A little background for the benefit of the new people.

Unrelated photo testing my theory about how much better your physique looks while putting your damn weights back on the rack.

Unrelated photo testing my theory about how much better your physique looks while putting your damn weights back on the rack.

As you might be aware I’m a qualified trainer, with a special interest in “relapse avoidance” via productive training rather than calorie burning, and flexible dieting rather than restrictive fad diets.

Eating disorder recovery is no trivial matter and for the most part it is best managed by qualified specialists in psychology. What I am qualified to do and what I have become very good indeed at doing is to provide a training program and nutritional guidelines that will allow people in recovery to pursue their goals without risk of relapse, and even to further their recovery as they see improvements in performance and body condition as a direct result of leaving restrictive and disordered measures in the past.

Of course this is also more than suitable for anyone else who wants to get into fit, strong and leaner shape without restrictive and destructive approaches, as well.

How and why did I end up doing this though?

To try to make a long story short; because people asked me to.

I’d been a trainer for a couple of years, had been quite successful with a small number of clients both locally and online, and I had started joining some industry networking groups to learn how to market better so that I could become more successful in business and help more people.

Well. Everything I kept getting told was hard for me to accept. I need to get all of my clients to eliminate all grains from their diets, all processed foods for that matter. Not too much fruit either, because of the sugar. No legumes either for some reason no one had an explanation for, and soy products too because GMOs are bad.

People had different labels for what everyone should be doing…. “elimination diet”, “paleo”, “clean eating”. Much the same rules and restrictions but just different labels depending on who you were getting lectured by, as far as I could tell.

Now right there, I had a problem because I’ve just described my own diet as the “half arsed vegetarian” that I am, and I was in stronger and more athletic shape than a lot of the people lecturing me about clean eating. Not to mention I’d had some clients getting very, very good results indeed without cutting out any of those food choices, either.

Apparently, I couldn’t possibly though. Because working to calorie and macronutrient (aka IIFYM) targets “just doesn’t work”, because the real issue is the hormonal chaos caused by the inherent badness of these particular foods and ingredients. Yep, including fruit and legumes.

So, this doesn’t add up because you’re telling me that something I’ve done personally and helped several others do to “can’t be done” the way I’ve done it. But maybe I am misunderstanding. Perhaps what you mean to say is that there are certain medical reasons why someone might need to cut out these foods, and unless they do so the regular stuff that works for most people won’t work for them? In which case, surely they should be diagnosed by their GP and seek specialised nutritional advise from a real dietitian, rather than by a trainer?

Nope. I was told these restrictions were required for all people, and that I should keep GPs and dietitians out of the process as they don’t know about this stuff.

Well. That’s a pretty big red flag right there.

Obviously I couldn’t accept any of this. I was open to the idea that it might be something I should learn about for the benefit of “some people, in certain circumstances, as per doctors orders”, but I’m going to need to be convinced with some strong evidence. Just a blanket diagnosis for everyone who walks in the door just wanting to trim up a little in time for their summer holiday? Nah uh. Especially since it couldn’t possibly be true.

People all over the world have been “not obese” through out history while eating varying diets including some or all of these food choices. People have lost weight and gotten into great shape while still including some or all of these food choices. I’ve done it myself. You can’t possibly expect me to accept that no one, anywhere, at any time, has ever been “not unhealthy and obese” other than on this particular restrictive diet that you’re trying to push on me. The idea is ridiculous.

And of all things, the idea that fruit isn’t really a “healthy enough” choice of a snack that people can enjoy regularly? I remember saying “it actually sounds like you’re just trying to give everyone an eating disorder, making them afraid that any or all of these quite nutritious every day foods will mean they can’t be healthy and won’t see results from training.”

Then the pressure and the guilt started.

This is the direction the industry is moving in, so you can either get on board or be left behind. If you cared about your clients you’d set a better example by cutting out bread and cereals. Even though you really enjoy them and are getting great results while eating them.

I got really angry at this point, but at the same time what I started to realise was that most of the people arguing with me were victims who’d been sucked into this idea that if they wanted to be a trainer, they needed to be this shining light of dietary virtue, never eating anything “unclean” or indulgent, and so on, with every individual meal or snack choice chosen solely on micronutritional value plus some kind of “moral value” rather than on taste, enjoyment or convenience. So much of their self worth was tied up in their dietary choices, because not living up to those impossible standards would make them a fraud who had no right to be coaching anyone else towards a healthier lifestyle.

There were a couple of guys at the very top, mostly in the UK, who had made a hell of a lot of money from putting these ideas into people’s heads, and the people bought into it almost religiously. So for me to refuse to buy into it was offensive to them, and for them to try to use guilt and shame tactics to pressure me to get on board after failing to provide a logical reason to do so that held up to scrutiny was offensive to me.

I got to the point where I thought “well, if it’s a choice between being a part of this or failing in business… I guess I’ll go back to putting people on their arse for a living”. AKA security work.

At some point though… I must have ranted a bit about this all on my personal blog in frustration and anger at what was going on. People started to write to me saying, “that’s actually how my eating disorder started. Being given a restrictive diet, being afraid to eat everyday foods and being made to feel guity and ashamed if I ever ate something that wasn’t clean”, and so forth. Some of the stories I heard, and the depths of what eating disorder can do to a person, and the lengths they will go to to avoid eating or digesting something that’s “bad” were… well, you probably can’t even imagine.

And the senseless part is that all of these restrictive measures were the only thing stopping these people from actually seeing results from training. For that matter, a lot of the time I only really heard about the bad stuff 3 months after I’d given someone a program, in the context of “here’s what I didn’t tell you before we started. I’m not doing any of that anymore. I feel great and I love the results I’m seeing”.

When you find that you’ve been able to help someone like that, you want to help more people. Simply by giving people a training program that is actually effective, and emphasising that results will come from putting in enough nutritional resources to get stronger and healthier, and not by withholding those resources and restricting energy intake. You cannot starve or force your body into a healthier, stronger, more athletic state. That can only happen by utilising more energy and resources to adapt favourably to training.

When you’ve helped people like that and have heard their stories, you get angry with the people who are responsible for putting those ideas into their heads in the first place. And every time a new one appoints their self the new “health and nutrition guru” pushing more of the same nonsense to more people, you get pissed off all over again.

Now 5 or so years later and I am happy to report that the fitness industry is changing, and more and more people and organsiations are promoting positive, moderate and flexible approaches. Unfortunately though, we now have more mainstream and celebrity promoters of pseudoscientific, disordered nutritional nonsense on the public at large.

Fortunatley though, as these charlatans continue to align themselves with anti-vaccine activists, anti fluoride activists and any number of other variety of scare monger, conspiracy theorist and tin foil hat wearing nut jobs… they erode any facade of credibility they might have had.

The tide is turning and ethical, evidence based practitioners will win out in the end. But the battle is far from over.

Dieting: From One Extreme To Another

I had a bit of an idea the other day about comparing what is “recommended” vs what is “good enough to get the job done” in terms of approaches and adherence to dieting. What is recommended varies wildly from one source to another.

What probably should be recommended is something a bit better than simply “good enough to get the job done” in terms of weight loss or conditioning goals. There should be some attention on good health, as well. With that said, what is often recommended by certain elements of the health and fitness is so extreme that you end up with the somewhat paradoxical situation of being unhealthy due to an unhealthy level of obsession with avoiding anything that is unhealthy, at all times and at all costs. When you lift the bar on what counts as “healthy” to an unrealistic level, well… it’s really not good, is it?

I had the idea to try to create a graphical representation of this, and here’s what I have come up with.

It isn’t so much a scale from “unhealthiest to healthiest”, so much as a scale of the level of attention to detail that someone might pay to their diet; from reckless indifference to extreme and unhealthy obsessiveness.


Ok, I guess you’re going to have to click it for a readable version.

Now, anywhere within that black range towards the centre of the graphic is about what I would consider “good enough to get the job done” in terms of your body condition and composition goals. The range there is from “absolute bare minimum” to more fine tuned plans for the highly motivated and enthusiastic advanced level athletes who may require them. Anything in the red represents what is inappropriate through to what is actually unhealthy or destructive at the extreme ends of the scale.

Either extreme is unhealthy and not recommended, that’s the real take home point here.

Let’s take a look at all the points on the scale and I’ll give you my impression of each label. Cut me some slack if my interpretation is not precisely and exactly what you associate with each label, you can still get the point I’m trying to make, I am sure.

Actually Unhealthy

The obvious example would be just no attention to diet at all, vastly excessive over all intake, while still being low on important nutritional resources such as fibre, vitamins and minerals. One could arrive at this state of vastly excessive total intake either just through consistent over eating, or perhaps by “forgetting” to eat at some times and massively over eating later.

Just Inappropriate

This label probably applies to the majority of people. Their eating habits are not really so unhealthy as you’d actually expect serious health complications or reduced life expectancy, but they’re certainly not conducive to any weight management, sports performance or body composition goals, either.

Belligerent IIFYM

You know. Think of the most ridiculous negative stereotype of some IIFYM gym bro deliberately making a point of choosing all the most highly processed, least wholesome, nutrient sparse foods, somehow managing to squeeze them into a plan that meets suitable total energy and macronutrient ratios, and in an obnoxious voice proclaims to anyone within ear shot “I don’t give a fuck bro! IIFYM bro! I’m getting shredded bro!”

I don’t think anyone in real life actually does that. It’s certainly not what anyone recommends, as far as I’m aware anyway.

You know what though? As much as I would not, can not, and do not recommend it, this approach actually is “good enough to get the job done” at least a good portion of the way.

Flexible Dieting

Flexible Dieting is something of an upgraded, more “responsible adult” version of what IIFYM was supposed to be. You need to hit your appropriate total energy intake and have a suitable balance of macronutrients, but not while neglecting other important nutritional resources such as … well… you know, vitamins and minerals and fibre.

Now, different people may have a different take on this but for the sake of differentiating from the next point, let’s assume here that we’re not terribly concerned about avoiding processed foods and so on… and it’s more like “appropriate macros + enough fruit and veg”.

That’s actually how I do it, anyway. “Do better if you can but appropriate macros + enough fruit and veg is more than enough to get the job done”.

What Real Dietitians Recommend

I happen to follow, be followed by, collaborate with, and try to learn from some highly qualified “real” dietitians via social media. My observation of their recommendations tends to quite similar to Flexible Dieting, but with less emphasis on the numbers (as in macronutrient percentages and so on, which is more of a “sports nutrition” thing), and more of an emphasis on “a variety of foods, less (but not a total avoidance of) processed foods, more fruit and veg, and to a total intake that is neither excessive nor insufficient”.

Quite sensible and not terribly unrealistic really, isn’t it?

So quite appropriately, those two previous classifications fall nicely into the middle of my graphic, and there’s a reason why those are the recommended approaches of responsible and qualified professionals. It’s what is suitable to promote good health within an appropriate weight range, while enabling performance and results from training (where applicable), while still being non restrictive, flexible, and relatively simple to adhere to so long as you are being mindful and paying a little attention.

Let’s continue though. I am building up to an important point here, believe it or not.

Advanced and Elite Level Athletes

Obviously, when you get to advanced levels of human physical ability, you need a more advanced fueling strategy. Greater total energy intake, perhaps more precise macronutrient percentages, you may find that a particular schedule and particular foods before or after training benefit your performance or recovery. Some athletes increased total energy requirements mean that they can indulge on more of the less nutrient dense foods, others perhaps not so much.

Exactly what is required varies from one athlete to the next. It is not unreasonable to say that what is required is a little (or a lot) more attention to detail than would be necessary for the rest of us.

Contest Prep

Contest prep is an interesting one! I do know there are at least a handful of a really good contest prep coaches who achieve tremendous results through healthy and flexible methods. Obviously though, the high level of attention to detail and adherence is still necessary.

More typically though, contest prep is strict and inflexible, and extremely demanding physically and psychologically. I read an excellent blog entry the other day giving people the heads up of what is really required in contest prep, and that really it is the ultimate in extreme and restrictive dieting, and people need to really be honest with themselves as to whether it would be a rewarding or disastrous experience.

What is important to note with contest preparation is that it is ultra fine tuned dieting for a period leading up to a specific date where the contestant wants to arrive in an unsustainable condition in terms of low body fat and high lean mass. This is not a level of dietary adherence OR physical condition that people are attempting to maintain permanently.

That is so important to realise.

As a side note, people are always suggesting or asking me why I don’t do a contest myself. Let me make this clear first, I have nothing but the utmost admiration and respect for the athletes who put in the work and pull that off. For me though? Screw that! You’d need to want it really badly to put enough pressure upon yourself to adhere to such a strict protocol with so much discipline, and I’m not even entertaining the notion of deluding myself about how well I would hold up under such pressure and how much discipline I would be able to maintain.

Backing up 3 or 4 levels on our scale here, that “Flexible Dieting” level along with some consistent and effective training is really all that is required to get into a shape you’ll be more than happy with. So that is all I ask of myself, and all I ask of my clients as well.

The Next Level

We talked about contest preparation being in many cases an extreme, restrictive and not particularly healthy process. We emphasised that this is a temporary situation, to come in on one particular, specific day in peak shape as far as the judging criteria goes. The well advised contestant will also have an exit strategy in order to recover physically and mentally from such a taxing experience.

What if people really did think such an extreme and restrictive approach was required at all times though, with 100% adherence? And not just to be in contest shape, either; but simply to avoid being obese and unhealthy?

Unfortunately… scandalously, really, that is the message and the recommendation of many aspects of the health and fitness community. Certainly it is good advice to encourage people to include more healthy, nutrient dense and naturally produced foods on a regular basis. When people are told that their health, their results in weight loss or conditioning from training, and even their worth as a human being are all dependant on the strictest of adherence to the highest possible levels of “healthy eating”, there is a big problem. When people are taught that even fruit, for example is “not healthy enough”, there is a huge problem.

Ironically in these situations, the diets actually become so restrictive that there can be issues with deficiencies in certain micronutrients, as the list of “allowable” foods because so short. Deficiency in total energy intake is also a potentially serious problem.

So. There is the “rough and dirty version” of what will get the job done, there is “what responsible professionals might recommend” as the most balanced, flexible and sensible way to get the job done, and then there is the extreme, restrictive, impractical and unhealthy bordering on the obsessive and disordered approaches that certain aspects of the health and fitness community endorse, and use scare mongering, guilt and shame to encourage.

Looking back at my chart, you can see there is a wide area there representing various approaches to diet and nutrition that will “get the job done”. Contrary to what many would try to scare you into believing, there is not just one acceptable or effective set of eating habits that will allow you to achieve good health and goal condition, with any even slight variance spelling doom.

You most certainly can achieve your goals, be healthy and happy with your physical condition through whatever approach best suits you, providing the focus is on appropriate total energy intake, adequate protein, and enough fruit and vegetables.

If you’re interested in my approach to flexible dieting and the tremendous results you can achieve through effective training without restrictive or disordered eating, head through and sign up to the VIP Flexible Fueling Pre-Program. It’s free.

 

They should give me my own tv show; Diet Nightmares.

I love this show Tattoo Nightmares that I’m watching right now. Tommy is my favourite because we have the same hair style.

I don’t have tattoos myself, which is probably fortunate. I thought about it a few times when I was younger and never got around to it. I feel like by now, I’d be like one of the people you see on the show saying “eh… it was cool in the 90s, but now? not so much”.

I dig the show though. The artwork they do is amazing, but the real work that they’re really doing for people is even more amazing. It’s about more than just covering up a bad tattoo, or a tattoo that was a bad idea. In some cases the people have been literally butchered and left physically scarred, in others the original tattoo was competently done, but just a terrible idea in the first place. In many cases it is a permanent reminder of a horrible time in someone’s past, that they feel unable to move on from. It is a source of embarrassment, humiliation or shame.

So when you see the end result, appreciating the tremendous talent and skill of the artist is often not really what the story is about. The real story is in the reaction of the client, often quite overcome with emotion and relief, and finally able to put a dark chapter of their life behind them.

Back to the artwork though, did I say “amazing” enough times already? I can’t draw, at all. Even my handwriting is fairly appalling. So, when you think of what it means to be “amazed” by something… that’s me when I see great artwork. How do they do it? It just seems impossible to me.

So. I don’t have tattoos and I can’t even draw, not even a little bit. Still, I watch this show and there are times I think to myself, “that’s like what I do for people”.

Right?

Not every time, of course. I do some standard weight loss type coaching, some sports performance and body conditioning type programming; people get results and they appreciate it, and that makes me very happy. Increasingly though, people come to me because they have been suffering on some extreme form of diet, and for that matter, suffering without even getting any closer to their goal condition. Moving further away, if anything.

We’re talking low calorie diets, low carbohydrate diets, ketogenic diets, “clean eating” diets, and so on. If you don’t already know what “ketogenic” is, do me a favour and don’t look it up. No really, just don’t.

Now, in these examples we’re not necessarily talking about people with an eating disorder. They’re just doing what most people believe is necessary to lose weight or to get into shape. However, when these restrictive approaches don’t work, the danger is that people assume the problem is that they are not restrictive enough. When extreme approaches don’t work, the danger is that people assume that an even more extreme approach is required. This is very common. I would go so far as to say it is endemic. People who don’t actually have eating disorders, but are behaving almost identically to people who do. Restricting total energy, restricting choices of foods, excessive amounts of “calorie burning” exercise and so on.

When already extreme and restrictive approaches get even more so, and your condition goes backwards, it’s not a long stretch to go from merely resembling someone with an eating disorder, to actually being someone with an eating disorder. Now, it is not my place to make such a diagnosis as to who does and does not have an eating disorder. But I can sure as hell tell you what are some disordered ideas about eating, and more to the point I can tell you that all of these ideas are actually counter productive and in no way necessary or helpful in pursuit of any training related goal.

So, I have some clients in this category who have come to me because they had had enough of making themselves miserable and getting nowhere on restrictive and extreme diets. I have others who come to me identifying or actually diagnosed as having a recognised eating disorder. I have others who come to me in recovery, and they come to me specifically because they are all too aware that most other trainers or coaches would be certain to trigger a disastrous relapse.

Watching the TV show about the bad tattoos, you see people who have gone on to become successful business people, parents, or some other form of responsible adult doing their best and contributing to their community. Or, they would like to… but their confidence is hampered by this terrible tattoo they are stuck with, that they feel makes them look like an idiot, or a scumbag, criminal, racist, or some other variety of “bad person”. Some of them are in a constant state of anxiety about how people will react should they find out about this tattoo. I feel like these are all emotions that a person suffering from an eating disorder could relate to, all too well.

The other part that I can relate to is the artist’s disdain for the “scratchers” who are responsible for scarring these people, emotionally as well as physically. These are people with no training, skill or ability, who have no business offering the service in the first place. Very similar to the people I have to clean up after, who have no business giving dieting advice. In some cases they may have some level of certification or qualification in a related field, however they are not acting in accordance with their own training or with the guidelines a responsible and qualified professional would work to. In other cases they hold no qualification of any sort, and have simply appointed themselves “experts” based on having read some similarly misguided or deliberately misleading information on the web or elsewhere.

Bottom line: Tattoos, diet and exercise programs… really, anything where you are putting your physical and emotional wellbeing on the line, you need to do your homework. Make sure you are going to a qualified and responsible professional, and not some hack who is operating on sheer arrogance with no education or competence to perform the task at hand. In plainer terms; make sure you are not taking advice from someone who has already fucked a lot of other people up.

You want to know why I’m so pissed off most of the time?

I have permission to share this message I got a few days ago from a prospective client. This really exemplifies everything I’ve been talking about for the past few years, all of the complaints and criticisms I’ve had about the recent direction of the fitness industry.

Without getting into a long drawn out story, I’ve had a long history of eating disorders…. you name it, I’ve had it from anorexia to bulimia to binge eating and back again. I’ve struggled with this for the last 18 years approx, so more than half my life! Needless to say I’ve put my body through hell over the years (my weight has fluctuated more times than I can count and by quite significant amounts) I am now trying to figure out what the best training/eating approach is for me so that I can get the results I desire without adding any further damage to my body, which has been very confusing to say the least.

With all of the mixed messages out there I have become quite disheartened, confused and frustrated over the years but now I am actually downright angry with the kind of information that is being circulated, not only because most of it is ill-informed and not based on any scientific evidence but also because the majority of it is purely dangerous and can lead to such serious mental and physical health conditions that it mystifies me as to why this industry is not more regulated?

Anyway, I had actually been doing relatively well over the last 18 months in terms of my relationship with food and training (ie. I was practicing a more balanced/holistic approach as opposed to the extremes I had been living by for so many years). Then just recently (the last 6 months) I got caught up in the whole “clean eating/paleo/no sugar” diet craze and all the work I had done went down the drain and I fell right back into extremely discorded thinking in terms of both my nutrition and exercise. It took me so long to start believing that food wasn’t the enemy and that exercise wasn’t just about burning calories, then before I could even realise what was happening I had bought into all of this nonsense and within weeks I was back into full-blown eating disorder mode.

This is the sort of thing I’ve been talking about the past few years, and new client enquiries (or just a “thank you” message from someone who has successfully followed my free program on wordpress) like this one aren’t even out of the ordinary for me anymore. I get similar ones from people actually IN the industry, some who had never had any issues with food until they started some “fit pro mentorship” type course that put impossible standards on them and made them feel a fraud and a failure if they could not adhere to the impossible.

The people running these courses are (if you believe their own hype) the highest paid fitpros in the UK, and there are similar here in Australia who have modeled themselves after them. Now, I also got all the same pressure and guilt trips a few years back via some industry networks I was a part of at the time. I refused to get on board with all of this stuff that as described above has no basis in science and in fact is based entirely on the outright rejection of all proven science on nutrition. At the time I could only speculate that apart from not being factually correct and misinforming the public, it seemed to me that it was likely to actually be detrimental to people’s mental health and well being. As you can see, my intuition was spot on in this case.

I refused to get on board with this, and was told “this is the direction the industry is going, and if you don’t get on board you will be left behind”. A few industry contacts just blocked me outright for refusing to bow to peer pressure, others talked down to me in a condescending manner as if I was just too stupid to understand the “science”, despite the fact that I already had several clients who’d achieved better results than these trainers had themselves, and all through non restrictive means. I was told straight up in these exact words, “you don’t care about your clients, if you did you would set a better example by cutting out bread and cereals”.

Now, you have to keep in mind I had previously spent 10 years working in the security industry, so I’ve had more people up close in my face telling me what a horrible person I am than you could possibly comprehend, when in reality all I am trying to do is prevent them from harming themselves or others. Therefore, having people in this industry attempt to make me feel like a bad person for eating normal, every day foods was never going to work. All it did was piss me off and make me all the more determined to run an ethical business actually helping people rather than harming and exploiting them. You can easily imagine though, to a younger person or anyone without a similar background… that whole “you don’t care about your clients” guilt trip on top of all the other fear mongering pro – orthorexic nonsense these irresponsible charlatans are spreading… you can imagine how damaging that could be.

It actually makes me irate as you may be able to detect through the text. It is inexcusable.

Now to rectify the situation, all I can do is what I am actually qualified to do. I’m not a trained counselor or psychologist, I’m just a damn good trainer with a decent understanding of sports nutrition. Therefore I can give people an effective training program and suitable, flexible guidelines with none of the restrictions they’ve struggled with in the past, and this enables them to actually achieve (or at least make significant progress towards) their goal physique. Actually getting those results without restrictions is the best way to really unlearn those false beliefs you have been subjected to elsewhere.

Why is that so hard for others to understand? Even with the testimonials on my site and on facebook, some similar to this detailing the desperate and dire circumstances people have come to me in… the people who perpetuate these serious and widespread problems via guilt, shame and scaremongering over other people’s food choices won’t listen and change their message. They won’t even discuss or debate it, just going straight for the “block” button to silence all criticism.

This is disgraceful and unforgivable. I will hold them accountable for harm they arrogantly cause to people.

 

Eating Disorder Awareness And The Dangers Of Self Diagnosis

For reasons that I’ll cover as I go, I’ve decided to write a series of “Eating Disorder Awareness” posts.

For the benefit of any new visitors, I’ll give you a little background information. I started doing Eating Disorder Recovery Coaching sort of by accident. That is to say, the first few times I did it… I wasn’t actually aware of it until a few months later. I’d been writing and ranting a lot about flexible dieting, calorie denial and so forth… probably along the lines of “if you want results from training, you need to put the fuel in and I don’t care where you get it from so long as you get enough. You can’t starve yourself into tremendous athletic shape”.

So, I had a couple of young women contact me for a “getting into shape” type program based on these principles, and I’m happy to report that they got killer results following my advice. It was only months later that they actually told me the full story of how desperate they were at the time and just how dire their situation had been. I had quite a few more who were perhaps not quite in such a desperate situation, but who realised that the approaches they were using were not healthy and probably likely to lead them down a path they really didn’t want to go down.

I had such success with these clients and being told how much of a positive impact you’ve made in the life of someone who was formerly so unhappy and is now on top of the world is really such a rewarding experience, you can probably understand why I’ve become so passionate about this issue and this type of work. I now consider myself a specialist in this field and an authority on the subject.

The Dangers Of Self Diagnosis.

This is an important place to start.

The point of this series of articles isn’t to give people the means to diagnose themselves with an eating disorder. I’m not a trained psychologist, but it does seem to me that when we self diagnose, we create a belief about our identity. We identify as being someone who has that condition, and then subconsciously our behavior starts to become more and more in line with what we’d expect of someone with that condition. It is a vicious cycle.

It would not be terribly helpful to have people read this article and come out of it thinking to themselves “well that’s just great, it turns out I have an eating disorder. Now I’m even more screwed than I already thought I was”. Rather than that, my intention is to identify ideas that aren’t correct on scientific grounds, and that aren’t helpful in your pursuit of your fitness, health and happiness goals. Therefore we can identify these myths and decide for ourselves, “well, that’s certainly not an idea or belief that I want to persist with” or “that’s not something I want to make a habit of”.

The Dangers Of An Unqualified Diagnosis

Does that seem an ironic sub heading? I’m not qualified to diagnose someone as having an eating disorder, and nor would I want to. My aim in everything I do as a trainer or coach is to give people all the more reason to believe in their ability… no… of the absolute certainty of success in achieving their goals, so long as they enthusiastically persist with a sensible and healthy approach.

So. I do not diagnose people but I can certainly identify disordered ideas and behaviours and suggest that perhaps they’re not helpful, much less not necessary in achieving your health and fitness goals. In actual fact, it is these disordered ideas and behaviours that are in all likelihood halting your progress. As I stated earlier, if you want results from training you need to be putting in the right amount of fuel. You need a balanced and preferably a varied diet, of appropriate total intake. Restricting to less than appropriate intake and reducing the amount of variety in your diet is the opposite of what you should be doing in pursuit of a fitness, body composition, health or happiness goal.

Something I’m quite concerned about of late which prompted me to start work on this article is a new trend of trainers talking about “sugar addiction”, and suggesting that a client may have an eating disorder if they’re not able to adhere to a very strict “sugar detox” or “sugar elimination” diet. This is so outrageously irresponsible and offensive.

Trainers have an ethical obligation to act within their scope of practice, which is in proscribing appropriate exercise programs and sports nutrition guidelines. I say “sports nutrition” as in “appropriate intake to produce results from training at goal weight”. We’re not qualified for example to take the role of a clinical dietitician in providing a specialised diet to manage a medical condition, or to diagnose such a condition in the first place. That’s something else I’ve had a lot to say about in the past.

Let’s straighten this out now for the benefit of anyone unfortunate enough to have hired such a trainer. Number one, sugar is not addictive – here is the science. Now… your body requires fuel. Energy, as well as other resources. When you are attempting to follow a diet that does not provide sufficient energy, you get…. you guessed it…. you get hungry. Studies have also shown that for some reason, when you have a restrictive diet that bans certain choices, those are the choices you’re likely to crave when you’re hungry. So, when your incompetent trainer proscribes a diet that is both woefully inadequate in meeting your nutritional requirements and restrictive in terms of what food choices are allowed, you have virtually no chance of sticking to it anyway. It is not a failing on your part to be unable to stick to such a plan, and even if you did, it would be to the detriment of your health and wellbeing.The failing is on the part of the incompetent hack who has ignored their education in favour of pseudoscience in proscribing such an approach.

Your body requires fuel and you will get hungry. This is entirely normal. What is not normal and perhaps disordered is the idea that you need to deprive your body of that fuel and not eat when you are hungry. Especially with an active lifestyle.

We will explore this further tomorrow. Stay tuned.