I had the opportunity to chat with Michele Burmaster of Disrupt Your Diet. If you don’t already know her, Michele is a body positive blogger, an entrepreneur and an international role model in the fitness industry. I have admired Michele’s work for a long time. She is someone I look up to and I was very grateful she took the time to share about her journey and a recent appropriation of her trademark she overcame.
How did you prepare yourself professionally?
I started martial arts at a young age at an “old school” dojo. I was required to learn to run the business before becoming an instructor. This set me up for the rest of my life. I learned how to run a well-oiled service based business. I underwent a 70lb weight loss in my early twenties and was inspired to help others gain fitness. The two worlds melded together and I ended up with the skill set required to open and run a successful gym.
What inspired you to create Disrupt Your Diet?
I was at the MGM in Vegas in June of 2014 when Shakeology was holding their annual event. I couldn’t even walk to my room without being told how Shakelogy is changing someone’s life. I’ve NEVER endorsed “weight loss products” and always stood behind sustainable habit change as the key to true health. I wondered if I could spread the truth about how weight loss truly works and undermine the diet industry at the same time- that’s when Disrupt Your Diet was born.
What do people get wrong when they imagine the life of a body positive blogger and gym owner?
People assume I’m a total maniac for owning four businesses AND working a day job and maintaining a healthy marriage all at the same time. I’m just good at streamlining processes. I really enjoy being an entrepreneur because it serves as a creative outlet. Some people paint. Some people sing. I build businesses.
People probably assume I’m a walking billboard for my own body positivity. I am a work in progress myself. 30 years of body negativity (unrealistic expectations from the media instilling fear and telling me that I’m not good enough the way I am) takes more than just a year or two to reverse. I battle almost daily with body image, while at the same time trying to help others take pride in what they can DO vs. what they look like. I’m one of you guys and battle the same demons. But you all lift me up- it’s very reciprocating!
What do you find most rewarding about your work?
Every single day I get at least one person telling me I’m opening their eyes to a new way of being. People have told me “I never even thought of being proud or grateful for what my body can do because I’m so worried it doesn’t look good enough” and that I’ve helped them instill a new sense of freedom. That’s the only reason I truly am doing this.
What do you find most challenging?
This entire movement is VERY David vs. Goliath. The diet and weight loss industry is a $60 billion/YEAR industry in the US alone. There are a handful of us body positive fitness professionals working to help individuals get fit by breaking down barriers the diet industry spent so much time and money putting up. But we work day in and day out. Will there ever be a day where diet pills don’t exist? Probably not in my lifetime, but I do believe mine and my colleague’s works are laying the foundation for a better future in general.
What advice do you have for women who want to pursue a career path like yours?
Have patience. Do what you can where you are with what you have. Every action counts. Small actions lead up to big ones. I remember celebrating 200 followers on Disrupt Your Diet’s fb and now there are over 6,000 in less than a year. I didn’t get discouraged that it took me a month to grow to 200, instead I celebrated that there are 200 unique individuals who care about the cause like I do. Do good and good will come. Set your sights on the greater change and you can’t go wrong because everything you do will count.
What is your self-care plan like? How do you take care of you while you are helping teaching people how to take care of themselves?
I do NOT compromise my need for at least 6-7 hours of sleep per night. Even if that means I work at the gym from 5am to 7am, my day job from 7am to 330pm, back at the gym from 4pm to 830pm and then straight to bed. A lot of days are like that, and I could easily work through the night and into the morning but I don’t. Sleep is a requirement. I try my hardest to unplug for a few hours every Sunday. I remind myself a burned out Michele is no good to anyone, so best to take preventative measures. My favorite “me” time thing to do is put on a record, strap on my acoustic guitar and pretend I’m performing for an arena as the frontwoman of Fleetwood Mac.
Who are your biggest supporters?
Hands down, my wife Janelle. She spends every minute supporting me and I wouldn’t be able to do ANYTHING without her. She is my Bernie Taupin to my Elton John. She is ½ of this team and deserves the exact same recognition I do. I’ve never once had to pay a bill, do payroll, worry about taxes, make a phonecall I don’t have time for or wonder what’s for dinner because she has my back 24/7. None of this would be real without her.
Secondly, my mentors Amber Rogers, Jennifer Campbell, Sean Flanagan, Oystein Lund and Jason Lannigan. Danielle Lohmann (my Body Positive Fitness Alliance partner), Maria DeMesa (my Kettlebizness partner).
Every single member of Surf City Fit Club who is behind my mission 10,000%. It is because of THEM we have decided to take this mission to the world.
My family- namely my entrepreneur parents who taught me and led by example that you can have anything you want in life if you’re willing to go out and get it.
Lastly, my sounding board of friends- they know who they are and help me devise my plans as they formulate.
In other words- NONE of what I do is a one woman show. That’d be impossible.
Your blog name was used to promote concepts that aren’t congruent with your philosophy and work. How did it make you feel when you first realized this happened?
It was absolutely soul crushing. To work so hard on something you KNOW is 100% yours and to watch a huge corporation completely disregard and disrespect my position as a business owner and rightful owner of “Disrupt Your Diet” took everything out of me. It was a really, really hard month.
What kind of damages did you incur?
I didn’t sleep for about 20 days, anxiety was through the roof. I didn’t know if we’d be able to stop them. I imagined worst case scenarios every single second. I thought my entire year of work was done for and they were just going to take Disrupt Your Diet right out from under me.
I paid thousands of dollars and man hours trying to repair their damage to my SEO and to ensure people looking for me could find me and not the trademark infringement.
How has Collectively.org responded?
They complied with the cease and desist after about 7 long, slow days. They refuse to reimburse any of the damages incurred.
Who the heck are these people?
We’re still not really sure but we can tell you what we know. Collectively.org is a “millennial sustability blog” who has claimed to be a “non-profit” with “partners” from some of the world’s largest corporations including Facebook, Twitter, Nike, Unilever, Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Google. The CEO of collectively.org is the VP of Global Marketing Projects for Unilever. Their website spends a lot of time claiming editorial independence from brand partners. The entire thing to me is very fishy. Especially since it appears their 49,000 facebook fans are fake, judging by literally zero post engagement. Also, their blog articles have little-to-no visibility. I’m not sure what the true purpose of collectively.org is.
What kind of response have you received now that this is coming to light?
Nothing but incredible support! I didn’t expect anything less. With a few blog posts having gone viral now, I’m amazed I’ve been able to avoid the usual criticism we see people come from the woodwork with (everyone’s a critic on the internet, right?). Everything has been amazing and people are outpouring with support. My heart is so full.
How can people help?
The only way we can recoup costs at this point is by selling awesome teeshirts. We’d never run a “gofundme” or crowd fund without giving back- so check out our shirts at www.kettlebizness.com to see if there’s anything you or someone you know might like. We make a few bucks per shirt, so every share helps!
Share my blog post. The more corporations realize the little guys can stand up for themselves the better. Corporate greed is at an all time high because money talks- but small businesses have the SAME exact rights and THAT’S the message I hope people take away from all of this.
Spread the Disrupt Your Diet message that we are not what we look like but rather we are what we can do!
What’s next for Disrupt Your Diet?
We started Body Positive Fitness Alliance to band together fitness professionals and individuals who believe in making mainstream fitness free of extremes and accessible and approachable. We are working to change the fitness industry as we know it.
Disrupt Your Diet will continue to dispel myths about fitness and weight loss and spread the scientific evidence based truth behind all of it. We are up against a giant here, our work will never be done. It’s a good thing I absolutely LOVE what I do!