“To What End?” – Misguided Business Motives Extort Vulnerable, Jeopardize Health

Nick Wallace ’14NickDefault

For those of you who don’t know me, I’ve become a bit of a fitness guru over the last three years. While I was a competitive swimmer my entire life, my lack of knowledge in terms of healthy eating and nutrition ultimately led to unwanted weight gain at the end of my senior year of high school. However, over time I learned the benefits of lifting weights and eating healthy, and now I eat, sleep and breathe fitness. I workout six days a week, have recently started competing in triathlons, and my bedroom wall is filled with motivational fitness posters. I am currently studying for the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Personal Training Certification, and hope to one day take on a leadership/political role in the health and fitness industry. To top it all off, I am a huge fan of The Biggest Loser and Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition. Needless to say, I am never going back to my unhealthy habits of the past.

With that said, you can only imagine how excited I was when I received an email from Career Services describing an opportunity to become a wellness coach, which read:

“Wellness coaching involves supporting and coaching people to lead a more healthy, active lifestyle, improve overall health and well-being, weight management, athletic performance through nutrition counseling. Coaches are involved in a variety of daily functions including client care, self-development, self-fitness, event planning, training & speaking, mentoring, community events, leadership development, marketing & promotion.”

I was ecstatic. I saw this as an opportunity to get my feet wet in the health and wellness industry, and contacted the company (whose name will remain undisclosed) to ask about internship opportunities. I mentioned all of my credentials, my love for health and fitness, and my desire to spread my knowledge and passion in order to help others.

Initially, everything sounded great. I was told that paid, part-time positions were available. I would be able to set my own hours. My schedule would be flexible, and would not interfere with classes or any of my extra-curricular activities. Being a wellness coach, I was told, would involve meeting with clients face to face and sharing my own personal experiences with them in order to help them lead a more healthy and active life. I would be charged with calculating the client’s body mass index (BMI), basic metabolic rate (BMR), and prescribing an exercise routine in order to help each individual client reach their particular goal. Additionally, I was told that wellness coaches could make up to 1500 dollars a month working just part-time.

It all sounded too good to be true. It was.

I was given specific websites to start online training when I found out the horrific truth about this particular company. As a wellness coach, your number one job was not to help others reach their fitness coach. It was not about helping others at all. The number one priority of a wellness coach was to sell products from a specific company to these clients. A woman from the online training video said the following words, “After the fitness evaluation is conducted, the clients will feel so bad about themselves that they will buy anything you tell them to.” It all became clear to me at that instant. The company was more concerned with making money than actually helping others.

The truth regarding the position of “wellness coach” at this particular company is as followed: As a coach, you are required to sell a certain number of products a month. Essentially, there is a quota that you have to meet. Additionally, an important part of being a wellness coach is networking. They are required to send emails to hundreds of their Facebook friends, college classmates, or anybody else telling them what a “great opportunity” it is to be a wellness coach, and how much money one could make by becoming one. Not one part of the training dealt with human psychology, personal fitness, working with clients with disabilities, or anything else any qualified person would expect as adequate training to be an effective wellness coach.

The entire company is a scam- a huge hoax designed to steal people’s money. In order to reach my quotas, I may have had to embellish or even lie to a client in order to make him/her buy particular products. In the end, my job would be purposefully demoralizing clients. Feeling so repulsed with themselves and their current physical condition following my comments, the basic premise is that their insecurity would lead them to buy anything that I instructed them to. The better I became at doing this, the more money I would make.

But to what end? Is purposely ripping people off and lying to them worth acquiring financial affluence? My answer is no. The reason I looked into this opportunity in the first place is because I want to share my love, passion, and success with health and fitness to others. A wellness coach should be a mentor and friend first, NOT a marketer and salesmen. I refuse to lie to somebody and tell him or her that the reason I am successful is because I buy all of my products from a specific company. A client seeking a wellness coach is vulnerable and is looking for trust. To me, a wellness coach should provide high quality information to benefit the client. To this company (and many others), a wellness coach’s job is to exploit the client who lacks self-confidence in order to turn a profit; it is sickening.

While the wellness industry is indeed engulfed in profit motive, I personally see health and fitness as a public good, something that every person in entitled to. Each and every person has a right to high quality information on how to lead a healthy and active lifestyle. It is something that our school system does not do a good enough job of, which is evidenced by that fact that 1 out of every 3 children are overweight or obese. Once a child falls into unhealthy habits, it becomes harder and harder to break those habits. We need reform.

This is not meant to be a rant against capitalism or the health and wellness industry in general. I personally have experimented with multiple supplements from protein shakes to thermogenics. I continue to spend hundreds on dollars of my own money on supplements every year. However, the bottom line is that hard work and dedication are necessary to see results. If you want to gain muscle, you need to be at a slight calorie surplus while performing some sort of resistance training. If you want to lose fat, you need to be at a calorie deficit through a combination of both diet and exercise. Remember, a supplement is not a substitute, but a complement.

With the start of the New Year, many of you may be looking for a new start to reaching your fitness goals. As a former “New Years Resolutioner,” I advise you to watch out for gimmicks like this company’s program that I refused to become a part of. Don’t think that any particular supplement out there is going to allow you to look in the mirror and see the exact person you desire to be. Seek advice from relatives, teachers, friends, and fellow students who know what they are talking about, and are willing to support you. Take advantage of the services your local gym has to offer, and read up on scholarly journals online. You can do it!

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2 thoughts on ““To What End?” – Misguided Business Motives Extort Vulnerable, Jeopardize Health

  1. Pingback: Dear 2017: Fitness Tips for Staying Well | Friarside Chats

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