Monday, January 26, 2015

Image Distortion: How Fitness Pictures May be Telling the Wrong Story

Warning:  I didn't pull any punches with this post.  I've been stewing on this topic for awhile, listening to One Direction and Taylor Swift all day, and now I'm all riled up.  

We've all heard this saying before:
"A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words."
But, what if all of those words were a lie?

Specifically, what if those pictures in that email you received from your favorite diet guru were not from clients he/she actually worked with?  Or the pictures on the advertisement for your gym were not created within those four walls?

In an age where we have endless access to "free" images ranging from inspirational to inappropriate, a single click of the mouse can send a picture to every time zone and latitude in the world.

Which is great for people who are looking to start a brand, spread a message, or share an idea.

But on the other side of the coin, we see people looking to get InstaFamous or take credit where credit is not due.

I have to tell you- I see this all the time in the realm of health and fitness.

A gym puts images of muscle bound beasts and beast-ettes they have not programmed, trained, or produced.  A diet program swipes a video of someone who has not used or endorsed their program and posts it on Facebook, implying an endorsement.  A magazine uses a stock image of  a fitness model, but then suggestively infers results that are not typical in the fine print.

It happens.  All.  The.  Time.

And it hacks me off.

Sometimes Karma gets even...

To be clear, I firmly believe that using someone's image as your own is a form of plagiarism.  You know, plagiarism- that thing that gets people kicked out of college and ruins their future.  Even if it's done accidentally, it's still considered plagiarism.

Unfortunately, in the school of life,  there is no professor to keep us honest.  But sometimes Karma catches up.  

Are you familiar with Rich Froning?  He is the four time CrossFit Games champion and trains specifically to CrossFit modalities.  While "be ready for the unknown and unknowable" is a common mantra used by many Crossfitters, Rich Froning has not spent his time figuring out how to train for a triathlon.

Needless to say, this image is no longer on Outside Magazine's Twitter feed.

Do you follow Jason Sieb?  If not, you should.  His approach to weight loss is anti-starvation and anti-body hatred.  An image of one of his most famous clients was used in an email blast from trainer recommending the exact opposite of what he teaches.  And not only that, but this trainer watermarked the image as her own.  Um, what?

There was an apology issued on Facebook, but that apology is no longer posted on the newsfeed of said trainer.

But not all that glitters is gold.  

Those were examples of images that were used without permission.  The other side of this is when stock images of fitness professionals are used to represent an outcome of a process, methodology, or plan that flat out did not produce those results.  This applies to both fitness models and professional athletes who are compensated for the way their body looks or performs.

While these images are used with permission, they are often misleading:

  • This is most often their full time job.  If they don't look or perform a certain way, they don't get paid.  Just like if you don't turn in that spreadsheet on time, you don't get paid.  
  • I would argue that most fitness models and professional athletes are genetically pre-disposed to a certain body composition.  I'm not saying that these folks don't work hard, I'm saying they have a body that has an easier time looking and moving a certain way.
  • Fitness models usually only look their best for a set number of hours and that will be timed with their photo shoot.  Mean they are usually dehydrated, carb depleated, and undernourished when that photo captures every muscle and vein in their abs.
  • Testing for performance enhancing drugs is good, but it's not that good.  Comparing yourself to a professional athlete without being willing to at least entertain the thought of taking under the table supplements is short sighted.  

To be clear, I am not degrading or lessening the work of these professional athletes and fitness models.  They've gotten to where they are because they have mastered their field.  I am calling out fitness and nutrition "experts" peddling a result they did not produce.

This frustrates me because I think most of the general population understands (or would if it was explained to them) that both performance and aesthetic goals are impacted by everything else they have going on in life.

But we all know sex sells.  The image of a size two fitness model will get more hits than a mom of four who is well rested, happy, mobile, healthy, and living a balanced life.

The Power of Discernment 

So how do you know if the person you are seeking for advice, programming, or gym space is being completely honest about what they can do for you?

Below are three questions to you can ask before signing a contract or giving away any of your hard earned money.  As with most things, there are shades of gray, so just be sure to listen to your BS meter.  

1. Is that person on your advertisement one of your clients?  Ideally you would want them to say "Heck yeah!  That person is the pride and joy of my program!"  But even if they aren't, it may not be all bad.  For example, professional photos are expensive and stock photos are not, so maybe they are a start-up and need something visual (hey, I've done this when I needed some pictures of zombies).

2.  Are these results typical?  One plan or exercise will not work the same way for everyone, but all other things being equal, we should expect to see a common result.  If I were asking this question, I would be looking for someone to be able to explain factors that impact results.

3.  Am I able to customize or modify your program?  There is a fine line between modifying and flying off the rails while expecting certain results.  For example, if I put you on a meal plan and told you that you could expect results while enjoying one splurge meal per week and you were pretty sure I MEANT once per day...  welllllll.....

We're visual creatures, so using pictures to convey a message is incredibly effective and powerful.  There is nothing wrong with using an image to send a message... as long as that message is one that the disseminator can claim as their own.

I understand that things happen and images can be shared with the best of intentions, but incorrectly.  Regardless, if someone is showcasing someone else's hard work, they should have the decency to give credit where credit is due.

Don't let the image of your goals be distorted by someone looking to make a quick buck.  Those results may be anything but typical.


What do you think?  Is this practice a party foul or no big deal?  Have you seen this yourself?

Monday, January 19, 2015

The One Habit of Highly Healthy People

Ok, I'm going to start today's post on a negative note, but it will get better.  I promise.

Did you know that experts estimate only 8% of people who set a New Year's resolution will achieve it?  

That means there is a 92% failure rate for New Year's Resolutions.  Now, I'm not a betting person, but I would never take those odds.  Ever.  

So what if there was one habit that if you developed and stuck to, could keep you in the 8% this year?

But I'm doing a group challenge....

I'm not trying to rain on your parade, especially if you are part of a 7/21/30 day fix/detox/challenge (and if you're not, I bet someone on your Facebook feed is).  Don't misunderstand me- I think it's great that you've joined a community of like-minded people to help you get started.

But I'm going to call a Spade a Spade today, so consider what I have to say advice for when your event ends. 

I would bet you dollars to grain-free, gluten-free donuts that there is one habit that you have neglected, failed to develop, or will let fall off the radar once you've lost your motivation:

Meal Planning

How do I know this?  From experience.

Most people who I meet that feel like they are not making progress towards their goals or tell me that eating healthy is too expensive are not meal planning.  

Meal planning is the act of writing out a menu for a set period of time, with a grocery list, while taking your schedule into account.  I recommend weekly meal planning, but depending on your schedule and the number of mouths to feed, it may work for you to plan twice per week or even every other week.

You may have followed someone else's meal plans in the past and that is a great starting point.  But what I'm referring to is developing the ability to write your own meal plans.

And quite frankly, not meal planning rips the control of your healthy right out of your hands and gives it to your boss, kids, and schedule.  All of which, if we're being honest, do not consider your health their priority.  


A 2007 study from Mintel found the top five reasons people do not eat healthy as:
  1. Availability
  2. Cost
  3. Confusion
  4. Time Constraints
  5. Taste Concerns
Meal planning addresses all five of these reasons:
  1. Availability:  I recognize that food deserts do exist in this country.  But for most of my readership, I believe availability refers to vending machines and fast food restaurants.  If you know that your cubicle sits in the middle of a fast food jungle, planning lunches and snacks will create a ready-to-eat nutrient oasis.
  2. Cost:  This one is major on multiple levels.  First of all, feeding a family of four from restaurants and take-out may cause you to take out a second mortgage.  But more importantly, consider this: According to the NRDC, the average American throws away 25% of the food and beverages they buy.  This costs families between $1300 and $2200 annually.  In fact, Americans throw away 10 times as much food as the average southeast Asian.  Seriously.  These statistics make me want to sit down and punch myself in the face.  Meal planning accounts for what is already in your fridge and keeps you from letting food go bad.  
  3. Confusion:  The grocery store can be an overwhelming and unforgiving place.  Especially if you go in hungry or without a game plan.  Walking into the grocery store without a list is akin to driving across the country without a map.  You may get to where you need to be, but it will take twice as long and be three times as expensive.
  4. Time Constraints:  It may seem counter intuitive to have to carve out 2 hours every Sunday to meal plan and grocery shop.  However, what you're losing on the front end, you'll save on the back end.  What if you didn't have to make three different stops at the grocery store throughout the week.  Or spend 20 minutes sitting in the drive thru every night.  It adds up.  
  5. Taste Concerns:  The best thing about meal planning is that you get to create the menu.  So if you don't like steamed asparagus because it tastes like a wet tree (true story), you don't have to buy or cook steamed asparagus.  

If you're not currently a meal planner, the thought of writing it out may be overwhelming.  No worries...

6 Simple Steps to Pain Free Meal Planning

1.  Block time every week to write out a meal plan.  For me, it's Sunday afternoon.  For you, it might be Tuesday night or Thursday evening.

2.  Review your schedule for the week.  Do you have a work function Monday night and soccer games Wednesday night?  Plan for those.  It may mean cooking extra so you have leftovers or reviewing a restaurant menu ahead of time so there are no surprises.

3.  Inventory your fridge and pantry.  Check all the drawers for any veggies that may go bad or hidden leftovers to use for lunch.  Incorporate those in your meal plan.  

4.  Write it out.  Find your favorite recipes, a few new ones, and write out a meal plan.  You can use paper, a white board, or a chalk board.  Keep it simple or make it fun.  Either way, just do it.

This is Eleanor, our meal planning pig.  Isn't she fun??

5.  Make a shopping list.  While you're writing out recipes, write down what you need so you don't forget anything once you get to the store.  

6.  Execute.  You've done the hard work, now follow through.  Don't let the lure of an unexpected office lunch derail your planning.  

And that's it.

I won't lie- it's a commitment and it may be very painful at first.  And it may require a mindset shift.  But if you really are serious about big changes this year, commit to making meal planning a priority. 

If you 're still struggling with what to put in that meal plan, check out my eBook, Fuel or contact me to learn more about personal health coaching!



So what about you.  Do you meal plan?  Do you wish you did?  Can you commit to this for 2015?

Friday, January 9, 2015

Food Friday: Brussels Sprouts

Food Friday is my weekly homage to my favorite thing on Earth- FOOD!  I haven't always felt this way.  I used to view food as the enemy.  But no longer!  I love food- it helps me meet my performance goals, nourishes my body, and most importantly keeps me healthy so I can make a difference in this crazy world.  So every Friday I will be posting about one of my favorite foods.  It may be a plant or animal, single ingredient or recipe, or whatever I feel like (hey- it's my blog afterall).
If there is a particular food you would like me to talk about, recommend it in the comments! 

 Brussels Sprouts

Hold it.  How many of us rallied against our parents to keep Brussels Sprouts off our plate?  Because really, cabbage is suspect all by itself... but mini smelly cabbages are downright offensive.  In fact, a 2008 Heinz survey ranked Brussels Sprouts as the most hated vegetable in America.

I get it.  I hated Brussels Sprouts before I even tried them.  What kind of Regina George vegetable has a reputation like that?

Well, Brussels Sprouts are very, ah, fragrant when overcooked.  The traditional method of cooking was to boil them- assuring they were mushy and smelly.

But just like thick rimmed glasses and baggy sweaters, what's old is new again.  Brussels Sprouts are back in a big way.  Restaurants are making a name by making them tasty.  Hipster foodies buy them locally.  And of course, they're Paleo.

Brussels Sprouts pack a punch of nutrients and are super easy to make.  So if you haven't already, get daring and add some to your meal plan today!

P.S.  Does anyone else say Brussel Sprouts??  I did... until about two days ago.  It's really Brussels Sprouts.... because modern versions were cultivated in Belgium!


  • Super high levels of Vitamin C and K
  • A good source of Folate, Manganese, Fiber, and Vitamin B6   
  • Provides protection against cancer because of a compound called glucosinolate.  All cruciferous veggies contain this compound, but Brussels Sprouts have the most.  
  • Low carbohydrate- one gram per serving


Readily available in most grocery stores, Brussels Sprouts are usually located by the big cabbage.  Do you think that makes them feel inadequate?

But really, buy and cook them fresh.  Frozen Brussels Sprouts tend to be bitter and slimy.


I typically cut the sprouts in half or even quarter them.  Be sure to chop off the hard white stem portion at the bottom.  If the outer leaves are looking a little yellow, you can peel them away.  And with all veggies, wash them well.


Let me say this once...

Roasting Brussels Sprouts is the way to go.

Some people like them steamed, but I think that makes them taste like mini-cabbage mush balls.  So if that's your jam, go for it.  A good roast gives them crispy outer leaves and well cooked inside.  You can also peel the leaves and make chips.  

You could also skip the cooking and slice them to make a winter slaw!


Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Ham

These sprouts have just the right about of crisp and are a great side dish for anything from ribs to chicken to hamburgers.  Or by themselves as a snack!


1 lb Brussels Sprouts
1/2 Cup Chopped Ham (or sub 4 pieces of chopped bacon)
2 TBS Coconut Oil (melted)
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp sea salt


1. Pre-heat the oven to 400 Degrees F.

2. Cut the white stalk off of the Brussels Sprouts and cut in half

3.  Mix Brussels Sprouts with chopped ham, coconut oil, sea salt, and pepper.

4. Spread evenly on a baking sheet.

5.  Bake for 35-40 minutes until crisp on the outside.

6.  Serve immediately and enjoy!




What do you think?  Do you like Brussesls Sprouts or would you rather put your head through a wall?  If you love them, share your favorite recipes in the comments below!