The “D” Word

We are all bombarded daily with information about the “Best” DIET !!  Diets for fat loss, diets for your specific body shapes, diets for building muscle, diets for diseases, low carb diets, high carb diets, low fat diets, high fat diets,  high protein and low fat diets, green diets, liquid diets,  fasting diets, crash diets, weight loss diets, detox diets and belief based diets.  So if you are anything like me and not a fully qualified nutritionist then you have every reason to be completely and utterly confused.

As a certified Personal Trainer I have limited knowledge on nutrition, however many clients have an expectation that fitness services should be coupled with nutrition advice, particularly with regards to weight management and dietary supplementation. Fitness Australia had noted that this has created a need for Personal Trainers to find the balance between providing an appropriate level of nutrition advice to the client, without providing information beyond their professional scope of practice. As a Fitness Australia Representative I am encouraged to provide basic healthy eating information and advice through the application of nationally endorsed nutritional standards and guidelines (in particular, the Australian Dietary Guidelines).  So for nutrition-related advice that is
outside of my scope I will refer my clients to an appropriate health professional who is an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) or an Accredited Sports Dietitian (AccSD) to safeguard them from harmful nutrition advice.  And I would highly recommend if you are getting your nutritional advice from your Personal Trainer or Fitness Guru then ask what their qualifications are before you blindly follow their advice on Diets.  And of course DR Google, while handy for gaining information, will never replace qualified advice.

So based on this what do I tell my clients ???  Essentially it is pretty simple if you are trying to lose weight then Calories In need to be less than Calories Out.  Does this mean you have to count your calories every day for the rest of your life … absolutely NOT.  While doing your homework and reading labels or using an app like MyFitnessPal is a handy way of discovering the calorie content of a wide variety of foods, once you get a handle on what foods contain you can make good judgements in the future without having to count everything.  We all know that our society’s obsession with weight and image is unhealthy, both physically and emotionally, with a continual rise in eating disorders. Disordered eating is a disturbed and unhealthy eating pattern that can include restrictive dieting, compulsive eating or skipping meals (www.nedc.com.au).  So by continually focusing on counting calories you are putting the importance of food for body image before food for enjoyment and a way of fueling your body.  I also find the new trendy phrase of ”Intuitive Eating” a disturbing trend in the fitness industry. To label normal eating and listening to your body as something special that you can only do occasionally reinforces an unhealthy relationship to food.

So does losing weight with the simple calories in and calories out method make you healthy ???  By itself probably not.   So following the Australian Dietary Guidelines I would advise my clients to follow these 5 recommendations:

1. To achieve and maintain a healthy weight, be physically active and choose amounts of
nutritious food and drinks to meet your energy needs.
2. Enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods from these 5 food groups everyday
(Vegetables, Fruit, Grain Foods, Dairy, Meats/Legumes)
3. Limit intake of foods containing saturated fat, added salt, added sugar and alcohol
4. Encourage, support and promote breast feeding
5. Care for your food; prepare and store it safe

The Australian Dietary Guidelines apply to all healthy Australians, as well as those with common health conditions such as being overweight. They do not apply to people who need special dietary advice for a medical condition, or to the frail elderly. (Fitness Australia)

I strongly believe that much of the fitness industry needs to stop promoting its unhealthy obsessions with fad diets, quick shreds and supplementation.  Unfortunately being a Billion Dollar industry this is not going to be easy or happen over night so I recommend that everyone out there get more educated on healthy living that encompasses physical, mental and emotional.  And if you are in doubt about anything find a legitimate and qualified person to answer your questions.  A good PT will never go beyond their own scope of expertise, and while sharing the occasional personal experience may help others it is never a substitute for professional advice especially in relation to serious health conditions.

I think it is also important to remember that all those people you follow on Social Media who have restrictive diets or intense training programs are probably doing it with the intent of competing in a specific sport (and it is still not always healthy!).  So unless that is your end goal the average person just doesn’t need to go to that extreme and it is more than okay to carry a few extra kilos, to eat the chocolate cake or lie on the couch watching movies some days.  The secret is having balance in your life, doing what makes you happy and being moderately active most days. Learning to have a healthy relationship with food and exercise is so important so surround yourself with people who will encourage you to eat and exercise for fun rather than punishment and I guarantee this will improve your own self-image and all other aspects of your life.

Yours in fitness
Caroline

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