As of today, I’m two weeks into an exercise reboot. Long story short: though I’ve never been exactly fit, from a glossy image style, I used to have a regular regimen of weight work, plus I walked a ton on the golf course. Usually, that meant 3-4 workouts a week and 120 rounds of golf or so (which equals somewhere between 600 and 900 miles walked).
Then, begin parenting. I literally haven’t worked out steadily in more than six years. My golfing has gone way down, until this year (when, not coincidentally, I lost 15 pounds over the summer, because of the walking!). I remember being 173 pounds and thinking, hmm, I could bear to get into a bit better shape. And I remember being 185 pounds and thinking, what happened? And I remember crossing the threshold of 200 and really regretting not having kept up with things.
By the end of the summer, I had myself back down to 180, but that ballooned quickly to 195 between late September and now. How? Well, that was kind of weird.
Pounds were creeping on, thanks to the magical properties of M&Ms and Cheez-Its. 185 was on its way. Someone I know kept posting “inspirational” things about a certain money-making fitness program I’ll just call Plage Corps. This person was an, urm, “trainer” for the program (which I came to realize meant the person was part of the direct sales/pyramid scheme sort of company it actually is, putting it in line with certain make-up products, and cooking products, and jewelry, and kinds of other things that use friend-guilt as an excellent way to sell crap). Properly inspired, I signed on.
Now, first, let me say that it’s clear that many people lose weight and effectively exercise thanks to this company. They happen to be inspired by all of what it is. And I should say there’s nothing wrong with that. In a moment, I’ll say the opposite, though. Before that, I’ll recognize that it can work, but part of working means a person needs to more or less become a serial consumer of the products within that company’s line: workouts, shakes, on-line bonus stuff etc.
Plage Corps did not work for me. Instead, I used the planned beginning as an excuse to ramp up the M&M and Cheez-It Diet Plan, and then the first week of the new plan was based so much on unhealthy deprivation, that when I quit, I immediately turned toward the bad habits I had sought to break. Hello 195 pounds.
So I quit the program and sent all the junk back, which the company was mostly good about refunding, even though they “accidentally” charged me for a second month of shipments and on-line access after I’d cancelled. That was rectified, too, in a friendly way. So kudos there. I’m trying not to hate on this company too much.
Except there are two reasons why I think they are everything that is wrong with American fitness and health. A) Their philosophy of life is stupid; B) They exist to make money, by selling the idea of their philosophy to you.
About A) I think the most important aspect of an effective fitness plan is that it be compatible with your lifestyle and self-image. Of course, for me that means a fitness plan centered on M&Ms and Cheez-Its, so I suppose a bit of compromise is necessary. Essentially, though, a person who likes to be outside and active isn’t going to find satisfaction and success staring at DVDs, or even working out in a gym. A person who hates the outdoors, fears bears, and dislikes mud isn’t going to enjoy trail running, or hiking.
What I found with Plage Corp is that, since it was a DVD-based program, I am bored to tears. Further, everything was focused on body this, body that, you’re going to hurt tomorrow and that’s great, just one more, let’s fatigue the muscles to failure so you can grow, no pain no gain, self-hatred. Yes, self-hatred. I think their entire business model uses the concept of love your body as a way to cultivate body shame. Because you can always be doing more. Because you’ll never be the body you aim for. A person ends up hooked on the treadmill of body transformation, more or less loathing one’s self as a way to encourage “progress” toward a different self.
This is precisely opposite of the “inspiration” of what the company claims. But it’s how it goes. You wanna be fat and lazy, or do you want to work to cut those abs!? You can’t get to the latter without hating the former, which is a constantly moving target defined by where most people are at each discrete moment. Their motto might as well be, hate the body you are so you can work for the body of tomorrow, which you will eventually hate, so you can stay on the automatic credit card plan indefinitely.
In this way, Plage Corps and CrossFit and other “hardcore” fitness plans are all the same. They sell concepts of self-actualization when they actually push concepts of self-loathing. And none of them are actually healthy. CrossFit puts a person in grave risk of injury; Plage Corps and their ilk encourage obsession. None are exactly sustainable, though CrossFit is probably more so than many others, as long as a person is smart about guarding their joints (which is hard to do, considering that regimen’s style).
I should have been more suspicious early on with Plage Corps. Before I sent my money in, I inquired if I could sign up without buying their expensive shakes ($100 a month!), and just use their expensive DVDs and coaching. I knew I’d be overpaying, but I thought the encouragement would be worth it.
But why are you opposed to this awesome product? I was asked.
Because they don’t work for me. I hate them. They have artificial sweeteners, which always taste horrific to me, an aftertaste that clings to my tongue for hours.
No, these are better. You’ll love them.
No I won’t.
Yes you will. But there’s a guarantee in case you don’t.
So I bought the whole deal. And I tried the shakes. And I hated them, for precisely the reasons I already knew. The aftertaste was horrific. And the claims of the product suspect, at best. I’d been sold, not coached, and this was a clue.
Furthermore, when I look at the “inspiration” of others on the program, all I see are shallow, body-focus, obsessives. People post about the joy of being so sore they can’t get off the toilet. They post about the guilt of having a dessert, so they doubled-up on workouts. They claim to love food that looks awful, in fact don’t love food at all. They speak of fueling the body, this being the purpose of food, when in fact that’s the source of a horrible relationship to food. I’m painting with a broad brush, and I’m sure there are some who find a balanced approach with these programs, but they’re not set up that way.
They’re set up for B) to make money for the company. They sell. They keep coming out with new DVDs, and new shakes, and so forth. They want you to spend $45 a month for access to online products and coaching, plus $100 a month for shakes, plus buy new workouts every now and again (for 50-200 a pop). Even without new DVDs, that’s an annual outlay of $1,740 for garbage shakes and dubious coaching and other online tools. That’s a rip-off. A total rip-off. $1,740 gets you a lot of things, when you don’t waste it on the fitness money extraction machine.
For me, the success of the last two weeks (FYI I lost a pound and a half) has been because I found a way to move that’s consistent with me, and not consistent with giving money to other people. I’m doing mostly body-weight calisthenics, because I like doing them, and because I see the goal of the movement as an athletic endeavor. I’m working toward being able to do certain things (like the gymnastics my kids do on Saturday mornings), not just working out. The exercises. have a purpose other than the body. They are about the true progress of the self. So I keep doing them. And that’s not something I could ever say about Plage Corps.