The Blame Game

I am not in the kind of shape I want to be in. I'm a little soft around the middle, can't squat as much as I'd like, and I can't run faster than a nine-minute mile — and that's for no more than five miles at a time [at least I couldn't before I broke my ankle earlier this year — now I would be happy with that snail's pace].

I think I'm going to sue someone about these problems.

Maybe I'll sue my parents. After all, it is their horrible genetics that may have predisposed me to being such an underachiever.

Maybe I'll sue my personal trainer. After all, he “prescribes” the routine that is supposed to help me get in shape — clearly it's not working.

I've got it. I'll go after the deepest pockets available — I'll sue my gym. After all, I'm supposed to get rock-hard abs and increased health by working out. Obviously, either they are lying to me or not offering me the best tools for my success.

Sounds ridiculous, I know. But it may not be that far from the truth following a recent ruling in a case of a young person suing McDonald's for contributing to his obesity and related health problems.

Judge Robert Sweet of the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York dismissed the suit last month, saying it failed to show that patrons at the world's largest fast-food chain were unaware that eating too much McDonald's fare could be unhealthy.

But Sweet left open the door for plaintiffs — including a 400-pound teenager who said he eats at McDonald's every day — to refile the case, with guidance on how the suit might be strengthened by showing negligence on how McDonald's processes some of its foods such as French fries and Chicken McNuggets.

Does this relate directly to health clubs? Probably not, although if you serve food in your café, it is best to make sure the fare is as healthy as you advertise.

But if society as a whole continues to blame everyone else for their problems [think of cases involving hot coffee, etc.] or lack of results, it may only be a matter of time before those who try [perhaps not hard enough] and fail [maybe through no fault other than bad genetics] may turn to the nutritionists, aerobics instructors, personal trainers and fitness facilities that couldn't deliver the results they had hoped — and in most cases paid — for.

Will this be the case? Who knows for sure; but in this litigious society, at some point it probably will. There is nothing more frustrating than not being able to achieve the success that you hoped for and seeing others around you succeed. That frustration may lead to members and clients lashing out at the clubs that “let them down.”

Perhaps it's time to re-think advertising, promotions and, most important, the education provided to members and perspective members letting them know that fitness and health are highly individualized and that they should approach the relationship with that in mind. If not, they may be approaching it with super-sized expectations that may add up to lots of legal tangles for all involved.

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