or don’t show their qualifications which leaves me wondering why.

With all the different types of training styles out there from Pilates to Kettlebell’s. You will find some form of certification in one aspect or other but who certifies the certifiers? If you think about the way the internet runs, any one could set up a training style based on their own principles. Then turn out a money making certification system (pyramid scheme) from the comfort of their own armchair. Its scary on the one hand yet ingenious on the other.

In all honesty the whole thing needs looking into because this is why tackling the obesity issue is not producing the results it should be. Its paralysis through overwhelming amounts of information all nestled up in sales speak and so many 120 character blog posts that peoples brains cannot digest it all efficiently. Or they now have the attention spans of one of the 120 character blog posts targeted at them because that is all they see. Monkey see monkey do.

Who really would honestly want to give up their burger and chips if it meant wading through so much information, not to mention the in fighting and backstabbing that goes on within the internet coaching / fitness expert fraternities of who invented this, who’s pinched that…and yawn…. we’ve just lost another would be heart attack victim to a heart attack. Governments / governing bodies need to step in here because if they don’t take control and organise things its only going to get worse. This is why there have been so many moves on the supplement front because every man and his dog was starting up a supplement company. Marketing products with outlandish claims all based on snippets of science taken out of context.

So why is the internet training industry any different?

It isn’t and I honestly believe its one of the biggest contributors to the obesity crisis because it has to generate revenue and to generate revenue it has to give out information daily or weekly. And there is only so many times you can write about a squat without it becoming boring, tired and repetitive. The only answer then left is to reinvent the squat. But as we all know if you dig deep enough there is nothing new, only that which has been rediscovered, repackaged and resold on the internet.

Steven A Barlow, Co founder www.spartan-warriors.co.uk and founder of Spartan Runners “because we don’t just run” © 2011


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One Response to Obesity, who is to blame?

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