I think you will agree with me when I say there is a TON of noise coming from all different directions in the health, fitness, and nutrition space. It can be difficult to decide what to listen to and what advice to take. Who should you listen to, what program should you try, what products should you buy?!
From my experience with clients and what they tell me, as well as my own personal experiences, I've felt the need to try to clear some things up and share some of my feelings about who we should be trusting in the areas of health and fitness.
First of all, I would like to point out that there is a difference between professionals in a field and those that do something for fun or as a "hobby job." If a person is offering you advice on how to care for your body, how you should be eating, or how you should be exercising, make sure they're educated. Can they explain to you WHY what they're suggesting works? What is this type of exercise targeting? How do the ingredients work or what do the ingredients mean? What's the science behind it? Has this program been studied and shown to be effective?
Everyone is different. Steer clear of any programs or products to claim to work for everyone. Is this program offering a standard diet plan or is it personalized? Is it personalized as far as making changes as you figure out how your body responds? Are your workouts just given to you or are they personalized for your goals, your level of activity and explained well? Professionals will get the chance to know you, personalize any programming, and follow your progress to make individualized changes as necessary.
Are you being asked to buy some type of product or supplement? The key to health has a basis in diet, exercise, and lifestyle. Nowhere in that equation does it say you need a crazy protein shake that gives you 2948757% of your daily vitamins or the fat burner pill to go with it (that may or may not give you a temporary eye twitch....). How much are you spending on these things each month? If you're having to reorder your shake or fat burner pill each month for $100 that seems silly when you can put that towards a dietitian, personal trainer, and/or gym membership. Meeting with professionals for a few sessions can help you get on track and those are one-time fees! Pay for your session and never pay again... but you're still making progress because you've gained the knowledge!
Is the program sustainable? How likely is it that you are going to spend the rest of your life buying that protein shake or those fat burning pills? What happens if you stop taking them though? Are you right back to where you started? This is the issue with fad diets and other programs. They are great when they first come out because they work and they work quickly, but then someone stops the program for a while and the weight goes right back on. While unappealing, slow and steady weight loss achieved through a change in lifestyle habits is the way to go. Studies show the quicker the weight comes off, the more likely you are to put it back on. So you can try that juice cleanse that is going to help you lose 10 pounds in a week, but a month from now, are you still 10 pounds lighter?
Is it even healthy? You want my honest thoughts on supplements, shakes, and whatever else is out there... it's cheating, but you're cheating yourself. It's a shortcut and many times with shortcuts come consequences. If you're losing weight by taking supplements or using other programs, that's great, but that doesn't mean it's healthy. The goal behind weight loss, exercise, and diet change should be your health, and with some of these products and companies their focus is just getting the weight off in whatever way possible. That eye twitch thing I mentioned with the fat burning pills, that's a real thing, I've experienced it. In more extreme cases, those that have taken some forms of supplements for extended periods of time are on liver transplant lists.
There is more benefit from lifestyle changes than just weight loss; there are real health benefits!
Fruits and vegetables contain chemicals that help prevent chronic disease and even cancer. Those chemicals work best when in combination with the other nutrients found in the whole foods rather than from supplements. Getting vitamins and minerals from food is the same idea; the other nutrients and chemicals in the food help to use the vitamins and minerals more efficiently. We shouldn't be looking to supplements to obtain our daily needs unless we prove to have some deficiency and can't obtain all we need from the diet. Shakes and juices are an issue from my point of view because many people replace a meal or multiple meals with these products. Variety is key in nutrition to make sure you're getting everything you need. By having a shake or protein bar for one or two of your meals you're decreasing the amount of variety you're getting from food.
Regular exercise also has an effect on chronic disease risk. Weight-bearing exercise improves bone density. Building muscle helps you thrive in old age. Your body also produces endorphins, which are feel-good hormones, when you exercise. It can help fight off depression and just make you feel good. Who doesn't want that?!
Is your safety a concern? Does the coach or consultant (or whatever else they call themselves) you're working with have your safety in mind? Not only do you need to be aware of some of the health implications I mentioned from using certain products and their ingredients, but what about how supplements and exercise are going to affect you individually? Are these people taking recovery into account? Are they motivating you but unintentionally pushing you to overtrain? Do you have exercise modifications available if you're using a workout program? Have you been taught about proper recovery nutrition and hydration? If you're given a new movement, is anyone providing help to you, watching you, or giving you cues to perform it correctly?
I'm not saying I'm an expert on any of these programs, supplements, or other things that are out there. But when I see an average person that decides to join a company on a whim and now labels themselves as a health coach, with no education, trying to give out nutrition and exercise advice, that concerns me.
If someone presents you with a new product or program ASK QUESTIONS! Make sure they know their stuff... Go through some of the things I've listed and make sure you're dealing with someone that has done their research, is confident in what they're offering you, and it's a sustainable health change.
Please understand, I'm not trying to sell myself or my services in any way here. I just want to help educate you on what you should be looking for in someone to help you make changes to benefit your health. If you choose to follow up with me and ask more questions I would be delighted to answer them. If you choose to seek out advice from some other professional, I'm glad I made an impact on your decision. But please, all I ask of you is to educate yourself and make sure that whoever you're taking advice from is educated as well.