Can I Have Another Snack?
Can I Have Another Snack?
26: Joe Wicks, 'Roids, and the Toxic Fitness Space with Michael Ulloa

26: Joe Wicks, 'Roids, and the Toxic Fitness Space with Michael Ulloa

Plus how to decouple movement from aesthetics and find pleasure

In today’s CIHAS episode, I’m speaking to online personal trainer and performance nutritionist, Michael Ulloa. Michael is on a mission to make the fitness industry a more welcoming and accepting space for all, which is exactly what we dive into in this ‘sode.

We are unpacking some toxic myths about exercise, Michael spills the beans on his feelings about Joe Wicks, and we discuss what really goes into professional fitness models’ photo shoots. Plus we answer loads of your questions like how to find a more joyful relationship with movement after a lifetime of using it as punishment for eating.

Find out more about Michael’s work here.

Follow his work on Instagram here.

Follow Laura on Instagram here.

Subscribe to Laura’s newsletter here.

Enrol in the Raising Embodied Eaters course here.

Here’s the transcript in full:


Michael: The way that we're being sold health and fitness just isn't sustainable or achievable in any way and then people blame themselves and feel worse and then therefore they're more likely to spend money on all these other programs repeatedly and it's just a vicious cycle that just doesn't ever end.

Laura: Hey, and welcome to the Can I Have Another Snack? Podcast, where we talk about appetite, bodies, and identity, especially through the lens of parenting. I'm Laura Thomas. I'm an anti diet registered nutritionist, and I also write the Can I Have Another Snack? Newsletter. Today, I'm talking to Michael Ulloa.

Michael is an online personal trainer and performance nutritionist who is on a mission to make the fitness industry a more welcoming and accepting space for all. In today's episode, Michael and I are shooting the shit about the fitness industry, unpacking some toxic myths about exercise, and answering loads of your questions: like how to find a more joyful relationship with movement after a lifetime of using it as punishment for eating.

Some of you have been asking for more episodes on movement and fitness, so I think you're going to enjoy this conversation. We'll get to Michael in just a second, but first, I want to tell you real quick about the benefits of becoming a paid subscriber to the Can I Have Another Snack? Newsletter and community.

For just £5 a month, or £50 a year, you get access to the extended CIHAS universe. That means exclusive weekly discussion threads, links and recommendations, you get commenting privileges and access to my monthly Dear Laura column, as well as the whole CIHAS archive and a few other sweet perks, but more than anything, you're supporting independent evidence based nutrition information free from diet culture and anti fatness.

I can't do this work without the help of paying subscribers. So if you get something out of being here, then please consider upgrading your subscription today. And if you're still not convinced, then check out this recent review I received from a reader. 

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Alright team, let's get to today's episode, here's Michael


All right, Michael, I need to know what the deal is. Because you're like one of maybe five PTs who isn't pushing aesthetic or weight loss goals on us.

Has that always been your deal? Or is this more of an evolution for you? 

Michael: Yeah, it's definitely an evolution and it's funny you mentioned that because I get a lot of angry messages from personal trainers that don't think that my approach is right, which is always quite funny to me. I don't know, it's, I definitely, when I first started off in the fitness industry... I've been a personal trainer now for nearly 10 years.

And in terms of personal training, that kind of makes you a bit of a veteran because a lot of trainers are quite short lived on average. When I first started off, I definitely did have your typical, like, mainstream slightly bro approach to fitness and nutrition. And I know most people that maybe work in the kind of space that, like, you operate in, for example, there tends to usually be a reason or a thing that caused them to go down that path.

But I didn't have that at all. It really has just been a really slow evolution of just actually reading the research, working with people on a day to day basis, getting feedback from clients about what is working and what isn't, and then just really tweaking things over a very long period of time.

 I've also had some very honest clients, which have been great too, who kind of really follow my content on social media and they would message me like, oh, that's not very helpful. How about approaching it like this? And i'm always open to feedback, I always want to improve my practice and my messaging and I was always just quite receptive to that and I don't know... 10 years later I now finally feel like i'm working with people in a way that genuinely helps them long term and i'm actually creating content that is useful for people rather than just almost creating content for other personal trainers, which seems to be what a lot of fitness professionals do.

Laura: Tell me about the angry messages. Why are other PTs up in your shit about...? 

Michael: I really don't know. I wish I knew the answer. I think... I guess if you're attacking someone's entire being and their work and their ethos that they've believed in for so many years, then I guess that a lot of people will react to that in quite a negative way.

I really don't understand it at all either. Usually male coaches too, are very angry in the way that I approach social media and some of the names and things I've been called are pretty grim, but I only... I wish I knew the answer to that, but some, for some reason people get very angry in the way that I am approaching fitness and nutrition.

But yeah, I really don't mind. Like I, as I said, I feel like I'm really helping people now and I'm happy to keep championing that message. 

Laura: I mean, I'm just wondering if part of it is because that myth, certain myth of no pain, no gain. And that you need to like, basically punish yourself with exercise in order to achieve a particular body type.

You're saying, actually, we don't need to do that. It's okay if you don't kill yourself with exercise. We shouldn't be weaponising it against ourselves. For me, it speaks to how deeply internalised people's anti fat bias is. You're challenging the fundamental sort of premise that their beliefs are resting on, which is that, you can't be fit and fat.

Or you...yeah, like I said before, that you have to punish yourself with exercise or like that... it's somehow okay to exist in a body that isn't fulfilling this ideal that we have been told that we should not strive for. 

Michael: Completely. And I mean, if we're completely honest about it, the way that the fitness industry is set up now is way more profitable for these people too.

So if you do start attacking the way that they're approaching their lives or their businesses too, then they're probably going to be a little bit grumpy about that. It's so much easier for me as a personal trainer to make money saying, here we go, come sign up for the six week program and we'll strip body fat off you in such a short space of time, rather than me saying, cool, let's work together for three, six, 12 months. And let's really work on those habits and have you feeling and performing better. 

Like it's just such a hard sell. I mean, especially for, as I mentioned, like, personal training tends to be quite a short lived career for a lot of people. And I appreciate that when people first start off, the best way to get clients is shock and awe, like showing before and after photos, like having the secrets or whatever it is. And the best way to get clients at the start is by doing that. 

So people are going to follow that path rather than doing it the right way. That is a bit of a slow burner. I know that a lot of coaches aren't really up for that, sadly. 

Laura: Yeah, no, I think you make a really good point when you're talking about... the financial aspect of things, because, yeah, there's no money to be made in being like, yeah, take a rest day or go for a gentle walk and look at the sky. Yeah, those like making huge promises of around body transformations and then making people sign up for some sort of like intensive bootcamp situation. Of course, that makes sense from like a business model perspective, but as so often is the case, anything that involves capitalism is probably not great for our health overall. 

Okay, so I am absolutely not in the fitness space at all. I've purged my social media account. I think I follow you and maybe a couple of other personal trainers, because I find it really annoying, honestly, watching fitness content.

Michael: I strongly relate to that. And first of all, thank you for following me, but yeah, I honestly, I feel exactly the same way. 

Today’s guest - personal trainer and performance nutritionist Michael Ulloa

Laura: And I think, especially since having had a baby and because I have some enduring physical stuff going on as a result of my pregnancy in terms of, like, pelvic health, even the stuff that is like geared towards women who have had babies and like postpartum stuff.

It's just anyway, so I've just checked out of it. So I have no idea. What is going on in that space, really? So I need you to like, translate it all for me. What are some of the most pervasive and toxic fitness myths that you're seeing at the moment? 

Michael: Everything. Honestly, every topic is so toxic at the moment.

It's really frustrating. And I speak to... There's a few coaches that I'm really good friends with, who I think you probably know as well, that I tend to follow their content, I like engaging with them and talking about the fitness industry, but I have also removed myself from a lot of the mainstream approach because...

I don't find it motivating or helpful in any way. Like I think a lot of the... 

Laura: You don't even hate follow some people just to have like stuff to...? Because I hate feed a lot of big feeding. I hate-feed?! I hate-follow a lot of big accounts. I just have this folder on my Instagram called Ammunition.

And I just save posts in there that I want to come back and get angry about at some point. What are you seeing from... I know you do it! But what are you seeing from those folks? 

Michael: So I do a little bit of that. And I, so I've also, I've got an Instagram account for my dog, but I started up ages ago. I don't post anything to it, but every time I see something pop up on, like, the explore page or I see another trainer share, I'll send it to her account. And then I'll use that as fodder for, like, creating content and coming up with ideas. But I do not, I don't hate follow that many people now because like I spent a lot of time on social media, right?

And I know that because of that following these accounts and seeing them on a day to day basis all of the time does massively negatively impact my mental health. And I think if i'm feeling that way as a fitness professional who knows the research, knows what these accounts are doing to us and can see through the nonsense... how are everyday people feeling? When they're seeing this content and they don't really know if it's the truth or not. So I actually don't follow that many trainers. There's probably a lot of trainers who... . 

Laura: So very evolved of you. 

Michael: Yeah. Thank you. Thank you. There's a few trainers who, like, I know through just from working in gyms or whatever, I'll follow them, but I mute them so that I don't have to see their content.

Laura: Yeah, that's smart. 

Michael: But yeah, I don't know. There's so many myths about every topic. Like you mentioned there about, like, women's health and pelvic health and anything pre and postnatal. The stuff around that is really gross because it's not even just the fact that they're spreading misinformation. They somehow always tie in with just losing weight, like this is pretty much what it all comes down to, right? 

Laura: Yeah. Yeah. That's the subtext. It's always there. 

Michael: It's always like improve your pelvic health and slim your waist, like it's everything. It just pushes people down the route of still obsessing about body weight and focusing on body weight rather than focusing on general health and wellbeing and health promotion, and it's infuriating.

I guess the same as, like, building muscle. Like it's nearly always advertised by these guys that are absolutely jacked, clearly taking steroids, using images of themselves going... you can look like this if you work out like me and buy my programs and my nutrition plans, and you're just never going to look like these people. So you're always going to fail. 

Like everything within the fitness space is geared towards repeat sales and having people come back for more because the way that we're being sold health and fitness, just isn't sustainable or achievable in any way. And then people blame themselves and feel worse. And then therefore they're more likely to spend money on all these other programs repeatedly. And it's just a vicious cycle that just doesn't ever end. 

And that's why with my page, I'm trying to step away from any aesthetic goals. Like you'll probably see through my social media, I don't, I'm not against people having aesthetic goals. I just don't really ever talk about it because I don't think it should ever be the focus of someone's fitness journey. I mean, I think that's the bit that seems to piss people off. 

Laura: Yeah. And I mean, there's some interesting research that shows that people who exercise for aesthetic goals, they're less likely to engage in something that is sustainable for them.

Like, it's more likely that they will give up. And I don't mean that in, like, defeatist kind of way, but it just won't be sustainable for them. Versus for people who are approaching, I don't know, a type of exercise or training or whatever it is from a place of maybe wanting to feel stronger or feel more comfortable in their bodies or because they have mobility stuff that they're working through or something like that.

So it's really difficult though, because And we'll get to some of the listener questions in a bit where they're asking this, like, how do you uncouple the aesthetic goals from, those more internally motivated goals from the perspective that we are just constantly being drip fed, idealised images of people all over the internet? And then, like you say, half the time those images aren't even real, right? There's people on ‘roids. There are people who are like starving themselves, like making themselves dehydrated, like posing in particular ways. I don't even know what other tactics people use to stylise these images.

But I feel like the sort of falsification of these pictures is huge in the fitness industry. 

Michael: It's honestly horrific. And I would probably go as far as to say, like, every professional fitness model has taken or is taking steroids of some form. That's like the level of manipulation that the fitness industry...

I don't know, I don't think there's any issue with... having aesthetic goals. Like I always like to hammer this point home because I think sometimes with my content, I can... people misconstrue that I'm against anyone having any aesthetic goal at all. I'm not, it's just, I think that the emphasis needs to be elsewhere.

For example, when I first started in the fitness industry, I was in that loop of must build muscle, have to build muscle to show that I know what I'm talking about and also to be seen as manly and capable or whatever, and I would do a lot of strength training. I would never do cardio because cardio is bad.

It ruins your gains. 

Laura: It’s for girls.

Michael: Yeah, it's just exactly that. And it's so frustrating that I would... I spent years just, like, strength training, nothing but strength training, even when I was going through cycles of really hating it. Like I had to do strength training, got to build muscle. 

When I switched up my training... I still do strength training now. I enjoy building muscle. The challenge of building strength and muscle is really fun, but I also do a lot of cardio because I really enjoy it and it makes me feel great in terms of physical and mental health. And actually since switching up, dropping a bit of strength training that I was doing and doing more cardio, the exercise I really enjoy, I've made so much more progress with my strength building and muscle building gains.

And I've just got such a better balance with it all. So if someone listening to this is really struggling of knowing like what they should really be doing, what should they be focusing on? Honestly, just like enjoyment and mental health, that needs to be the priority. And then everything else just tends to fall into line after that.

And the fitness industry, just the tactics, as I said, like the trainers use. The one thing that really annoys me is a lot of personal trainers will, anyone who follows any trainers will... I've seen this in the past where a trainer goes through a really extreme cycle of dieting, exercise regime because they're training for a photo shoot - in quotation marks - Where they'll go and get professional photos done that they've dieted down to within an inch of their lives. And they'll get a little snapshot image of look how amazing I look and then they'll use that in all their advertising of promoting healthy behaviour change or whatever other nonsense. 

It's if you're not using healthy, sustainable habits in achieving your physique, then you should not be allowed to use that in terms of advertising it to say that you're going to help people improve their health and their life, their health and their lives.

It's just, it's incredibly infuriating and... 

Laura: it's false advertising. 

Michael: Massively. Yeah. Massively. 

Laura: Need to get that fucking, is it ASA, advertising...? 

Michael: Yeah. Yeah. Standards Agency. Absolutely. Yeah. 

Laura: I'm on the case! 

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But two interesting things that I wanted to pick out from what you were saying.

First of all, I think there's some complexity and nuance around this idea aesthetic goals, isn't there? Because we are all aesthetically driven, right? We are all, like we're aesthetic creatures in some ways, like when you brush your hair in the morning or I don't know, you trim your beard, Michael, or like I chose clothes that I thought looked somewhat okay together. Like those are all aesthetic goals, right? 

And so I think it's really, like, hard for people to decouple aesthetic goals from their overall movement, exercise routines, whatever you want to call them. But I think what you're saying, and certainly what I would advocate is that the fitness industry has just blown... yeah, they've blown up aesthetics to be like the sole purpose that people should exercise, right? 

And that I think is the problem is that yeah, they've just coupled exercise and aesthetics to the point that it's like you were saying, people are engaging in disorderly eating behaviours. They're using illicit drugs, they are, like, punishing themselves to look a particular way, and that's when it becomes problematic, right? 

Michael: Completely agree. 

Laura: And you end up on that slippery, slippery slope to disordered eating and eating disorders. 

Michael: Yeah, it's so true the barometer of success or health or knowledge within the fitness industry is body fat levels. That's pretty much what it all comes down to. 

Like a trainer who is absolutely jacked and really ripped is seen as being an authority figure without really knowing anything about them. And whereas you'll have a trainer who's in maybe a naturally larger sized body who naturally carries a little bit more body fat, has a much healthier balance of exercise and nutrition, a far better trainer. Just look at the comments under the content that they push out there onto social media and people will criticize them and say they don't know what they're talking about. 

Like our barometer of success is leanness. I don't know what the answer is to trying to combat that other than just keep churning out content, calling out this nonsense.

But unfortunately you feel like you take a few steps forward when it was like two, three years ago, when you see, started to see a lot more body diversity on fitness accounts and kind of big companies like Gymshark and Nike and stuff were using people in larger bodies to advertise clothing.

That's now disappearing again because it's no longer.... and it's just toxic. And you just have to go on like TikTok, the latest platform, even though it's been around a few years, I felt like we were maybe making a bit of progress. Then TikTok just flips that again, and you just got to search the hashtag fitness on TikTok.

And it's just white, slim, muscular people clearly taking steroids that are the main bulk of the content that you're going to see. It's infuriating. 

Laura: Everyone in the fitness industry really collectively needs to be speaking out against this, but I think there's a simultaneous thing that has to happen whereby we are amplifying and centering experiences and the work of fat fitness creators, right? 

And I'm using fat, for anyone who's not listened to the podcast before, fat as a neutral descriptor, as a reclamation of a word that is often used to weaponise and hurt people and harm people. So, yeah, I'm just thinking of some people off the top of my head.

Like Intuitive Fatty, Jessamyn Stanley is fantastic for yoga content. Lauren Leavell does a lot of barre stuff, but there's loads. I mean, is there anyone that you would want to give a shout out to like anyone that's doing...? 

Michael: The Instagram handle Decolonizing Fitness? Ilya. The content is amazing. We're trying to set up a time for Ilya to come into our podcast to chat about this at the moment. 

And I just... there's so many voices that need to be amplified. And I know that I always have to check my privilege in the content that I'm creating. Like you see very few men within the kind of body neutrality, body positivity, space, whatever you want to call the area I'm working in.

So I always like to acknowledge that, okay, I'm creating content for a space that isn't really for me, but I do think that can be really powerful. And we still need more voices of guys, especially within this space, calling it out because I rarely ever see male fitness professionals creating the kind of content that I am.

They tend to go down the more mainstream approach. And I like to yes, fitness can look like me. I look how the fitness industry says you're supposed to look, but it doesn't have to look like that, right? This is one way it can look, but it doesn't need to be like that for everyone. And I think that can be really powerful whilst amplifying the voices of those who are marginalised and don't get the airtime that I do.

Laura: Yeah, absolutely. And I think, yeah, you make a really good point about men in this space. Like just in body neutrality, body positivity and again, there are some really great people doing stuff in that space. I agree like it's still underrepresented, but like the 300 pound runner. I don't know if you've come across his stuff? 

Michael: yeah, Martinus Evans.

Laura: Yeah, His stuff is really cool as well. But yeah, anyway, just wanted to shout out some accounts and I'll link to them in the show notes as well. 

Yeah, so you mentioned that fitness professionals will embark on this really extreme diet, they will really bulk up, they'll, probably restrict what they're eating for a really long time, and then they'll do all their photos, and they'll probably go back to whatever they were doing before that. And it just reminded me when... and this is it's like really sad, but do you remember when Joe Wicks was talking all about binging? He went to America, and then it ... he just started talking about like he was eating all this chocolate and pizza and like stuff that he obviously was restricting so hard that when he went to the States, he had this like backlash against all of that and his body was just like, fuck this, and he just started eating like all of the food that he'd been denying himself.

It just made me think of that and how he's... how disordered like this space is and how normalised that kind of thing is like that just like binge restrict cycle. 

Michael: Yeah, I mean when your entire business model relies on getting people really lean. If you're not sticking to those rules and keeping your body lean 100 percent of the time, then your business model kind of goes to shit. And I guess that's probably why he was having issues coming to terms with that. 

Joe Wicks is a really funny one because I don't like his content at all. I'll throw that out there. Some of the nutrition stuff he's spouted has been... I was going to say nonsense, but it's actually just damaging some of the stuff he comes out with.

Also, on the other hand, I feel like, maybe this is giving him too much credit, I always feel like his heart is in the right place, but he just goes about it in completely the wrong way. I don't know if you would agree with that. When I hear him being interviewed, I feel like he's a really passionate guy who feels like he's doing the right thing, but he's just absolutely not.

Because all of his content is focused on being lean and weight loss. And I just wish that... he's got such a huge platform now. It's terrifying. That if you had someone like him who could start promoting like a balanced and sensible message, it's never going to happen because he makes too much money now, then it would just be so powerful.

Laura: But I don't know, like this piece around heart in the right place. I think we say that about a lot of these actually quite problematic white men. Joe Wicks, Jamie Oliver, I'm just gonna say it, don't @ me. But, of course their heart's in the right place, but their heart's also in their fucking bank balance, right?

Michael: Completely, 100%. 

Laura: So that's one part of it, but also, I don't know when we can, when someone is, like you say, promoting harmful messages around food and around nutrition. And I don't. I think it matters where their heart is. 

Michael: Agreed. I wonder whether this... 

Laura: A murderer could use that justification to be like, Oh, well, this man is really toxic to women, so I'm just going to kill him.

But that's not the solution. 

Michael: I know. I wonder whether kind of in my head, the reason I use those words is because I think of kind of the fitness industry as like a huge, like a line of like how problematic someone is. And I feel like he feels he's trying to do the right thing despite doing it very badly.

Whereas you have a lot of people within the fitness space that go far beyond that, who are intentionally doing the really bad thing, trying to make a lot of money, it's still very bad. 

And Jamie Oliver is one of those as well, where he's got such a huge platform, thinks he knows what he's doing is the best thing, but it's just not. Like trying to ban the buy one get one free offers when people are really struggling to feed their families right now.

It's just, I feel yes, hearts in the right place, but just no, like they need to be more informed and go about it in a better way. 

Laura: And especially when they are being given this feedback, right? Like it's one thing if you fuck up and you say, I was really wrong about that and I've learned some new information now like you have, right? And like I have. 

And you hold your hands up and you say, yeah, I was really fucking wrong and I'm sorry that I've caused harm and I don't want to do that anymore. I'm gonna learn and I'm gonna do better. And 

Michael: that's the sign of a good practitioner, right? And yeah. 

Laura: But speaking of Joe Wicks... 

Michael: Oh god!

Laura: So, so you are a new ish parent, right? You have a seven month old. 

Michael: Yes, my son is seven months old, yeah. 

Laura: How do you feel about the prospect of Joe Wicks teaching your kid PE someday? 

Michael: Oh, just no, like awful. Yeah it's terrifying, isn't it? And these people do wangle their way into every aspect of our society of fitness.

And there's just no getting away from them now. Personally, I never watched any of his school fitness things throughout lockdown. I know they're very popular. What was his wording? Did you watch any of them then with your kids? 

Laura: I didn't cause my little one was just a newborn at that point. And he's only three now.

It just wasn't on my radar. I've seen his books. He has the burpee bears. And I've written a couple of like book reviews. They're super like, just tongue in cheek. But it strikes me as really problematic that he feels that we need to teach specific moves like burpees or other things like that to children, like to young children, like primary school age kids, and I don't really have a good justification for that because I'm not a fitness professional that other than does a five year old need to learn how to plank? Right? Or should we not be focusing on embodied movement that is climbing on play equipment in the playground or running or skipping or jumping or like, all of these things that kids, depending on their level of mobility and ability that they would intuitively do?

Michael: I am completely with you there. I don't think we need to be teaching a five year old how to do a burpee. It's a bit ridiculous, to be honest. Yeah, that's the way that movement should be promoted and advertised to kids, if you want to use those kind of technical terms. It should just be about play and fun and movement, and that's... what it should be. 

Like if a kid sees their parent doing burpees or lifting weights and they want to try a bit out and get involved yeah, absolutely. But it just, it shouldn't be the go to, right? Yeah, absolutely. 

Laura: Yeah. My kid has seen me do a downward dog and he like gets involved and we do the cosmic kids yoga. I feel like that's a slightly different thing because it's a, it's so gentle and b it's animal poses. I don't know. 

All right. So I got sent through loads of questions from listeners and I thought they were really fun. So I just thought we could go through them. I think we've touched on a bit of it already, but maybe you can just give me your quick fire answers.

Michael: Sure. Yeah. 

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Laura: So this is an interesting question that Gwen from Dieticians for Teachers sent in. She said she would like to know more about the messages in your formal training. I think we can take a good guess, but I guess what she's getting at is, like, what toxic messages were in your formal training?

Michael: Unfortunately, when you're learning to become a personal trainer still so much of it is about weight loss, still. You'll get taught, right, this is what we're going to learn about nutrition and this is how you help someone lose weight. So that is still at the core. 

And I guess a lot of the training for personal trainers, in terms of nutrition anyway, It's still very like basic government guidelines, which you can take those as you will. Some recommendations are maybe okay, others not that helpful. The training for nutrition for personal trainers is so, so, so, so basic that I would encourage any personal trainer who has recently qualified and not done any further nutrition study from there to please sign up to another course and learn more because what you learn as a personal trainer at the basic level is just nowhere near good enough to work with clients in depth.

Laura: I have a lot of thoughts about personal trainers and nutrition, but I'm going to keep them to myself! 

Michael: No, no feel free to talk about it! It terrifies me. And it's very rare now that... a lot of the people I work with have had personal trainers in the past. The large majority of them have had negative experiences, and it's quite scary that's now just the norm.

And I'll ask questions of my clients in consultations whilst working together and they'll be like, Oh, I've never been asked that before. I've never even considered that. And it just blows my mind that these things are being missed out or neglected by coaches. But the training is just not there. 

Laura: It's so interesting that the focus, I mean, it's not surprising, but that the focus is still on body size and not like flexibility or mobility or like rehab or like any of these, which I'm sure they like get touched on, but it sounds like from what you're saying that the real central focus is not mental health or like overall wellbeing. It's here's how you try and get people shredded, which we know is like biogenetically, if not difficult, if not impossible for most people. 

Michael: Pretty much. Yeah. Like I'm sure... I don't want to call out every personal training course. Like I did qualify a few years ago now, but I know there's some personal training qualifications that are trying to shift that, but it is still a large majority.

And that is why a lot of the coaches coming through now, it's still very much before and after photos, weight centric. Yeah, unfortunately. 

Laura: Well, it's good to know that maybe there are some shifts coming down the pipe a little bit and I guess it just goes to show why again, you need to keep, like, pushing these alternative messages.

Okay. This I thought was a really interesting question. And so this person asked, is exercise truly necessary? I don't enjoy exercising, but I do move a lot during the day, running errands and running after a toddler, all while baby wearing a newborn. And then the follow up question is, and if it is necessary to exercise intentionally, what form of exercise is best for someone who wouldn't otherwise prioritise it? 

Michael: That's such a good question. And it's very nuanced as well, depending on the person's situation. I would say, I mean, no, it's not necessary if you're moving around a lot throughout the day. However, so many health benefits come from incorporating some form of like direct exercise that it would be really sad to not explore all the potential areas that people could incorporate exercise into their life that maybe might not be the mainstream approach, right? 

If you are someone who moves around a lot throughout your day, if you say running errands and your general movement and step count is actually really high, then you could argue that as long as you get your nutrition, right, you're doing pretty well.

However, strength training. Every time someone comes to me, no matter what their fitness goals are, I try and incorporate some form of strength training that I can, but that can take so many different forms. 

Laura: This person is carrying a baby around! 

Michael: Right. Yeah, exactly. Which is strength training, right?

Exactly. So it's... when I say strength training, a lot of people listening to this episode right now will automatically... they'll think, like, gym, barbells, dumbbells, heavy weights, and it can come in so many different forms and it can be with resistance bands, body weight, dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells at home. It can be like TRX, it can be like so many different ways that you might enjoy at some point. 

So don't just think, Oh, I'm not an exercise-y person. I've always hated it because there are so many different ways that we can incorporate exercise. That is a very vague answer. without me knowing much more about this person. However, if you can find a form of exercise you enjoy, that should be a priority because the health benefits are huge. 

Laura: I'm going to push back because this is my opinion, not necessarily based on scientific fact, but it does feel as though there is this tendency, and I'm also conscious of your bias as a fitness professional, that exercise is held up as the pinnacle of health.

And it's like the one thing that we need to do in order to be healthy. And I'm not disputing that there are health benefits. I also am like curious about the magnitude of those benefits within the broader context of health and health behaviours, but also nesting that within sort of social determinants of health and like, how do we measure the effect size of exercise individually from, I don't know, sleep, other elements of mental health, community? I guess what I'm maybe trying to temper is like that there are so many, like, variables and factors that contribute to someone's overall picture of health and I appreciate that movement can be an important facet of that.

Michael: Yeah, no I really like that point because it is so important and I think that's why it's important to approach exercise and hence why I said without knowing more about this person, it's hard to give an exact answer. I think it's important to look at all of those things in terms of context when you're trying to prescribe or recommend exercise to someone, right?

Let's say that this person is, they're likely lacking in sleep right now at the moment, right? Because their life is very busy running around after small humans. If that person is exhausted and they have no free time at all. I'm not then going to say, right, you've got to go and exercise 30 minutes a day for three times a week, because it's just not going to be helpful. There's other areas of your lifestyle that we can focus on to improve your health. 

However, if there is a bit of wiggle room, if you have a bit of time, then maybe there are things that we could explore that you could quite comfortably fit into your day without it taking over your life like a lot of the fitness industry wants us to do. 

Laura: Yeah. I think that the, maybe the TL;DR there is you don't have to sweat it when you are running around after a small child and doing other, all these other things. But if it feels like it's something that you want to explore, and you're curious to give something a try, then yeah, you could have a think about some gentle movement or something, see how that feels and how that fits in the context of your life But yeah, it's tricky to prescribe something without knowing, yeah knowing someone's life and what they want to get out of it. 

Michael: So true and you're never gonna know if it was directly the exercise. It could be so many other things that then, yeah, that then causes the health benefit.

I would just say, once again, like anecdotally, rather than looking at research, every person that I've worked with that we've tried to think, right, how can we incorporate exercising today in some format? The large majority of the time, everything else feels better and improves as a result.

Laura: Yeah, no , it can, it has a knock on effect on like sleep and pain and like all these other things. 

So, okay. How can I move my body without shame and guilt driving it? These are two separate questions, but I'm just lumping them together, and then this, another person asked, how to find the joy in movement after a life forcing it?

Michael: I think first of all, it's really important to, like, vet where you're getting all of your inspiration and information from is a really important one because a lot of the time, if we're following the kind of general societal recommendations when it comes to exercise and nutrition. It's always going to have quite a prescriptive image focused approach to movement.

And if you can shift away, like what we spoke about at the start of this, you don't follow many personal trainers because you don't think that they're motivating or helpful to you. They actually just make you feel worse. I'm the same. When I constantly see gym bros. telling me that I have to lift weights X amount of times a week, and I've got to get shredded and have low body fat levels, it has the complete opposite impact on me. 

So if you can first of all vet where you're getting your information from, that is absolutely huge. And then, yeah, I guess also once again, it's not beating yourself up for having the more mainstream thoughts that you used to have. I know a lot of people when they're trying to shift into kind of taking a more intuitive eating approach or a more intuitive eating approach with like exercise too, as well as nutrition, we can sometimes feel really guilty when we start slipping back into older habits that maybe are slightly disordered.

I'm just... like giving yourself a bit of leeway and a bit of space to grow and learn. I'm still doing that. I still probably get things wrong and have room for improvement, but I think by doing that, removing the pressure on yourself can be really helpful. 

Laura: Yeah. Two things that I might add to that are something that I've explored with clients as part of working on the relationship with food and body and movement often comes up as part of that, we might explore this idea of, what it feels like in your body where you've had a period where you haven't moved at all, right? Maybe it's because you're recovering from an injury or because you just were so burnt out with exercise that you just really didn't move. How did that feel in your body? Did you get any pain or did it feel nice to rest or what was that experience? 

And then also thinking about periods of your life where maybe you've been really deeply invested in fitness culture. And maybe doing the punishing exercises, maybe also getting injuries because of that, maybe getting ill a lot of the time, maybe losing your period, like all kinds of different things, like different experiences that you could have in your bodies.

If you've got that framing of this is what no exercise feels like in my body, and this is what too much feels like in my body, then it can help you explore what some sort of happy balance might feel like. So that's something that I encourage people to think about. And I also just wanted to shout out Tally Rye's Intuitive Movement Journal.

It's her book Intuitive Movement as well. It is isn't it? Clients have found that those are helpful resources for navigating stepping back from exercise and just exploring what rest feels like through kind of the framework of, or a similar framework to intuitive being. So if intuitive being resonates with you, then maybe Tally's work will as well. So I'll link to them in the show notes. 

All right, this will be our last question. And it is: I cut out all deliberate movement for a while, by which I mean, I walk to get places and that's it. I'd like to try some movement. and see how it makes me feel. But where on earth do I even start? 

Michael: Okay, once again, without a lot of context, this is very hard to give specific advice.

So I would say think about where you would feel most comfortable exercising and start from there. So I know that for a lot of people, the gym environment can be incredibly intense and intimidating for many reasons. So if you think that maybe that feels a bit much and it's going to put you off. Let's write that off. Don't do that. 

So let's think, okay, maybe we could start some movement at home. Is there a form of exercise that you really enjoy? Do you like dancing? Do you like jump rope? Do you like bodyweight workouts? What is it that kind of you think, Oh, actually that sounds quite fun to me and start there.

And then let's say that there's so many decent content creators online, depending on what you like that I could recommend. Feel free to reach out and just start from that point. If you're thinking that kind of back to my earlier point that, okay, strength training doesn't have to look like that in the gym. What can it look like? A set of basic resistance bands from Amazon for 10 quid, you've got a gym at home. Like you don't have to go to a gym. There's so many different ways that it could look start from that start from what gives you that, Oh, that's interesting. I might give it a try, and start really, really small and build from there and that's probably the best place to start. 

Laura: If someone hasn't done much movement other than, like, incidental daily movements for a while... there's obviously a lot of privilege in this question but I'm wondering if you would recommend like doing a couple of one on one sessions with a trainer, like a safe trainer that could help build up strength or make like a bespoke kind of program for someone or just help them with their form so that they...


I'm maybe thinking of myself here, but I know that I have to be really careful what I do at home because I'm more likely to end up injuring myself just because of my like, specific needs and in terms of managing pain. And so what I've ended up doing... and again shitload of privilege in this but, I'm, after three years of pelvic girdle pain, I'm like, at my limit. So I've started seeing a physio one on one who does clinical Pilates. So it's like very much helping me build my strength, which I could do... 

like I was going to a barre class before that, but I was walking away with more pain, even though it was supposedly like a supervised class, like there were no adjustments. There were no like modifications for my body, like nothing. So I personally, I have found that trying to build my strength and reduce pain, like finding someone who's really specialised has been a game changer for me. 

Michael: Yeah, I would say... I was gonna say one of the benefits of COVID. That's not what I meant. I was gonna say for the benefits of kind of the lockdown that happened as a result of COVID is the fitness industry got pushed forward by about five to ten years in terms of the way that it can support people, especially on a tighter budget as well. There are now so many... 

Laura: oh, you mean like online?

Michael: Online support, right? Because I know that personal training is an investment for a lot of people. It's not a cheap route to go down. If you can afford it, absolutely, yes. If you can have the support of a professional who's got years of experience, it does speed things up and it makes things a lot more kind of personalised and perhaps more enjoyable.

However, the way that the online fitness space works now, it has improved massively. And for, kind of, much cheaper options, monthly options, you can get the support of a trainer online that will be able to do a video call with you to check your form. You can send them videos. 

Like I speak to people that follow me on Instagram all the time and they'll ask me a question. I'll say, just send me a video of you doing the exercise. I'm happy to give you some pointers. If you find people online that are truly passionate and care. If you send them a video of you doing an exercise, they'll happily help you out. So there are so many different routes that you can go down to get the support that don't cost a huge amount of money.

Once again, even the cheaper forms are still an investment, but there are different routes that you can go down now. Yeah, absolutely. 

Laura: Yeah. Okay. I appreciate that. And then just to add to that, like I've done some sessions with this, like a one on one physio. And now I'm going to, like the group classes as well.

So it's, I think, helpful to just... if you have any kind of rehab that needs to be done, or if you just want to feel more confident in the movements. Cause like Pilates can be tricky if you don't know exactly what you're doing to just be thrown into a class situation. So it's helped me at least like doing a few sessions, even though I've done Pilates before, but just having that refresher to then go into a class setting, it's just helped build up my confidence a little bit. And it's also, I'm not going to like this, like a gym. 

Sorry, I said that with so much disdain, realizing you're a personal trainer! 

Michael: Ugh, these disgusting personal trainers!

Laura: It had, like, a visceral effect. 

Michael: It's so funny though, isn't it? That it's so sad that's what the fitness industry has become. And especially as a trainer who is one, every time I meet someone and they'll ask oh, what do you do? I have to like preface, Oh, like I'm not like the rest of them, but I'm a personal trainer, like it's really sad.

Laura: I do the same thing, but with nutrition, I'm like, I'm a nutritionist, but I'm not that kind of nutritionist. 

Michael: I'm not going to sell you a cleanse, I promise! 

Laura: All right, Michael, this has been so fun to have you on and just shoot the shit about fitness culture. 

But at the end of every episode, my guest and I share something that they have been snacking on. So it can be a book, a podcast, a TV show. Yeah, just about anything that, that you feel like. So what are you snacking on at the moment? 

Michael: So one podcast I'm listening to, this is going to be a bit of a curve ball, there's probably quite a few people, especially in the UK listening to it... I don't like politics because in this country, it's so gross the way that politics is at the moment, but I like being well informed in what's going in politics because it has such a huge knock on impact to like societal changes.

Laura: I was really glad that you said that, because when you said I don't like politics, I was like, argh where is this going! 

Michael: no, I do, but I get so infuriated by it because it's so important and I feel like coaches need to be informed because it does directly impact everything we're doing with our clients in terms of like socioeconomic impacts and food access and education and stuff, so I've been listening to The Rest Is Politics podcast. I don't know if you've ever listened to it. It's actually really good. It's Alastair Campbell, Rory Stewart, Labour side, Tory side. They chat about all daily topics and I quite like that they disagree and argue. I, depending on what you think about those two individuals, I'm still very mixed on what I think of them.

However, I think it's very good to have a nice balanced approach there. So that's the podcast I've been listening to a lot recently. I really like it. In terms of food. So I can't eat eggs and dairy. I'm lactose intolerant and intolerant to eggs as well. 

Laura: I think you were probably going to wait for like the bummer, yeah, for me to be like, oh, that's such a bummer. But I'm vegan, so I don't eat any of that stuff . 

Michael: Yeah, I know. I was saying, I'm like the worst gym bro ever. I can't have whey protein shakes and I can't eat like 12 eggs a day. So maybe that's another reason they all hate me. So I found a vegan chocolate bar from Aldi. I don't know if you've ever had it. I don't think so. What? So they do milk, in quotation marks, milk chocolate and a white chocolate. They do a dark chocolate too, but a lot of vegan chocolate is dark. Anyway, so I haven't even tried that but their milk chocolate and their white chocolate is so good .And i'm getting through far too much of this chocolate at the moment but I finally found a chocolate bar that tastes amazing. They're by far the best chocolate you can get that's vegan, hands down 

Laura: That sounds really good, but we don't have an Aldi near us. We have a Lidl. 

Michael: So it's worth commuting. 

Laura: Oh, is it? 

Michael: Yeah. Yes. 

Laura: Okay. Might have to go to the dark depths of Dalston too.

Okay. So I'm actually going to do a podcast also, and it's Getting Curious with Jonathan van Ness, which everyone knows who JVN is, obviously. He's amazing. Yeah, love them. There was like a bit of a thing a while ago where on their Netflix show they talked about like food addiction and it was just really problematic and icky and fatphobic. 

But JVN seems to have really been on a bit of a journey with this stuff and the latest, well, at the time that we are recording, they've just come out with a podcast called... well, an episode of their podcast Getting Curious called What's the Cultural History of the Calorie? With Dr. Athia Chaudhry. They're a fat activist and it's immersed in like fat politics. So, yeah. I would recommend going and giving that one a listen, because yeah, JVN has been on a journey, it seems. 

Michael: That sounds awesome. And that is my afternoon listening. Thank you very much. 

Laura: I will link to all of those things in the show notes.

Michael, before I let you go, can you tell everyone where they can find out more about you and your work? 

Michael: Of course, so, most of the content I create is through Instagram, so it's just my name, which is very hard to spell, so probably best if you check it in the show notes. 

Laura: Yeah, I will link to everything.

Michael: Thank you very much. So it's @MichaelUlloaPT, and that's on Instagram, Threads, Twitter, TikTok, whatever platform, it's all the same. 

Laura: All right, Michael, I will make sure that... It's all fully linked in the show notes so that everyone can find you. Thank you so much for coming on and yeah, like I said before, shooting the shit with us about fitness culture was really fun.

Michael: Thank you so much for having me.


Laura: Thanks so much for listening to the Can I Have Another Snack? podcast. You can support the show by subscribing in your podcast player and leaving a rating and review. And if you want to support the show further and get full access to the Can I Have Another Snack? universe, you can become a paid subscriber.

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Can I Have Another Snack? is hosted by me, Laura Thomas. Our sound engineer is Lucy Dearlove. Fiona Bray formats and schedules all of our posts and makes sure that they're out on time every week. Our funky artwork is by Caitlin Preyser, and the music is by Jason Barkhouse. Thanks so much for listening.

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ICYMI this week: "I'm Not Your Target Audience" - How Do We Get Men To Care?

Can I Have Another Snack?
Can I Have Another Snack?
Can I Have Another Snack? podcast is an exploration of appetite, identity, and bodies. We talk about how we feed ourselves and our kids (in all senses of the word!), and the ingredients we need to survive in diet culture. We’re sitting with the questions: who or what are we nurturing? And who or what is nurturing us? Hosted by Laura Thomas - anti-diet nutritionist and author of the Can I Have Another Snack? newsletter.