Like so many other Personal Trainers, once qualified I thought I knew everything there was to know about training and nutrition. When I finished my PT studies I moved onto a specialist nutrition course on Weight Loss, I won’t name the college as I am about to rag on the course! In my SHORT studies (which at the time I believed to be a lifetime) I learnt the ins and outs of Australia’s standard approach to weight loss for Fitness Professionals – Eat Clean, do steady state cardio every day and maintain a look of smugness due to your superior food choices. That last rule is implied.
Weight loss to me was very simple back then, as is the approach of our broader Australian fitness community – if your caloric output exceeds your caloric input – then you burn fat. Generally the thing to be cut in these diets is sugar and carbs. And sadly this makes people wrongfully assume that carb and sugar is somehow “bad” for us under all circumstances.
But at the time I was the biggest sugar hater in the world and my work began at home, no more pasta, no more white bread, no more sweets, no more diet drinks with sweetener in it and sadly no more cereal (my mum dubbed me a cerealatarian in my childhood so this was an adjustment) I incorporated much more cardio into my weekly regime and posted pictures of my meals on Facebook – which is compulsory for clean eaters by the way. Next I taught my new ways to my clients at the two studios I worked for (and eventually at The Shed) I was encouraged to travel this nutritional road by both my bosses whose opinions I respected enormously (both were nutritionists and one had a masters) and I still remember regurgitating such cringe worthy statements as:
- sugar makes you fat
- artificial sweetener causes cancer
- we were designed to eat protein, not starchy carbs
- your feelings of light-headedness is just your body getting over sugar … it will go away soon
The disturbing part of this situation was that I didn’t even believe in what I was teaching. I was eating “dirty” sugary foods on weekends, when I wanted chocolate or take away I had Tabitha (my wife) go in and get it for me while I waited in the car, I had even practiced my line if caught by a client: “Bloody Tabitha and her sugar cravings! Haha.”
I was a big fat phony and I was so ashamed of my cravings that I got my fix in secret, like a drug addict!
Even more upsetting then my new damaged relationship with food, was when one of my client’s weight loss would plateau. You see, whenever anyone starts a low carb plan, results are crazy in the beginning. Then, as your metabolism starts to DO IT’S JOB and adapt to your new low carb intake, weight loss dries up like my bank account in a Nike store!
At this point I would administer “more cardio!” and “less carb!” which would help kick start the fat loss for another short period of time only to eventually plateau again when the client’s metabolism would drop even further. When I ran out of carb to drop I would have the “Are you truly following the plan?” talk. Having someone who used to admire you tell you (while choking back tears) that they have done everything you have asked of them, makes you feel like an enormous failure. One client in particular lost 25kg with me only to put half of it back on and quit, it was so frustrating for them as they were over the moon to be 25 down but their goal was 40. Their weight loss plateaued and when they over indulged even slightly they had unfair enormous weight regain – if you are reading this, I am truly sorry, I should NEVER have recommended a form of nutrition that I couldn’t even follow myself. I know I have asked a thousand times, but COME BACK! I will train you for free as long as it takes.
As depressing as it was to look in the mirror and doubt the one thing I took pride in previously, I wouldn’t change the past at all. If I didn’t hit all of those road blocks, I wouldn’t have gone searching for a better way, and I wouldn’t have come to the startling realization that there is a better way! I admitted I needed help and sought out a good friend who is a great coach (Joey Zinghini) and he put me on the right path to a Metabolic Scientist – Dr Layne Norton. Layne Norton has a PhD in Nutritional Sciences and he is the modern father of Metabolic science / adaption and how to work with it not against it for long term weight loss. Layne coached me for a year while I started a Bachelor in Nutritional Sciences at Charles Sturt and having this direct access to such a brilliant mind in the industry who is willing to go outside the text book approach was so important.
I am not going to spruik what we are doing so differently with nutrition now, this blog is my confession! Not me seeking affirmation.
I have made many mistakes since starting but I will never make the mistake of pushing something that makes people unhappy and breeds poisonous relationships with food ever again. Food is a part of life and if you don’t enjoy the journey the outcome is simple – you won’t make it to the finish line.
P.S. Any PTs worrying they may be making mistakes similar to my own, I am only an email away - firstname.lastname@example.org