I've been actively researching health and fitness for five years now. Not only have I acquired my own credentials (some of which are TRULY useless), but I've learned who I should be 'following' and how I can personally get my hands on the latest studies and research. Not only has this proactive approach taught me a heck of a lot about health, but it has also allowed me to discover, for myself, who knows what they're talking about and who doesn't. With that said, here are some things to be mindful of when you're following a health and fitness, nutrition and/or wellness advisor:
Avoid those who provide black and white advice.
If there's one thing I want you to remember from this blog, it's that fitness, nutrition and holistic wellness is NOT black and
white. By this I mean, if someone is always giving advice that says: x + y always equals z, they likely don't have
all of the facts**.You see, while our bodies function very similarly in many ways, they also function quite differently in
others (for a number of reasons); what works for one, may not work for another. Great role models in the health and fitness
industry understand this and arm themselves with an abundance of information so that they can try different methods
with their clients, or advise on several methods for their followers. Like it or not, there is a ton of trial and error in health and fitness because we've yet to understand it all, scientifically-speaking. Anyone who's constantly promoting black and white
information (without any scientific backing) is usually playing the "know it all" role...but let's be honest, nobody knows it all!
** Some exceptions apply because Science has uncovered a lot, however in this case, the advisor should tell you 'why' & where to learn more.
Ignore advisors who: give directions based on the Food Pyramid, promote a fad-diet or encourage one training method only.
In keeping with what I said above, your advisor should never promote one method and one method only. In particular, however, I recommend that you avoid those who work from the Government-released Food Pyramid, promote a particular fad-diet and/or encourage one method of training (like cardio only, for example). With respect to the Food Pyramid, there is reason to believe that these guidelines are established by lawyers, farmers and politicians in their respective countries. While I have no solid proof to back that up, I can tell you that the Food Pyramids, quite clearly, demonstrate that we all should be eating the same way; and this just isn't true! Likewise, they don't always take into account what kinds of foods are beneficial to our bodies vs. what kinds are not. And on a personal note, I find that most of the Food Pyramids out there promote way to much carbohydrates (especially given how inactive we've become), way too little healthy fats and protein, and far too much dairy!
Don't engage with those who cannot participate in a constructive debate.
Since most health and fitness information isn't black and white (as mentioned above), then most of it it remains completely debatable. Thus, whoever you're taking your advice from should be able to participate in a healthy, constructive debate. If not, they're likely just in an advisory position to simply be heard; you know that 'I know everything, listen to me or you'll fail' mentality?
Stay away from those who fail to answer 'why' questions and/or provide sources of information.
Bottom line: if they can't tell you why or at least direct you to something that scientifically explains why, they aren't a well-informed individual; don't forget to ask why!
If they fail to take safety into consideration, steer clear!
Especially with regards to personal trainers, however also applicable to people directing your diet; advisors should be covering all of your safety needs. Trainers should be asking about injuries, family history, aches and pains etc. While anyone designing a custom diet plan for you should be asking about medication, hormonal disorders, allergies etc.
If posts, blogs and/or conversations are consistently negative in nature, say goodbye!
Simply put, having a negative advisor will rub off on you at some point; you'll either absorb the negativity yourself or, eventually, run away from it. From the start, make sure that the people you're following or taking advice from have a positive spirit and are promoting a happy, safe and healthy journey!
Be mindful of those who consistently throw their credentials in your face.
I don't mean to bash credentials - really, I don't - but there are some people out there who like to use their pieces of paper as a crutch. Some of the most knowledgeable people in this industry don't have any credentials! Why? Because they know how "cookie cutter" a lot of the educational programs are. As someone who has participated, for herself, in several different programs, Ill tell you firsthand that a lot of them teach - yes, I'm going to say it - black and white information. Of course, you can learn a lot about the fundamentals in these classes/programs, but what's more important is that you're up-to-date on the latest facts, figures and studies if you're going to be successful in providing advice - this industry is always evolving! So, anyone who constantly leans on the fact that they're some special [insert title] is, in my opinion someone to watch out for. Make sure they prove their knowledge and expertise before you start taking them too seriously.