Eating Clean & Looking Lean: Are Gyms Making Us Fit or Fat?

The "Eating Clean" side of The Wag Doll Protocol has been going well for me over the 2 months since I began the regime. My version of clean eating, which I described here, isn't so strict that I won't indulge, but these are planned events such as a weekend away and meals out, and I can adjust my diet accordingly.

But this weekend it all went belly up...big belly up!

I was at an event all day on Saturday from 10.30am until 11pm, and was appalled at the complete lack of healthy food options. Where was I?....a sports centre filming a martial arts event for goodness sake!

teenagers kickboxing

Lovely cafe area selling a tempting array of choca mocha lattes, cheese toasties, muffins and alcohol (!) for the adults, chocolate bars, fizzy drinks and crisps for the kids.....seriously, are they trying to make us fat or fit in these places?

To read more, click through below...

For the last 5 years or so I've done my workouts at home here, and I also train at Real Fitness Gym in my home town, which I'm happy to say has water for clients and sells protein powders...that's it! I thought things would have changed since I was a small child gazing at the vending machine after swimming lessons.

But over the last few months I've visited numerous local authority and private run gyms, leisure centres and sports facilities while helping Mr Wag Doll film events. And I'm shocked to find that many of them are still selling overpriced junk food, loaded with sugar and processed fats.

These are the places that are supposed to encourage us and our children to become fit and active, what sort of mixed message is that? Surely it must be a purely money making enterprise on the part of the gym, in which case you have to question their motives and should you really be entrusting your health to 'professionals' who think it acceptable to tempt you in this way. 

Childhood obesity is a growing epidemic, so is it morally acceptable for sports centres to be using pester power techniques to make money? When your child is hungry after sports and swimming it's hard to resist the vending machine but bad habits formed as a child are so much harder to break as an adult. 

According to the British Heart Foundation it would take a 7 year old child 88 minutes of swimming to burn off the 200 calories in an average chocolate bar. So all that good work being done by children to combat a sedentary lifestyle is being undone by these places peddling junk food. Schools in England have been banned from selling crisps and chocolates since 2007, it's about time Jamie Oliver had a word with gyms and sports facilities too!

You could say that as adults we can make a choice, only there wasn't a choice at the sports centre I was filming in, there was junk food or nothing. Luckily the promoters wife arrived mid afternoon with sandwiches and I was able to have something more nutritious than a Kit Kat (which I'd already eaten...), but these sandwiches were supplied by the event promoter, not provided by the Sports Centre.

Now the odd blip like this isn't going to kill me, but done regularly when going to the's not good.  The lesson I've learnt is that I need to be much more prepared, and take my own food unless I know beforehand there will be clean eating options, silly me for assuming there would be healthy food available in a sports centre.

So how do you guys prepare for a day out while trying to stick to a healthy eating regime, and how as parents would you combat the dreaded vending machine? Have you come across any sports facilities & gyms that actually do promote healthy eating?

You would think in addition to providing healthy foods, gyms would use creative advertising concepts for interested clients who use their services. Muscle rage is a good example of a supplement store in the UK that fitness centers could actively promote to add value to their clients’ exercising regimen. Another viable strategy that could be adopted would be to go into partnership with the company and retail a well-known health product. Sports nutrition is a giant industry that any serious-minded entity can study and carve a niche for themselves.

And so onto the Ring Series Kickboxing and K1 event I attended, a great show comprising of an afternoon event giving children and up coming fighters the chance to gain experience in the ring,

children kickboxing in ring

children with trophy and boxing gloves

girl in boxing ring wearing head guard

...and an evening event of experienced fighters with some spectacular bouts, culminating in the WRSA British Women's Kickboxing title fight between Chloe Taylor & Lucy Horrobin, these girls have some serious skills, going all out for 6 full rounds, great to see a women's fight at the top of the bill. Here are some photos from the main event, and you don't get bodies like these guys by eating dirty!

Muay Thai fighters in ring

boxing punch in ring

Kickboxing fighters in ring


RobertUK said…
Hey Bridgit,

I completely agree. I remember when I was young and used to go swimming it was the same - all that was on offer was chocolate, crisps and fizzy drinks, some of the worst stuff that people could be eating and drinking!

Like you I've recently (yesterday!) started eating clean. When you're stuck somewhere like that all day it's almost impossible to do.

As you suggested, the best option is to bring your own food - but it's extra hassle and expense!

It just seems like such a conspiracy - governments and councils wanting children to grow up healthy but a cheeky Mars bar afterwards unravels all their hard work!
Wag Doll said…
Indeedy Rob, exactly my own experience!
It's a money spinner for gyms and sports centres, plus in general the government & local authorities don't want to upset big business, the food industry is dominated by big companies making processed junk and they have a lot of political influence.
The Last Slayer said…
Took the boys swimming on Sunday - in the waiting area there were vending machines full of chocolate, crisps and fizzy drinks! Lucily I'd taken a healthy snack for each of them to have but you're right, you really shouldn't have to. Now I think about it, I don't think I've been to any swimming pool or gym that had anything but junk food on offer :-(

Great photos though - did Mr Wag Doll take them?
Wag Doll said…
It's so bad isn't it? I really thought with the current concerns about obesity that gyms and sports centres would have cleaned up their act.

Heehee I took the photos, Mr Wag Doll is strictly moving images at the shows! I go to assist him with setting up and logging tapes etc, and that usually means I manage to get a rigside seat...great for photography :-) x said…
It is laughable isn't it, all the sugar thrown in our faces everywhere. I must admit to being a sugar junkie, luckily for me I am naturally pretty slim, well I say luckily, I do wonder if all the mountains of sugar I've consumed will one day come back and bite me on my bum!! As for my daughter, I am a major hypocrite. With the exception of the very small amount of chocolate or a home-made cake, she rarely has any sugar. It is easy at the moment as she is only 2 and a half, but my plan is that by not giving her the sugar now, she won't develop a majorly sweet tooth. If however she is offered sweets and candy at parties, then I won't put my foot down, it'll only make her want it all the more. As for vending machines, I figure if she never sees me using them, then maybe she won't be so attracted to using them. Of course this is all mainly hypothetical and I could well find myself sat mainlining Green & Blacks and Haagen Daz with her right next to me on the sofa doing the same in years to come.
Anonymous said…
God I so agree with you. Our local leisure centre has vending machines full of sugary drinks and crap to eat. We also have a very small coffee shop on site, but again selling mostly crap (in interest of fairness they also sell tired looking fruit).
Oh and don't forget the adverts for the local chippy....
nettie_ said…
I thought of you on Saturday, Ollie was boxing at Oldham Community and Leisure Centre - vending machine full of protein shakes, protein bars and energy drinks/water.... not a chocolate bar/crisp in site!! I meant to take a photo but forgot as the fight was cancelled, his opponent had a panic attack!
However, they did have a bar selling hotdogs!!!
Wag Doll said…
Yay for Oldham Leisure Centre! Def a step in the right direction with some choice and no crisps/choccie. Aw the poor opponent having a panic attack bless him, the sight of Ollie all fired up & raring to go was too much!

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