In a world filled with so many opinions on health and fitness, it’s hard to know who, or what, you can trust to help you get in shape.
My hope is that you’ll trust me, but I don’t want you to follow me blindly.
My goal today is to give you ideas on how to easily sort through all the information, and decide for yourself what’s worth your time and what isn’t.
Optimists, Pessimists, & Fred
Let me tell you about a completely real guy that I’m totally not making up right now named… ummmm… Fred? OK, sure: Fred.
Fred is a pessimist.
You can tell he’s a pessimist because he walks around all day saying things like, “I bet this meeting will go long today,” or, “Guaranteed it’s gonna rain this weekend since I’m planning on golfing.”
Or sometimes he’ll say, “I’m pretty sure all my friends are secretly plotting to sneak into my house and stuff me into my freezer so they don’t have to look at my stupid face ever again.”
You know, normal stuff like that.
The real problem is not so much that he’s a pessimist (although a visit to the psychiatrist might not be a bad idea), it’s that he justifies his statements by saying, “I’m not being negative, I’m a realist. Those are just facts.”
I don’t want to be like Fred.
This particular blog post isn’t meant to be a negative observation (i.e. whiney complaint) about the state of the fitness industry.
Although this is a list of 7 things you can’t trust to help you get in shape, at the end, I hope you’ll walk away feeling more hopeful, and less confused about how to find advice that is right for YOU.
1. The Internet
I realize this is ironic coming from someone who trains people online.
I’m not saying everything on the internet is unreliable. The problem is that you can find validation of any belief with one simple inquiry on the search engine of your choice.
For that reason, I don’t recommend googling fitness advice.
Instead, find a few sources you trust and compare their recommendations. I’ll get more into how to find reliable sources later, but an important aspect is making sure it’s someone with a firm grasp on the science of diet and exercise.
That said, just because something references science, doesn’t mean it’s always trustworthy…
2. A Single Study
Not every study on a given topic comes to identical conclusions. That’s how science works.
The only way to accurately interpret the results of any single study is by comparing it to all of the related research that already exists (as well as what we observe in the real world).
Instead of accepting what one study claims as fact, I invite you to be skeptical (even of me). Make sure whoever is citing a study is aware of the research as a whole.
You don’t have to immerse yourself in it personally. Just be willing to engage. Ask questions.
One way to identify a reliable source is if it’s someone who can give the pros and cons on both sides of a controversial topic, rather than stubbornly holding their position and refusing to have an open mind.
We all have individual differences as humans, and because of that, answers to polarizing issues often lie somewhere in the middle anyway.
3. A Bad Coach
There’s more than one thing that can make a bad coach, but one of the biggest and easiest clues for the untrained eye to spot is a coach who thinks everyone should do the same thing.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not necessarily bad to do the same program as someone else. And certain aspects likely will be the same from person to person. But if your coach puts every client through the exact same workouts, or tells everyone to follow the exact same diet, it’s not a good sign.
You can’t expect to get the best results if your individuality isn’t taken into consideration.
Look for someone who asks questions about your life, health history, past experiences with diet and exercise, etc., and then actually takes those things into consideration when giving advice.
4. A Fit Person
Whether it be a close friend, or some random fit dude at the gym… just because they look like they know what they’re doing, doesn’t make it so.
Many fit people tend to swear by their “thing” (e.g. yoga, crossfit, keto, vegan, etc.) because it worked for THEM.
There’s nothing wrong with asking someone what they did to get in shape. Just don’t assume the first person you ask will have the solution that works for YOU.
Ask lots of people so you become aware of multiple options (or just find a good coach who lays it all out for you). Then, instead of forcing yourself to fit the mold of a certain plan that worked for someone else, pick the plan that best fits your lifestyle.
5. Popular Media
Fitness magazines, social media, celebrity endorsements, even the news… they aren’t all bad all the time.
They’re just not consistently reliable.
The biggest difference between the popular media and more trustworthy sources of information is that the media is built upon the “new” and/or “exciting.” Meanwhile, the majority of valid fitness principles are well-established and, if we’re being honest, kind of boring.
One of the best ways to recognize trendy, inadequate (yet popular) advice is if it highlights some new, specific tip as a prime solution to all your fitness problems.
For example, cutting sugar rather than looking at food quality as a whole, or intermittent fasting over portion control in general. Or stressing one specific type of exercise over another (to be clear, I suggest prioritizing resistance training, but would never say you have to do one variety over another).
For a more in-depth look at the foundational principles that matter most, I list 9 of them here.
6. Getting Sore
The first time you try a new exercise, it sort of shocks your body and can cause you to get sore. As your body adapts to the exercise, rather than simply recovering from the “shock,” it can start to make progress, without getting as sore.
Unfortunately, if you think getting sore is what’s important, you’ll constantly have to seek out new exercise, never allowing your body to get past the initial shock and allowing improvement.
You can still get some results this way, but without having something more measurable to keep track of, it will be difficult to continue to make progress.
Forget about how tough a workout is, or how sore it does or doesn’t get you.
Stick with a long-term plan and keep track of everything you do. Watch for improvements from month to month, rather than focusing on how you feel the day after you exercise.
7. Short Term Results
You say you’re not too concerned about finding a new plan — you already know what works. The diet or exercise program you did last time got you amazing results. So why not just do that again?
I’ll tell you why not.
Anything can get you results for a little while. That doesn’t guarantee it will work again, and it definitely doesn’t mean the results will stick any better than it did the first time around.
Maybe your results didn’t last because you just gave up. Or maybe your results didn’t last because your plan was never meant to be a long-term solution in the first place.
Before you give your trust to a program that worked for you once before, ask yourself if it seems like something you would EVER be able to continue for more than a couple months.
If so, and you just got sidetracked last time, go ahead and jump back on the wagon.
If not, give your trust to a different program that focuses on teaching you skills you can sustain well after the program is over.
That’s what we do with our 1-on-1 coaching clients.
It doesn’t mean you’ll always be perfect with your diet and exercise. It’s just a system you can trust no matter what life throws at you.
We’d love to earn your trust and become one of your reliable sources of information, digging through the science for you, showing you all your options based on your lifestyle and goals, and ultimately getting you results that last.
If you’re interested, you can apply for any one of our coaching programs here.