Transcript of the No-Bullsh!t Vegan podcast, episode 117
Fitness industry BS bustin' [and more] with Ren Jones
Karina Inkster: You're listening to the No Bullshit Vegan podcast, episode 117, in which I catch up with coach Ren Jones. We run the gamut from client-centred, weight-neutral coaching, to busting bullshit about body size within the fitness industry.
Hey, thanks for tuning in. I'm Karina, your go-to, no BS, vegan fitness and nutrition coach. Coming to you today, unfortunately, with a positive COVID test. You might notice a little bit of my sick voice still lingering. It's been a little bit over a week at this point and things are definitely moving in the right direction, but I am still coughing a lot, which concerns me a little bit because I have asthma, but overall feeling pretty okay. Not awesome, but also not horrible. Luckily I am double vaccinated and boosted, and I honestly can't imagine what this would've been like without any vaccination, especially as a person who is at higher risk for respiratory issues. Anyway, the strangest thing, which maybe you can relate to if you've had COVID, although I hope you haven’t, is the complete and utter loss of all taste and smell. Like I couldn't even taste my toothpaste this morning.
So that's kind of tragic. I'm actually not even eating my daily dark chocolate at the moment because there's really no point. So I've just completed my self-isolation time, but it is gonna take a while to get back to a hundred percent, especially for workouts and overall cardio capacity. I'm branching out a little bit from my home base now though. I've got a really small-scale music gig coming up, performing accordion and piano with my friend and teacher, and it's for an art gallery show opening night. And then we've got a full-scale concert to prepare for that's happening in a couple weeks. So things are happening. I'm a functioning human, but only like 50% at this point.
Anyway, it's been a while since I've had my friend Ren Jones on the show. So I brought him back with no agenda and we just caught up and talked about whatever came up, which happened to be some fascinating topics around body size, the fitness industry, coaching, celebrity weight loss, and Ren may or may not grace us with an on the spot slow jam.
Ren Jones is a certified trainer and certified nutrition coach in Charlotte, North Carolina. His personal philosophy toward changing behaviours is centred around self-compassion over discipline; methods which have helped his clients make permanent change and heal their relationship with food.
What's up Ren?
Ren Jones: Everything! Let me get myself together, right? I've got myself together now.
Karina Inkster: Nice to see you.
Ren Jones: I wasn't on the phone at all.
Karina Inkster:Oh, haha!
Ren Jones: Good to see you too. How long has it been? What’s it been? Few months? I can't remember the last time. Was it a year? I have no idea.
Karina Inkster: I don't know. The last two years have been a blur, so it beats me.
Ren Jones: Yeah.
Karina Inkster: But it's nice to see you. It's nice to speak with you.
Ren Jones: Yeah. I'm happy to be back, man. You know I'm always excited about the invitation because although I don't know exactly where the conversation might go, I know it's going to be a good conversation that, you know, there's no shortage of topics in the wellness space and you're always you're such a good listener and sort of you know, your interview style is so laid back. It always feels so much more conversational.
Karina Inkster: That’s what I'm trying to go for.
Ren Jones: So I'm always glad to come on and to just have a chat. When you mentioned it to me, I was like, hell yeah!
Karina Inkster: Hell yeah!
Ren Jones: You’re damn right I wanna get together and chat again.
Karina Inkster: Oh well that’s awesome!
Ren Jones: So yeah, you know, I'm just pleased that we've survived the last two years with some semblance of sanity intact, and still here we are, able to provide compassionate coaching to the people that choose to give us the privilege of helping them along this journey.
Karina Inkster: Absolutely.
Ren Jones: So I'm excited for the conversation today.
Karina Inkster: Me too. Usually, I would do like a whole preamble thing and then hit record, but I basically hit record before you even joined the Zoom meeting, just because it's like, hey, we gotta catch up! And let's just like, see what happens.
Ren Jones: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. I agree with that. Totally. You know what? I don't know where the conversation's gonna go, but I do wanna mention this, because I think it's important for the coaches that are listening and, you know, the wellness professionals and maybe the people that hire coaches. You know, I found myself somewhere in the sort of third quarter of 2021, sort of going through the existential angst of coaching, right? The, ‘why am I here? What am I doing? What's the point? How am I gonna do this?’ And I just sort of shut it down for three months. Working with my clients that I, you know, my existing clients obviously, I was still producing some social media content. But other than that, I was in a place where I was trying to figure out exactly what my voice was and exactly what the message should be.
And I think one of the benefits of being an individual with a growth mindset is that it causes you to hit the breaks from time to time as you take in more information. Jonathan Goodman gave me a great quote and I say it often now. And it was probably two years ago, I don't know, when he brought the quote to my attention, but it's a quote, I think from Upton Sinclair, and the quote is that it's difficult to get a man to understand something when his income depends on him not understanding.
Karina Inkster: Mm. That's a good one.
Ren Jones: I found that particularly purposeful for what we do, again, because as I come to greater levels of understanding about how important it is, how important it is that I'm relatively mindful of the things that I say and the manner in which I say them and how that affects people who may be listening to what I say, I feel more and more that I should become increasingly considerate of the potential psychology of the person who's hearing whatever my message is. I'll land that plane there and let you do with it what you will. But it is just on my mind to say that.
Karina Inkster: Fair enough. Well, I'm intrigued actually, because I don't know if it's the pandemic or, or just feeling like we're turning our wheels, spinning our wheels, rather, you know, I think a lot of us right now are feeling a little bit stuck or like nothing exciting is going on - every day is the same. Like we were saying at the beginning, like what day of the week is it even? You know, has it been two years or two months since we last chatted, right? I think that's affecting a lot of folks. So for you, it might have been in career or business. For others it might have been, you know just feeling engaged with family life. For me, it has been like, my non-work pursuits have felt a bit stagnant, like music. Swimming has been great, but strength training just feels like it's been going through the motions for two years, you know?
Ren Jones: Right.
Karina Inkster: And I don't know if that's entirely this whole pandemic thing. But it's interesting that you mention hitting the brakes and making that intentional decision, cuz I think a lot of people get to that point, not because they choose to be at that point, but because circumstances have forced them to be at that point, right? They burn out or they have a mental health challenge that comes up and they're kind of forced to hit the breaks. But it sounds like for you sure, maybe there have been some catalysts, but you made the conscious decision to say, okay, I'm gonna step back. I need to assess the situation. And it sounds like that was the right call for you.
Ren Jones: Yeah, I think so. You know that I deal with coaches quite a bit of my day. I'm a mentor in a coaching certification process, one that we're both very familiar with, The Online Trainer Academy. So on a daily basis, I get the privilege of speaking with other coaches about their business, particularly their online business, you know, five to 10 coaches per day, 20-minute sessions, coaches all around the globe, in addition to the work that I do with clients who are coming to me for wellness, and a lot of what we do is so similar to exercise, right?
Karina Inkster: Oh, absolutely.
Ren Jones: It’s the low-hanging fruit of analogies for me when I'm talking to a coach because they'll tell me things like, oh, I'm having trouble enrolling new clients. And I'll say, well, when is the last time - I know you have a different methodology, you're you. You’ve got somewhat of a generation engine you know, in what you do. But for a lot of other coaches, they are literally having to seek out clients through active means, maybe more active means. And they'll say, oh, you know, I'm having trouble enrolling clients and I'll say, oh, I completely understand. When was the last time that you reached out and told people you had open enrolment? Oh, I think it was last May. And then I will immediately say: if I was a potential client and I came to and I said, I just really want to grow my quads. I really want my legs to get bigger and sturdier. And you say, okay, well that sounds good. When's the last time you did some leg training? It was last May. What would you tell me, right?
I think in the case of what I went through, it's that thought of rest. You know, when you're new to exercise and for the listeners out there who may be new to exercise or maybe have had to fight against Karina and her coaches about sitting down for a minute and allowing yourself to recover, cuz you just want to go, go, go, I think that the same thing happens in business. And I think the reason that we sort of try to push through what should be a rest period - obviously financially, that makes sense to me, right? You're dependent solely on your income from your business. It's frightening, and in some cases just not possible for us to not engage in that way. I was privileged enough to be in that position, but I think you're right.
The sort of COVID exhaustion - whatever side of the philosophy you're on, whatever side of that philosophical fence that you reside on, whether you feel like vaccination is incredibly important, whether you feel like vaccination is a devil, whether you feel like wearing a mask is very considerate, whether you feel like it's an infringement on your rights for some - whatever side of that equation you're on, I think we're just kind of all tired of fucking hearing about it.
Karina Inkster: Yeah, I agree.
Ren Jones: Just kinda like one politician gets on the news and he’s got a mask and the other one gets on the news and he doesn't, and then they both say something that's wildly inconsiderate about each other. And then, you know, it is just, it's been so much of it. One thing that I know as a musician, and I'm sure you can agree with me on this cuz we're both musicians, there is a song past which you have lost the audience, right?
Karina Inkster: Absolutely.
Ren Jones: Whatever the performance is!
Karina Inkster: That's a good way of putting it.
Ren Jones: No matter how good it is. There's one song too many. Good musicians or good managers or talent agents, or if you're dealing with a record label, good A and R representatives, artists and repertoire, they know where that point is at which if you do one more song, the audience is growing weary of you. But if you cut off at that moment -
Karina Inkster: They’ll want more.
Ren Jones: The audience really wishes you had another song. COVID is about five songs past that point.
Karina Inkster: Absolutely. And it's affecting us in so many different ways, which we see in our clients all the time. I’m sure you see that in the coaches you're mentoring as well. You know it's just percolating. What you said earlier though about, you know sure, you made this intentional decision to take a break, step back, scale things down, which was obviously a good call. But in that, within that kind of conversation, you were saying you're thinking more about the psychological side of how your content and how your messages are landing. So I'm intrigued in kind of that realm. What do you mean by that?
Ren Jones: Yes. And I feel like I need to preface everything that I say. So for some context, number one, my population, right? I think because that's important.
Karina Inkster: Right.
Ren Jones: When we say population as coaches, we mean the people that we work with. You may know the term as target demographic, target market, what have you. So my population has historically been moms who are over 30. I've scaled that back a bit to women over 30 because there a lot of the same complexities and a lot the same - both groups - and it's not a very differentiated group, but both groups are dealing with a lot of bullshit. Let's just - this is the No Bullshit Vegan podcast.
Karina Inkster: Absolutely.
Ren Jones: We can just call out the bullshit where it lies.
Karina Inkster: This is why I love having you on the show, because you're one of these coaches that we need more of in the industry who calls out the bullshit, first of all, and second, is taking a stand and doing something about.
Ren Jones: Yeah man. So that's my population. And for me as a coach, when I came into coaching in the organized way that I did, and into the online space, you know, a few techniques, tactics that I would use is I would lean heavily on weight-loss. Now, you know, I hope that we can get into a conversation about that later because I'm not against intentional weight loss. That's not what I'm saying. But I was heavily leaning there as if for these women, there was no other reason for them to exercise, right? And I wasn't approaching it that way out of a sense of malicious intent. It was more so I just kind of didn't consider all the sides of it. You know, blissfully unaware, very new to the industry. Solid on the science, maybe not quite so solid on the psychology. Definitely not capable at that point of picking up on the subtle context and nuance of what a person's life might be like in a demographic that I do not exist.
You know, we talk often socially and socio-economically about disparities between groups of people, right? And the micro-aggressions that, you know, as a person of African descent who lives in North America, there are micro-aggressions that I receive that, I can't really describe it, right? You know, but I live it. Same thing with women, and me not understanding as a person who does not exist in that area. You know, one of the terms that I learned recently from Molly Galbraith, who's awesome, is-
Karina Inkster: Oh, she’s amazing.
Ren Jones: She’s amazing - is cultural humility, right? And in a sense, that's just me understanding that I can't possibly understand, and being humble in how I relate to you based on the things that you experience that I don’t, right? Deploying cultural humility. I wasn't good at that when I first started.
So, you know, talking about weight loss incessantly, which is absolutely fine if that's your choice for yourself as a person, right? A lot of before and after photos, which if that motivates you, more power to you. If you go out and seek out before and after photos, and that motivates you as an individual, who's seeking out a trainer, again, the underlying theme for me is respecting your autonomy and agency. You know, sort of the overarching theme for me is that I don't put people in positions where they're much more likely to self-criticize than they are to deploy self-compassion right? So before and afters, which were bread and butter for me, right? It’s so easy as I'm sure, you know, it's so easy to throw up a before and after, my coaching spots are open, and for me, people would sort of pour in. Oh, I love what you did with Amanda. She looks amazing.
And I started to consider more and more and more as I read more, as I had more conversations, as I've become better educated, right? I think we have a social responsibility to act on the new information that we get as humans first, as coaches, definitely, right?
I'm not gonna hear that ephedrine is harmful and can increase your heart rate to the extent that you could have cardio issues, and then suggest people take old-school Hydroxy Cut as a fat burner. Like I'm supposed to change my opinion based on the data that I get. That's my requirement as a science-based coach, right? I'm supposed to change my opinion. It’s not supposed to stay the same.
So I'm looking around thinking about that quote, you know it's difficult to get a man to understand something when his income depends on him not understanding it. And I'm like, look, I understand that these before and after pictures are damaging for some people, right? It doesn't make everybody feel amazing. You know, if you're looking at it before and after, and you resemble the before, and someone saying, look what a good job Sarah did. She doesn't look like you look anymore. She looks like this now. Oh, she's so beautiful. She looks amazing now. Oh, good for her. She's so much more healthy. I mean, we don't know that for sure. And if I'm promoting things in a way that I'm only talking about weight loss and for a variety of reasons, your body at its healthiest state does not become smaller or lighter, does that mean that you are not healthy? So I had to start to consider those things and I realized, you know, the old way of me doing things is not congruent with what my purpose is in helping the people that are gonna come and work with me.
Karina Inkster: Fricking love that.
Ren Jones: And I also don't have the right to take away the autonomy and agency of these women by telling them that they don't have a right to choose intentional weight-loss, if that's their choice, right? So, well shit, who am I? You know what I mean?
Karina Inkster: Yes. Okay. So, let me back up a little bit, cause I wanna ask you about this kind of line, the balance between those two things, right? We very recently also had a similar decision process, only in the last six months, where in our business, we no longer use before and after photos, we no longer call them before and after photos - they're during and during photos. So if our clients, again, if they make the decision on their own, that they wanna do progress photos, during and during photos, whatever, that's cool, that's their decision. They have autonomy, but we're not posting them anywhere. They're not on our website anymore. And we've actually had new clients come in the door saying, hey, I chose your website over the 12 others that I was looking at because you're not aesthetic first.
So this is what folks are looking for. You know, not everyone is on the same page, which is fine, but it's more in line with our value of coaching. So what you just said about that balance, right? I mean, look, we don't wanna take the autonomy away from folks. Everyone has a right to have physique goals, ourselves as coaches included. But I feel like as coaches, we also have a responsibility to bust bullshit around having physique goals in the first place. So where for you is this line between having clients who maybe have intentional weight-loss as a goal, and you're helping them with that, but then also questioning whether that's what they actually want in the first place?
Ren Jones: Exactly. That’s such a great question. So here's where built my sandwich, right? You know, the meat of my program is the centre part of the sandwich, no disrespect. The, you know, the not the real meat, you know what I'm saying?
Karina Inkster: The tofu, the plant-based meat.
Ren Jones: Absolutely. You know, that's the coaching that I provide. On either side of that, one bun is sort of scientific research, right? You know, I mean, actual research. I don't mean like you Googled something and it says something. And then on the other side, it's sort of the psychology of change, psychology of behaviour change, et cetera, et cetera. So the space that I found was, number one, I wanna help educate people on the science of bodies, right? Of health, right? And there were some interesting studies that came out last year around this time. And perhaps that's not coincidental; we've got the one study that proves that even though there's a correlation between body mass index, another shitty concept by the way -
Karina Inkster: Oh yeah, absolutely. Hey! We’ve talked about that before in our conversations!
Ren Jones: We talked about it before and I'll probably never stop talking about it. But you know there's a correlation between body mass and your size, for the people that aren't familiar. Is there a correlation between size and some health indicators? Sure. And it correlates in much the same way that when ice cream sales go up in major cities, so do murder rates.
Karina Inkster: And drownings, by the way.
Ren Jones: And drownings, yes.
Karina Inkster: They're all correlated.
Ren Jones: There's a correlation, it's all correlated. And what I've come to understand is that we don't do a good job explaining the difference in correlation and cause, right? Causation and correlation, that doesn't mean that someone buys ice cream, and immediately someone across the street sees that and decides, oh shit, I gotta murder somebody. I need to take somebody out. Or someone who has, you know, who's out during the day and says, you know, I think I'll go get my swimsuit, go out to the lake and drown today, since I saw you buy that ice cream - that's not the same thing. So this research starts to reveal itself. Stuff that a lot of us already knew in the wellness space, like we already sort of had our finger on the pulse of this, that you know, first of all, your cardiorespiratory output is a much better indicator of all-cause mortality, meaning all the ways that you might die, that aren't murder, right? It's a better indicator than your actual size and/or weight.
As a matter of fact, there are people of lower weight who are at greater risk of all-cause mortality who don't have great cardiorespiratory output. They don't exercise a lot. They don't have great heart and lung endurance, which means the woman in the larger body who teaches your Zumba class, who can go for 2, 3, 4 hours, there's a great chance that if we did the medical test for hormonal profile, for blood sugar levels, for hypertension, it's probably gonna come out smelling like a rose. And there's a good chance that the person on the couch, who is by all sense, and intents and purposes in range of BMI standards, is likely to have some cholesterol issues. You know, some hypertensive issues. That's not across the board, but the research shows us clearly that just the size and shape of a body is in no way an indication of its level of health, or its risk of you know, morbidity, its risk of death, right?
And that research has been very clear for quite some time. On the other end of that spectrum - this is why I'm much more of an and coach than I am and or coach - on the other end of that spectrum, I've got the healthy at every size contingent, which I totally understand and appreciate and get. They have science that does back up, you know, what their case is, right? We just heard that research does show that if you're exercising and eating well, you may not arrive at a smaller body, but the fact that your health habits are in line is a great indicator that you are lowering all-cause morbidity in the case of your life. You're probably very, very healthy. You're probably gonna live a healthy long life. On the other end, I've got the healthy of every size contingent and I've got great friends who are in this space, criticizing women for choosing to lose weight or choosing for themselves that they want to do things to intentionally develop a smaller body.
And I'm thinking to myself, okay, well, this isn't solving anything. This is just the same judgmental crisis on the other end of the spectrum. So I can't believe that women have to have a smaller body to be healthy. The science just tells me that that's not the case. But on the other end of that spectrum, as a client-centred coach that works both with the science and the psychology of what's healthy for a human, I know it's inherently unhealthy to force someone into a psychological box of how they view themselves, based on what I feel about how they should view themselves. I don't have the right to tell somebody, girls just love yourself. I just wish you didn't always want to make your body smaller. I just don't think it it's right for you to want to - I don't have the right to say that, you know?
And a lot of this is civil war, amongst women, right? This, the same population at war with itself in a lot of cases. So I had to lean into the psychology of I can't tell you for sure that you need to work towards a smaller body to be healthy. I can't tell you that for sure. I can tell you that if we develop healthy habits, you'll probably have a better experience with your own physicality. But also I wanna let you know that if you decide for yourself that you want to be in a smaller body, I am here to help guide you through that process and do it in the most healthful way that it can be done so that not only you get the results of healthy intervention habits that you can keep, but we don't rush your body into a place that it's quite frankly, probably gonna bounce back from. It's gonna retaliate against you, because from an evolutionary perspective, your body cares about procreation and that involves body fat. And evolution doesn't give a shit about abs generally speaking, right?
Karina Inkster: That's your new motto, Ren. Evolution doesn't give a shit about abs.
Ren Jones: It doesn't for, you know, and again, population-specific, I'm talking about women who are probably not athletes, who probably don't have a history of athleticism, even in a non-organized sports way. These are just women who want to get off of the couch, have more energy, feel healthier, model good things to their daughters and their sons, right? That population. I found that I had to build a process that allows me to operate between those two buns in that sandwich. The bun of the research says this, so no, you don't have to be a size 2, 4, 6, 8. And I understand this from a psychological perspective. So yes, if you wanna be a 2, 4, 6, 8, I'm more than happy to help you do it. And you have the right to embrace the ‘and’ here because you're gonna find stress in your life. And for the people listening out there, and for the coaches out there, you're gonna find a lot of stress in your life. If you apply an ‘or’ to every single thing, ‘and’ works much better; ‘or’ sell better.
Karina Inkster: Mm.
Ren Jones: ‘Or’ is better marketing.
Karina Inkster: It is.
Ren Jones: ‘And’ is better for people, right? So if we can learn to step away from the ‘or’ which makes it a lot easier for us to make money, and if we can embrace the ‘and’, which makes it a lot easier for us to help the other human, it tracks to whatever the reality of your purpose is. You can say what your purpose is in this business all day, but I know what it is from what I see you doing as a coach. And I think that's really confusing for potential clients. And again, I’ll land that plane there: It was great question. I never really thought about it in context, but I hope that sounded like it made sense.
Karina Inkster: You dropped approximately 14 mics. So yeah, absolutely. You know what reminds me of an email newsletter I saw recently from Molly Galbraith of Girls Gone Strong. So for our listeners who don't follow Girls Gone Strong yet, or Molly, do it now, do it immediately.
Ren Jones: Do that, please.
Karina Inkster: And she was saying, look, we have a weight-neutral approach to coaching - cuz they also work with clients - however/and we understand that folks have physique goals. We also understand that if they're not gonna work with us, they'll work with someone else. And that might actually be detrimental to their health.
Ren Jones: Absolutely.
Karina Inkster: They might do things like you were just saying, it's gonna come and bite them in the ass. It's gonna be very, you know, intensive and probably not sustainable. So they're gonna do it anyways. They might as well work on this process with coaches who will educate them and will get them to a point where they're autonomous, which is really the goal for, I mean, I'm not speaking for all coaches here, but you and I, I think our goal is life after coaching for our clients.
Ren Jones: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Karina Inkster: Right? So the autonomy, and it's just exactly the same messaging. And I feel like there's more coaches nowadays who are making the same decisions that we are around no more before and after photos. It's not a weight-loss-only approach where that is the only, and the best reason you should be training. But it's not quite at the point where I'm cool with stopping, calling out bullshit.
Ren Jones: Right. Right. Absolutely.
Karina Inkster: There's still a lot.
Ren Jones: You make such a good point there. You know I was recently having the same conversation with another coaching friend, Catalina Belmares, who is one of the people that contributed to the Girls Gone Strong course. And I used to do a podcast with her and Jonathan Goodman and Amber Reynolds from the Personal Trainer Development Centre and sort of what I came to as I see her working through the same thing, and thinking about the verbiage that was used in Molly's message, you know, it's one of those, your kids are gonna find out about sex, right? Do you want them to learn from their sixth-grade buddy Eric who says that babies come out of a woman's butt, or do you just wanna have the conversation? Like we operate in such a way sometimes, because there's so much relative bullshit in the wellness space, sometimes we get so protective as coaches and I feel like - I was in this spot, I may still be in it - Sometimes we get -
Karina Inkster: Oh I was in it for sure. I fully, I fully accept that.
Ren Jones: Right. We get so protective that we just say no, instead of saying, well, if that's something that you're really interested in, let's try it. You know, I'll be here to guide you. I'll make sure you stay safe and we'll take in some great data and figure out if this works for you. I found myself saying blatantly no, and this will really go against the grain, if there's anything that the antithesis of vegan, it's keto, right? So I've found people mentioning that - No! You know, and it's the equivalent of saying don't have sex, right?
Karina Inkster: It’s the equivalent of abstinence education for nutrition.
Ren Jones: Abstinence education. It really is. And I came to the point where I realized, well shit, that's just not helpful. It’s just not helpful. Like you said, either they're gonna do with me or they're gonna do it with somebody who's got their shirt ripped off and keto in their username, you know?
Karina Inkster: Absolutely.
Ren Jones: That’s gonna shove, you know, ketone supplements up their butt twice a week and say, oh, you know, chug this with apple cider vinegar. I mean, you know, no disrespect to whatever your belief system is out there, but I'm just saying, for example, I think as a client-centred coach, if I can put down whatever parts of my dogmatic approach that are harmful, there's some things I'm just gonna be dogmatic about. And I get that. There's a human piece to coaching, that it's hard to take yourself completely out of it.
Karina Inkster: Absolutely. We do our best.
Ren Jones: Most coaches are guilty of that. We do our best. You know, and quite frankly, Karina, my own biases, scared the shit out of me. Like if I'm frightened of anything more than anything else, and in terms of coaching, dealing with another human, it's my own inherent biases. Like I'm so, so cautious about not applying them to another person who just wants to learn everything. Because I've had the ability, to a certain extent, I've had an ability to come in contact with a lot of different things, get a lot of different information, get a lot of facts, do a lot of research over dozens and dozens of years, and then come to my conclusions. I don't wanna take that ability away from a potential client who has not had the opportunity.
It's the hot stove theory. The toddler’s gotta touch the hot stove. There's just no other way to understand what hot means, you know? And I want to keep them from that stove to their own detriment, or this is something that I definitely would do in the past. And I can't explain what hot is until they touch it. Now, from that point on every time that little kid passes that stove, they're gonna point, they're gonna look at me and they gonna say hot, and I'm gonna say, yeah, hot, right? But I think that we maybe helicopter parent or helicopter train to the extent -
Karina Inkster: We're insulating our clients from things that they actually need to experience to really know what the deal is.
Ren Jones: They need to experience some of the things. Like you need to go off the rails with nutrition, feel like complete shit, 24 or 48 hours, and then say, oh my gosh, I don't need to do that again.
Karina Inkster: Exactly.
Ren Jones: I get it. Hey, don't worry about it. These choices happen. That's one or two days out of a lifetime. It may even happen again. But you've got this point of reference for remembering that when you're thinking of that choice, you know, can also attach the result, the consequence of that action. You can remember how it feels. It's good for you to understand this. So having said that, I'm just really frightened of my own bias. I really try to keep that out of the picture. And I really think that the end proposition in most of those cases allows a client to not feel so boxed in psychologically.
You know, it's like a puppy. I don't want to, if I run up to a puppy that doesn't know me, it's probably gonna run, right? If I can sit there quietly, sweetly, patiently, let it sniff all the floor that I've tread on, you know, sniff its way up to me. The chances are that I’ll be able to develop a great relationship with that sweet little pup or kitten, whatever your animal of choice is. I think we just, often we just run up to clients and I wanna love him and squeeze him and hug him and keep him and he’s gonna all mine. And they just get weirded out by that. And we send them in the opposite direction. That's my Ted Talk for today.
Karina Inkster: I love that. That's such a good analogy. You know, you are the master of analogies, by the way.
Ren Jones: I've been told that twice today, already.
Karina Inkster: Really? Well it's true.
Ren Jones: I speak in analogies. It’s all I know.
Karina Inkster: Hey, something that I wanted to bring up, which goes a, along with what you're saying here about like how messages land, how we can't say for our clients what their goals should be, we're not imposing goals on others, right? They have autonomy.
Ren Jones: Yes.
Karina Inkster: What I saw was the fact that you were having a conversation with, I believe it was another coach, and I apologize in advance if you already talked about this till you're blue in the face, but you were having a conversation on social media live about celebrities and body size.
Ren Jones: Yes!
Karina Inkster: Right. And so this whole conversation we've just been having around, yeah of course women, and all humans have the ability to make decisions about their own physiques. But now when we're adding in this context of celebrity where people are being watched and you know, their every move is being recorded and shared and whatnot.
Ren Jones: Yes.
Karina Inkster: I’d love to know more about that. I know it was based on an article on Yahoo News, I think. And it was around folks like Adele and just like high profile celebrities who have lost a significant amount of size, presumably for their own reasons.
Ren Jones: Right.
Karina Inkster: And kind of the two sides of, again, the civil war, right? With folks saying, oh, good for her. She's doing something for herself. Great. And then the other side saying, aw, we've lost a hero who has been this pillar of you know, whatever you wanna call the movement or the kind of representation there, right?
Ren Jones: Yes. Yes.
Karina Inkster: So I'd love to hear about that.
Ren Jones: Yeah that was such an interesting article. So I wasn't ignoring you as I was grabbing my phone. I was actually grabbing it to pull up one of the quotes from that article. And I'll just start here with it. And the person in this quote, tagged Rebel Wilson on social media, on Twitter specifically, and it says: “@RebelWilson,” -this is from some woman named Nicole Baird. I don't know if she's famous or not. I don’t know her. But she says: “@RebelWilson, I kind of wish you didn't lose all that weight. People think you need to be skinny to be successful. Society will change the narrative if celebrities don't give into it. Showing you're happy in your skin while overweight is something we need more of.”
This is so complex in so many different ways. And there was a doctor involved in the article. She didn't write the article. But the psychologist, her name is Caitlin Baker, she says: “I can definitely relate to feeling betrayed when celebrities do that.” Caitlin Baker, a psychologist and life coach specializing in women's self-esteem and eating disorders! The irony there is almost choking me to death. But this woman specializes in self-esteem and eating disorders, and she says that she relates to feeling betrayed.
Karina Inkster: Hmm.
Ren Jones: I'm challenged to understand where on the spectrum of self-esteem a person allows themselves to feel betrayed by a different human's choices, right?
Karina Inkster: Plus, you know, these are celebrities too. We don't know what their reasoning is. I'm sure that there are cases where someone had to do something extremely unsustainable for, you know, a role in a movie or something. I mean, we don't know what the context is here.
Ren Jones: In Rebel Wilson's case, I remember seeing an interview with her, where she said that she had a list of eating challenges. She had some trauma and her coping mechanism for the trauma was ah, how did she put it? An ill-formed or ill-conceived relationship with food.
Karina Inkster: Okay.
Ren Jones: So as she's addressing these traumas through psychiatry, the coping mechanism, you know, it's changing over time. I don't know if she's learning to journal or meditate or what have you, but she's not coping psychologically through food. But this person goes on to say it almost feels like a hero is no longer a hero. And I think it’s due to this idea of representation and how powerful it can be. My initial thoughts, they were number one, on the autonomy and agency side, right?
I so often find myself in discussions, watching discussions, you know, participating in discussions where these amazing women, that I'm privileged to coach, express to me how judgemental society is in terms of its views of women, its standards that it's created, and whether or not a woman can conform to those. And I just felt, you know, how sad that these women are judging other women for their own decisions. And sort of the conclusion that I came to was that in some cases we feel edified through another person's existence, right?
And the example I used with the coach that I was talking to Cassandra Delyn, AKA Natural Fit Mom, who's awesome - shout out to Cassandra - is, you know, it's like if I was a college dropout, right? And I was validating myself through maybe Kanye West, who is famously a college dropout. His first album was called, “The College Dropout,” right? He went to college, dropped out, pursued music. I'm a musician. It's like me edifying myself through him. Yeah. You know, Kanye did it. I can do it. I'm a college dropout. And then he decides to go to school and finish his college education. And I don't have the means to, and me feeling betrayed by him.
I think that we interchange feeling validated through someone else’s experiences with feeling betrayed by their experiences. And if I'm looking externally for validation of self, through the experiences of another person, and then their experiences change in a way that's not congruent with mine, I've lost that sense of validation.
Karina Inkster: Oh that’s a good way of putting it.
Ren Jones: And if I'm not living and examining life, I can project that as betrayal by this person who has every right to do whatever they want to with their life, right? But I can no longer validate my experience and edify myself through what they've been able to accomplish in the same circumstances that I'm living in. And I think that's part of the challenge here.
The reality is that hopefully from a holistically healthy standpoint, we are not so interdependent on the circumstances of another person's life to see the purpose and validity in our own choices. I think that’s a core sort of sentiment here. And I believe wholeheartedly that that can be projected as someone else's physicality. That can be projected as the neighbourhood that someone moves into once they become wealthier, right? That can be projected as you know, the person that someone marries that they may not have had access to at one point in their life, and me feeling betrayed by their marital choices.
I see that quite often in my community, the African American community. Whatever your choice is, I'm not judging, nor am I condoning. I'm just saying, I see that happen a lot. I think that's a microcosm of how extrinsically motivated society is in general. A lot of us just never sort of get down to what we actually desire in our own lives. And when you're living in that way, the shifts and changes that happen externally only around your existence will always have some type of pull, control, or potential for disappointment in your own choices. That's sort of where I see it.
Do these women have the right to do what they wanted to with their own bodies? Sure. Do I hope against all hope that it was done for the right reasons and done in a health-based way? I absolutely hope that, and it's not a temporary quick thing that's gonna compromise their health at some other point. But the fact of the matter is if I'm not their coach, it's not my decision. You know, I can only hope. I don't have the right to challenge whatever their methodology is. I only have the right as a coach and human to speak consistently about the good things that I think will most benefit society around me as a whole, to the extent that I'm knowledgeable about those things.
That's my cross. My cross is to go out and give people truth that positively affects them in a consistent way with the understanding that I'm giving that truth based on my understanding of the facts at the time that I'm giving it; that's my obligation as a coach. So yeah, I just thought the article was really interesting, how affected these people were by someone else's choice in the sense of betrayal and the sense that they are no longer represented as who they are. Now, these people have become some sort of caricature or avatar of what society forces us to believe is better. I don't know that I see it that way, but I understand the sentiment.
Karina Inkster: Well, I kind of agree with that too. I understand the sentiment and I understand where these folks are coming from, but at the same time, none of these folks that are being talked about in this article - actors, singers, musicians, - base their livelihood and their skill and their talent on the size of their bodies.
Ren Jones: Yeah.
Karina Inkster: So the fact that this is even entering the equation is a little problematic to me. I mean, I realize like movies are kind of their own thing and people have to do character-related transformations and whatnot. That's kind of its own thing, but none of these folks are making money based on what the scale says their weight is on any given day. So the fact that people are either saying, well, she's successful despite this, or she's successful because of this, either side, whatever side you're on, that's problematic on both sides, isn't It?
Ren Jones: Both sides of the equation. You know, I often hear the least interesting thing about a woman is her body, right?
Karina Inkster: Right.
Ren Jones: And I hear that from women. And then you see something like this, and it's a complete antithesis of that statement. And I, you know, again, this brings me back to this is why my biases scare the shit out of me! Because my interpretation of what I read through that article is heavily leaning towards one set of lenses, right? And I think that these biases, and they may be counter biases, right? Because a lot of the time as humans, we develop a bias as a counter punch to something that's been inflicted on us. So, you know, perhaps there are, you know, look I've dated a size zero before. Sweet girl, just the way God made her, she was five foot one, and like 105.
I mean, that's the way she was made, right? She didn't do anything to get to that. And, oh my gosh, particularly in my culture, the African American culture, the stuff I heard people say in my presence - a real man, you know, wants some meat. Don't no real man want a bone? Like, you know, that's a heavy-leaning bias towards somebody that you don't even know.
Karina Inkster: Absolutely.
Ren Jones: Like how dare you. And maybe at some point she would become biased against people who are fuller figured as a counter-bias, right? It's not something that she ever thought about. This is like the way I hate Dallas Cowboys football fans. Like I never really thought about the Cowboys, but I've got a couple of friends who just talk trash about my team all the time. As a counter to that, I throw up Cowboys memes every time that Dallas loses, right? It was not originally in my interest, you know?
So these women in this article, I have to approach my thoughts about them with the understanding that man, they probably endured some comments that were not kind. And they probably endured that over the course of a good period of their life. And the bias that they feel may be a counter, a defense mechanism for what they were not able to sort of manage, you know, for trauma that they weren't able to deal with. It turns into this all-out campaign against anybody desiring to get into a smaller body, right? And that's why my biases are so frightening to me, because there's no other person in here to check them. So I always have to be sort of hyper-vigilant about my own.
Karina Inkster: Well, I think the fact that you're conscious that you even have biases in the first place, I mean, that's a major step. And then taking the step of kind of being afraid of them, which is actually a useful mindset around biases, I would say, especially when it comes to coaching and working with other humans.
Ren Jones: I'm like Blade the vampire hunter, right? I know that I want blood from humans, you know, so I got Chris Kristofferson to make me a serum that I can take every day as I go out and hunt the other vampires, cuz I don't wanna kill people. I'm very aware that if I don't have my little stuff, then I'm gonna be one of the people that I'm trying to dismantle out there. So, you know, it's, again, all of this culminating brought me to that three-month pause in the third quarter of 2021. And I see a lot of colleagues going through it now. And those are the people that I look to as client-centred coaches who are struggling with the decision that contrasts their livelihood and the quality of the care that they provide. I think that's the most authentic contrast that a coach can have.
And I love seeing people coming to this point and there's probably five to 10 different coaches that I've seen having this discussion out loud and that I've had this discussion with. I think it's such a beautiful thing because I just don't believe that if you are a studied wellness professional, you can continue along the same path with the same thoughts for the entirety of your career. It's that Muhammad Ali quote, I can't remember what numbers he used, but I'm paraphrasing: “If a man thinks the same way at 55 that he did at 35, he's wasted 20 years of his life.”
Karina Inkster: Ha! Yes!
Ren Jones: That’s just, I cannot see not evolving as you take in new information. So I'm honestly kind of wary of some of the coaches that are doing the same thing that they've been doing as more research comes out, as we get more information about the psychology of change, as we understand more about how people are feeling about their bodies, as we understand more about, you know, depression and anxiety and body dysmorphia and all these things. Like I just don't see how you can interact with all that information and come out the same. Something's wrong. When the car goes in the car wash and it comes out dirty there's a problem with the system.
Karina Inkster: Totally agree. Which is also by the way, how the scientific method itself works.
Ren Jones: Exactly.
Karina Inkster: Continuously iterating, building upon itself, changing when new evidence presents itself. I mean, that's why as evidence-based coaches were doing what we do.
Ren Jones: Exactly, I’ve got a theory, you know, I've got a hypothesis. Over time, it's played out. We're gonna try it. I'm gonna take in data. We're gonna come to a conclusion. We're gonna adjust the hypotheses, or support it, based on the data that we get out the other side of this thing. And if what I'm getting outta the other side is that 95% or more of the people that go on a hardcore diet, all-out, end up in the same situation they started in, if not worse, then it behooves me to change the hypotheses.
Karina Inkster: Absolutely.
Ren Jones: Shot ain't working son!
Karina Inkster: Shit ain't working!
Ren Jones: It's just not working, you know? I'm not gonna put you through that. I know I'm not gonna do that. What your other three coaches did, even if you're telling me it worked, because you would not have arrived at this conversation with me, if it worked.
Karina Inkster: Exactly.
Ren Jones: You bought a costume for 30 days!
Karina Inkster: That's such a good way of putting it!
Ren Jones: You know, but I don't sell costumes. I'm gonna turn you into a werewolf for real. That's how we do it.
Karina Inkster: We don't sell costumes. We sell new identities.
Ren Jones: That's what we sell. It's exactly right. I love that. That is a great phrase. I love that. I love that. So, you know, it seems like there's always gonna be bullshit to bust.
Karina Inkster: Which is why we always have you on the show Ren.
Ren Jones: To bust the bullshit!
Karina Inkster: By the way, I don't know if you know, but we are now syndicated on a local radio station as well.
Ren Jones: What? Shut up!
Karina Inkster: So shout out to CJMP in Powell River, which is pretty awesome.
Ren Jones: What’s up CJMP!
Karina Inkster: What's up! So that's kind of cool. Yeah. Like new listeners, and getting some local coverage, which is pretty fun. But it does mean we gotta wrap up though.
Ren Jones: Do they have a quiet storm? I love to be like the quiet storm like, “Welcome to CJMP. This is William Jones all night on your quiet storm, up next Prince, Adore.,
Karina Inkster: Can you be that for my show, dude!?!
Ren Jones: Yeah! Just ask them. I'll slow jam. I'll slow jam the news or whatever they wanna do. Whatever you want me to do.
Karina Inkster: Can you slow jam your own intro for this episode?
Ren Jones: Hey, cats and kittens. Hey, babies and bottoms. This is Ren Jones, and I personal training. Wanna get in better condition and just feel a little funkier, baby? I feel it. You feel it? Let's get the weights. Let's get the shakes. Let's have some protein dates. I'm Ren Jones on the No Bullshit Vegan podcast. You dig it, baby?
Karina Inkster: Oh my god!
Ren Jones: There you go.
Karina Inkster: You're killing me here!
Ren Jones: You’re welcome.
Karina Inkster: You’re killing me!
Ren Jones: You’re welcome.
Karina Inkster: Standing ovation and golf clap at the same time. Amazing. Well as always, thank you so much for coming on the show. Always fantastic to speak with you. Such great analogies. Such great insight. Absolutely love it. Thank you so much.
Ren Jones: Oh man, you’re the best. Thanks for having me. I can't wait to come back already.
Karina Inkster: Ren, thank you so much for coming back to the show. It is always an absolute treat speaking with you. Head to our show notes at nobullshitvegan.com/117 to connect with Ren. And if you haven't yet left a review of this show on your podcasting platform of choice, please do so now as it's the best way to support this show and for new listeners to find it. Thank you so much and see you in our next episode.