Yesterday the picture above showed up in my facebook feed and I kind of lost it. I pride myself on being controlled but couldn’t hold back. This really irked me. It’s a trend that’s developing and doesn’t seem to be slowing down.
Yes this picture’s entertaining. I LOL’d (didn’t quite ROFLOL and ROFLMAO was a ways off). If that was the intention then mission accomplished. If the goal of the pictographic was to help people then it was a massive fail.
Motivational infographics are also useless. They don’t inspire people to exercise (although I sometimes enjoy looking at the pretty picture).
This article delves deeper into the actual reasons why people eat crap like McDonalds and don’t exercise. Read it if you actually want to make a difference in peoples lives.
First, an explanation why I feel you’re wasting your time with pretty pictures on the internet.
People are smarter than you give them credit for
Walk into a McDonald’s and ask every person stuffing their faces with the golden brown processed goodies if they think they’re eating healthy. While you’re at it ask your friend who doesn’t exercise whether they’d prefer to be in good shape.
Do you really think “educating” them on the benefits of leading a healthy life is getting to the root of the problem? It’s not. How about scaring them with disgusting images of what “chicken McNuggets are really made of”?
Nope. Still not helping. Every educated person in a first world country knows that fast food is junk. Telling them it’s junkier than they initially thought might be disturbing — but isn’t productive. Do you really think people stopped ordering chicken McNuggets the day this picture surfaced?
What about exercise? Repeating the same motivational phrase from Arnold Schwarzenegger or Lance Armstrong might get views to your website or “likes” on your Facebook post but it doesn’t convert the unconverted. Think about it — who within your Facebook friend group shares motivational material? Is it people who don’t exercise or really ripped workout nuts? One of the largest reasons that people share material on the internet is to show off what they already do. The motivational quote serves as their vehicle to boast to their friend group.
Want proof? Look at this ad by Nike:
Or this one:
Nike’s goal is not to maybe one day sell workout clothing to people that are humming and haaing about deciding to work out. They want to sell clothes now. So what do they do? They devise ad campaigns that give workout fanatics a way to boast. Every women who pumps weight on my Facebook list shared the bottom picture. The result was a massive amount of free advertising for Nike. TV ads are dying because companies smart companies like Nike are evolving and figuring out how to prey on our need to show off to make their messages viral.
How primitive are we?
Exercise is evolving. Remember when low back pain was treated with low back exercises? I’ve helped a lot of low back sufferers (it’s a specialty of mine) and will tell you that I never look at the back. The back is the symptom. The root is elsewhere. Maybe the low back pain is stemming from poor posture. Maybe that poor posture comes from a poor ergonomic set up at work. Bingo bango bingo. Fix the desk and the back feels better. Strengthening the back wouldn’t have helped.
If you agree that treating the symptoms is fruitless when dealing with pain why do so many people do it when they aim to create life changes in others?
McDonald’s (and junk foods) are bad for you. Disgusting, processed, chemical laden… the list goes on. There’s a lot of people sitting right now making excuses for not going to the gym. Who can blame them? Angry Birds just released the “year of the dragon” update.
Telling people that junk food is bad for their health (no matter how disgusting of a picture you create) and saturating them with motivational quotes superimposed with a picture of a beautiful person doesn’t work. You’re not making a difference because you’re dealing with the symptoms of the problem — not the root.
I threw this topic out to my Facebook friends (if you’re not already friends with me on Facebook please add me. I have discussions like this almost daily) and received a fantastic response:
I wanted to get to the root of the problem and the discussion brought up some great points. I’ll partially use the discussion from my Facebook wall and my own thoughts for the next points.
Root cause #1: Fast food fulfills a childhood need
I agree that a large part of McDonalds marketing seems to be geared towards making the restaurant a cherished childhood memory. Walking underneath the golden arches to buy a happy meal may elicit an emotional response in some. In addition there’s rumors that McDonalds adds in addictive chemicals to their foods. Let’s assume that it’s true (I’m not saying it is, it just shouldn’t matter).
Nobody is shivering in a corner because they haven’t had their McDonalds fix. It can’t be that addicting. The emotional response that the golden arches elicit may exist but do you really think that’s why people poison their bodies?
Solution to root cause #1:
What’s an addiction? An addiction is a physical dependency on something that alters the chemical make up of the brain. In this case, the result’s an endorphin release that the person learns to crave. So the solution is easy. Give them an endorphin release somewhere else. Make them feel good and they won’t crave sugar or salt, or mystery chemicals.
Childhood memories are great but you know what… I don’t have any strong ones. My best memory is what happened yesterday. Tomorrow my best memory is going to be today. Everyday I do something that makes me smile and look back upon to say “that was awesome!” I went to McDonalds when I was young too and maybe I used to have a strong emotional attachment to it. If I did it’s been replaced.
To make a difference stop passing around gross images of food and start being kind to people. Everybody. Anybody. Smile at a stranger, open a door for somebody else, hold onto a hug that extra second, buy the coffee for the person behind you in line.
Kindness spreads and it’s more addictive than fast food ever can be. The feeling from being on the receiving end of a kind act triggers enough positive mood hormones to offset any childhood emotions or mystery addictive chemicals. Even ones that an anonymous supposedly evil corporations mad scientists are adding to their food.
Root cause #2: fast food is cheap and convenient
To me this is the primary reason why so many people eat it even though it makes them feel sick. So the question then turns to making healthy food fast, cheap, and convenient.
Solution to root cause #2:
Fast food is marketed as cheap but the reality is that it’s not. I can’t walk into McDonald’s and spend less than $10. $10 is a lot for a single meal. That’s a $210 weekly food bill at 3 meals a day! My personal food bill is $60-70/wk. An average meal for me is a chicken breast, half a yam, and veggies. it costs me $3-4.
The way to keep your food costs down is to peruse grocery store flyers once a week and go to the store with the best deal on meat (it’s most expensive generally). Buy all of your groceries there. Veggies are always cheap and boxed goods / cans don’t vary too much but getting meat on sale can drastically decrease your bill.
Convenience is harder to deal with. To make a difference I recommend getting you know your client’s personal life. For clients who don’t have time to eat breakfast I recommend meal replacement shakes. For those who eat crap at work I have them package individual snacks to keep with them (individually packaged is the key — they get 1 zip lock back of mixed nuts a day and it’s a predetermined amount).
Root cause #3: Exercise instruction is expensive
I charge $100+/hr. It will take somebody at least a month working with me regularly to learn enough exercise protocol and theory to build their own workouts (this is a low-ball estimate). That’s over $1000 in addition to gym membership costs.
That’s a lot of money and most of the World is in a recession. I’d argue that it’s worth it since the body is the most indispensable piece of equipment a human being owns. Nevertheless it stops a lot of people from joining a gym and stops even more people from succeeding in one.
Solution to root cause #3:
One of my reasons for success is that I’m willing to work within peoples financial constraints. Can’t train me 3x/wk? Fine. I’ll figure out a plan that will work for you twice a week. In that plan I make sure the client understands that they’ll be responsible for reading and using all of the materials I give them and completing their homework.
I also hear a lot of fitness pros lamenting that their asked for their free advice. Yes it’s our job and livelihood and we deserve to be paid for our expertise and yes I wouldn’t ask a plummer to do free work. But you know what?
I still give free advice daily. I don’t hold anything back and help the person as much as I can. It might be answering their question myself or connecting them with the person or resource that can. Either way I feel it’s our duty to help everybody. Even if the person can’t afford to pay me $100/hr. Guess what? Some of those people I’ve given free advice to referred clients to me that have been worth $10 000+.
If you want to make a difference understand that not everybody can pay a lot for your services. Be prepared to help them no matter what. In my upcoming book “Ignite the Fire” I outline a number of ways that I’ve creatively dealt with clients that have tight finances.
Root cause #4: Exercise is daunting
I’ve grown up working out. I’m also a gym rat. It’s my second home. I love the atmosphere. I’m also comfortable with my physique and it doesn’t take much work to maintain. For this I’m fortunate.
Most of the people you’re trying to help aren’t this fortunate. They know they should exercise and don’t need a motivational poster with a half naked women to remind them. Yet they don’t come into the gym.
I’ve actually heard the phrase “I need to work my way up to the gym” before. This sickens me. Have we created an atmosphere that’s so elitist that the average person doesn’t feel comfortable in our gyms? Have you ever thought that posting a picture of somebody ripped superimposed with a motivational quote might be what’s perpetuating this elitist attitude?
Solution to root cause #4:
I see two solutions to make exercise less daunting to convert the unconverted.
The first is to use the power of social modelling. If you’re not familiar with Albert Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory I suggest you get to know it. In the theory social modelling is a huge factor in increasing self efficacy.
Testimonials are great but why not collect full stories of everybody you know that’s achieved success in the gym. Document their struggles and their successes. The strongest way to use social modelling is to showcase people in the same demographic who have dealt with the same struggles as your client. Have the stories on hand and give them out as part of your initial homework. Better yet, publish them on your website (with permission of course). Your retention will skyrocket and you might just make a difference with somebody who was primed to fall off the exercise wagon.
The second solution is exceedingly simple in theory. Show your human side. I’m a fitness professional. I also drink beer, don’t show photoshopped images of my half-naked body on Facebook, eat bread, and don’t always feel like “doing it”. I’m approachable. I smile when somebody looks at me and wait for others to finish speaking when they talk. I attempt to put myself in their shoes and work within their situation. I don’t force upon change if their not ready with tough love. Instead I gently show them their options.
If you really want to make a difference
Disgusting photo’s showcasing the atrocities of fast food are entertaining. Motivational quotes superimposed upon beautiful people are nice to look at. Neither help. If your goal is to actually inspire change look deeper into the root of the problem. Evolve and motivate people that need motivating. Check your ego at the door.
Did I make you think differently about what you see or do on the internet? Maybe I pissed you off. Make sure you comment below and I’ll get back to you. Also please share this post, I think it’s pretty important.