Shakeo-ing My Head

Today’s dietitian rant is brought to you by the hashtag #shakeo.  New Year’s resolutions have brought out all the crazy cleanses, diets and challenges and less than 2 weeks into 2017, I’m fed up. One of my favorite dietitian bloggers, Abby Langer, has a ton of really thorough reviews on popular diets, and today I’m sharing my own rant about the one that is currently grinding my gears: BeachBody, which is the overarching company including Shakeology and The 21-Day Fix. 

Now to clarify, I’m not knocking people who do use Shakeology, or any other diet for that matter.  My intention is to shed some light on these diets and help people see there is a better way. Food, nutrition and weight issues can be complicated and frustrating.  It’s overwhelming and those endless tweets and Facebook messages about challenges and “beach bodies” can start to look like a good way to “fix” all your problems.  But–they’re not and let me tell you why.  Even if you’ve heard this before, it’s worth mentioning again that diets don’t work. 

I’m proud to be an anti-diet dietitian who works with clients to foster positive relationships with food.  As such, I have major issues with people, products and companies that create and promote a diet mentality.   While “healthy” is a relative term that even I find myself struggling with, I can tell you that #shakeo (or any other diet/product) is not going to make you a healthier or happier person.  

So let’s pick this thing apart a little bit, shall we? For the sake of positivity, I’ll start by saying that Shakeology products aren’t all that bad. The ingredient lists are decent, though largely unnecessary.  The shakes are made up of protein powder, some powdered fruits and veggies, “superfoods” (like chia, spirulina, etc), enzymes and a combination of sugars, Stevia and other “natural” sweeteners. Despite an innocent enough ingredient list, I’m not a fan of deceiving people and creating a diet mentality. When we look deeper into Team Beachbody, here’s what we’ll find:

quick and easy fixes

Changing habits that are developed over the years takes a lot of self-care and time. As in, longer than 21 days. And I’ll let you in on a secret–you already hold the key to getting a “beach body”, no diet or exercise changes needed.  You have a body (check, halfway there!), now find a beach and BAM! Beach body.  

before-and-after photos

The idea of luring people in with pre and post pics and promising similar results is absurd and enraging. My friend Cara has an awesome post on before-and-after photos, with the takeaway being that these types of pictures do not tell a whole story. Before and after shots can be sexy and exciting, but if you could dig deeper, you might find disordered eating habits, edited/photoshopped images and much more going on.  Not to mention that after pictures rarely remain the “after”.  Research shows that dieters are likely to regain the weight they lost and more. These pictures are simply a sales tactic that create unrealistic expectations.

judgement, comparison and shame 

These things are fueled by things like before-and-after photos and seeing other people’s “testimonials” or (potentially fabricated) results from the program. Participants start to wonder what they are doing “wrong” if they’re not achieving the same weight loss/changes in physique as their coach or another challenge participant did.  Judgement, comparison and shame have no place in health and wellness. It is impossible to promise results from a program, even if someone adheres perfectly to its guidelines.  

judgement-comparison-and-shame-have-no-place-in-health-and-wellness

Unqualified “coaches”

Any and everyone can be a BeachBody coach, as long as you sign up for their “training”, pay $39.95 to start and then a monthly fee after that, plus work within their structure to sell products or get people to sign up to become coaches themselves. Apparently there are hundreds of thousands of coaches out there, which I guess is why I see that damn hashtag everywhere. In my opinion, paying some money and achieving your own “success” with a restrictive diet plan does not qualify someone to be a health coach. I’m embarrassed to say that my internet searches revealed that some of these coaches are Registered Dietitians. My hope is that RD or not, BeachBody coaches have good intentions and firmly believe in what they are doing. My fear is that most are jumping on a bandwagon and looking for a way to make extra money. When considering hiring a health coach, personal trainer or dietitian, do your homework and look for someone who has a degree and credentials to support their work.

It’s sneaky as heck

The Team BeachBody website boasts the tagline “a community for fit and healthy living”.  I’m going to go ahead and declare that it’s doing quite the opposite. Masquerading as an encouraging community that will help you reach your goals, these companies are actually only working to take your money.  Hello, multi-level marketing!  

The health and nutrition claims are just as sneaky and all statements contain an asterisk note that they have not been evaluated by the FDA. At less than 200 calories each, the shakes are technically “dietary supplements” although they are definitely marketed to consumers as meal replacements.  Somewhere in the fine print, Shakeology does clarify that their products are designed to “supplement” a healthy diet and therefore should be prepared with liquids, fruit and other ingredients to create a true meal.  AMEN to that! At least they are acknowledging it, but in my opinion it should be made more clear to the consumer.

To clarify, I think smoothies and shakes can be great options as a meal or a snack.  If you feel like drinking your food instead of eating it, that’s okay by me, but I’d recommend a smoothie made from real food ingredients…not pulverized, powdered, processed versions of them. A smoothie made with fresh or frozen fruit, leafy greens, milk or water and some other additions can be super nutritious and wayyyy less expensive than Shakeology. 

conclusion

BeachBody is a business and a marketing scheme that takes advantage of people who are looking to make healthy changes in their lives. Shakeology isn’t inherently a dangerous or “unhealthy” product, but it’s also not a sustainable solution to achieving health. If you’re ready to ditch dieting and start creating a more positive and loving approach to food, I’m here. So are many other anti-diet, body-positive dietitians and health coaches.  We can’t promise it will be easy or quick, but it will be worth it to move beyond restriction, guilt and shame to a happier, healthier life.