I work in banking and I studied law, so I have some idea about the way industries are regulated and what happens to people who do the wrong thing. Perhaps ‘jail’ is a bit of an exaggeration in this context, but if the “fitness industry” (using the term lightly) was regulated like any other, a trainer might be fined, disqualified, sued and more for doing the very things that are so prominent today.
Let’s compare industries
In banking, if a financial advisor gives someone dodgy advice or sells them a product that claims to do one thing but actually does another (or does nothing at all), that advisor might be liable to be sued or face other repercussions.
In fitness, a personal trainer, ‘influencer’ or model can sell cookie-cutter 1200 calories per day diet plans, promote magical diet pills and powders and advise doing squats on a bosu ball while holding a 25kg barbell above your head. There is no-one out there to check that this advice is not causing harm and, if it does, there is little room for retribution or to stop the advisor from hurting others.
One industry deals with money and the other deals with people’s health and wellbeing. You tell me what’s more important.
You’ve got online coaches and personal trainers selling hundreds, or in some cases thousands, of people the exact same workout and diet plan. Some trainers even claim they give out custom plans, until clients start comparing and realise they’ve been lied to.
So, a personal trainer/coach can give the same diet and workout plan to a 105kg/40 year old woman, a 55kg/18 year old girl and a 80kg/22 year man. And if that advice causes eating disorders, injury, hormone imbalances and more, the trainer will face no repercussions.
You’ve got personal trainers out there selling workout plans that consist almost entirely of plyometric exercises. I’m no expert in the human skeletal and muscular systems, but I can imagine that after a while, all that jumping around is going to impact some bones and joints. People are blindly trusting trainers with their health and if that is affected because of dodgy advice, they have no way of seeking justice.
People trust trainers and influencers because they think they are qualified, educated and regulated. In some cases, they are barely one of the above.
Perhaps the problem lies in the fact that people are naive and too trusting, but maybe it’s the fact that a trainer might want to make a quick buck and simply does not care.
If someone has 100,000 followers on Instagram worshipping their physique, I can understand how tempting it would be to create a quick 20 page PDF with a 12 week workout plan and diet and sell it for $50 a copy. Even if only 1% of your followers buy it, you would still have made an easy $50,000. And once the PDF is sold, all your work is done. Not bad, hey?
Actually, it’s really freaking bad.
If the advice causes harm, doesn’t work or is so unreasonable that a normal person can’t follow it (2 hour workout sessions plus 1 hour of cardio every day, that kind of stuff), there is literally nothing the buyer can do against you. The industry is so unregulated that the advice-giver can continue driving their fake-tanned ass around in their $250,000 sportscar without a care in the world while their beloved ‘clients’ are suffering.
Even if the buyer does complain, what can happen?
It’s so easy to shift the blame if bad advice causes a problem because there is no enforcement or industry regulator.
The person got injured? They probably were not doing the exercises right.
The person isn’t losing weight? They probably cheat on their diet.
The person hurt their back on the bosu ball? They probably had a preexisting injury.
The person complains to you? Block them, or claim you “never got their email”, or send your loyal followers after the “hater”.
You might think I’m exaggerating, but these things are all based on true stories.
Something has got to change in the industry because it is losing it’s credibility – and for good reason. I know so many people who used to be the most amazing, passionate, caring personal trainers but gave up after noticing all the negativity and bullshit. They realised they couldn’t compete with the insta-famous trainers and their cookie cutter “personalised” plans. That’s the worst thing – the industry is pushing away a lot of the people who cared the most.
We need regulation, and we need people to be responsible for the advice they sell.
If any other industry did what goes on in the fitness industry, it would be front page news. But for some reason, it seems to be accepted as normal. That has to change, before more people get hurt.
Disclaimer: I’m not saying that all online trainers or fitness influencers etc do the things mentioned above, but it is too prevalent to ignore.