The fitness industry has the potential to be something that it often isn’t. Much like the web.
Jaron Lanier, a leader in Silicone Valley, claims that when the internet was the new kid on the block, we had high hopes for what it could mean for creativity, potential, and growth. While no one can deny the internet has done some wondrous things for us, it has come up a bit disappointing. As he states, the internet is like the slums, where advertising and aggressive attitudes shape the environment. Go on any comment section of a site or youtube video and you will see mob mentality, rude comments and ad hominem. It’s kinda gross.
I feel the same for the industry I make my living in. It has the potential for being something great, and those gems exist, but not without sifting through handfuls of garbage. If you step back and take the time to look at the industry, the trends, and the pop culture surrounding it, you soon realize, its a silly place. Whenever I hear something that stems from the pop-culture side of fitness, this plays out in my head.
“On second thought, lets not go to Camelot, it is a silly place.”
Want some examples of this silliness?
- Weight loss and diet challenges that revolve around buying supplements
- Buying special footwear so that we can live/train barefoot
- Training and eating like cavemen when paleolithic man didn’t move or eat that way
- When the ultimate goal is health, eating and exercising in a way that is unhealthy
You can’t help but scratch your head when you see these scenarios play out. It is quiet commonplace. This series is aimed to explore these facets of our culture (and many more) in greater detail. You get the point.
Jean Baudrillard, a French sociologist, philosopher, cultural theorist, would label these events as simulacrum. They aren’t quiet real, but have somehow become reality. This process continues on over time until we exist in a hyper-reality, when differentiating between what is real and what isn’t becomes impossible. As simulacrum build up, we become more and more distant from the actual (reality). Take the above examples. Each one has a foundation in something very real and true, yet we’ve twisted it in a way to sell product or follow the trends, now that becomes the norm. If you asked a person on the paleo diet what paleolithic man ate, they’d tell you exactly what they currently consume (confirmation bias) based on the popular diet. Thus, what paleolithic man actually ate and what we believe he ate become two different things. It becomes science vs popular culture in which pop culture tends to shape the status quo.
As a philosophy and sociology buff, I can’t help but wonder why things are the way they are. What does it mean, and where are we headed? These are all fascinating questions to me. I believe that as a health professional, a coach, and trainer, if you want to truly understand this industry, you need to explore it beyond the surface. I encourage all professionals in our industry to go down the rabbit hole. Doing so, you walk away a little more focused on the reality behind the mushy stuff. Clarity will always prove beneficial in the long run. Better choices can be made, enhanced focus, and a shaping of an industry that we all (hopefully) care about.
Ultimately, we need to just ask more questions.
So where does this road take us next?
Cultural Evolution, History, Icons and The Waterfall Effect