Once upon a time, a long time ago, the fitness industry was a tough one to get rich in. As the decades wore on, however, a combination of concerted marketing efforts and increasingly calorically dense but sedentary lifestyles among Americans conspired to change all that. As we got fatter, our culture worked to convince us that the answer to our weight gain wasn’t more work — it was spending more money. Capitalism is rad, folks, but it’s not always looking out for your best interests.
Supplements, as we’ve discussed at length, aren’t all bad — some are legitimately helpful and even beneficial to your overall health, but in today’s market, it can be tough to spot the legitimate products amid a sea of pseudoscience and folks that are convinced that their anecdotal experiences supersede clinical research. Fitness frauds are a part of a self-fulfilling cycle; where marketing convinces you of something, you pay for it, and then feel inclined to defend it when its questioned in a public way. Unfortunately, the result is a society full of people that have grown too cynical to trust scientific consensus, and are instead inclined to fortify their positions in whatever camp they chose. Whether it’s homeopathic nonsense or a specific type of workout, people don’t like to be told that they’re wrong. If you don’t believe me, just ask a Thrive customer what that weight loss sticker they’re proudly touting is really doing for them — weight loss, contrary to popular belief, is not achieved via osmosis.
For long time OMF readers, you’re already aware that the nutrition and supplement industry isn’t required to vet their claims, or even their products, through the American Food and Drug Administration. That means they can claim their supplements contain anything they want, and they can claim that their supplements do anything they want — and if it doesn’t kill anybody, the FDA won’t step in to challenge them.
The nutrition and fitness industries aren’t really out to get you fit, they’re out to get your money. If you’re looking for evidence to support that, look no further than a comparison of American obesity rates versus industry growth in both fields. Since the year 2000 (which, frighteningly, was already 18 years ago), the supplement industry has nearly doubled from $17.2 billion in 2000 to $36.1 billion last year. In that same time span, the United States saw a massive expansion in the number of gym and health clubs opened and massive growth in the number of Americans paying for access to them, with a massive 57.3 million Americans belonging to a gym in 2016. Revenue has increased dramatically in the gym industry year over year as well, with a 7.2 percent increase (from $25.8 billion to $27.6 billion) in just the past year or so alone.