The Dangers of Today’s Female Fitness Industry

By Meghan Callaway

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Stronger, Leaner, Healtier, FOREVER

Introducing Functional Strength Training: 
The Monthly Membership Training Solution For People Who Want To Look, Feel And Function Their Very Best, Forever.

Join FST NOw

No, the fitness industry isn’t perfect. But there are some downright shameful and disgraceful aspects of fitness based marketing that needs to be brought to the forefront. Nothing may be more dangerous than the popularization of female fitness based marketing that largely preys on the insecurities and the mis-information this population has been getting force fed in the main stream media for close to a decade.

It’s one thing to be ignorant to scientific facts of exercise and training, but it’s an entirely different story when false and societally detrimental ideas are starting to overtake the sound principles that should be guiding our industry. Here’s how we stop the BS in the female fitness industry and create a foundation for women, young to old, when aspiring to achieve health and wellness from coach Meghan Callaway.

Here’s What You Need To Know…

1. The new age of self-proclaimed female fitness experts lack overall credibility, yet continue to spew out misleading, insulting, and often dangerous information to the masses, most of which is geared towards taking advantage of misinformed women.

2. Lets quit treating female clients like delicate little flowers that are only capable of executing sets of 100 with pink dumbbells as toning resistance. This notion is incredibly insulting. Women are strong and have unlimited physical potential that deserves to be tapped into. Toning is for printers, not strength training.

3. Don’t be ignorant to the use of photoshop and professional full body makeup art. The idea of comparing yourself on an even playing field to a Women’s Health cover is dangerous. There are truly no natural images of females out there anymore. So take this for what it is, a false marketing ploy at best.

4. Food and exercise are meant to be enjoyed. Focusing on food and cardio as a form of punishment can create a slippery slope of health sociology.  If your diet or training program isn’t sustainable for the long run, then your priorities need to be reevaluated.  Less treadmill death marches and more social and emotional engagement.

5. Being viewed as a popular and successful female athlete has become largely dependent on how well females do at selling themselves as sex symbols.  With less correlation to on-field performance, and more towards half naked Instagram shots, our future population of female athletes are being negatively influenced at younger and younger ages.

An Introduction To Female Fitness as We Know It

When it comes to attaining a svelte, athletic, and powerful physique, while simply feeling confident and healthy, women have to overcome a massive barrage of mental and physical hurdles. Unfortunately, in today’s physical society, including our fitness industry, women and young females are incessantly pressured or shamed into feeling like they should work out, or diet, solely to change their appearance. That they should strive to become a smaller, skinnier, more ‘’feminine,’’ and subservient version of their current self. Though that may seem a bit rash, this is the harsh reality that we need to start facing in order to make a market difference for the future.

In women’s-focused fitness marketing, you will generally hear or see the words – “diet”, “shrink”, “lose”, “tone”, “sculpt”, “calories”, “detox”, etc. However, rarely do you hear/see the words “stronger” and “fitter”, “adding muscle”, and “gaining confidence”.

It is ALL about ‘’improving’’ the way they look by shrinking, and heaven forbid doing everything humanly possible to avoid adding muscle, or in other words, getting bulky. There are very few examples of authentic women working out in a way that will actually help women achieve their goals, including dare I say… getting ‘’toned.’’

Most of the exercises that are shown are very ineffective and insulting, and generally involve weights that can fit into a handbag, or other ludicrous gimmicks. Most of the nutritional advice does nothing more than make women fearful of food, and often involves a vast list of ‘’forbidden’’ foods that they should not eat. And most of the images of women that are shown in magazines, on the Internet, and on TV are incredibly airbrushed/ photoshopped and fake.

To make matters worse, under-qualified yet over-promoted celebrity trainers or self appointed social media ‘’gurus’’, are unjustly being given a platform to spread their unhealthy, sexist, and often dangerous messages to women. I have news for you, shrinking is not empowering!

Here are some of the obstacles that women face on a daily basis, and how we need to detail what course of action they can take to become their fittest, most confident, and healthiest version possible. Time to face the facts, even if they aren’t what you’ve been shamelessly force fed in the past.

The Rise of the False Female Fitness Prophet

female fitness tracey anderson

Over the years with the exponential growth of social media, many self-proclaimed social media fitness or nutrition ‘’experts’’ or ‘’gurus’’ have popped up like annoying weeds, and continue to on a daily basis. Many of these so-called experts are not even certified and have no credibility or knowledge at all, yet they spew out very misleading, insulting, and often dangerous information left right and center, most of which is geared towards women.

Many of these experts are popular solely because they litter the Internet with blatantly sexually suggestive pictures, duckface selfies, and endless hashtags. Other #experts gain credibility by fear mongering. Not to call people out here, but Food Babe immediately comes to mind. She deserves to be named.

What these people lack in knowledge and credibility, they more than make up for by their number of followers and expansive fan base, which further fuels their narcissism. Sadly, most of their followers have no idea that they are being fed false, ineffective, and dangerous information. Most of knowledgable health and fitness professionals out there lack followers as they are less interested in playing the game, and are more interested in the quality of their work and their reputation.

Did you know that most of the self-proclaimed ”fitness gurus” and celebrity trainers know about as much as your average toddler? What they do excel in however, is their ability to market themselves. Their extremely lethal advice is being spread in magazines, television, social media, and via other outlets. Unfortunately, this is the information that most people are exposed to.

If you were to ask the average person to name some fitness professionals, it’s safe to say that the names Tracy Anderson, Jillian Michaels, Jackie Warner, Bob Harper, the outrageous Dr. Oz, and a few others would be listed. These individuals prey on the public by latching onto celebrity clients, and peddling gimmicky products and/or ineffective or dangerous exercise routines and workout videos to the masses.

Take Tracy Anderson as an example; she believes that no woman should ever lift anything heavier than five pound weights. Perhaps Tracy forgets that grocery bags, kids, and virtually everything weighs more than five pounds. And then there is Jillian Michaels. Don’t even get me started on her Kettlebell videos. Her horrific form demonstrates exactly what not to do. The bottom line is that women are constantly being fed false information, and have very limited access to positive and knowledgeable people in the health and fitness community.

The Faddist Toners and Shapers

shaping muscles female fitness

It’s getting very old, but women are always being told (or shown) via magazines or other forms of misleading media, that they shouldn’t lift heavy weights or else they will get ‘’bulky,’’ or possibly injured.

I can’t even estimate the number of times that I’ve had a new female client, or a potential client tell me that she wants to tone her muscles, add ‘’lean muscle,’’ and not get bulky. Very often, the fitness models will work out with weights that are so light that they are practically invisible to the naked eye, and will perform countless reps of ‘’toning’’ exercises, or ineffective cardio circuits.

Unfortunately, many women will emulate this, or will avoid lifting weights all together and will stick to endless monotonous cardio, or just go to yoga, and wonder why they aren’t achieving many (or any) of their goals. The fact is, these women are accomplishing little more than wasting their valuable time and money.

What the mislead female fitness population fails to realize for the most part is the muscular tone they are looking for is a combination of added muscle, and in some instances, a decrease in body fat. This look is accomplished by performing strength training and sticking primarily to compound exercises, using weights that are challenging (in other words, heavy!).

One of my biggest pet peeve’s in the fitness industry is when I watch females being trained by trainers, and they’re being treated like delicate flowers. This is incredibly insulting, and is a huge waste of their valuable time and money. Women are strong and have unlimited physical potential that deserves to be untapped. Toning is for printers, not strength training. The sooner more women realize this, the better off they will be.

The Mass Terror of Female Fitness Marketing

female fitness selling sex

When it comes to marketing in women’s fitness, there is so much ‘’fake’’ out there that it’s hard to make a clear distinction between the BS and the sound principles that should be leading our industry.

Women are exposed to very few realistic role models, aesthetically speaking. Most of the pictures of women that grace magazines, websites, social media, or that appear on television, have been extremely altered. Due to advanced technology, people can completely change their appearance by photoshopping, and sometimes it’s even done without the model/person’s consent. In fact, I recently discovered an app that many people use, and it allows them to dramatically enhance their pictures. They can do everything from lengthening their waist and limbs, slimming body parts, adding breasts and cleavage, completely altering the skin color and tone, adding makeup, changing the lighting, and so much more. And that’s just on an iPhone. Think what throwing a couple thousand dollars at an image with professionals can do.

In addition to the painfully blatant airbrushing, the majority of the fitness models or personal trainers who tend to receive the most exposure, often wear more makeup than most women would wear to a fancy gala, and wear outfits that leave little to nothing to the imagination. Guess what, most women are not comfortable going to work out while wearing a skimpy pair of booty shorts and a sports bra. Images like this are scaring away many women from working out, or are providing them with very unrealistic expectations of what they should or could look like. But that’s obviously secondary to Instagram likes and followers.

Framing Fitness and Nutrition as Punishment

female fitness nutrition

Being able to work out is a gift.  It is a tool that will help you feel more confident, vibrant and empowered, and will help you get stronger, fitter, and healthier. Many people are stricken with illness, injury, or other circumstances, and would give anything to be able to work out.

Instead, women are always being lectured that they should work out to ‘’burn off the calories that they ate,’’ or to ‘’lose their thunder thighs or muffin top,’’ or to get thin so they can fit into a pair of clothes. Most repent for their food-related ‘’sins’’ by doing endless amounts of cardio and trying to burn as many calories as possible. Doing something as a punishment, or as a means to fix the way you look, is not remotely empowering or motivating. In fact, it achieves the exact opposite.

Women are also being conditioned to have an extremely unhealthy relationship with food; to be fearful of food, and to use it as a means to control their appearance. Women are ceaselessly being told to avoid many foods like the plague as they are ‘’forbidden’’ or ‘’not clean,’’ to treat their eating like ‘’work,’’ to obsessively count calories, to follow some ridiculously unhealthy and ineffective fad diet, detox/cleanse, and to weigh themselves at every available opportunity.

If they are ‘’good’’ and achieve all of the above, then they can have a treat. Women are not dogs, and shouldn’t be treated as such! This is not teaching them how to establish a healthy relationship with food, or to devise a healthy lifestyle that is enjoyable, sustainable, and one that will allow them to achieve their fitness, body composition, and lifestyle-related goals. Nobody should have to go around feeling like a zombie because they are SO physically and mentally depleted from lack of calories or nutrients. Furthermore, nobody should be fearful of food. Eating is meant to be enjoyed so keep that in mind the next time you fuel your three hour treadmill session with lettuce.

The Future Generations of Mislead Females

female fitness

Sports and fitness go hand in hand, hence why I am bringing up this topic. As soccer is my background, and as I have worked with young female soccer players, I am incredibly passionate about this topic. Many female athletes serve as wonderful role models to women, and more importantly, young girls. They are a constant reminder of what you can achieve through hard work, dedication, and perseverance, and demonstrate how to eat and train in a way that will produce positive results and a healthy lifestyle. Many athletes are also wonderful role models when it comes to body image. They don’t fret over being too muscular, and don’t strive to be skinny. Their prime concern is treating their body well so they can compete at the highest level possible.

Again, it’s unfortunate that a few extremely narcissistic and self promoting athletes have cast a dark cloud over women’s sports. It has become very notable in women’s soccer. A small percentage of the athletes seem to be more interested in being social media superstars, or wannabe models, than actual soccer players.

Rather than focusing on bettering themselves as athletes and role models, they constantly litter social media with extremely airbrushed selfies, bikini pictures, staged modelling pictures, and so forth. This is essentially what they are offering to their ‘’fans,’’ most of whom are young and very impressionable girls.

What really insults me as an athlete, coach and female, are the players who are being rewarded with endorsements, sponsorships, and other opportunities based on their extracurriculars. Their popularity on social media seems to dictate their value, rather than their performance on the field, and their ability to be role models off of it. This is sending such an insulting and dangerous message to young and impressionable athletes, and is mirroring what is occurring in the fitness industry.

Now For The Good and How To Get Better

female fitness deadlift

It’s not all bad out there. Fortunately, there are many incredibly reputable, knowledgable, AND relatable women (and men) in the health and fitness industry, including on social media, who are spreading a wealth of helpful information, and who have your best interest at heart.

Unlike most of the people who receive the publicity and are given an arena to spread their toxic material, they will not talk down to you, make you fearful, or shame you into whittling yourself away into nothing. This is not confidence inspiring, empowering, or quite frankly, healthy. These legitimate experts and role models will help you become your best self; one that is healthy, strong, fit, confident, and vibrant.

My advice to women, is through trial and error, devise a healthy lifestyle that works for you, that makes you feel good, and improves all areas of your life. Strive to become a stronger, fitter, healthier, and more confident version of your current self, and enhance the amazing person that already exists. Believe in yourself, and know how strong and physically capable you truly are. Make yourself more, not less. You are worth it!

About The Author

meghan callaway

Meghan Callaway is a prominent personal trainer in Western Canada with over 12 years of training experience coaching in the trenches.  Growing up as a multi-sport athlete competing in soccer, ice hockey and baseball, Meghan took her athletic prowess to the University of British Columbia and completed her degree in Human Kinetics.

Meghan currently works with an impressively wide array of clients, ranging from the elite athlete to post-physical therapy rehabilitation and strength training and many average fitness client looking to feel and function better everywhere between.  She teaches and coaches every one of her clients with the goal of helping them perform, feel and look their very best by laying down a properly aligned foundation for every client.

With a unquenchable thirst for learning about the human body and movement, Meghan spends her time broadening her knowledge base as a trainer and coach, and truly practices what she preaches in her own fitness and life.

Learn more about Meghan on her:  Website        Facebook       Instagram       Twitter      YouTube

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  1. Cary Dominguez June 30, 2016 at 8:18 am - Reply

    I love the way you think. I’m one of those personal trainers who has a smaller following because following me is not what matters most; my ability to help others live their best lives is what really matters. 🙂

    (PS Your article is really well written, but is the word “untapped” the right word to use in the paragraph starting with “One of my….” ? I used to be a copy editor, and for some reason this word jumps out at me as not being the appropriate word for what you’re trying to say. I think it might say the opposite. Maybe “unleashed” would be better. 🙂 )

    Cary Dominguez, CPT PN1 FNS
    Cary’s Garage

  2. Jessy November 26, 2016 at 12:37 pm - Reply

    I appreciate the thought, but I think the article is a bit behind the times. IMO, names like Tracy Anderson and Jillian Michaels are now passé, at least for the younger generation. Nowadays the danger lies in Instagram and Youtube “celebrities” who are NOT even trainers! Food-wise there are two types of craziness. Either those who are into eating clean or paleo and are afraid to touch any grain etc., and the other type are the IIFYM people who forgot that was supposed to be for FLEXIBLE dieting and are weighing their food all day every day, bringing their scale to a froyo place (Brittany Dawn for example – yes, I AM one to talk names, like what in the actual F***). These girls don’t talk about toning and being skinny, they’re hiding behind words such as “macros” and “cutting”. They lift, but are afraid to eat for fuel, and perpetuate disordered eating by sharing their habits worldwide. And don’t even get me started on social media popularity, the likes and how they’re the modern criteria for companies to sponsor “athletes”! Lululemon (or other company) apparel, ab shots, morning form check, Photoshopped butt (Paige Hathaway) etc. … Sick!

  3. M.Nasim August 24, 2017 at 10:40 am - Reply

    How are you Friend’s

    I’m so friendly don’t hesitate to contact with me.
    I have a my media channel at Facebook, You tube, Twitter & etc
    If any one want to work with me or want to promote his …. to contact with me.

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  4. Tiina Bergman October 28, 2018 at 12:16 pm - Reply

    49 years, and I know 100% what you’re saying. But we (woman) need to get fed up with all this BS and start creating something different. We are not alone with this agony.

  5. Eva December 19, 2018 at 4:26 pm - Reply

    Information on weightlifting after having children is so confusing. I read and watch youtube video about how i should just do yoga forever because my children have broken my abs. Then I find a bunch crossfit, weightlifing mamas kicking butt and taking names in my mommy group. Are they all doomed and the damage hasn’t kicked in yet? I keep hearing how i have to buy some expensive system to fix my “mummy tummy” or just be satisfied with rolling around and breathing deeply. Im so confused.

  6. David November 2, 2020 at 9:47 am - Reply

    Let’s be real, a vast majority of the so called fitness or even yoga trainers on social media are just clout chasers, and content to live off the product placement ads and free stuff thanks to their legions of thirsty male admirers. How do legit trainers compete for attention with a half nude counterpart?

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