Wednesday, September 7, 2011

It's Rant Time

While one day perusing men's and women's magazines for the content of a new post, I noticed something disturbing.

One of the main fitness contributors for Men's Health is Alwyn Cosgrove.  One of the frequent contributors for Cosmopolitan is Tracy Anderson.  Now my first post already dissected some of Tracy's....questionable advice.  But I'm sure most people don't know who Cosgrove is (except for fitness nerds!) so let's compare these two:

Alwyn Cosgrove (

Cosgrove owns one of the top gyms in the country, has written hundreds of articles on the subject of exercise and sport performance, and is a sought-after lecturer by fitness professionals.  He is endorsed by other big names in the field such as Mike Boyle, Joe DeFranco, Mike Robertson, Dave Tate, Eric Creesey, the list goes on.  Also note how his website has archives of all of his blog posts and articles available to you for free.  Just take a look at a couple and you'll know this man is the real deal and a true expert.

Tracy Anderson (

Anderson has no formal education in exercise, anatomy or physiology that we know of.  All that's said is that she did extensive personal research into the field, which tells us essentially nothing.  In the fitness professional community she is seen as a bit of a joke.  Not much more can really be said about her credentials.  She has none other than being able to say she's trained celebrities.  Let's take a look at when Kelly Ripa went for a visit to her studio:

Note how when Anderson speaks about exercise, she never really says anything.  Not one thing that comes out of her mouth makes any sense or says anything substantial.  It's like listening to a politician give talking points.  I mean really, just look at that cube.  What is that?  What is the science behind what she does?  (Hint: there isn't any)

Let's look at an article written by someone who went through her exercise and diet plan:

Key notes to take away from that article:
-Anderson's diet plan puts you on a 700 calorie a day diet with mostly non-solid food.  (Good luck keeping up with that)

-2 hours of exercise a day 6 days a week. (Good luck keeping up with that when you're only eating 700 calories a day)

-"Tracy is totally against other forms of cardio, such as running, where you repeat your movements over and over. That, she says, will bulk muscles."  I'm sorry has she ever even LOOKED at a marathon runner?  They're TINY.  Oh wait, you can run for free.  You have to buy her super special cardio routines.

Gosh just LOOK at how bulky she is!  I mean I guess that's a female, it's just so bulky it's hard to tell.

Even men with their 10x more testosterone than women are small when they are marathon runners.

- "I would go to bed so hungry that I could hardly sleep.  I feel faint on several occasions and in the middle of Oxford Street everything starts to black out." Anderson's method backed by the hard science of "If you literally starve yourself, you will probably lose weight."

-"There are no fats (in the diet)"  Yeah those aren't necessary for essential bodily functions or anything important like that.

- "On the downside I feel woozy and find it difficult to concentrate. At first I had loads of energy but now I'm always tired and am told I'm horribly grouchy to boot.  My skin is terrible and my nails are flaking and weak. And  -  how can I put this  -  my system has become, shall we say, somewhat sluggish. Normally I'm as regular as clockwork. Not any more."  The price we pay to have someone tell us how to be anorexic for beauty.

-A real, actual dietitian is appalled by the diet and says "I see patients suffering with anorexia nervosa and now I'm reading their diet in pamphlet form."  Ohhh SNAP.

-Author makes posts on Anderson's support forums with the dietitian's findings and questioning Anderson's methods; posts are deleted.

- "Jo Doust, professor of physiology at the University of Brighton, says there's nothing new or magical about Tracy Anderson's exercises.

He says: 'She claims you can re-engineer your muscular structure and defy your genetics through her programme, but you just can't do that.
'You can develop your muscles but you can't defy your genetics. Her exercises aren't special  -  you could get a similar plan from any trainer in any gym.'"  Except you wouldn't from any legitimate trainer, unless you said "I want to spend money without getting results, what do you have for me?"

-Gwenyth Paltrow, one of Anderson's big-star clients is also her business partner.  Is there a wonder why she endorses her products?  Oh, and she also has osteopenia, the precursor to osteoporosis.  Fun!

So why do other celebrities train with Anderson?  She probably has a great personality and is fun to work out with.  She probably sells herself very well.  Is it so hard to believe that celebrities are as easily duped by good salespeople as anyone else?  Why do some people continue to go to psychic healers, use magnet therapy or buy and endorse a shake weight? 

And let's not forget there are other celebrities.  Cameron Diaz works out with A-Rod.  Jessica Biel works out with Jason Walsh. (A fellow UNC-CH graduate, whose entire list of celebrity clients is available on his website).  Both lift weights that are (GASP) more than 3-5lbs which Anderson swears will make you bulky.  Just look at these hulking offenses against femininity: 

You both disgust me with your manliness and lack of osteoporosis.

Just to throw it in your face more, here is a whole video of various women and various body types lifting heavy objects for varying repetitions:

$10 says these women eat more than 700 calories a day.  Another $20 says that they can take all their groceries inside in one trip.

So I feel like I've gotten off my original point of Cosgrove vs. Anderson.

Why does Men's Health deserve a reputable expert such as Cosgrove, but Cosmo readers get the joke of fitness professionals?  I can only assume it is the continued wide-spread ignorance about women's fitness, which is only perpetuated by people like Anderson.  

Will you get slightly more muscle than Paltrow if you lift weights?  Sure.  But I'm here to say that muscle is GOOD.  Muscle is what is going to make you look tighter, firmer, leaner, more sculpted, whatever crazy buzz-word you want to use.  Muscle is what makes Biel's butt look firm while if you just do cardio all day and diet like crazy it will probably be tiny but flabby.  Muscle is what will make your underarm less flabby. 

Is it worth osteoporosis, an excruciating, unrealistic, near-anorexic diet, 2 hours of cardio 6 days a week, and not having enough strength to support yourself to look like this 

Instead of this?

I doubt it.

P.S. This is a great blog post by Dean Somerset about how to tell an expert from an "expert":  


  1. Ok, so that looks scary.
    The thing is, I don't know how little I *actually* would have to eat to lose weight. Or whether there even *is* a way to do it that doesn't involve nausea, light-headedness, and sleepiness.

    1. There are certainly ways to lose weight that don't involve those symptoms!

      It truly is as simple as a healthy diet and exercise that includes strength training and cardio or conditioning.

      Have you tried tracking your diet by keeping a food log? It can be pretty daunting at first, but try for a month just to write down EVERYTHING that you eat and a guesstimation of portion size. (A cup? The size of your fist? The size of a brick?) After that month, try to get more accurate with your portion sizes by measuring out your food. This is the best way to know exactly how many calories you are putting into your body and how your body is in turn responding.

      If you eat a lot of fruits, vegetables and animal protein sources, then it's very easy to feel full on not a lot of calories. Imagine the difference between 1 cup of broccoli and 60 calories of ice cream. Which one would make you feel more full? The foods that are healthier for us also tend to be the most filling. You can avoid the sleepiness and light-headedness simply by eating these types of foods.

      But of course, this is an exercise blog that focuses on the fitness component of weight loss. Take a look through my other posts and you'll get an idea of what kind of exercise I advocate. Having more muscle = having a higher metabolism = another great way to lose fat, or simply be able to eat more while maintaining your weight.