Content note: body image, body shame, disordered eating, diet & exercise
Purpose: This series has been a long time percolating in my mind. It has taken me a year to decide to write. The writing process has taken days. I think this will become an important resource for future #FitFriday posts as I continue to examine the messages students of all ages internalize about women, diet, nutrition, and fitness, and how it can severely and negatively influence their lives indefinitely.
In which I expound on why I quit Beachbody’s 21-Day Fix program (because it perpetuates disordered thinking and unattainable, unsustainable ideals)
Click here for Reason 1: Untrained Personnel & Reason 2: Migraines
Click here for Reason 3: The Food
Click here for Reason 4: Make-Me-Hate-Myself Workouts
Reason 5: Shake it off
Shakeology. Shakeology? Shakeology! Known colloquially as “Shakeo” (or at least in my support groups it was), Shakeology® is Beachbody’s proprietary shake mix. I learned quickly that if one refers to it as a mere protein powder, the True Believers will quickly correct such a slip of the tongue and remind one that Shakeology is no mere protein powder, it is a Super Food! It is Clinically Proven! It is the Healthiest Meal of the Day!
Beachbody is a Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) company, and they generate a lot of their revenue from Shakeology. Customers buy a workout program once; but Shakeology is a consumable product and must be purchased over and over again. A one-month supply is $130. That’s $4 per serving. For a scoop of powder.
Most of us in the 21-Day Fix unofficial support group had trouble eating the requisite amount of protein (remember how hard it was for me to eat my “four Reds” every day?). One scoop of Shakeology counted as a Red; it took two scoops of plain-old protein powders to equal the power of Shakeology! Many people in the support group lamented the cost of Shakeology and asked for alternatives. I was using Sunwarrior Vegan Chocolate which cost me roughly $1/serving because I had free shipping from Amazon Prime. I shared this in as many threads as possible because I wanted to help people save money and still be successful in their health journeys.
I got yelled at. A lot.
A lot of the “coaches” watched those threads like hawks and put a lot of pressure on these women who questioned the importance of Shakeology to the overall structure of the 21-Day Fix program. Most of the pressure relied on one of the following well-rehearsed and repetitive sales lines:
- Four dollars is not that expensive. Just give up your daily Starbucks. Your health deserves it and will thank you for it. (I would like to point out the inherent class privilege and health shaming here of assuming that everyone drank daily Starbucks and could always afford what their health “deserves.” I had to save up for 2 months to afford the half-price 21-Day Fix.)
- This is a Beachbody group and you should NOT be advertising for other brands of shakes! (It was an unofficial group that wasn’t affiliated with Beachbody; some of the groups were recipe sharing groups and we were sharing shake recipes, technically.)
- You cannot compare plain protein powders to Shakeo! It is clinically proven and contains superfoods! (I would like to direct you to this thorough and well-researched take-down of those claims by Pharmadaddy. Also, there is no such thing as a superfood).
- Four dollars is totally worth it because Shakeology is full of superfoods and [insert other claims made by company here]. It’s much higher quality than anything you can buy in a store. (Bollocks).
- Get three people to sign up under you and Shakeology is free! (This is how MLM companies make their money: building your down-line. The reason Shakeology is so expensive has nothing to do with the quality of the product and everything to do with making sure the upline can make a profit after accounting for all the discounts and commissions for everyone else. Does no one remember Amway??)
- I cannot live without my Shakeology! If I miss it for even a day or two, my digestive system is all out of whack and I feel unhealthy and depressed and fat and [insert additional health-fear adjectives]! (Wow. If the only thing keeping your pooper pooping is an overpriced shake, you might not be eating enough vegetables. If you are so caught up in the Cult of Shakeology that missing your shake for a day or two causes you actual anxiety, you might have too much wrapped up in your shake.
Here’s the reason Shakeology is really almost necessary for long-term success for long-term Beachbody clients: in a state of chronic calorie cutting, it is incredibly difficult to get enough vital nutrients for the body to maintain and repair itself. With macro-ratios like we were eating, there was almost no way I could get the whole-grain fiber I usually ate. Shakeology provides vitamins, minerals, and the poo-poo help that provide the illusion of health and vitality while you’re losing up to double the recommended maximum number of pounds in a week.
In the anti-diet, pro-moderation group this week, someone asked specifically about Shakeology, and then about shakes in general. The moderators replied with a simple statement: We do not advocate for the use of meal-replacement shakes unless under the direction of your personal doctor.
It seems that simple to me: Shakeology cannot be the healthiest meal of the day because it is not a meal. It’s a shake.
I have made it a priority for my students to see me eat. I cannot eat a lot of the same things they can: I’m a lactose-intolerant vegetarian who has food-triggered migraines. But they see me eat real food. Often. Every day. And even when I was on the 21-Day Fix, they never saw me drink a shake as a meal replacement. I brought a couple smoothies to school a few times, but I talked about all the foods I put in it: banana, peanut butter, soy milk, kale, Greek yogurt. I wasn’t replacing a meal so much as making it easier to consume on my commute. But watching me pour a scoop of powder into some water and drink that for lunch? I don’t think I could do that and then tell them how important it is to eat a variety of colorful foods. And I don’t want to turn my disordered history into their futures.