How to Choose the Right Fitness Professional
Sooo... you've finally figured out that there are no shortcuts to reach your fitness goals, eh?
You're tired of buying supplements with wild claims, tired of trying super-intense exercise programs sold on TV, tired of all the strict diets that make you feel worse, tired of going to Zumba class 6 days a week and wondering why you haven't lost any weight... shall I keep going?
Somehow you finally decided to face your deep inner fear... what you actually already have always known...
If you are ever going to get the body you always dreamed of, you're going to have to do it the long and steady way.
More importantly, rather than purchase and try out all the cheap "quick fix" options, you've saved up money and want a real professional to help you out.
...this is where you still get into BIG TROUBLE.
Medical Doctors that specialize in related fields, Nutritionists, Registered Dietitians, Life Coaches, Holistic Health Coaches, Group Classes, Personal Trainers, etc...
All options are expensive, with the exception of group classes...
But more importantly... all options are significantly different...
And even more important than that... every professional is different on a personal level.
Let's just get into it and break each one down first:
You don't need me to tell you that of all the options I listed, a MD has the highest academic credentials, followed distantly by a RD.
Most people would approach an MD if their obesity level was life-threatening where they would need bariatric surgery, or the "lap band." Another reason people to go a doctor, is for cosmetic purposes, like liposuction or similar therapies.
These options work and are extremely expensive, but there are also a couple of other major caveats:
1. Invasive weight loss surgery is still very dangerous today. Usually it is only recommended by a doctor, if being overweight presents a bigger danger.
2. Results are only temporary, at best, if the patient has failed to develop proper fitness lifestyle.
Please read that second part again... Results are only temporary, at best, if the person has failed to develop a proper fitness lifestyle (let's call this the PFL rule).
Why is the PFL rule so important? Well, if you develop a proper fitness lifestyle (PFL), you wouldn't have needed to go the MD route anyway!
It is very rare, but you can find MD's that work with patients to develop a proper PFL.
I feel sorry for RD's, because in my practice, I always find out that my clients really don't know the difference between an RD and a Nutritionist.
A Registered Dietitian is a legally protected title, and can only be used by practitioners who are authorized by the Commission on Dietetic Registration of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
I personally see only one common flaw with RD's... they stick to the formula that they are taught, which is great but also not.
Textbooks are typically not up to date with the latest research... and most MD's and RD's do not take it upon themselves to remain updated. Do you want outdated advice?
Having said that - there are PLENTY of RD's that do stay up to date... and then there are many that completely go off the rails in my opinion... I'll explain why later in this article.
All in all, technically speaking - RD's are the most textbook-qualified professionals to help someone lose weight. So that is to say that if I am strictly judging a book by its cover - I'd go with an RD.
Nutritionists and Coaches
Whether it's a nutritionist, a health coach, a life coach, a holistic coach... it doesn't matter...
This is where I put the most caution tape, because...
Anyone can claim to be a nutritionist... or one of the others.
Do certifications exist? Sure, but there is no legal government body that is regulating any of these.
That is why I feel sorry for Dietitians, because people are actually referring to them as nutritionists, when they are not even close to the same thing. A dietitian goes through years of training.
Now the scary part is that people are actually buying into these professionals... and it's a rapidly growing niche...
It truly baffles me because I am wondering what a consumer is thinking when they decide to blindly listen to someone else... who is often not in good shape themselves... just because the person claims to be a nutritionist or a coach.
I mean, does it even occur to the consumer that these people are just doing GOOGLE SEARCHES for their information? You can do that yourself and save thousands of dollars. Don't even get me started on the kind of information available in a google search... just stay away.
Ultimately, what you end up with is a professional with many ridiculously wild claims, and no scientific evidence to back them up.
Group classes don't even really belong in this discussion, but I decided to include it as a category due to the HUGE dependence I see people put on them for fitness results... and because they involve an instructor.
Included in this category: Zumba, Pilates, Yoga, Spin, kickboxing, "fancy name strength circuit," <inset another fancy named class here that promises to burn xxx calories, etc.
Let me make this short and simple:
1. One professional teaching a large class - no attention on the individual.
2. No nutritional guidance (the only thing that really matters), or poor guidance.
3. You do not burn nearly as many calories as claimed... for many reasons.
4. Due to lack of a PFL coaching, you get no results.
5. Group classes apply a "one size fits all" fix to a "every person is different" problem.
Group classes can be very useful when incorporated into a real fitness program that is based on effective resistance training, and a corrected eating lifestyle.
In other words, group classes are not a fitness solution and have virtually nothing to do with developing a proper fitness lifestyle... STOP FOOLING YOURSELF!
Ahh ... old faithful.
I put myself into this camp... but of course I am also a nutritionist and a health coach *wink*.
Wish I could tell you I saved the best for last, but I didn't.
For the exact same reason nutritionists should be largely avoided... so should personal trainers.
Here are the general rules I would internalize:
1. If a membership-based gym, or group training facility, tries to up-sell you on personal training, run fast in the other direction.
2. Anyone can be a personal trainer, certifications are not legally required... and even insurance companies do not require them in many cases. They do not even have to be CPR/AED certified.
3. Just because a personal trainer is certified, doesn't mean you made a smart choice. Someone can easily get certified by paying $99 online and taking a quiz as many times as needed until he/she passes. But - even the best certifications guarantee only that the person took ONE COURSE and passed. Compare that to a person with a bachelors degree in exercise science - how many courses did that person take?
I cringe at the things I see guys with personal training certifications do with their clients... I am truly scared for my industry.
So I just threw my own kind under the bus along with all the other professionals.. which doesn't make sense since the whole point of this article was to help you find the right one... and I am concluding here that there is no such professional that is safe.
What's the answer then?
Well it's simple...
You must choose the fitness professional based on what they will do for YOU
First of all, the initial consultation should be free.
The wrong professional will use a consultation as an opportunity to sell.
The right professional will use a consultation as an opportunity to hear you out and run various assessments to see how he or she can help you with a customized program.
The wrong professional will tell you what to do and walk away after swiping your card.
The right professional will hold your hand and work every day with you to develop a PFL.
The wrong professional will mention things like toning, sugar, organic, meal timing, carbs, ab exercises, supplements, cardio, etc.
The right professional will hold your hand and work every day with you to develop a PFL.
- If the professional is trying to sell you any kind of cleanse or supplement.
- If the professional talks about foods you should and shouldn't eat, instead of asking you what you like and working off of that as a base.
- If the professional does not insist on a resistance training program as the foundation of your exercise-level PFL.
- If the professional doesn't have plenty of success stories (before/after evidence) from real clients.
- If the professional makes a claim, any claim like "sugar is bad for you."
This is important... pay close attention there is a huge difference from someone saying that in a subjective manner, versus someone saying in an unbiased way:
"There are experts that say sugar is bad for you, and even some studies suggest that... however it is not proven to my knowledge"
"To be honest I do think that sugar is bad for you, but I don't have any evidence to support it."
"Here are the medical studies I have read that make me believe sugar can be harmful. "
Bottom line - if you want to make sure you have chosen the right person, simply make sure that the person genuinely intends to be your partner through your fitness journey and work with you each and every day until you reach your goals.
The least academically qualified person who does this, will produce better results than, for example, a Registered Dietitian or Medical Doctor, who just tells you what to do but spends no time with you.
Now that you're equipped with the knowledge of how to choose the correct person to help you, I can actually make the claim:
A personal trainer is truly the best direction to go in.
The right personal trainer has the most tools to help you develop a PFL.
A good personal trainer will customize a PFL for you that incorporates a strength training routine... RD's and MD's cannot do this. Group class instructors won't either.
The problem: it is extremely scarce to find a personal trainer that will do what we at UTG would do for you... and honestly even with this guide, you really won't know if the person actually is going to help you.
But I would...
So just ask me for help.
Just send me an email at [email protected]/~tamirgre.
I am not after your wallet, I am more interested in seeing you succeed.
I will give you my honest opinion based on what you need done.