Everyday I open up my phone and scroll through instagram. It is my favourite app by far and I just love sharing content and seeing what other bloggers and my friends are up to. Recently though, I have noticed things shift. A few weeks ago I was sat scrolling and post after post was promoting some sort of weight loss aid. There were pills, wraps, shakes, teas and coffees all claiming to help the user lose weight. Now, I am no expert here but that just sounds like total madness, no?
The whole thing got me thinking of the impact social media has on weight loss, staying healthy and our self esteem. We spend hours every day scrolling and looking at pictures of “perfect people” wishing that we looked that way. What we forget is that Instagram is all staged. It is not real life!! Pictures are taken until the perfect shot is done and then edited to no end.
Research from the University of New South Wales and Macquarie University, found that spending as little as half an hour a day on Instagram can make women fixate negatively on their weight and appearance. The study found that the more participants looked at ‘fitspo’ images or compared themselves to celebrities such as Kendall Jenner or Karlie Kloss, the unhappier they felt about their own bodies. In March 2017, the UK’s Royal Society for Public Health found that Instagram was the most damaging social network for mental health, affecting anxiety levels and body satisfaction.
But what had me really concerned was the amount of people selling or buying these crazy weight loss products. It had me totally baffled, I mean there is such a hype around all these products but surely they can’t be healthy? So, I called in an expert to help me figure this all out.
Michael Ulloa is a personal trainer, a AfN certified nutrition coach and all round good guy!! He spends so much time on instagram busting loads of myths around health and fitness that I thought he was the perfect person for the job! So, I asked him 5 questions all about these crazy weight loss products and for his top tips on losing weight and keeping healthy.
So Michael, what are your thoughts on weight loss pills/ skinny teas/ skinny coffee etc?
Unless the question is ‘how do I waste my hard earned money?’ these supplements are never the answer. There is almost no regulation for supplements and weight loss products and it seems that companies are free to market this rubbish in any way that suits their agenda with no regard to how this impacts their customers. These products prey on the general population that are desperate to improve their health but are unsure where to start.
What do they do to your body?
Weight loss pills will make very little difference even if all other aspects of your diet and lifestyle were perfect. They are not a magic cure. If you are consuming too many calories, weight loss pills will not help you lose weight.
Most skinny teas are glorified laxatives. The majority of them contain liquorice root, which has a natural laxative effect. A drink that encourages bowel movements will not help you lose weight and will do nothing but dehydrate your body. As soon as you rehydrate, your weight will be right back to where you started.
Skinny coffee plays on the marketing hype of green tea extract and caffeine. There are a few studies that have hinted at the *marginal* benefit that green tea extract can have on weight loss and caffeine has been proven to have a positive impact on burning fat but, as I mentioned above, if you are consuming too many calories then you will not lose weight. You can drink your hyped-up coffee all day long, but your body needs to be in a calorie deficit. If you consume more calories than you are burning off, that body fat isn’t going anywhere.
So why do people still fall for these products?
Nowadays we are accustomed to instant feedback and instant results. Let’s say you want a takeaway; we have apps that can have any type of food to your door within minutes. If you want a taxi, you can order one on a smartphone within seconds. People want the same quick fix and instant results with their health. They want a product that saves them time and gives them the body they want without the hard work it usually takes to achieve it. Sadly, this product does not exist.
These pills and ‘skinny’ drinks can be packaged into a shiny product, flaunted by your favourite celebrity and then advertised on social media. Sadly, this makes them appear appealing and trustworthy.
The problem with the ‘right’ approach is that it isn’t marketable. If I tell you that you have to knuckle down for months by eating a balanced diet every single day and working your butt off in the gym five times a week, it doesn’t sound as great does it?
What can you do instead to lose weight/ get healthy?
There is no single way to lose weight or to get healthy. The approach you choose should be completely tailored to your needs, your goals and your preferences. You could be given the best exercise plan in the world, but if it contains exercises that you hate, how long are you going to keep at it? The same goes for your diet. I could write you a nutrition plan that guarantees you weight loss if you stick to it. But if that nutrition plan is telling you to eat foods that you hate, you won’t keep it up.
What form of exercise do you enjoy doing? You should do that! If you like Zumba, go join a Zumba class. If you like weight lifting, go lift some weights. If you like hill walking, go find yourself some hills! The activity you choose might not be the fastest route to your fitness goals, but if you enjoy it, you will get the results eventually. The same goes for you diet. Find a way of eating that suits your lifestyle. If you ensure that 90% of the foods you’re eating are ‘real’ foods that nourish your body, this leaves a 10% allowance for the treats you enjoy. If you are still unsure, then ask for help. There are some great coaches out there that will happily offer you some advice.
What is your advice to people struggling with their body image?
Ironically, the fitness industry is a breeding ground for unhealthy habits and a negative body image. Social media plays a large part in this. It sets unrealistic goals and it leaves us comparing the way we look with others. We liken the way we look to fitness models whose jobs it is to stay in great shape. They often have their images photoshopped to the point that they become unrecognisable.
Are you following any accounts that negatively affect your mental health? If the answer is yes, then cut them off. Unfollow and unlike any profiles that do anything other than motivate you and make you feel better.
You need to shift the ‘mental fat’ that is holding you back. The quicker you realise that your body is unique and incredible, the better your life will be. Hating yourself won’t make you feel better about the way you look. Ok, loving yourself won’t necessarily make you healthy, but it sets a strong foundation for moving forward to an active and healthier lifestyle.
I think Michael has totally nailed it. Self-love is so so important, and really is the best place to start before even thinking about making any changes to your body physically. I know myself that there are things I want to change about my body, but I remind myself every time I look in the mirror that my body is a wonderful thing and has got me through all the good and bad times in my life. With that daily reminder I have got myself back in the gym and I am making healthier choices with my diet to make sure my body is at its best so I can enjoy all life has to offer!
If you are looking for some Personal Training then I highly recommend Michael. Even if you aren’t based in Edinburgh, he does online training too! Get in touch with him here – firstname.lastname@example.org
Also, you need to be following him on Instagram for daily fitness tips and some hilarious Instastories!!