How Much Food Should A 4 Month Old Lab Eat Can We Blame Laziness For America’s Overweight Problem? Part II

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Can We Blame Laziness For America’s Overweight Problem? Part II

In part one of my article about the arrogance of personal trainers, I explained how personal trainers expect everyone to think, behave and look like them. Ironically, if that were true, there would be no demand for personal trainers. I also showed you how personal trainers have a cynical, negative, misguided, and judgmental view of society and the clients that they are serving.

To make matters worse, when people do realize that they need to exercise and eat healthier, personal trainers actually discourage their attempt to improve their lifestyle. They do this by confusing people with conflicting information, regarding new information as true and old information as false, and by expecting a certain degree of perfection.

The first thing somebody usually does when they want to lose fat and live healthier is they begin to incorporate easy to moderate intensity exercise to their daily lives. Men will usually go to a gym and start lifting weights. Females usually stay away from gyms for various reasons beyond the scope of this article, and so they’ll usually start jogging on their own. They might buy some videos they can do in their basement alone.

What most people won’t do is read everything there is about exercise science, anatomy, and athletic performance, or nutrition. They won’t go read every magazine, read every book, or read the endless supply of articles about fitness on the web. They’ll do what they’ve always known. Personal trainers know better, of course. They see the mistakes people make every day. They see haphazard training programs, poor technique, no progressive overload (another esoteric term to most people), and exercises not suited for their body.

Personal trainers all know that people do not know what they’re doing. That’s a fact. And that’s why they hire personal trainers. It’s ignorance and unawareness that leads people to hire a coach and or trainer to show them what to do. They don’t see results, they don’t know what to do, or they reach a plateau after making initial gains. So trainers should think of it this way: if everybody were doing what we think they should be doing, then they’d be looking for work elsewhere.

Bad Strength Training

An overweight person will go to the gym because that’s the only place where he can find weights, pull-up bars, and other equipment. The hypothetical trainee, Jimmy, will come to the gym with no plan or no goals. He knows little about program development. He doesn’t know what an acute factor is, such as reps, sets, rest periods, periodization, exercise order, exercise selection, equipment selection, much less deloading or nutrient timing.

Either one of two things will happen. Jimmy will see initial gains. A deconditioned person can expect to see improvement with any kind of additional exercise. As his body adapts to the same exercises and loads that he applies to it every day, he’ll soon hit a plateau. He might consult a magazine, and try a new routine.

If he doesn’t get instant results, he’ll try something else without giving the first routine a chance. He’ll take his friends’ advice, or copy what someone else is doing in the gym. He’ll never break the plateau and become frustrated. At this point, he’ll either try to find a personal trainer who can meet his needs, or he’ll simply quit. Hopefully, he’ll take the first option, but as we all know, some people don’t think they can afford it so they give up. Haven’t you heard of the client who said, “I’m not confident I can get results.”

Personal trainers love to mock people like Jimmy. Jimmy does the standard repertoire of exercises that have been popular for a generation now. Upper body training will consist of a bench press, some bicep curls, and some tricep pushdowns. Core training will consist of endless crunches, and maybe some hanging knee raises. Lower leg training will be several sets of back sets. All the while he is performing all these exercises with poor technique. He’ll always aim for 10 repetitions. He’ll do the same routine repeatedly, and rarely applies new demands on his body. He’ll never go above 90% of his 1 repetition max.

As a personal trainer, I see this all the time, and I see so many common mistakes over and over. It’s easy to make fun of them. He’s just doing what he’s always known. Conventional wisdom in regards to exercise science is rarely correct. In fact, conventional wisdom seems to be always changing.

However, we need to understand the uneducated client’s point of view. He hasn’t studied the latest research. He doesn’t watch the ‘exercise of the day’ at some blog online. He hasn’t put much thought into it.

At the same time that our hypothetical trainee is trying to find the best possible path to his physical goals, personal trainers disagree about almost everything: core work, unstable surface training, acute variables, methodologies, and nutrition. There is certainly no consensus among fitness professionals about the most effective or “best” way to achieve fat loss or muscle mass. There is no bible for strength training, but many different methodologies. No two trainers train their clients the same.

If an uneducated client were to create an effective program, he’d have quite a task. He’d have to go to the bookstore and browse the dozens of books available on strength training. He’d then have to peruse them, and then decide which one best suited him. He’d have to learn all about acute factors, workout nutrition, anatomy, muscle groups, movement patterns, and then try to perform the exercises correctly. The magazines always offer a new workout every month. In essence, they’re saying, “don’t do last month’s workout; do this one.” This only adds to the confusion. How does he incorporate the newest routine into his routine?

Then there’s the internet. As wonderful as it is at dispensing information for free, sometimes too much is a bad thing. It’s almost like Barry Schwartz’s Paradox of Choice. With so much information, so many training protocols, and so many tips, he’s not sure what to do. In trying to find common variables between various protocols, he sees that each trainer has a different philosophy. All this information leaves him bewildered, so he sticks to what he knows. Surely it’s better than nothing.

If he refers to the media again, he’ll find that the science has changed. The information is different, and new studies have come out debunking the old science. Yesterday’s truths are now today’s myths. Trainers are no reneging on what they use to advocate. Consider Mike Boyle’s recent admission that he used to be wrong, and that he would throw away his chapter on core training that he wrote as little as seven years ago. If trainers aren’t sure what’s correct, how can an uneducated trainee?

The Female Problem

Many women do not like gyms. They don’t like the mirrors. They don’t like gym clothes. They don’t want to be seen. They’re intimated by the guys who are lifting weights heavier than their entire bodies. So they tend to stay home and do strength training on a video. Most of these videos are designed to challenge muscular endurance and only require light dumbbells.

I can’t recall how many times I’ve seen personal trainers disparage these light “pink” dumbbells that women are carrying. Does it ever occur to them that those light dumbbells might be challenging to a deconditioned woman? Yes, little dumbbells have their limitations, and will never build a lot of strength, but for a novice they’re fine. They’re better than nothing. Trainers tend to think that unless you’re training for a competition, or your one-rep max, you shouldn’t be training at all. It’s the equivalent of seasoned and experienced athletes mocking novice athletes who are just learning the skills of the game.

Personal Finance Analogy

To better empathize with the general public, consider personal finance. You have some money you’d like to invest. You’re not sure where to invest. You can invest in municipal, state, or federal bonds. You can buy treasury notes. You can put cash under the mattress. You can buy gold. You can buy IRAS, Roth IRs, invest in a 401k. You can invest in a mutual fund, or invest in individual stocks.

There are wide array of options. There are thousands of companies you could invest in. There are so many options that you’re confused. One of two things will happen. You’ll either invest your money incorrectly and lose it. Or you’ll hire a financial consultant who knows how the market works, which companies are expected to grow, and where your money will be safe. He majored in accounting or personal finance. He reads not only popular magazines and the Wall Street Journal, but expensive personal finance reports that most people can’t even understand. You pay for this consultant’s knowledge and expertise. You trust that he can make a wiser decision than you.

He probably makes fun of some of the misconceptions you have about personal finance internally. When he talks with you, he has to translate finance terms into layman’s terms so you can understand. He feels like he’s talking to a child whose vocabulary is elementary. He and his buddies might make fun of other investors who make common but avoidable mistakes.

Can you now emphasize with the general public about fitness? Everybody cannot know everything. If everybody knew everything, then the whole economic system would collapse as there would be no services to exchange. In a way, capitalism thrives on ignorance. Ignorance forms markets.

Even I sometimes cannot believe how basic some of the information is in some of the health magazines. It’s certainly nothing new, or anything that personal trainers or nutritionists have long known. For example, almost every month there’s an article about the benefits of fiber, or the benefits of this fruit and that vegetable. The strength training magazines almost always say the same things. It seems the same articles and tips are recycled, only with different appealing headlines.

From the perspective of the personal trainer, this information is old. But realize that people read these books and articles and have an epiphany. This knowledge is new to most people and trainers need to recognize that. Likewise, most of the information that you find in the popular finance magazine is probably old to most finance professionals, but not to the general public.

Bad Cardio is Better Than Nothing

One of the most popular ways that people begin to implement exercise into their daily routines is to add slow to moderate cardio. Most of the time this consists of jogging at a slow pace with no goal in mind. They’ll do this repeatedly until they get injured, lose motivation or the weather turns bad. This is a particularly appealing option for most women, who prefer not to be seen in gyms. Other people choose ellipticals to reduce wear and tear on their knees, recumbent bikes, or even Stairmasters.

But instead of commending these people for making time in their day to work out, personal trainers instead criticize them for the way they work out. Steady-state cardio isn’t enough. Aerobic exercise is a waste of time, they say. These people should so high-intensity intervals if they want to lose fat fast. They should be doing hill sprints. Jogging breaks down muscle and releases stress hormones.

Debating the pros and cons of aerobic exercise is not the purpose of this article. What I am saying is that steady-state jogging, as ineffective and inefficient as it is at burning fat and preserving muscle, is a lot better than doing nothing. A sedentary person is first labeled lazy for doing nothing. Then he’s labeled an idiot for doing the wrong kind of cardio. If he does do high-intensity intervals, he’ll be criticized for his method. For example, personal trainers discourage many overweight people from running. Instead, they should do bodyweight circuits, they say. Personal trainers demand perfection. They have some reason to believe that the general public should have the latest knowledge on optimal fat burn. Again, a knowledgeable public is not what trainers want! If everyone knew about fast fat loss, who would ever hire a trainer?

I’m assuming that trainers actually practice what they preach. Do most trainers do high intensity intervals on a routine basis? Do they do any kind of aerobic exercise? Judging from the physiques of many trainers, I doubt it. They don’t practice what they preach.

The Gospel of Nutrition

If the cardio and strength training conundrums weren’t confusing enough, nutrition is only more confusing and controversial. When economic theory, philosophy, politics, health, social status, and science are combined, there’s going to be one controversial issue and an infinite number of arguments and points-of-view.

What does the general public know about nutrition? For the most part, not much. They probably have a general idea of what is healthy and what isn’t. Whether or not they do, they don’t put much thought into what they are eating. As I pointed out in part 1, eating is just another thing that they do every day. When they get hungry, they eat, and they’ll usually eat what they feel like eating at the moment.

They have no sense of nutrient timing, the proper number of meals, macronutrients, portion sizes, or much less branched-chained amino acids. When you consider they know nothing about strength training or nutrition, it’s easy to see that they don’t know anything about proper recovery nutrition. This is one more reason that many people do not see gains. This is easily avoidable with proper advise from an honest, knowledgeable trainer.

Attempts to eat healthy are mocked by personal trainers. When someone stops eating fast food, sugary foods, or convenience food, they make changes that are certainly better, but far from optimal. They might reject junk food, but then they’ll still make common mistakes: eating starchy carbohydrates at night, avoiding fats because they still think fat makes them fat, and eat large portions of food.

Instead of scorning them for not adhering to the optimal diet, trainers need to encourage them to make further positive changes in their diet. Personal trainers can educate them about proper portions, meal timing, meal frequency, and even how to make quick and healthy meals. It’s a good thing that personal trainers don’t openly criticize people for not being perfect. If they did, people might revert to their old habits.

If eating right were so simple, then David Z’s Eat This. Not That! series of books would not be that popular. Reading those books, I am amazed at what is healthy and not healthy. I can’t believe how much sugar or fat is in some of those meals. Some foods are stealth foods and aren’t healthy (cereal). Some foods are surprisingly healthy (Egg McMuffins). If personal trainers can’t use intuition to decide what’s good and what’s bad, then how can the public?

Food manufacturers don’t’ help either. Every day they bombard people on television, in print, and especially on food labels about the health benefits of their food. They’ll ride the latest study that endorses their product. These days, even unhealthy foods with excess sugar can purport what benefits they do have: fiber, added minerals, protein. Baby Ruth even advertises that it has 4 grams of protein! Health organizations and the government also promote healthy foods, and now grocery stores are labeling which foods are healthy and which aren’t. For more information about misleading claims, I highly recommend Marion Nestle’s Food Politics.

There is no proper definition of eating right. If there were, there wouldn’t be entire section at the book store devoted to diets and food. There would be no arguments among personal trainers. But in fact, the arguments about nutrition are vast: nutrient timing, saturated fat, importance of calories, artificial sweeteners, vegetarianism, food quality, protein intake, carbohydrates, etc.

Take Home Message

To be succinct, trainers should stop being so critical of everyone. You can’t judge people by what they eat, or what strength training program they’re doing. In today’s broken, overweight, and unhealthy society, discouraging better eating or any form of exercise is detrimental. Personal trainers should instead try to transform those small steps into greater lifestyle changes. People pay personal trainers for the specialized knowledge that they have. It might not seem specialized or complicated to the trainer, but the general public is unaware.

Trainers should continue to stay abreast of the latest research and studies, and learn how to incorporate that new information into their field of knowledge. They should constantly try to modify what they know, and even try to discredit their previous beliefs. At the same time, they need to realize that nutrition is not clear cut, and that with so many conflicting messages, it’s not an easy subject to grasp. Media, government, interest groups, businesses, politicians, and anybody with an interest in nutrition are all dispensing advice, and it’s always conflicting. There aren’t any clear answers.

However, a lot that is being said is completely false. Personal trainers need and should separate the truth from disinformation, and make the definition of eating and training right much easier for their clients

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