Trainers- this blog is for you.
A question arose in our private Body Positive Fitness Alliance trainer resource group yesterday about where the line is with regards to scope of practice and offering nutritional plans to clients who request them.
First and foremost, understand that everyone has their own baggage (for lack of a better term).
Baggage includes socioeconomic status, prior health (mental, physical and emotional) issues, family health, work scenario, family situations, past "diet" defeats, prior traumatic experiences, possible history of disordered eating and many many more variables.
Disordered eating may or may not include a diagnosed eating disorder, but 'disordered eating' refers to any time food or the thought of food causes one emotional stress in the slightest- shifting focus away from the innate human need to fuel our bodies and toward what society thinks/perceives/wants/demands from us with regards to the relationships between body image and food.
With that said, here is where the Body Positive FItness Alliance stands on trainers offering nutritional advice:
#1. We will not ever assume one has the desire to receive nutritional advice unless it is expressly stated by the individual.
#2. We will never assume that one desires our fitness services in an effort to change their aesthetics and/or for fat/weight loss unless expressly stated by the individual.
#3. We will never assume we can begin to perceive or understand one's baggage that they bring to the table (see above) and we understand that requesting an individual eat certain foods at certain times of day has a better chance of not accommodating that baggage than accommodating it.
#4. We understand that habits lead to more positive overall change and that habit change is largely focused on the unique individual and their baggage.
#5. We will continue to educate ourselves on evidence-based science and peer reviewed studies and findings with regards to nutrition. In this way, we are able answer questions will full confidence. "Is starvation mode a thing?" "Does it matter how much protein I eat?" etc.
Because although it is not our place to offer this advice unsolicited, these questions will arise. And for the greater good it is important that we are up to speed on what is true and factual.
This is a HUGE differentiator between what WE do and what other fitness professionals are choosing to do by spouting things they've never taken the time to research themselves. It's also far more admirable to your client and for the greater good to admit "I don't know the answer to that question at this time, but I'll be sure to research, consult with some of my colleagues and get back to you" vs. being a part of the problem by perpetuating false information. This is also a great use of our trainer resources group. A lot of us have a good grasp on the most current research- so ask us!
We believe that the best possible course of action for an individual who requests nutritional advice is to EMPOWER. This means- starting at explaining what a calorie deficit is and how it works. 90% of individuals looking to lose fat/weight do not know or understand this concept due to the mystification by the diet and weight loss industry (they work hard to make sure people DON'T get it).
Explain to them how to find their TDEE. My colleagues and myself agree that this is the best possible tool available for doing so http://www.health-calc.com/diet/energy-expenditure-advanced . After working with thousands of individuals and realizing that the only way to "test the math" in this situation is by giving it an honest go for 6-8 weeks, we've found this calculator to have the most accurate results.
Help them understand that restriction leads to binging which leads to more restriction and this is the cycle that the diet industry loves to keep us in.
And finally, allow them to explore what works best for them. Help them to understand that consistency and community are two great keys to success.
The best possible thing you can do as a trainer is empower your clients to feel independent (very radical in an industry who depends on repeat customers, I know). Empower them to trust themselves and they will get far better and more sustainable results than they ever could with whatever plan we'd put them on.
The worst possible thing you can do is assume you know how to navigate their baggage and try to build them an eating plan around it. That's what the dietitians are for.
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