Transcript of the No-Bullsh!t Vegan podcast, episode 104
Four Truly F*cked Up Parts of the Fitness Industry with Zoe Peled
Karina Inkster: You're listening to the No-Bullshit Vegan podcast episode 104. Zoe Peled and I discuss four problematic aspects of the fitness industry relating to physique and body image. Get ready for some serious bullshit busting in this episode.
Hey, welcome to the show. I'm Karina, your go-to, No BS, vegan fitness and nutrition coach. If you haven't already checked out our vast and free vegan resources, go to Karinainkster.com/veganresources for immediate access to nine of our best guides and in-depth articles. You can use our vegan protein calculator to find out how much protein you need every day, download our vegan-specific portion guide, read our guides on being vegan in a non-vegan household, eating vegan at restaurants, and much more. So you can get access to all of this for free at karinainkster.com/veganresources.
I'm excited to welcome back to the show my partner in coaching, Zoe Peled. She's a fitness coach with our K.I team and has a particular affinity for kettlebells, strength training, and calling out industry bullshit on the regular, especially if it's about food or what bodies “should” look like.
She recently completed BC's West Coast Trail, which is a 75 kilometre hike, covering more than half of the trail in the first three days. Next up she's training for her first triathlon and a thousand-plus-mile bicycle ride. Zoe does additional work in marketing and community engagement, leads several local activism ventures including Ban Fur Farms BC, and founded the Vancouver Vegan Resource Centre in the fall of 2018. Zoe has been vegan for almost 12 years and an animal rights activist for almost the same duration of time. Zoe also leads a women's self-defense series, one session a month by donation with the proceeds going to a rotating organization or nonprofit. You can sign up for the list via Instagram. Her handle is at @Zoemarg, to receive notifications. You can also head to our show notes at nobullshitvegan.com/104 for the direct link to her Instagram profile.
Zoe's favourite vegan foods in no particular order are Cartems donuts, hummus, avocado, and anything that comes out of her air fryer. Let's get bullshit busting. Hey Zoe, thanks for joining me on the show today.
Zoe Peled: Thank you for having me back and looking forward to dropping some mics again with you.
Karina Inkster: Absolutely, absolutely. I feel like there are going to be many mic drops in this conversation. We're talking about four problematic aspects of body image and/or physique in the fitness industry, AKA:
Zoe Peled: Four things that are fucking up your shit.
Karina Inkster: That’s right! Four things that are fucking up your shit. And by shit, we mean many things like results, sanity, you know, fun, mental health. It's basically an all-encompassing term.
Zoe Peled: Exactly. And may or may not be the most unique and incredible name for a podcast episode ever.
Karina Inkster: Exactly. Well, so we have four things. We've got a lot of pieces under each one of those four things. So let's start with the first one, which we have talked about a little bit before on the show, but it's worth mentioning again, and that is the scale. So Ren Jones was on the show. He's one of my favourite coaches in the world. He's been on the show three times. He's amazing. And so in episode 45, we were talking about the scale and his approach to it. So I kind of want to bring this back because it's been a while and I think it's a really important point that is still problematic honestly, in the industry. So let's just kind of leave it open. Where are you at right now in your thinking on whether or not the scale should be used, whether it's positive, whether it's negative? There's a lot of grey areas here.
Zoe Peled: Well, I can answer that with a few different things. And I guess that the first piece of it, it's not so much that the scale should not be used, it's more so that the scale should not be used on its own. It is one piece. It is one set of numbers that needs to be considered, but it needs to be considered alongside several other sets of numbers and tools that we can use to assess what we're doing and what we're focusing on.
Karina Inkster: Right.
Zoe Peled: And the pressing issue as we have also talked about before is the fact that I would say both within the fitness industry and outside of the industry, we are thrown this barrage of information over and over and over and over again that says the scale is the only tool that we should be using to measure success. And there are these arbitrary guidelines around the fact that if you, if the number on the scale is going up, you were doing poorly, and if that number on the scale is going down, you are doing good and you were having success.
And obviously, that in and of itself is a huge issue because it's a very, very flawed way of looking at the picture. And it just comes down to the fact that, again, it's one piece of the puzzle, but we need to be looking at multiple pieces of the puzzle and whether or not folks should be using it, I think it depends on the person. I think for some people, depending on how they like to look at progress and what numbers mean to them, there are some folks who really appreciate those metrics and there are some people who don't appreciate them. So I won't even say there's an answer across the board for whether or not it should be used, but I would say it needs to be used differently. And we need to broaden our understanding of how it is used.
Karina Inkster: 100%. So many pieces here. I think what you're saying about, you know, there's no one size fits all approach, one of the ways that you can decide whether to even use the scale is your psychological reaction to it. So like Ren Jones was saying, you know, if that relatively arbitrary number dictates the emotional quality of your day, probably not a great idea to be using it as a metric for yourself. So that's one thing that came up when I'm listening to what you're saying.
And the other thing is the problematic thing in the industry is not using the scale. The problematic thing is how it's used and the messaging around it, and exactly what you just said. If it's going down, you're kicking ass. If it's going up, you're doing something wrong. And that first of all is, I mean, it's basically conflating our self-worth with our weight on the scale, which is seriously flawed, but also physiologically for folks who exercise that doesn't make any sense, especially if you're strength training.
Zoe Peled: It is seriously fucking up your shit.
Karina Inkster: It’s fucking up the shit, yes!
Zoe Peled: And you know, I'm glad that you brought up strength training because I know you and I have spoken about this, a lot and we've spoken about it with many clients and the fact that when you are strength training, one of the things that happens in different amounts is that you gain muscle mass. That is one of the things that we're working towards when we’re strength training. So it's not uncommon that when you do a certain volume of strength training or you increase the volume of strength training, you're going to see that number on the scale go up. However, if you step back and do a visual assessment, you might see the body has changed in a way which we may not associate with quote-unquote weight gain. That's a huge issue right there.
Karina Inkster: Exactly. Well, I know that we've both had our own experiences over the past year to year and a half. So I'll let you share yours. But with me, I have been doing more strength training than usual over the last year. I mean, I've been consistent with training for a long time now, I don't know, 18 years or something, but in the last year with the pandemic, workouts have actually been a bonus way to connect with some of my best friends. So we're doing like regular zoom workouts each in our own gym. We live in different cities. So we're online and it's been like a social thing, but also we're doing what's important to us at the same time.
So for multiple reasons, I've increased the number of strength training sessions that I'm doing. And it's been very consistent. I've been doing some crazy little challenges, like with my friend Sylvana, we do 200 kettlebell squats every Saturday. And I think we're in month like 15 or something. Different variations, but it's 200 squats every Saturday. So over this time, I have gained 10 pounds on the scale. So is that all pure muscle? No. I mean, I also have been eating an inordinate amount of chocolate, which I'm a hundred percent cool with, but you know, my clothes fit exactly the same. Nobody's noticed nor should they care really. It's not about what anyone else thinks, but the point is my size is the same. Maybe certain things are fitting a little tiny bit differently, but for 10 pounds, it's like you really can't notice.
So to me that says, hmm, I've been doing my squats, have been super consistent with strength training, gaining some muscle mass. Very cool. That helps me live my life, do what I want to do. And the scale for me is just kind of a metric combined with other things like measurements, photos, how my clothes fit, how I feel, and my strength progress in the gym. This metric is basically saying, hey, you just gained some muscle. Isn't that cool? I have never weighed this much in my life. So part of it is just kinda like, wow, interesting. This is kind of new for me, right? But I'm really trying not to have an emotional connection with this, again, arbitrary number. And I think your experience has been kind of similar.
Zoe Peled: It has. And first and foremost, I'll say I really love how you summarized all of that. And especially what you said at the end because I think in general, and especially during the pandemic, there is this additional rhetoric around how to lose the weight that you gained during the pandemic and how to shed those 10 pounds really quickly, which is perverse on a whole other level, because obviously, we had maybe bigger things to worry about through the pandemic.
Karina Inkster: Yeah, no shit!
Zoe Peled: And still do at this time. And exactly how you just worded it, weight gain is not automatically a negative thing. It can be a very positive thing for some folks or for many folks, exactly how are doing strength training is a feat because it means that you have been putting in an incredible amount of work to put on muscle mass, which you and I both know is very challenging.
My story is pretty similar to yours. I fell in love with kettlebells during the pandemic when everything kind of kicked in at the beginning of last year. Every single store, as we know, was sold out every single kind of workout equipment. And the only thing I could find was a 15 pound that kettlebell at London Drugs. And that kettlebell was the first one and it instigated what has been over a year now of not only consistent kettlebell training, but I would say the most strength training I've done in a year in my entire training history. So I've dabbled with powerlifting for example, but it was definitely not at this bar and this frequency. So I've spent the past year doing a lot of kettlebell work, specifically a lot of lower-body kettlebell work and kettlebell swings because I love them.
And as a result over the past year, I’ve gained about five pounds. And I’d love to say, I mean, I theorize it's also factual, that is about two and a half pounds per thigh because you know, we know that when we're looking at the major muscle groups in action of swings, that's where they are. And when I look at myself visually my body has also changed. However, it's not in a way as mentioned that we would associate with weight gain. And I think this is the consistent piece between us and the thing, one of the things that we need to call out is that when we talk about weight gain, that doesn't look a certain way. You can't say that gain weight for all bodies means that your body will then look like this.
Karina Inkster: Right.
Zoe Peled: I think it's going to depend upon your body, what you've been doing, your genes, and most importantly, what kind of mass you’ve gained.
Karina Inkster: Exactly. Yup. So it's this whole concept of context that is rarely taken into account when we're looking at really simple messaging on social media when we're looking at ads, when we're looking at magazine articles. Very often, this “it depends” grey area kind of mindset is not considered. It's either yup use the scale or the scale is bullshit. Neither of which is accurate.
Zoe Peled: Well and you know as well as I do in many regards that the fitness and the athletic industries love to make bold statements specifically about certain body types. So things like weight gain looks like this. Weight loss looks like this. A strong body looks like this, and the like. And when it comes down to it, those are all problematic for the same reason, because it's completely omitting the fact that there are about a million different factors behind each individual, which will influence all those considerations.
Karina Inkster: This was a very excellent segue into our second point, which is: blank is the new blank, or, you know, a woman's body looks like this. Man's body looks like this. There's no indication at all of gender neutrality you know, and what you're saying is basically, I mean, it's kind of fallen out of fashion now. I think a few years ago, we've had like strong is the new skinny, or what have you. But I think the concept that you just brought up is this point that's problematic in the fitness industry, which is, this is how a body that does X, Y, and Z should look, right? And that is just so fucked up in so many ways. I don't even know where to start.
Zoe Peled: I mean, it is fucked up. And the fact, I mean, as you said, this is shifting a little bit because there are the number of voices within the fitness and athletic communities that are calling out involved in some of these issues that number of voices is growing.
Karina Inkster: True. Very true.
Zoe Peled: So I'm happy to see some more critical dialogue happening. But I think when it comes down to it, I think one of the reasons behind a lot of those statements is marketing and how they relate to marketing and advertising. Because if you are setting up a statement and you're pushing on the statement from your business along the lines of, this is how to get an ideal woman's body for example - let’s unpack the seventeen different things wrong with that statement! So if you’re pushing that out and your ad runs alongside that, you can then target your services specifically towards the demographic, which will be impacted by that statement.
And you would put money down that there are people, there are women who are going to look at that statement and the reaction is, well, my body does not look like that. Therefore, I need to spend money on this particular service and work my ass off to get my body to that point, which is hugely flawed because as we've said about 5 times during this discussion already, not all bodies are built the same. And it's a falsity to tell any particular group of human beings that they can all achieve the same points and results with their bodies.
Karina Inkster: Exactly. Which links to another one of our four things that we're going to talk about, which is progress photos. But I want to go back to this whole concept of like, I feel like maybe this was five to eight years ago when “strong is the new skinny” was kind of in, I feel like some of that was moving in the right direction and trying to move away from just being smaller for women. But it's still dictating what a female body “should” look like. And it's still saying strength is what you should be striving for. And this is like, you know, if you're not working towards this, you're less than.
Zoe Peled: And that's it. It's still saying X is good and Y is bad. And with a statement like “strong is the new skinny” well strength is something that we define in many different ways for many different people and many different types of bodies. And if you look at someone who's skinny or perhaps leaner or a smaller human being, that individual can be strong.
Karina Inkster: Mmhm! Absolutely!
Zoe Peled: So the fact that we're setting up this dynamic where it's one or the other, and this type of body cannot be this, is not accurate.
Karina Inkster: Well not to mention that the imaging that goes or went around with these statements were all like ripped and lean eight-packed women doing like CrossFit or pull-ups. You know, it was not the 200-pound shot-put athlete or the powerlifter, or who knows what else of the millions of body types out there. So it was still kind of going with the, yeah, but you don't want too much muscle. Oh and you want ripped abs by the way, that's very important. And it's still dictating this one image of what strong even is.
Zoe Peled: Mmhm! This is how you look “strong”.
Karina Inkster: Yes. And I mean that could be applied to anything. This is how you look X, Y, and Z. That's a problem.
Zoe Peled: I mean be strong, but make sure that you still look really lean, and really tight.
Karina Inkster: Yup!
Zoe Peled: Because if you don’t, you haven't achieved the aesthetically perfect level of strong that we all know you should be aspiring to.
Karina Inkster: Which is one of the reasons we don't train clients for physique competitions. I mean, that's a whole other discussion, but it's still entirely aesthetics-based. It's not very inclusive, honestly. It's very sexualized. And it's basically saying here's this ideal that people are striving for. There's a lot wrong with that.
Zoe Peled: Tons! Tons and tons and tons, and something else I for one, and obviously, you know, we could dive into this for several hours is, there's a lot of automatic dialogue around, you know, what a healthy body it looks like and what an unhealthy looks like. And a lot of the time, the markers there are quote-unquote healthy bodies are maybe smaller bodies and more lean bodies. And if you are an individual who has a larger body, you weren't inherently unhealthy. And as we know that right there is a whole pile of bullshit because there's no human being on the planet that can look at another human being and make a statement around whether or not they are healthy based purely on their aesthetic. 100%.
Karina Inkster: 100%. It reminds me of a story. I don't remember the details, but I was reading it through John Goodman of the Personal Trainer Development Centre. He's been on the show too. He's amazing. And it was something in one of his either articles or courses that I was taking and it was basically just this exact concept of, you know, he knew someone who was training in a gym, kind of like how I used to work, you know, where there's multiple trainers, all training their clients in the same space. They're each running their own business. And there was this one trainer who was constantly drinking, like sodas and Gatorade. And people were like, what is with this dude? Like, he's just, you know, he's not particularly ripped. He's drinking all these crazy drinks in front of his clients. What the hell?
And, you know, nobody really said anything. They're just like, okay, well, I guess he's doing his thing, whatever. Turns out the dude was going through chemo. And so, you know, this is one of the ways that he was trying to keep up his calories or stave off nausea, or who knows what else, entirely legitimate reason to be doing what he was doing. And it just illustrated that you really can't judge folks, even by what they're doing, not just how they look, but also their actions, if you don't know the background.
Zoe Peled: And we can see a human from one perspective, but we can't see about a million other things that are going on at the current time and about a million other things that have happened before.
Karina Inkster: Right!
Zoe Peled: I mean, that's something that you and I are obviously hyper-aware of as coaches because what we do with our clients, you know, there is a piece around movement in training and there's a piece around nutrition, but there's also a major piece around the fact that these are all human beings we're working with, who are all unique individuals, who are all navigating that huge, huge range of experiences and things happening in life at any given time. And taking those factors into consideration and being aware of that at all times are just as important as what we're programming, you know when we put together a workout.
Karina Inkster: Oh a hundred percent! Once again, it comes down to the background and context. And I think all of the points we're talking about today are basically just saying, yeah, you're not taking context into account. So let's talk about point number three because context here is going to be huge as well. So this is the one that I've spent the most time thinking about because I actually made a decision about this in our business in the last week. So it's like really fresh in my brain right now. And that is progress photos. So again, kind of like the scale, it's not something that I feel is either completely bad or completely positive. I just feel like the way in which they are used 99.9% of the time in the fitness industry is problematic and it's fucking up your shit!
Zoe Peled: It’s fucking up your shit! It’s fucking up your shit big time!
Karina Inkster: I mean, we can talk about this because we do progress photos with our clients. So it's not like we don't use them, but we did make the decision recently to not have “before and after” photos. And I use quotes around “before and after,” cause it's never really before, and it's never really after, but anyway, we're not using comparison photos on our website anymore because we actually used to have a gallery of them on our kudos/testimonials page.
But we have recently gotten rid of them for many reasons. And so I was thinking of four cons of progress photos and two pros. So there still are pros. I'm not saying, you know, they're inherently negative, but the four negatives that I do have, that's how they're mostly used and interpreted. And that's where the problems lie. So, okay. First of all, you already mentioned this. You already mentioned this in another point, which is comparison. So you were saying like, you know, when we see things in the media or on social media, the immediate reaction is, oh, well, my body doesn't look like that. I guess I'm going to have to do this program so that I look like this, right?
So inherently, there's going to be some level of comparison. Like, oh wow, this person got that result in 12 weeks. What am I doing wrong? My results don't look like that. Not to mention they also normalize a certain pace of seeing results. So if you're not getting those results in 16 weeks or whatever -
Zoe Peled: Yes!
Karina Inkster: That's a problem. I think that could be very demoralizing actually for a lot of folks.
Zoe Peled: Yeah. And I also think, I mean, perhaps this is one of your other points, so pardon me if I'm jumping ahead, but I think something that is related to that one is also, they present the not accurate concept that progress is perfectly linear. So since this is going to be audio and visual, for folks who are listening, basically I'm drawing a straight line from one edge of the screen to the other and it's going up. So before and after photos kind of play into that trajectory, that is a straight line. Whereas progress is not defined by things moving on one particular path or trajectory because there's no arbitrary start and endpoint. So it's more realistic instead of that straight line that going off in one direction, perhaps there's going to be some ebbs and flows and some up and some down.
And the fact that all of that is happening doesn't mean that you hit progress, you hit success rather, and then you're failing. It just means that it's realistic that there are going to be fluctuations and that trajectory is going to change and it's going to shift. And when it does, that does not mean that you have failed, nor does it mean that you are not still progressing. It's just looking a little bit different.
Karina Inkster: Oh, that's so well put. You know what's funny is that that was not one of my cons, so this is a bonus one.
Zoe Peled: ok, number five!
Karina Inkster: But it was our fourth thing that was fucked up about the fitness industry though. So you tied it in.
Zoe Peled: Yeah. I jumped ahead a little bit.
Karina Inkster: Which is very impressive. But you know, I feel like we can go back to that linear thing because it goes along with how results are presented at all. So yeah, that's a really good point. Let’s go back to that and, and that kind of visual representation of it. But yeah, you're absolutely right. Again, it doesn't take context into account because you're seeing the, you know, so-called before and the so-called after and nothing in between. So excellent point. I feel like it's kind of limited in the type of progress that they show. So that's one thing is it's really just, oh, well this person looks different.
Okay. But what else is going on? Like, is that enough? You know, does it matter? Does that person care? Are they stronger? Do they feel good? Is that what they wanted? I mean, there are so many questions here. It's very limiting and when folks come to us as potential new clients, like folks who are doing their audition calls, they haven't even signed up yet. They're seeing we’re a good fit. One of the things I really like most is hearing folks say, hey, I chose your website because you're not leading with vanity metrics or aesthetic metric metrics. And I'm like, yes, that is exactly what we're going for. I mean, hey, we all want to look great. That's just human nature. Totally fine. But do we need to make that our main selling point? The main reason for training? The main benefit of exercise? I don't think that's gonna lead to long-term anything. Habit change -
Zoe Peled: Fat loss, happiness, and also there is no, again, we're coming back to a common theme throughout this discussion, but looking good or looking great or fit, that means something different to every single person. So I would say that there is maybe like a conventional stereotypical concept around that. And that idea is perfectly shown in something like physique competition.
Karina Inkster: Exactly. Right.
Zoe Peled: Because those bodies are framed as super thin and super cut and super lean. However, a lot of folks, by the time they get to that competition day, because of the way they've been preparing, their performance has some very compromised. So could that body walk over and do, you know, a 200 plus pound deadlift? So what you said about the fact that again, we can look and sure, this is one piece of the puzzle, but again, is this telling us what this individual has achieved in strength training? How's their deadlift progressed? Can we look at a before and after picture and answer that question? No, we definitely cannot.
Karina Inkster: That is huge. And you're absolutely right. Often those athletes are at their weakest when they're standing on stage, which makes sense. I mean, they've essentially been starving themselves for weeks on end.
Zoe Peled: And I really appreciate, I mean, I know that this is a subject that you've spoken about for many years, you know, on podcasts and in the articles and the like, and I really appreciate it because though I think it is shifting a little bit, physique competitions still remain, you know, one of the major markers of success when it comes to training. And if you can get your body to this place, and if you can have that discipline and the restraint, then you are at the holy grail of strength success which is, I mean let’s talk about how that fucks your shit up honestly, you know?
Karina Inkster: Let's talk about that steaming pile of bullshit right there. Oh, absolutely. I think we should do a whole series of how the fitness industry is fucking up your shit.
Zoe Peled: I think it's a fantastic idea. And here’s episode 1 done!
Karina Inkster: There you go. There you go. I have two more cons to these progress photos. So one is kind of along the same lines as they're limited in the type of progress they show in that they're making health seem secondary, right? Like, yeah, physiques are first or aesthetics are first. And by doing that, they are actually conflating size with health, which is something that you mentioned when we were talking about the scale and weight gain and what that means and how it can look. And so that is just not accurate and all, and it's just feeding into the bullshit that already exists about size, especially when it comes to females and the BS we are fed on a daily basis from various media sources. And so they're just normalizing something that's already happening that is problematic in my view, which is focusing on aesthetics first.
Zoe Peled: And assuming within that, also assuming that everyone who is working out, tanning, doing movement, doing strength training, is wanting to have the same results in terms of aesthetic when they look at those photos. And for the majority, of course not for all, it's that the before is going to look a certain way and then the after is going to look quote-unquote, better or not.
Karina Inkster: Right.
Zoe Peled: And you know again, fucking up your shit! Because what about folks who come to strength training specifically because they want to gain mass and build muscle? Their both before and after photos are going to look very different. There might be some folks to be before and after photos and because of how they’re training there is no difference. Does that mean that they have failed? Definitely not.
Karina Inkster: Absolutely. That's a great point. Again, going back to the very limited nature of what they're showing when it comes to the type of progress they're showing.
Zoe Peled: Yes.
Karina Inkster: And the last piece is man, fake photos are everywhere.
Zoe Peled: Everywhere!
Karina Inkster: Everywhere! Our listeners are probably seen - these are actually becoming more popular and I’m happy about it - so fitness professionals posting on Instagram the so-called before and after photos that they took like 60 seconds apart.
Zoe Peled: Yes!
Karina Inkster: Just to show that lighting, drinking, water, flexing or not, posture, all of these things can influence how these photos look. And look, not all progress photos are fake, but the fact that there are so many fake ones, or edited, whatever photoshopped, doctored ones, I think it just kind of almost blinds people. You know, once you've seen too many fake photos, you're like, oh yeah, whatever that again, you know?
Zoe Peled: And also clothing or lack thereof, because what we’re wearing and how it fits, that can obviously lift certain parts of our bodies. It can change certain parts of our bodies as well. So that's also a piece that is used very very strategically, but also bodies and ultimately proportions.
Karina Inkster: Oh, absolutely! Yup. So all that said, there are some reasons why we still use them with our own clients in our business. One of them is it's pretty useful data.
Zoe Peled: Yes it is.
Karina Inkster: Like we talked about when we were discussing what happened with our own strength training, respectively, over the last year or so, yeah they're a piece of the puzzle. If you're doing photos, measurements, and weighing yourself, that's a pretty decent set of information there, pretty decent set of data you can use to extrapolate oh hey, I gained some muscle or, oh hey, I lost some fat, whatever the case may be. So that's useful.
Zoe Peled: Yes.
Karina Inkster: And also for some folks, this is again, not a one size fits all, not everybody, but for some folks, they do build confidence and motivation. So just so our listeners know where we're at, we do get all of our new clients to do their first set of photos, but there is then no rule that says they have to ever do their photos ever again. We get them kind of just in case because sometimes people change their feelings about photos or they're like, oh, I wish I did them two months ago or what have you.
So we get them. We don't share them, Again now they're not even on our website anymore. They're basically just for the client. And you know, we're not a coaching system that says, oh you gotta take your progress photos every week, upload them here. Or even every month, like there's no rule. I would say every month is probably the most that I would do progress photos, the least amount of between progress photos. But you know, we want to make sure that our clients have the option if they want, which is why we get the first set, but then, you know, it's pretty much up to them.
Zoe Peled: Yes. And I would say something important to keep in mind that kind of mirrors what we said about the scale is when we went and talked about the fact that there are many problematic components to it, one thing that's also very pertinent is it comes down to the person. So if you genuinely like taking the photos and taking those photos is going to be a tool for you to stay motivated and you enjoy seeing results in that visual way, by all means, you know, proceed. But again, it's when you get into the space of you have to do this, you have to do this this often, if you don't look like this fail, that’s a problem.
Karina Inkster: Exactly. And I mean you know this, our listeners probably don't though, when we get a lot of new clients they're coming from other coaching situations. Not always, but very often they are. So either it was a coach who didn't understand veganism and they want to go vegan, or they just didn't have a good connection, or what have you. But I can't tell you how many times there have been new clients who said, oh yeah, I had to do weekly progress photos for my previous coach. And it is always such a red flag when this is a mandatory component of someone's program.
Zoe Peled: And what it says to me - and obviously this statement, it's not a hundred percent accurate in that I cannot have an idea of what that full coaching program looked like with those folks - but to me, one of the main worries that comes up is also if you're doing progress photos every week for quote-unquote mandatory progress photos, does that indicate all of those very other important pieces of the puzzle are not being equally considered?
Karina Inkster: Oooh! That’s a good point!
Zoe Peled: Does that mean that if we're doing weekly progress photos, we're not doing weekly check-ins on all those other points? Because if that's the case, that's also very problematic.
Karina Inkster: Hey that's a really good point. I never actually really thought about it that way. I just always like, the red flag always went up with Oh! Weekly progress photos! Holy Shit! But I never really thought well, what is that replacing potentially, right? What does that mean you're then not tracking? That’s a really good point.
Zoe Peled: And something, you know, just so we do have another pro to add to the list, I do really like that for some folks who are maybe coming from another coaching situation or just another space in general, where they were exposed to this rhetoric around scale being the only marker of success measurement, I like that for folks who may have a strong, perhaps negative response to something like a weight gain, you can then say, okay, you know, I acknowledge where this response from. I'd like you to pause. Let's just move over to the visual and observe some of the differences that you can really see and how that opportunity can then share the way they think about that weight gain because it's presented in a different way than what the scale may have indicated.
Karina Inkster: Genius Zoe, genius. That’s such a good point. And like you said before, not all comparison photos are going to look different, but let's say there's a client who has experienced some weight gain. It's usually a female because of the bullshit we've been taught about weight gain. They're freaking out. Look, if there's no visual difference, you have more than likely gained muscle.
Zoe Peled: Muscle! Yes!
Karina Inkster: You're just now more dense and you have more muscle. The best sense of the word dense, of course. So that's a really great point is that you can use them to mitigate some of this other bullshit that's in the fitness industry.
Zoe Peled: Exactly, exactly.
Karina Inkster: So good!
Zoe Peled: And like I would say for women, especially, because if you think about, you know, pre “strong's the new skinny,” it was all cardio, cardio, cardio, cardio primarily, women need to do cardio cardio cardio! So if you're doing that, obviously the majority of the time, yes, you're going to be losing weight. And there is this perception around strength training for women in that you will gain weight and you will become super-duper muscly. So within that problematic rhetoric in the industry, there was really no piece a couple of years ago, which talked about weight and in relation to strength training, and perhaps it being a positive, because so much of the messaging towards women was around, you know, intense cardio.
Karina Inkster: That's also a great point, which is still why a lot of folks use cardio as a main, ‘making myself smaller,” tool if that's what they want. And there's nothing inherently wrong with that, but it is leaving out a lot of other factors.
Zoe Peled: Tons of other factors. And it's demonizing strength training!
Karina Inkster: Oh that’s true, yup!
Zoe Peled: Because it’s framing strength training as something that is going to do X to your body, and then X is going to be detrimental. Whereas again, it's going to do something different to everyone's bodies based on what you want to achieve from it.
Karina Inkster: Exactly. So can you talk for a sec about how we as coaches respond to our clients’ progress photos? So it's usually the client who decides that they want to do progress photos. We just kind of see them pop up in our feed. We’re like, oh cool! So and so has photos. Very cool. It's not like something that we assign to a client. So that way it's very client centred. They're just like, yep! I feel like doing this now. So what do we as coaches then do? Or how do we respond, for example, when we see like a big difference in those photos?
Zoe Peled: Right. So I will answer that question by saying that we don't respond, right? So this would be any statements like, wow, your waist is looking super trim, or you are getting super lean or super buff, or check out how tight your stomach is. And on the flip side of that, we use statements around, you know, you're looking really, really strong. Again, it comes down to the fact that when we look at progress photos, not everyone whose photos we're looking at will fit into that first style of comment. It’s based on their bodies and it's based on what they want to achieve. So I would also say that how we respond is, also based on what particular areas of focus that person is navigating at that time.
Karina Inkster: Oh that’s such a great point!
Zoe Peled: You know, it might be leaning out and if you want to lean out and adjust body composition, that's fine. But maybe you want to be gaining muscle mass. So maybe there's, you know, a comment around the fact that like your legs are looking really awesome and really strong, I mean if you've been focusing on growing those muscles.
Karina Inkster: Well, that's a really good point because we have the inside scoop here. We're not just looking at arbitrary people. Like we know what each person is working on. We know what their goals are. We know the challenges between their progress photos. So that's a really good point. And I think a lot of times it's also statements like, wow, this really exemplifies, or it shows the consistent workouts you've been doing for the past however many months. Like we kind of turn it around into the actions they took to get there versus how it ended up looking.
Zoe Peled: And I think that also creates a safer space in general because whenever you're making a comment about someone's body, you don't know how it will be received and what that comment will mean for them. The reason that we move away from saying more specific things like your waste is looking super small, or your arms are looking really jacked, well maybe for that person having quote-unquote jacked arms, it's not what they want and it's going to impact them really negatively.
Karina Inkster: You know, this reminds me just this morning I saw a post by a mutual friend of ours who essentially said, think about how your comments on someone else's body are going to affect that person. So this person has become quite a bit smaller over the last year. And a lot of people are noticing and you know, they mean well, I understand that, but the way that it's perceived by this person that we both know, is not always positive because there's a background of you know, eating disorder adjacent behaviour, and just things that are not really on the radar for most folks who say, oh you're looking awesome! Like the context again. And this person was saying like at one point when they were getting the most comments about their physique was when they were the sickest with a debilitating condition. I mean, what does that tell you?
Zoe Peled: Well, and I mean this comes up time and time and time again. And for some reason, you know, people around us, and I would even say people we don't know, strangers, feel it is appropriate to make comments. And still, the majority of the time, if you are someone whose body has become visibly smaller, that is, you know, touted as success and if it's the opposite, you usually don't get the same response. And as we both know, the body can become smaller for many different reasons, including movement and exercise, and nutrition, but it can also become smaller for a myriad of other things. And that same thing goes for your body becoming bigger. So when it comes down to it, if you don't have the context, if you don't have the details, you are not a person who should be commenting.
Karina Inkster: Exactly. And look, even then, we, as coaches do know the details and we still don’t comment!
Zoe Peled: And we still don’t, yup! And something that we do with photos and in general is also asking that individual, how do you feel about it?
Karina Inkster: What a concept!
Zoe Peled: Mind-blowing! How do you feel about it? What stands out for you? What do you feel best about what's happening here? Because that also may be a different answer than perhaps what stands out to us.
Karina Inkster: This also reminds me of a friend of mine who was a coach that I trained with at the same gym, who had quite a drastic reduction in body size, and people were commenting and saying, oh my God, what did you do? And she said, I just went through an extremely traumatic divorce. Like really, you're opening a can of worms here.
Zoe Peled: Yup. Case in point.
Karina Inkster: Yeah right? Case in point. Well, okay. So let's go back to this progress is linear thing for a sec, before we finish up. I feel like there were a couple more points here. So one aspect that you brought up was, you know, something like progress photos gives you the impression that progress is always going to be this perfectly angled, straight upward line with no valleys, no peaks, which is not how it works. And I feel like there's a lot here that is actually holding people back from getting results, like the all-or-nothing kind of mindset, where if you're not a hundred percent at all times, you might as well not do anything at all. I feel like that's actually keeping people back from getting results.
Zoe Peled: I agree with you. And I also think that this whole you know, false notion or project progress being a line of perfect trajectory also ties into the fact that we see a lot of these statements in industry, which we do not use, such as falling off the wagon.
Karina Inkster: Oh right.
Zoe Peled: You know what’s the wagon? Who defines the wagon?
Karina Inkster: Good point!
Zoe Peled: And you know, the reality is that working out and movement is one part of our lives and there are going to be things that come up that are predictable and there are going to be things that come up that are not predictable. And if you need to shift what that trajectory looks like, you have not fallen off anything.
Karina Inkster: Well there wasn't a wagon in the first place, but absolutely.
Zoe Peled: Exactly! But it's the fact that the minute you pause, or maybe the minute you stop for an extended period of time, you're done, you're complete, you're off the wagon, you’re back to square one. And that can be really harmful and really detrimental to a lot of people. You know, mostly because if they do have something occur in their life that causes them to need to slow down or pause, chances are they need to be thinking about that and giving more energy to that, as opposed to having all of this shame around the fact that well if you're not exercising as much, you're fucking up your shit.
Karina Inkster: Yeah, exactly. Look, when I had my longest streak of not exercising, I had a fucking anxiety breakdown and didn't get out of bed for three weeks. Like that was fucking up my shit enough. I didn't also need the added guilt of, oh holy shit! I haven't done anything other than lay in bed for three weeks, never mind go to my gym and work out. So yeah, I feel like often there are these things that happen that we can't predict many times that are completely legitimate reasons, not that you even really need a legitimate reason, but they are legitimate reasons, to not have working out and perfect nutrition, and whatever else, like as one of your top three priorities. So I think in general, barring life things happening, which will, if folks can think about being like maybe 80% whatever on point means, 80% on point to what you want to do with your goals but a hundred percent of the time, that's going to get you better results than trying to be a hundred percent, cause it's only going to last 10% of the time.
Zoe Peled: I would say we could even look at nutrition the same way. And again, this conversation can come up in another episode of how the industry is fucking up your shit. There is, you know, an abundance of guilt and shame around food and around certain foods. So let's say that one day we eat an abundance of treat foods. We eat, you know, more treat foods in that 24 hours than we have the very, very long time.
That is not a failure. If you are someone who is perhaps focusing on refining some of your nutritional areas of focus, the fact that you have that day doesn't mean that all of the work and energy, and attention you have to put in previously, is negated. It just means that that nutrition trajectory shifted a little bit, and then you shift back in the other direction and it will be fine. If you were doing that seven days a week, that would be a different dialogue, but it's this whole illusion of you do X, then that you know, every single thing that came before is obliterated and not worth considering.
Karina Inkster: If you do X, you have officially fucked up your shit.
Zoe Peled: Exactly.
Karina Inkster: Well I mean, I would say that's one of the reasons we get our clients to look at their week on average when it comes to nutrition specifically. I actually feel that's more useful than looking at each day. So I mean, yeah, like you said, if you're doing a major treat fast seven days a week for a month, and it's not in line with your goals, yeah that'll have an effect. But if you have one day, look at your whole week. This is why we get averages of things. And we can look at the data and be like, well, you know what, actually, this one day didn't up fuck up your shit. That's good news for you.
Zoe Peled: Exactly, exactly. And also this, the fact, we have said this before, and I would love to say it again because I think it needs to be repeated as much as possible, you do not need to repent for eating treat foods. So if you eat a small volume of treat foods, if you eat a large volume of treat foods, you do not need to then, you know, have five workouts the next day, or 10 workouts because you need to repent that quote-unquote sin. That is a dialogue that is perpetuated by the fitness industry.
Karina Inkster: Absolutely. In so many ways.
Zoe Peled: So many ways, so many ways.
Karina Inkster: Okay well, there's like episode 62 of how the fitness industry is fucking up your shit! Seriously! Well, why don't we leave it there for episode one of how the industry is fucking up your shit? How many times have we said fuck and shit? It’s actually pretty excellent.
Zoe Peled: Excellent. I am really looking forward to listening to this because I feel there’s going to be an abundance of profanation.
Karina Inkster: Oh yeah! I’m going to have like two little clickers one in each hand, haha.
Zoe Peled: Let's set a new record with every single episode.
Karina Inkster: Oh I am down. I am so down. Yeah. I'm open to that challenge for sure. Well Zoe, as always, it was great speaking with you. Thank you so much for coming on the show and I'm looking forward to episode two.
Zoe Peled: Looking forward to episode two of Fucking Up Your Shit.
Karina Inkster: Zoe, you're the best. Thank you again for speaking with me. Check out our show notes at nobullshitvegan.com/104 to connect with Zoe, and don't forget to scope out our awesome vegan resources at karinainkster.com/veganresources.