*Disclaimer: this post is my PERSONAL opinion and thoughts based on MY experience, both from a personal level and a business perspective. You do not have to agree.
This isn’t the first time I have written about BBG:
- See my post about how to stick to BBG here (which can really be applied to any fitness journey not just BBG)
- My “Kaylaversary”/1 year of BBG post here
- A post about tackling another 12 weeks of BBG here
- The first BBG post I wrote, about attending the 2016 LA Sweat Tour and meeting Kayla herself, here.
However, this will be the last time I write about BBG.
I will be the first to tell you that Kayla Itsines’ Bikini Body Guide (BBG) was what got me started. In my teens and early twenties, I was your typical thin girl who could eat whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted, and never gained an ounce. I didn’t exercise; I didn’t need to. As I got older, and destroyed my metabolism because I stopped eating properly (or much at all really), I inevitably began to gain weight.
I think I was about 27 when I decided that “ok, it’s time to make a change and try exercising.” I was never an athlete (unless you count swimming as a kid until I was 13), and I didn’t really know where to start. I tried CrossFit for a year, liked it but didn’t love it, got a gym membership and would go very sparingly. A friend told me about BBG, and after looking through the guides, I gave it a go. Failed, tried again, failed, and tried again. That third time it stuck. I stuck to it for 60 weeks – with injuries, illnesses, and breaks – but I did 60 weeks over the course of 1.5 years. The program was simple enough to follow: four 7-minute circuits, three times a week, add in some cardio – done. It gave me structure, routine, and dedication. In the past year and a half I found confidence in the gym, and in myself.
I created a fitness Instagram (@accountantscanbefit) when I began my BBG journey, as I had been lurking from my personal account, following Kayla and seeing the incredible transformations that she posted, checking out other accounts from girls around the world who followed the program. My account allowed me to stay accountable, find like-minded women, and even make new friends. All of this from a simple app on my phone.
Online Friends to Real Life Friends
When I started BBG, the community meant everything to me. The constant support and encouragement, the tags like #whatsonmyplate and #stopdropandselfie were such a great way to interact and meet new people. Then ‘BBG Meet Ups’ started happening. I first noticed the ones in Orlando then the ones in NYC, and I felt that Calgary should have the same! They looked like a lot of fun and brought girls from the same cities together. So I posted on my Instagram and created the #yycbbg #bbgcalgary hashtags in hopes of finding other women in Calgary following the program, and was successful. In December 2015 I ran the first YYC BBG Meet Up with 8 other girls. From there, it increasingly got more popular. Word of mouth and hashtags allowed more and more women to find out about the monthly meet ups. I started working with businesses (as many local as I could) to offer door prizes at every event.
As I ran the meet ups and continued with the BBG program, I made some amazing friends, both locally and internationally. I went to LA to meet up with one of these friends I had never met, as well as a couple of my local friends, to attend Kayla’s LA Sweat Tour and was able to connect with even more people I had only interacted with online. While that trip was amazing, I think it is where I started to notice a shift. Some of the BBG “stars” if you will were also in LA. I won’t mention names, but for people who portray themselves online as open, accepting, and positive, well they sure weren’t in person. I have never claimed, or ever will, to be anything different than I am, and while I am not a “popular” account, witnessing others dismiss you because they view themselves upon a pedestal was an eye opener. It’s always interesting meeting people in person, when they aren’t behind someone’s phone screen with their carefully crafted captions and methodical pictures. Some people are exactly who you envision; others are the polar opposite.
A Shift in the Online BBG Community
It was after this trip I started to notice a shift. This exact shift has been quite the topic of conversation on social media lately, but it isn’t something only one person has experienced. I’ve lived it, and so have so many others. I know first-hand several women who agree with me on this stance. The shift is hard to explain, but I think it’s best described as one of competitiveness: who has the most collaborations, who has the best-looking photos, who writes a caption that inspires the most people, and inevitably, who can get their transformation reposted by Kayla herself. I’ll be transparent here, I used to want that repost too – that validation that all my hard work was recognized. When she did repost my progress, I was like “Woah that’s cool.”, but it wasn’t that “OH MY GOD, MY LIFE IS CHANGED!” feeling I used to think I wanted – that affirmation that my hard work was worth it. Guess what – I didn’t need someone I didn’t even know to notice me to know that it was worth it. I already felt that within.
The first two rounds of BBG worked for me – it’s a great starting program and I will never deny that. As a person grows stronger and more able to challenge themselves though, the BBG program becomes stale and boring. For some people it is a long-term program, but for me it is not. After 4 rounds (BBG 1 twice, and BBG 2 twice) I had intended to stop following the program and try something new. That changed, and while I regret the decision to stop the new program I was following, it was something I did for the Calgary community, which I will talk about next.
A Shift in the Local BBG Community
The shift I sensed in the community when I went to the LA Sweat Tour was also present in the YYC BBG Meet Ups. What was once an environment of support, encouragement and no judgement started to change too. The meet ups stopped being something I enjoyed running, and became a part-time job that I began to dread. People started to expect a lot from me and didn’t seem to realize that running these events took time, money, and WORK. I did all of this myself, spending around 20+ hours a week of planning, organizing, emailing, and staying on top of the Facebook account I created, responding to questions, encouraging the women as well as trying to stay on top of all the local women’s fitness Instagram accounts so that I could be a proper leader and remain involved in their lives. More women starting attending, participating in the Facebook group, and I felt obligated to follow every local Instagram account. It was exhausting, so I decided to start running meet ups quarterly instead of monthly. I never asked for help – I took on this role and these events on my own, knowing their potential to grow, and never took any compensation for my time. All and any money that was earned in surplus of what was needed to cover the costs of bookings were donated directly back to the not-for-profit facility I used to host these events. Earning money was never the reason I started these events – it was to create a community for women where they could feel safe, supported, and empowered.
Working with the Sweat Team: 12-Week Challenge
In November, Kayla’s very own Sweat Team reached out to me about the next 12 week challenge, beginning in January 2017, which would focus on the BBG community and meet ups themselves. They asked if I would be interested in having the YYC BBG Meet Up in March be part of the 12 Week Challenge to represent Canada. They would be providing tank tops to everyone who attended, products to be given away, and (what was a relief for me), support. This would be so huge for the community in Calgary and for the Canadian communities as a whole. I obviously said yes. I also started an accountability group for this challenge for Calgary and area girls, where I would do daily check-ins with everyone, provide the weekly workout requirements, and provide any tips and tricks I could think of. This provided a space for these women to ask questions, support each other, and ideally complete the full 12 weeks. I chose to also do BBG again in order to facilitate this group, as well as feeling semi-obligated to follow the program since my meet up was part of it.
Fending for Myself
I have never, ever, been more stressed about a meet up than the one on March 12. The promise of a tank top for everyone fell through (whether it was a misunderstanding or not, I still don’t know) – I was in fact only being sent 30 in total. This caused so many issues – I have never gotten so many angry emails in my life once I explained to people that there were only 30 tanks total. I deal with conflict on a daily basis, but when people assumed I was making these choices to put them out, well that was a little hard to handle. Working with the Sweat Team was very stressful and disconcerting for me. I would go days at a time without any correspondence when I had sent time-sensitive and important questions, which caused me a lot of concern. When I sent out an email with questions I had (because I was being asked them), I didn’t get a single response for two weeks – that was extremely frustrating. When I ran the meet ups myself, at least I could provide the answers. While I understand the time difference can create an issue, I work in finance for a multinational corporation and the time difference has never been this much of an issue for us. I was sincerely under the impression that the tank tops were being sent for everyone, so that’s what I said, and when that changed, I was the one who got the blame.
Lack of Engagement Support
I was also very frustrated at the lack of advertising on the Sweat Team’s end. If they had properly communicated that the focus was on the communities and made people aware of where those 12 meet ups were going to be held, the communities would have gotten more attention and support as they all came together. Instead, as per my usual meet ups, the advertising fell on my own account, which doesn’t have the same type of reach as theirs.
Poor Delivery on Promises
I wasn’t sure the swag that was promised was even going to make it on time. People kept saying to me, “Well, I didn’t get a tank top, so I assume I will get swag to keep things fair.” I was a little overwhelmed, to say the least. The products arrived a mere three days before the meet up due to customs complications. I was extra stressed – if people were upset about not getting a simple tank top, the lack of products was sure to send them over the top. Thankfully they DID arrive, and I made sure allocation was fair (with no help from the Sweat Team). Of course some people were still disappointed, which of course was directed at me.
The Unfortunate Aftermath
I stopped feeling like the meet ups were a safe space. I felt the competitiveness infiltrating the meet ups, the judging eyes, the “I have more followers than you” vibe – all things I never wanted to be a part of my life, or part of the community I had worked so hard to create. I appreciate all the people who follow me, and I hope that one day something I say can give them a little bit of encouragement or support when they need it, but I don’t post to gain followers. I post for me, to track my progress, to document my journey, and honestly to find like-minded people and create lasting friendships. I don’t want followers for the sake of a number; I want connections.
The Straw That Broke the Camel’s Back
A week before Kayla’s NYC BBG Meet Up, I received an email from the Sweat Team inviting me to attend. Knowing that others were being offered flights and accommodations, I asked if this was something that would be covered for me. I was told no, and this felt like a slap in the face. I highly doubt that was their intentions, but that is how it felt to me in that moment. While I never asked for anything in return, to be asked to attend an event, and then told I had to pay for it anyways, after everything I had done for them on my own time and with my own money – it hurt. I’ve since spoken to the team to express my concerns and I hope that things will begin to turn around.
It was due to this shift, the loss of enjoyment, and this experience that I made the decision to stop running the YYC BBG Meet Ups. The lack of support for event planning, communication, and consideration for me as a person was more than enough reason for me to stop. This came on the heels of my decision to stop following the BBG program entirely.
BBG Long Term: Not Sustainable
For that 5th set of 12 weeks, I dreaded every single workout. I didn’t enjoy the movements or the workouts, and I didn’t feel challenged. My body did not change at all in those 12 weeks, and I just started to hate the gym again. Again, this is a great program when you start, but plateau is inevitable. I know dozens of girls personally who experienced injuries, just like I developed a knee issue due to the high amount of plyometric movements. This program is amazing for women who want to lose weight and tone up, but not so much for muscle growth. It is heavily cardio intensive, focusing on HIIT style workouts, LISS, and HIIT within the program. It is also a 5-6 day workout program per week, and for many this leads to burnout and exhaustion, and ultimately injuries. Many girls also develop the feeling that they have to continue to maintain 5-6 cardio workouts a week in order to maintain their progress, make further changes, and begin to feel poorly about themselves if they do any less, when in reality, rest is just as important as exercise!
There has been absolutely no progress in the variety of the workouts, other than being able to continue the weeks through use of the app. What started as a grass-roots organization that empowered women and taught them that working out doesn’t have to be an embarrassing ordeal, but can be done with just body weight and the encouragement of your BBG sisters, has become stale after “X” amount of cycles. It needs to be progressed past just body weight and updated faster than once every year and a half (i.e. the app, which is still the same thing, just continuous). Once women stop seeing results, the workout becomes boring and tedious, which leads to less time being active. When you don’t enjoy what you are doing, you inevitably stop doing it.
Find What You Love
So many people ask if they should just keep doing BBG, and my response is always: does it make you happy? THAT is what you should ask yourself in any program you follow, business, career, life, etc. If it doesn’t make you happy, why are you doing it? You are never obligated to only follow one thing for the rest of your life – so why should you? Being featured by Kayla isn’t the only way to recognize your hard work – look in the MIRROR. Be proud of your commitments, your drive, and of who you are. It isn’t the program that works; YOU work.
What works for some will not work for others. Some people are paid to post products on Instagram, are featured by Kayla regularly, and while that may seem great, do not compare yourself to others. Fitness shouldn’t be about Instagram fame – in all honesty, very few will achieve that level of success. Do not define yourself by the success of others. Define yourself by your own achievements.
So there you have it. I am now a #bbgquitter and I’ve broken up with Kayla. Maybe we will get back together some day, but for now, I am leaving the negativity behind me.