With the advent and ever increasing usage of social media over the past two decades, the ability of an individual to market themself has never been more prevalent. This fact has been quite clearly demonstrated by the relatively recent surge of social media influencers. However, the concept of influencer marketing has existed long before the internet, whether it be endorsements from actors, professional athletes, or even political figures. With their notoriety comes the ability to influence the buying decisions of those who comprise their audience (hence the name). Unfortunately, more often than not, such individuals use their platform for dishonest monetary gain. This article will specifically address fitness influencers and how to assess the validity of their advice.
Is their livelihood involved? Someone whose income is largely or entirely dependent on their online presence has an incentive to embellish facts or be unreservedly deceptive. For example, a person may reference the results of a half-baked study to support their product, program, or philosophy while purposely avoiding the discussion of how the study was conducted and what makes it a reliable source of information. In another example, a person may use performance enhancing drugs and work very hard to achieve an impressive physique. They may then release a product or a program that is effective, but otherwise standard, and showcase their own results as testimony while intentionally neglecting to mention their steroid use, or even deny it outright. Both scenarios are quite common and give good reason to be skeptical of those online who claim to have the magic pill.
What are they promoting or selling? Is what they are promoting contrary to proven nutrition and exercise guidance? The basics are not a secret, nor are they extraordinary, but they are effective; lift weights, do cardio, eat fruits and vegetables, eat plenty of protein, drink plenty of water, and avoid processed sugars. There’s room to explore the details, but anyone who tells you that cardio will kill your gains, or that you should not lift heavy, or that you should eat only meat, or that seed oils are poison is selling you scat on a platter.
Is it too good to be true? Have realistic expectations. Is this person trying to convey, directly or indirectly, that you will see astronomical results in an astonishingly small amount of time? Are they claiming to have the shortcut to success? Are they promoting a long-lost lifestyle philosophy? These tropes are often used to catch the eyes of potential buyers, and even more nefarious, they are often mixed with seeds of truth to make them appear more legitimate.
These points are not to say that everyone who shares fitness advice or has a product to sell online is dishonest. In fact, there are some pretty incredible sources of reliable fitness information online. However, scams are all too common and, quite frankly, I’m tired of seeing the waters muddied by misinformation. It makes it even more difficult for new individuals to take control of their health and it makes those who are experienced question proven fundamentals. It is healthy and increasingly necessary to be inquisitive and a little skeptical. If you stick to the basics consistently, you will be successful!