Updated: Jul 6, 2019
What qualifies a person to give out advice? Let’s say you were looking to invest some money in the hope to make some profit. Do you approach a qualified, professional investment adviser with a proven track record of delivering results? Or, do you DM your favourite Instagram “celebrity” who just got 1,000 likes on their most recent picture of themselves stood in front of their sports car? If you are the latter, I have some bad news. More often than not, peoples persona on social media is an inflated, fictitious version of their real lives. I could walk down the street in the posh part of London and take a quick selfie in front of “my new Ferrari” and upload it to my social media to perpetuate a lie I would have created to make people think I am rich. Does that make me rich? No. Does it qualify me to give out investment advice? Definitely not. What I am trying to say is that on social media, you can lie.
Let’s apply this scenario to the fitness world. Say you wanted to become fitter and healthier. Do you approach a qualified, experienced personal trainer or coach for advice and and follow the advice of other highly experienced, qualified professionals on the internet? Or, do you DM your favourite Instagram “celebrity” with his (often Photoshopped) ripped six-pack or her (often Photoshopped) tiny waist and curvaceous behind for advice? If your answer is the latter, I have some even worse news for you. More often than not, these self proclaimed “fitness experts” or “online coaches” hold no professional qualifications and their advice stems from “broscience” obtained from gym locker-rooms.
Is this an all-out attack on social media fitness “celebrities”. No, of course it isn’t. I personally know some very professional, highly qualified trainers and coaches with a large social media following and would comfortably follow their advice when it comes to certain things. The very best strength coaches and most knowledgeable fitness gurus, however, need not rely on their number of social media followers to provide efficacy to their words - probably because they were highly successful even before the dawn of social media. In any case, one should always consider the reliability of their sources when listening to advice in the world of health and fitness.
The problem is that this stream of incorrect, unfounded advice is watering down the information available to the general public. There are professional trainers and coaches that are highly qualified and extremely knowledgeable who are overlooked in favour of attractive social media "trainers". The advice that is then given is sub-par, to say the least. Having a large social media following doesn't qualify anyone to give professional advice, nor does it add substance to their words.
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Why Is It So Bad?
1. What Works For Them May Not Work For You
We are not all born with the same genetics. We are not all going to respond the same way to the same training stimuli. We are not all going to react the same way to the same diet. What works for a 55kg female fitness model certainly wont work for an 85kg male office worker. Some people respond better to heavier weights with a low volume, whereas others respond better to lower weights with a higher volume. Any trainer worth their salt understands this and can offer advice based on a persons goals.
2. What Works For Them...Might Not Work For Them
Having an impressive six-pack or tiny waist and curvy figure, while looking great, might not be a great indicator of a persons overall health. Fitness models and bodybuilders go to extreme measures in preparation for a shoot or show, all just to look great for the hour or so work they do. Dehydration, starvation, Vitamin C loading and glycogen depletion are all tactics used to perfect the physiques of models and bodybuilders - they don’t sound healthy though do they?
3. Photoshop Works
Everybody lies. Photoshop can make the most average of physiques look impressive and, unfortunately, many social media “celebrities” resort to photoshop to touch-up their pictures to look their best. Do it for the ‘gram!
4. It Is Unbelievable
“Hey, look. “So-and-so” bodybuilder has posted a picture of them eating two large pizzas. That means I can do it as well”. No. No, it doesn’t and no, you can’t. Do bodybuilders eat pizzas? Sometimes. In their off-season when the aim is to pack on as much size as possible some bodybuilders resort to any source of calories, regardless of their quality or nutrient density. You are not a professional bodybuilder. You do not have their physique, their metabolism, their genetics, their training regime or their pharmacists. Most top bodybuilders don’t even eat lots of rubbish food in their off-season anyway.
There exist things called “cheat days” as well, where one strays from their diet and eats what they want for a meal. This in itself is an unhealthy practice as you build an unhealthy relationship with food - we all want the forbidden fruit (or forbidden pizza) more than if we can have it any time we want.
5. Training For Likes
If all your efforts inside and outside the gym are solely in order to gain the most “likes” from a post on social media, then you have a problem. If you constantly seek validation from social media, you have an even bigger problem. Who cares what other people think of your physique?! You should exercise to become healthier and feel better about yourself. And if you are constantly looking for validation and reassurance from strangers on social media, it becomes very hard to feel good about yourself. The perfect physique picture is independent of ones actual physique. Lighting, clothing (or lack thereof), posing and hours of trial and error play a large role in creating the perfect picture.
6. Lack Of Education
The personal trainer course (in the UK at least) does a pretty poor job in providing you with adequate knowledge to be a successful fitness professional. It takes many, many years of continual practice, study, and personal and professional development to acquire the skills and knowledge required to safely prescribe exercise and nutritional advice to people. Most personal trainers lack the dedication to their job to stay up-to-date with the latest scientific evidence and advice in the health and fitness world. Most social media “trainers” aren’t even qualified personal trainers.
The answer is to simply pick your sources carefully. Do not blindly follow a persons advice, unless their success can clearly be seen in their achievements. Even then, be smart and double-check. Remember, just because someone looks good or has a large social media following, it does not mean that they are professionals in their field. And for goodness sake, get off social media!
Ok. Rant over.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John Maitland is the co-founder of 'The Evolved Way.’ A personal trainer with over 10 years’ experience, he has worked alongside a wide range of leading CEOs, entrepreneurs and medical professionals. John is a keen athlete and holds a black belt in Shaolin Kung fu. A fan of the great outdoors, he can often be found exploring the British countryside and mountains...or breaking pine boards with his fingers.