Nutrition / Physical Activity / Public Health

Scooby Wekstatt: What He Taught Us About Health Communication

On July 21, 2013, Scooby Wekstatt, the fisherman hat-wearing bodybuilder who took the internet by storm, bid farewell to the YouTube community. News of his departure came as a shock to fans and fitness experts alike, whom long considered Scooby as the “Godfather of YouTube fitness.”

Scooby is first and foremost the founder of Scooby’s Workshop, an online community designed for “those who want to look great and feel great.” However, he is better known for his long-running YouTube channel, one of the earliest forms of social media dedicated to fitness and nutrition. Scooby’s YouTube channel was launched in August of 2006 and holds close to 400,000 subscribers and 200 million views. He doesn’t place into YouTube’s Top 100, but Scooby ranks well above the Associated Press and The White House, in terms of subscribers.

Scooby announces that he is making is final YouTube video after online imageboard, 4chan, crossed the line and sent death threats to his family.

Scooby announces that he is making his final YouTube video. He is often referred to as the “Godfather of YouTube fitness.”

I would like to dedicate this post to Scooby, who not only inspired people such as myself, but paved the way for online fitness and nutrition communication. I would also like to touch upon some the achievements and inaccuracies in his teachings and weigh their implications. Finally, I would like to discuss the reason for his social media departure and how it may symbolize a changing climate in the field of health communication.


#1. SCOOBY WAS PERSONABLE


Scooby1984

Scooby at age 23.

Scooby starts his About Me section as follows: 

“I got a late start in fitness, I was one of those awkward, lanky, clumsy kids who always got picked last when choosing teams in PE class – not athletic in the slightest. I really didn’t do anything fitness wise till I was 21 and started lifting weights.” 

Opening up to the online community might seem like a no-brainer in in a world that is dictated by social media. However, one of the greatest obstacles to health communication is a lack of trust between the expert and the audience. While some experts have been successful in this regard, including Dr. David Katz, many experts fail at providing Scooby’s level of self-disclosure.


#2. SCOOBY HAD A SIMPLE PHILOSOPHY


Scoby instructs on the proper methods for pull-ups.

Scooby instructs viewers on the proper ways of doing pull-ups at a neighborhood park.

Scooby was a big proponent of low-cost physical fitness. His instruction videos exclusively took place in and around his home – never at the gym. By doing so, he avoided creating an even greater information gap. Scooby states his philosophy on his Welcome page:

“Bodybuilding has done a lot for me and I wanted to give back to the community and help those without money to build healthy, awesome physiques.”

"It is your fault that you are overweight. No one else's."

“It is your fault that you are overweight. No one else’s.”

However, Scooby asked his viewers to agree on one thing: Fat Acceptance. He was happy to instruct viewers of all socioeconomic backgrounds, just as long as they took full responsibility of their health. Scooby was openly against the AMA’s recognition of obesity as a disease and clearly stated, “It is your fault that you are overweight. No one elses.” A bold statement.


#3. SCOOBY WAS A MASTER OF (BIASED) DELIVERY


Critics complain that Scooby's nutrition education, which largely consisted of different ways to prepare frozen vegetables and protein powder, was not accurate.

Scooby taught viewers how to prepare quick meals using minimal ingredients. His lack of kitchen skills made it less intimidating for viewers to adopt.

Scooby’s kitchen skills were lackluster, to say the least. He once said, “Meals are a 5 to 10 minute activity that you fit in between classes or while working at your desk.” Skeptics argue that Scooby’s nutrition education, which largely consisted of teaching ways to prepare frozen vegetables and incorporate protein powder, was sending viewers the wrong message about healthy eating.

"If it tastes good, spit it out!"

“If it tastes good, spit it out!” -Jack LaLanne

However, Scooby kept his messages short and simple and devoid of science mumbo jumbo. While some of his messages may have dangerous implications, experts should take note of his delivery and apply it to more evidence-based information.


#4. SCOOBY BROUGHT US INTO HIS WORLD


scoobyairplane

Scooby was an engineer by profession. In this long-running video segment, Scooby let viewers tune in live via webcast while he built a full-sized airplane.

Scooby was an engineer by profession, so his love for buildings things was whole-hearted. He loved building healthy bodies just as much as he loved building complex machines. In a long-running video series, Scooby let his viewers tune in live via webcam as he built a full-sized airplane – a side project – outside of paid work and his regular YouTube fitness channel.

Scooby held live office hours. Once a week. Every week.

Scooby held live office hours. Once a week. Every week.

If that’s not enough, Scooby held office hours. Once a week. Every week. Live. Enough said.


#5. SCOOBY HAD FUN (TALKING ABOUT NON-FUN THINGS)


"But I'm not hungry in the morning!"

“But I’m not hungry in the morning!” -Hans the Bodybuilding Gnome

Scooby used comedy to get his point across. It allowed him to give advice without sounding like a gym teacher. In one video segment, Hans the Bodybuilding Gnome mimicked teenagers who skip breakfast, “But I’m not hungry in the morning!”

Video segment,  "I Hate Gym (PE) Class."

Video segment, “I Hate Gym (PE) Class.”

When the time came, however, Scooby got serious. Scooby commonly spoke to kids about the importance behind fitness and nutrition. In “I Hate Gym Class,” he reminisced of his teenage struggles with school PE and offered kids four pieces of advice.


#7. SCOOBY PRACTICED WHAT HE PREACHED


Scooby practiced what he preached. Each year, Scooby posts his own personal fitness goals in the About Me section of his website. In this video segment, Scooby takes his viewers on his journey through a 200 mile bike race. He periodically speaks to the camera with words of wisdom, "A good fitness goal is not easy to achieve."

Scooby took his viewers on a 200 mile bike race and a Half Ironman Triathlon. “A good fitness goal is not easy to achieve.”


Each year, Scooby posted his own fitness goals in the About Me section of his website. In 2012, Scooby took his viewers on a 200 mile bike race and a Half Iron Man TriathlonHe periodically spoke to the camera to offer words of wisdom:

“A good fitness goal is not easy to achieve. If it’s easy to achieve you probably didn’t set the bar high enough.”


Reason for Departure

Scooby’s departure from social media leads back to online imageboard, 4chan. Scooby was doxed by 4chan members, thereby leaking his private information on the internet. Instances such as these make it increasingly difficult for experts to bridge the gap between themselves and the audience.

However, Scooby admits that his time had run out, “My passion for health, fitness, cardio and sports is much more aligned with people [within] my age range than with young[er] people,” Scooby said, going on to describe his future ventures at www.fit40andover.com.

It’s quite possible that long video segments are no longer capable of holding the attention span of children and young adults. Newer forms of health promotion, such as via Pinterest and Instagram, may be more appropriate because of their ability to offer short snippets of useful information. Whatever the case may be, I hope we can learn from Scooby’s strengths and weaknesses to build bigger and better tools for health communication in the near future.

If want to know more about health communication, check out Public Health Literacy.

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