Updated: Jun 12, 2021
Okay, so first things first, I don't really know if "weight loss coaches" and "business coaches" are the right terms to use. So let me define what I mean when I say those things:
Weight-loss coaches typically operate under the assumption that anyone and everyone can follow certain steps (their steps) and lose weight.
Some common weight-loss coach-isms are:
You can lose x lbs in x days
Work with me and you’ll never have cravings again!
Consume this special drink/food/pill and you'll see changes immediately!
If you've tried things that haven't worked in the past, this is DIFFERENT
and my favorite...
If I can do it, you can too!
👉When I say "weight loss coaches" I mean the people who are under the spells of diet-culture, who believe thin = health, who think you'll be living your best life if you lose weight.
Business coaches typically operate under the assumption that anyone and everyone can follow certain steps (their steps) and have a profitable business.
For this blog post, when I refer to business coaches, I'm primarily talking about those who are working with entrepreneurs like me. These coaches are typically entrepreneurs themselves who are now coaching other entrepreneurs on how to run a successful business.
Some common business coach-isms are:
I’ll help you triple your income in 30 days
Work with me and you’ll never get writer's block again!
I'll help you craft a strategy that sells your products and services while you sleep!
Follow these steps and you'll be booked out with clients by the end of the month!
and my favorite...
If I can do it, you can too!
I'm writing this blog post because I've been swept up in both diet-culture and mainstream business culture in the past. I've felt the harm of both of them firsthand.
👉Years ago, about 10 to be exact, I was deeply entrenched in diet-culture and very preoccupied with my body and food. I've since learned the harms of diet-culture and the detrimental effects of pursuing weight loss as a "health" goal.
Now, working as an Intuitive Eating Counselor & Anti-Diet Coach with a MA in Clinical Mental Health, I have done some major healing, learning, and growing and am firmly against the messages that diet-culture and weight loss coaches promote.
👉When I started my business a few years ago, I immediately Googled #allthethings and it didn’t take long before I was I was inundated with information about how to start, run, and "scale" my business.
And, to be honest, I straight up participated in mainstream business culture before I realized some of what I was doing was pushy, preyed on people's vulnerabilities and "pain points," definitely wasn't trauma informed, and didn't acknowledge my privilege or systems of oppression at all.
I consumed a lotttt of information that sounded like this:
“Your IG grid needs to look a certain way, give lots of good information away for free, but not too much information, if someone tells you they can’t afford your services CHALLENGE THEM and try to understand what their true fear is, CHARGE YOUR WORTH, people will pay you any price if they want it badly enough, if people aren’t buying things at your price its because you’re not selling the “transformation” well enough, talk to strangers on the internet all the time, tell them what you do and how you can help them."
Whew. This messaging is toxic and I've thankfully come to realize this now.
Just like it took me some time to realize I was entrenched in diet-culture, it took me some time to see what's really going on in business culture. Now I'm working to undo some of what I've learned.
It's important to me that my business is inclusive, ethical, and places my client as the expert of their lives - no gaslighting, no manipulative sales pages, no challenging your "money mindset blocks" about why you can't afford me.
👉Both weight-loss coaches and business coaches come in all shapes and sizes. This blog post is focused on the mainstream coaches who are currently dominating social media and Pinterest.
I recognize there are coaches out there who are breaking the mold and paving the way for more ethical marketing and sales. There are always exceptions to the rules and some of the themes and generalizations I'll be making here are definitely that - generalizations. Take what applies to you and leave what doesn't.
Okay, now that who weight-loss and business coaches are --> let's explore what they have in common.
1) False promises
👉Weight loss coaches guarantee weight loss. Business coaches guarantee success.
The truth of the matter though... you can't promise either of those things to anyone.
There is absolutely no way that I, in good faith, can make a 100% guarantee that a person whom I've never met before, whom I know nothing about, will lose weight or make six figures.
And yet... that's what's being advertised.
You might be thinking... "I don't know if these coaches actually make promises like this."
Well... here's a totally random IG bio I found. I used Instagram's search feature, typed in "weight loss coach" and clicked on one of the first profiles that popped up. This coach actually used the word "guarantee." (Also, please note how many followers are being fed this message! 🤦♀️)
Here's one from a business coach who promises to help you be booked out with ease. That sounds really appealing, but it's not honest. There is no way she can promise that I'll be booked out! I need 20 clients to be booked out!
The promises are there. Whether explicitly stated or simply implied, people hire weight-loss and business coaches because they are promising results.
But YOU CAN’T PROMISE THOSE THINGS. You just can’t. That’s absolutely unrealistic. You are not in control of another person’s body or another person’s business.
Different bodies react to different exercises and foods differently. What sculpts your abs may not make a dent on mine. What gives you energy may tear up my digestive system.
Different businesses need different things. It might take your clients 1 email to decide to work with you, but it might take my audience 10 emails because healing your relationship with food and your body is a big undertaking.
You cannot promise results.
If you sign up for 1:1 coaching with me, I cannot promise you that in 10 days you'll love your body. I cannot promise you that after 3 months of working with me you'll never binge again. I can't honestly and ethically make that guarantee.
Instead, I talk about our journey together. The types of things we can work on, explore, and uncover together.
It's not as sexy as listing "guaranteed results," but it's honest and realistic.
2) One size fits all
Piggybacking off of the false promises...
Weight loss and business coaches talk as if their service works for e.v.e.r.y.o.n.e.
There's an undertone of: Here are the rules/instructions. Follow them. Reach your goal. Voila! Easy as pie!
The rules/advice/guidance given is often presented using black & white or all or nothing language. "Do this, not that. This is right, that is wrong."
When information is presented in this way, it leaves little room for personal differences.
What if you're already at your genetic set-point weight?
What if you're not able-bodied and have limited exercise options?
What if you're a single mom with 3 jobs and 3 kids who barely has time to shower?
What if you're starting out with zero clients?
What if you have very little money to spend on your health or business goals?
What if you're neurodivergent or have a unique learning style?
Weight loss and business coaches make big broad claims saying they can help anyone achieve their dreams.
What often ends up happening though is that people work with these coaches hoping for the promised results and then those results don't happen and people feel like THEY (the client) are to blame.
You feel like YOU'VE failed. Rather than recognizing that it's the system and the coaching that failed you.
👉Your relationship with food, your body, and your business do not have a one-size-fits-all solution.
3) Run by people with lived experiences
The diet industry and entrepreneur world are frequently led by people saying "I did it, you can too!"
Weight loss coaches and business coaches are almost always someone who has done it themselves and wants to teach you “the way.”
How many IG captions have you read that start with
“5 years ago I was struggling and now I’m here…”
“1 year ago in my business, I was barely breaking even, but then I did x, y, and z and it changed my life. You can do it too.”
“I used to be x pounds but then I discovered this magic milkshake that changed my life and now I want to sell it to you.”
These teachings are certainly not evidence-based or grounded in research. They are grounded in lived experiences.
Something worked for THIS PERSON but that says nothing about whether it will work for you.
Again, this goes back to the "one size fits all" approach. There's an assumption that because the coach ate certain foods and got certain results you will too. Or because the coach sent an email to their email list and landed 5 clients, you will too. This doesn't account for YOU and your uniqueness and your individual situation.
👉Lived experience is valuable. It's important we listen to and learn from other people's lived experiences. Especiallyyyy people with different identities than us.
The harm is when someone says "This worked for me, therefore I am now an expert at this, and the method that worked for me is the exact and only way something will work for you."
4) Sells “life-changing” results
Weight loss coaches and business coaches aren't just selling you weight loss and success... they're selling you freedom, joy, bliss, hot sex, fancy vacations, yada yada yada.
Simply put, these coaches convince you that working with them will give you a better life.
Desiring happiness is SUCH a natural and normal human desire. Of courseeee we want that.
But I hate to break it to you, the big smiles and the island vacations you see on Instagram aren't the full picture.
There's much more that goes on behind-the-scenes that you don't see.
The weight loss client is obsessively counting their calories, running on little sleep so they can get to the gym before their children wake up, and missing out on happy hour with friends because it's too tempting or triggering an environment.
The entrepreneur is manipulating leads into sales, has poured so much money into all the systems and products her coach recommended that she doesn't have enough money to pay herself, spends every second of vacation on their phone posting to IG because you're told to "be consistent."
Weight loss and business coaches advertise the “life-changing” benefits of their promised results but don’t take the time to actually get to know what's underneath the presenting desires.
If you were to ask someone why they want to lose weight it’s often about desiring confidence, desiring comfort, wanting to be accepted, wanting to be loved, fear of rejection, or fear of discrimination. How many weight loss programs address (or provide) those things?
Same with entrepreneurs. We think a certain income and a big following will make us happy, increase our worth and value, make us more likable, give us a better reputation, and increase our feelings of success.
But I can tell you that no matter how many clients I've had and no matter how much money I'm making, my insecurities still exist. My depression, mood swings, and chronic pain haven't gone anywhere. I still have very hard days.
⭐Weight loss and fame are shiny objects.
It's easy to think that our whole lives will be better and different if we can just achieve one or both of these things.
But that's not how it works.
The next time you find yourself longing for weight loss or a more "successful" business, ask yourself, "What do I think this will give me?" "What am I actually longing for?" "What steps could I take to meet that need today?"
True peace and freedom are not found in a thin body and a 6-figure business. True peace and freedom are found via acceptance. Rejecting diet-culture. Appreciating who and where you are right now.
Want to explore this further? 👇
5) Lack of diversity & lots of privilege
There's a severe lack of diversity in the coaching industry. Many of the most well-known weight-loss and business coaches are white, able-bodied, naturally smaller-bodied, and cisgender.
So AGAIN, think about this whole "what worked for me, will work for you" approach. The majority of coaches I've encountered don't consider their privilege.
The way someone communicates with their audience as a person of color may differ from someone who's white.
The level of safety someone feels showing up on IG stories may differ for someone who's transgender from someone who's cisgender.
The ease in which someone walks into a gym may vary for someone who is mid-size versus someone who's in a much larger body.
Coaches need to be aware of the privileges they hold and how those impact the methods and transformations they are preaching.
Additionally, most weight-loss and business advice requires you have a certain amount of time and money, which is a privilege in itself.
In order for the coach's methods to "work" you'll need to have enough money to buy new equipment, pay for fitness classes, buy fancy juices or a specific brand of protein powder, subscribe to this software or that.
And you'll need to have enough time to work out x times per week, cook x amount of meals at home, work on your business sunup to sundown, and hustle, hustle, hustle.
Maybe you're thinking "I started my coaching business right out of college with $50 in my bank account and my life was in shambles and I worked really hard to get where I am."
That can be true for you AND maybe-
You have a college degree
You have parents that could have covered your rent for you if you needed it (even if you never cashed in on it, having a safety net allows you to take risks that someone couldn’t afford to take if it could potentially cost them the roof over their head)
You don't have children
Your skin color, body size, or gender provide you with more opportunities, more perceived trustworthiness, and more credibility than others trying to achieve the same goal as you
Many coaches have unearned and un-named privileges that impact their "success."
Privilege is unavoidable; most of us have some type of privilege. As a coach, it's important that we recognize our privileges and take into account how our methods might or might not work for someone with different identities than us.
What now? What does this mean?
Weight-loss coaching and mainstream business coaching put someone else as the expert of your body and your business.
You give your power away. You take advice, follow a plan created by someone else, and trust THEM to know what's best for you.
And then, oddly enough, if you don't get the promised results, somehow YOU'RE to blame. You didn't try hard enough, you don't have enough willpower, you didn't promote your services with enough gusto.
Both weight loss coaches and business coaches prey on your desires for shiny things. Diet-culture and business culture understand that you have a desire for beauty, fame, success, and wealth and capitalize on them. Literally.
Diet-culture, mainstream business culture, whatever you want to call them... they are a culture. A set of beliefs. A perspective. A way of moving through the world.
This is actually encouraging. Because if we can label it "diet-culture" or "traditional business culture," then we have something clear and concrete that we can rebel against.
"Rebelling" against diet-culture looks like understanding that:
Health and weight are not the same thing
Body diversity is real
Our bodies will lose and gain weight throughout our entire lives and that’s natural
Our weight isn’t something to be controlled
Your worth isn’t at all connected to the size of your body
Your body is trustworthy
Food and exercise are not meant to be calculated
"Rebelling" against business culture looks like understanding that:
A successful business isn’t defined by how much money I’m making
My worth isn’t defined by how much money my business generates
Resting is critical and just as important as the hustle
Clients will come to me when they're ready, I don't need to convince anyone to work with me
Potential clients are trustworthy and they know when and how much they're able to invest in me
Honoring my body's energetic ebbs and flows is much more sustainable than forcing consistency
👉You can have a relationship with your body and run your business from a place of trust rather than fear.
YOU get to be the expert.
You get to listen to your body's needs and wants. You get to accept or reject the stories you've been told about your body.
You get to run your business in a way that aligns with your energy, your gifts, your strengths, your special needs, your ethics, YOUR everything.
Is outside information helpful? Sure! I'm always open to hearing about new ways to exercise or the latest email marketing software.
But ultimately I'm going to check-in with my body and my business and see if this information serves me.
If you want to heal your relationships with food and your body, find yourself an Intuitive Eating & Anti-Diet Coach (hi, 🙋♀️ it me).
If you want to grow in your business, find a coach who actually coaches you and your uniqueness. Who asks you about your goals and asks you about how you best learn/work/function.
Weight loss and business coaches operate with an undertone of fear and scarcity. They often scare you into working with them because they dangle some fear-based outcome in your face "You don't want to end up like this, do you? Work with me!"
The scarcity mindset convinces you that you’re not enough, you don’t have enough, you need more, more, more. You need to be better, better, and better.
But the truth is, you're worthy and lovable and trustworthy. Right now. No weight loss necessary. No 6-figure business required.
👉YOU get to be in the driver's seat.
You can occasionally call in professionals to help support you and reveal the wisdom that's already inside of you. But you don't need a play by play plan or a one-sized-fits all sucess formula from someone else.