Home Fad Diets “Women’s Health Coach” Comes Clean About Her Fraudulent Services

“Women’s Health Coach” Comes Clean About Her Fraudulent Services

by Erika Nicole Kendall

Sigh. Presented without comment.

From the top:

Dear Former Weight Loss Clients (you know who you are):

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry because I put you on a 1,200 calorie diet and told you that was healthy. I’m sorry because when you were running 5x a week, I encouraged you to switch from a 1,200 calorie diet to a 1,500 calorie diet, instead of telling you that you should be eating a hell of a lot more than that. I’m sorry because you were breastfeeding and there’s no way eating those 1,700 calories a day could have been enough for both you and your baby. I’m sorry because you were gluten intolerant and so desperate to lose weight that you didn’t put that on your intake form. But you mentioned it to me later, and I had no idea the damage you were doing to your body. I’m sorry because I think I should have known. I think I should have been educated better before I began to tell all of you what was right or wrong for your body.

woman standing on scale

I’m sorry because I made you feel like a failure and so you deliberately left a message after the center had closed, telling me you were quitting. I thought you were awesome and gorgeous, and I’m sorry because I never told you that. I’m sorry because you came in telling me you liked to eat organic and weren’t sure about all the chemicals in the food, and I made up some BS about how it was a “stepping stone.” I’m sorry because many of you had thyroid issues and the LAST thing you should have been doing was eating a gluten-filled, chemically-laden starvation diet. I’m sorry because by the time I stopped working there, I wouldn’t touch that food, yet I still sold it to you.

I’m sorry because it’s only years later that I realize just how unhealthy a 1,200 calorie diet was. I stayed on a 1,200-1,500 calorie diet for years, so I have the proof in myself. Thyroid issues, mood swings, depression, headaches… oh and gluten intolerance that seemed to “kick in” after about a month of eating the pre-packaged food. Was it a coincidence? Maybe.

I’m sorry because you had body dysmorphic disorder, and it was so painful to hear the things you said about yourself. You looked like a model, and all of my other clients were intimidated by you, asked me why you were there because clearly you didn’t need to lose weight. And yet you would sit in my office and cry, appalled that a man might see you naked and be disturbed by the fat that didn’t actually exist. I’m sorry because you should have been seeing a therapist, not a weight loss consultant.

I’m sorry because you were young and so beautiful and only there because your mother thought you needed to lose weight. And because there were too many of you like that. Girls who knew you were fine, but whose mothers pushed that belief out of you until you thought like she did. Until you thought there was something wrong with you. And the one time I confronted your mother, you simply got switched to a different consultant. I think I should have made more of a stink, but I didn’t. I’m sorry because you were in high school and an athlete, and I pray that you weren’t screwed up by that 1,500 calorie diet. Seriously, world? Seriously? A teenage girl walks in with no visible body fat and lots of muscle tone, tells you she’s a runner and is happy with her weight… but her mother says she’s fat and has to lose weight and so we help her do just that. As an individual, as women, as a company, hell, as a nation, we don’t stand up for that girl? What is wrong with us? There ain’t nothing right about that. Nothing.

I’m sorry because every time you ate something you “shouldn’t” or ate more than you “should,” I talked about “getting back on the bandwagon.” I cringe now every time someone uses that phrase. When did the way we eat become a bandwagon? When did everyone stop eating and become professional dieters? I’m sorry because I get it now. If you’re trying to starve your body by eating fewer calories than it needs, of course it’s going to fight back. I used to tell you that then, when you wanted to eat less than 1,200 calories a day. The problem was, I thought 1,200 was enough. I thought that was plenty to support a healthy body. Why did I believe that for so long? I’m sorry because I wasn’t trying to trick you or play games to get your money. I believed the lies we were fed as much as you did.

And it wasn’t just the company feeding them to me. It was the doctors and registered dietitians on the medical advisory board. It was the media and magazines confirming what I was telling my clients. A palm-sized portion of lean chicken with half a sweet potato and a salad was PLENTY. No matter that you had “cravings” afterward. Cravings are a sign of underlying emotional issues. Yeah, sure they are. I’m a hypnotherapist with a past history of binge eating disorder. I KNOW cravings are a sign of underlying emotional issues. Except when they’re not. Except when they’re a sign that your body needs more food and you’re ignoring it. Then they’re a sign that your 1,200 calorie diet is horseshit. Then they’re a sign that you’ve been played.

And that’s mostly why I’m sorry. Because I’ve been played for years, and so have you, and inadvertently, I fed into the lies you’ve been told your whole life. The lies that say that being healthy means nothing unless you are also thin. The lies that say that you are never enough, that your body is not a beautiful work of art, but rather a piece of clay to be molded by society’s norms until it becomes a certain type of sculpture. And even then, it is still a work in progress.

I owe you an apology, my former client and now friend, who I helped to lose too much weight. Who I watched gain the weight back, plus some. Because that’s what happens when you put someone on a 1,200 calorie diet. But I didn’t know. If you’re reading this, then I want you to know that you have always been beautiful. And that all these fad diets are crap meant to screw with your metabolism so that you have to keep buying into them. I think now that I was a really good weight loss consultant. Because I did exactly what the company wanted (but would never dare say). I helped you lose weight and then gain it back, so that you thought we were the solution and you were the failure. You became a repeat client and we kept you in the game. I guess I did my job really well.

And now I wonder, did I do more harm than good? When I left, you all wrote me cards and sent me flowers. I still have those cards, the ones that tell me how much I helped you, how much I cared. But I’m friends with some of you on Facebook now, and I look at your photos and you look happy. And beautiful. And not because you lost weight since I saw you last. But because I see YOU now. You. Not a client sitting in my chair, asking for my assistance in becoming what society wants. But you, a smart and lovely woman, who really doesn’t need some random company telling her there’s something wrong with her.

So I’m sorry because when you walked in to get your meal plan, I should have told you that you were beautiful. I should have asked you how you FELT. Were you happy? Did you feel physically fit? Were you able to play with your kids? There were so many of you who never needed to lose a pound, and some of you who could have gained some. And maybe sometimes I told you that. But not enough. Not emphatically. Because it was my job to let you believe that making the scale go down was your top priority. And I did my job well.

I am sorry because many of you walked in healthy and walked out with disordered eating, disordered body image, and the feeling that you were a “failure.” None of you ever failed. Ever. I failed you. The weight loss company failed you. Our society is failing you.

Just eat food. Eat real food, be active, and live your life. Forget all the diet and weight loss nonsense. It’s really just that. Nonsense.

And I can’t stop it. But I can stop my part in it. I won’t play the weight loss game anymore. I won’t do it to my body, and I won’t help you do it to yours. That’s it. End game. [source]

When I said “without comment,” I meant it.

Who are you supposed to trust, if you can’t trust the people intended to lead you through these programs?

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Ericka August 20, 2013 - 11:58 AM

I tried weight watchers a few years ago and after my first meeting I was pretty gun ho! Ready to take over the world. But, by the second week I realized that their program was not sustainable for me. I wanted to be HEALTHY. My mother(2011), grandmother(1973) and various aunts were diagnosed and died of stomach and colon cancers. After doing my research I found that these cancers ‘can be prevented’ if I am vigilant about my health.

I have never been a fad dieter, but I’d be lying if I said I was knowledgeable about nutrition. And nutrition and sustainability is what my journey is all about. I did not get that message from Weight Watchers. I was told that I can have as many fruits and veggies as I like but was never told why. I was never told how processed foods affect my body. I was completely oblivious to the evils of white sugar and flour. BUT I knew how to count points (which was pointless!)

I feel bad for people that are looking for quick fixes or that go completely out of their way to NOT be educated about diet and exercise because these are the people BUSINESSES like this prey on. It is SO important that we always remember that these are businesses. These programs are not set up because people like you and they care. They are set up to get your money. Your first question for any situation in life should be “What’s your motivation?”

I like when you say “no comment’ because there is usually a comment anyway. Can I see/hear that anyway comment? I want to know what YOU think.

Erika Nicole Kendall August 20, 2013 - 12:03 PM

“Can I see/hear that anyway comment? I want to know what YOU think.”


marie August 20, 2013 - 12:46 PM

I think the whole bgg2wl blog is what Erika thinks!

To answer the question, I think people would have to develop a sense of “doing their own research” and browsing blogs like this one. Share the good advices with their relatives and spread the word. But again, not everyone has access to the same level AND quality of information so I think that’s a tricky question 🙁
I’m at a point were I don’t trust any of those nutrition consultant. The last one I saw, did not even ask me how I felt, where I came from,what I’ve been through. Just sold me her meal plan and I even received blame because my food journal showed I had been binging!!!!

Alana August 20, 2013 - 1:29 PM

I read this this weekend, too. I am surprised that you think folks at weight loss companies should be trust-worthy.

But it does raise an interesting question. Where can we get reliable information about nutrition and its contribution to health?

Erika Nicole Kendall August 20, 2013 - 2:16 PM

It’s not that I think these folks are trustworthy – I think there’s some severely basic stuff in this “open letter” that some very base level training would’ve cleared up, and it wasn’t. Which leaves me to wonder what, if any, training or education these people are getting before they are elected “leader” of a group of women with diverse bodies, backgrounds, physical make-ups, experiences, situations, lifestyles, responsibilities, goals, and more. Like, the “open letter” is bad but, after having acquired a few certifications, the open letter looks AWFUL to me. Seriously, it makes me wonder about the recidivism rate of these groups and their “success stories.”

And, I have to question the efficacy of these groups, and whether the people who succeed from them are simply the same kind of people who would succeed regardless of the circumstances…the statistical outliers who would’ve pulled and pushed through to success regardless of the circumstances, simply because they were destined and determined enough. Some people have to see a way out before they walk towards it; some people just charge forward repeatedly until they burst a hole in the wall… it just so happens that this particular “hole in the wall” is “a weight loss group.” I hope that makes sense.

Alana August 21, 2013 - 12:45 AM

Emphasis on “should,” but I take your point. It’s so much more than just about the food, that, sometimes, I feel like the food has nothing to do with anything–and yet it IS all about the food. (aside–Have you read Geneen Roth?). I haven’t had any certification or training when it comes to nutrition, but I have read a lot (and, I confess, I am currently quite confused!). My sister attended one of these programs, and lost a fair bit of weight. Then, she got pregnant and gained it all back. Over the last five years, she lost it again which made me think she had learned a tad more than just to take supplements–but perhaps she was an outlier, as you suggest.

Marin August 20, 2013 - 1:37 PM

I love this! Can we reference this the next time we are tempted to ooh and ahh over some celebrity who brags about “getting fit” by eating meals that consist of little more than a palm-sized grilled chicken breast and broccoli, all while enduring daily workouts?

Kami August 20, 2013 - 5:31 PM

Wow. I am not suprised by this at all. These health coaches that sell processed foods are suspect. Alot of these people promote low calorie eating even in the medical fields. In the past I had an eating disorder then went to a clinic so the doctor
prescribed a 1100 calorie meal plan or the dietitian use to give carb heavy meals plenty of stories smh.

Annette August 21, 2013 - 6:37 AM

All i can say is that, Erika, your blog has been the biggest influence in my journey to better health. Everything you write is thoughtful, realistic, and full of empathy. Your research and dealings with the cause of my health issues put a name to what was happening with me. More than any weight loss program out there, this blog has been my main source of info. You are amazing and i thank you for what you do. It’s because of you that i finally got pregnant and had a healthy baby.

Erika Nicole Kendall August 21, 2013 - 3:26 PM

I want you to know that I spent the entire morning strutting like George Jefferson all because of your comment.

What a wonderful, amazing, fantastic gift to share with me. Thank you so, so very much for this. <3

Dana August 21, 2013 - 12:32 PM

Wait. This threw me for a loop.

Specifically, the calorie counting part. Isn’t calorie counting a gauge by which we can lose weight? I know a woman who lost 160 pounds by following a 1,200 calorie diet and she appears to be very healthy to me. Also Erika, I thought I read on your site that you stuck to 1,500 calories, albeit clean calories.

Eating clean alone isn’t enough for me to lose weight… I can eat a ton of organic food all day long. I need some type of gauge to follow or the scale does not move.

Erika Nicole Kendall August 21, 2013 - 3:19 PM

I’m an advocate for calorie counting – even wrote a series explaining how to do it – but I’m not certain that you read that 1,500 was a number I might’ve stuck to, as an active woman; sounds more like a basal metabolic rate, to me.

I also don’t think we’re defining “eating clean” the same way. Eating clean, as a method of losing weight, isn’t quite the same as a processed-food-free lifestyle.

As for your friend on her “1,200 calorie diet,” you never know what’s going on with a person when you’re not around/not looking, nor do you know what all contributes to their ability to lose/maintain weight… so it’s hard for me to do the anecdote thing. Everyone “appears to be healthy” until they croak, to be crude, so I can’t really do much with that.

Alana August 21, 2013 - 5:37 PM

“Eating clean, as a method of losing weight, isn’t quite the same as a processed-food-free lifestyle.”

Excerpted from “Women’s Health Coach” Comes Clean About Her Fraudulent Services | A Black Girl’s Guide To Weight Loss

I’ve missed this. Would you direct me to some links to explain the distinction? Please.

Erika Nicole Kendall August 21, 2013 - 5:44 PM

I actually don’t think I have one on here in regards to that – lots of people use “eating clean for losing weight” in the same way that bodybuilders use, which is different from a clean eating lifestyle. Clean eating can beget weight loss under the right circumstances, but doesn’t have to. That might not’ve been what the reference point was, but that was the first thing that came to mind when I read that in this context.

Dana August 21, 2013 - 7:43 PM

Ah, that helps. Thanks for the clarification. I never thought about the distinction between the two. I’ve been so stuck in the dieting mentality for so long that it’s hard to break free of it!

Alana August 22, 2013 - 1:47 AM

My, I hope “eating clean to lose weight” is not the same thing as eating clean in the same way that body builders use–my only exposure to body builders is through magazines like Oxygen. I picked one up recently–“protein powder” is not, to my way of thinking, “eating clean.”

When I think of “eating clean” to lose weight, I think of fresh food, primarily. I do think “low-fat” — but not in the sense of low fat products so much as keeping my overall consumption of fat low–i.e., poaching instead of frying, that sort of thing. I also think in terms of daily maximum calories, though I have yet to make up my mind about what they should be for me. I’m afraid I am stuck in the tedium of looking everything up.

Decalo August 21, 2013 - 10:48 PM

Wow. I applaud her for her honesty. People have to really start thinking about if they are truly knowledgeable enough about the advice and coaching that they give.

Sanssel August 25, 2013 - 6:08 PM

I was taken in also with a weight loss program through my health care provider. It was very restrictive and could only eat the ‘meals’ and the supplements they provided, though I could eat as much fruit and veggies desired.

Although I worked out religiously like a beast and ate strictly what was given (I was documenting this in a spreadsheet), the pounds came off incredibly slowly. I did not drop one dress size in six months. But the biggest problem was whatever GI problems I had magnified under this diet.

When I was passing gas, bloated and constipated — although I drank water like crazy, the counselor suggested I drink diet tea (the senna) I tried it once and the results were not pretty- I just about flipped. What an awful recommendation!

And then the plateau began. I was working out more and now gaining weight. Finally, I told the counselor, I could not live like this any longer and would have to withdraw from the program and of course this was not a good sign.

I have been struggling with my weight ever since, gained 3 pounds since dropping the diet a few years ago. I’ve dieted since age 13, but I never was able to lose any weight.

I have pretty much resigned myself the weight will NEVER come off but I CAN eat and exercise as healthy as I can. I have normal numbers and feel good. I can do 5Ks with no problem, and my goal is to do a 10K.

I think weight loss programs without close medical supervision are risky and potentially dangerous. Or caveat emptor.

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