Being Smart With Your Health (And Wallet)

Unfortunately in the fitness industry, getting ripped off or swindled is very common. I believe this is the case for two reasons –

  1. To be honest, a Cert IV in fitness (the minimum standard to be classed as a ‘fitness professional’) is incredibly easy to get. Many trainers receive their certificate and enrol in no further training. This results in a flood of inexperienced trainers with very little knowledge charging for a service they are not confident they can deliver. Clients are then given poorly programmed training schedules paired with irresponsible dieting tips because the trainer simply doesn’t know any better, they are just trying to make back all the money spent on their certificate in the first place.

  2. Much worse than the first, some trainers will take advantage of their clients who may not know any better. They will offer them severely overpriced services or talk them into programs unsuitable for that person.

The main trend I’m seeing lately is that of the short-term challenges. These are often 6, 8, 10 or 12 weeks in duration and regularly include workout guidelines and a meal plan to follow for that time frame. You will see success stories, before / after photos (a whole different issue) and testimonials of how amazing these programs are.. Don’t get me wrong, these things do work, in the very short term. Take ‘The Biggest Loser‘ for example, they exercise and diet extremely hard for 3-4 months, they lose a LOT of weight, yet once the show has concluded, a high percentage of contestants put massive amounts of weight back on.
‘The Biggest Loser’ is an extreme example of the point, but the question is, why is it so hard to keep weight off after completing one of these challenges? There would be many answers to that question and a lot of exercise professionals would probably answer this one in their own unique ways, but my thinking is this –

  • The simple answer – You haven’t actually learnt anything from this challenge! You’ve been told what to do and what to eat for a period of time, when it finishes you are lost, you go back to eating what you were before the challenge began and continue in a cycle.

  • The answer that’s a bit trickier – These challenges are generally not personalised, they are generic, low calorie, high intensity plans, which sound good! The problem is that we are not ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to nutrition. You would offer a very different approach to a 22 year old female wanting to lose a little bit of weight, than you would to an obese man in his 50’s, but a lot of these programs do not take this into account. Another reason is that of a humans gut bacteria. Matt Legge from ATP science can explain it much better than I can if you would like to listen to his podcast (ATP Science), but here is my best shot. Your gut is absolutely packed with bacteria, this bacteria is a representation of the nutrition it is given. If somebody has gone their whole life eating a certain kind of way that has led them to be overweight, then their gut bacteria will reflect that, it will respond best to the foods it is familiar with and send signals to the body showing it’s craving for these foods. In order to manipulate your gut you must effectively kill off the bacteria and promote the growth of new ‘healthy’ bacteria, that way your body will respond more effectively to the new diet you have provided. This can be done by switching to new eating habits. The thing is, this manipulation in gut flora has been shown to take 6 months, in some cases even longer. Therefore, making these short-term changes alters nothing in your gut bacteria, you will finish the time period and your stomach will not have had time to adapt to its new eating habits, you will make short term changes and rebound back once the challenge is over – unless you make it an ongoing process.

My overall message for this article is, if your program lays out your food and exercise for a pre-determined period, instead of actually teaching you how to make the correct choices for yourself, it’s not worth investing your time or money.

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