As a personal trainer, I’m often asked what’s real in fitness and nutrition and what’s misinformation. Many unqualified voices are spreading messages that are not only untrue, they can also be detrimental. Even worse, many fitness professionals are responsible for spreading incorrect ideas about wellness. With so much miseducation and conflicting advice out there, it’s no surprise that you and so many others feel overwhelmed or confused. Sorting out what will work for you does require individual coaching and assessment because no one solution works for everyone. However, there is fitness and nutrition advice out there that won’t work for anyone in the long term and there’s a lot of it.
Believing this incorrect advice stops you from becoming seriously fit in a balanced and sustainable way. I’m sharing with you the ten words that promote an unhealthy view of fitness and nutrition. These words actually hurt your progress. Work to eliminate these from your wellness vocabulary and be wary of anyone that promotes them.
If you want a healthy lifestyle that actually lasts, your diet needs to be balanced. Balanced means that you’re getting the nutrients you need to function well. The exact amount of nutrients will depend on your body type, lifestyle and training needs. It will also likely change each day as your environment changes. No two people will have the exact same dietary needs. This is an important point that diet marketers like to gloss over. They want you to think that there is one single diet that works for everyone. There isn’t. Not long term.
Most diets will involve a combination or variation of the words above. They promise to renew your body by focusing on a few simple rules. They promote foods that “burn fat” or “detox your system.” The reality is that your body can detox, cleanse and digest food all on it’s own. That’s what it’s built to do. You CAN improve the level at which it does this by eating more nutritious foods and by limiting foods that are nutrient-poor (e.g. usually highly processed.) HOWEVER, improving your body’s efficiency should never involve any form of deprivation or starvation unless explicitly called for by a doctor. It isn’t sustainable and can contribute to some serious long-term issues as you age. Take these words out of your vocabulary and diets that don’t nourish you out of your life.
Not long ago the perfect woman was supposed to be thin and slender. The only parts that should stick out were her boobs and they were supposed to stick out a lot. Thank god those days are ending. There’s a general movement now among women and men towards appreciating different female forms. Some of us are slender naturally. That’s great. Others are thick and curvy. That’s great too. The shape you have when you train and eat well is YOUR SHAPE and there is nothing wrong with it. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
This is why these words are so harmful; they tell us to aim for something we may never be able to achieve. I have trained for fifteen years and I have never had a thigh gap. I genetically cannot have a thigh gap with a big booty and thick thighs…unless I starve myself and well, I just love food too damn much!
You are born with a certain shape and genes. You can improve what you have but it does exist on a spectrum. The spectrum of a naturally tall, thin woman is not the same as the spectrum of a naturally curvy woman. I’m not saying you can’t achieve the strength, performance or balance of someone with a different body type. I am saying that you may not be able to look like them without seriously depriving or overtraining your body. Eliminate words that try to push a body shape on you that isn’t your own because once you accept what you have, you can get seriously fit FOR you, not for anyone else.
Most of us have specific areas that we’d like to tighten up. However, there are no exercises that will target the excess weight on your back, arms or thighs in isolation. No matter what anyone tells you, it’s not possible OR ADVISABLE to spot train.
Let’s start with the obvious problem of directing fat loss. We all carry weight in different ways depending on our frames, lifestyles and genetics. We also gain and lose in different ways. Some of us gain first on the hips but lose quickly in the arms. Others experience the reverse. It doesn’t matter how much knowledge a fitness professional claims to have, they cannot help you ONLY LOSE WEIGHT IN ONE AREA. Yes, you can experience OVERALL weight loss by following a healthy diet and regular exercise. You can THEN define those areas by following a specific training regimen.
However, even then effective training works as a system; a strong back requires a strong belly, shoulders and arms. Strong arms require a strong core. Strong bellies require a strong back. Strong thighs require strong glutes. If you’re not training MUSCULAR GROUPS then you’re not going to get the results you want. You also risk injuring yourself by not developing supporting muscles.
Finally, any trainer or article that directs your attention to areas of your body that you don’t like is not someone you want to work with or whose advice you should follow. As fitness professionals, our job is to listen to what you’re trying to achieve and then direct you to it in a sustainable and effective way. It’s not our business to tell you what you need to fix UNLESS it’s to do with improving your underlying foundation – strength, flexibility, balance and power. The way you want to look is your call, not ours. If you walk away from an article or personal trainer feeling worse about yourself, then you should move on and look for someone/something else.
These words are probably the most prevalent in the fitness industry at the moment. Many personal trainers, fitness programs, gyms and studios will often use them in marketing because they know that these will get you in the doors. These words will motivate you to keep coming back too. Why?
Let’s start with cheat days or cheat meals and “earning it.” It’s much easier for me to convince you to eat healthier or to work out more frequently, if you believe that you’ll then deserve your food. It’s even easier if I tell you that on certain days or for certain meals this food can be your favorite junk food. All you have to do is be good the rest of the time. Theoretically this is great right? It gets you exercising often and eating well BUT you don’t feel like you’re missing out on life. It also delivers results; you’ll see the weight go and the muscles grow.
The problem is that you’ve now entered into an unhealthy cycle in which your emotions and motivations are tied to your workouts or food. If you don’t work out, you feel bad. You feel like you don’t deserve that cake. If you eat too much cake, you feel like you’ll have to work out more. You’ve created a system that you thought gave you more control but, in fact, it’s instead made you a slave to it. You no longer see food as the fuel that keeps you going but as good or bad. You no longer see workouts as an activity that keeps you healthy but as a way to deserve your food.
There is a way out of this cycle. It starts by stripping these words from your wellness vocabulary. Think about food as fuel for your body. If you work harder, you need more fuel. The type of fuel can be more helpful to your body (e.g. veggies) or it can be less helpful (e.g. cake.) If you eat less helpful fuel, then you should balance it out with more helpful fuel. Avoid associating any moral value or judgment to what you eat. The food you eat can sustain you more or it can sustain you less. That’s it.
Similarly, begin to think about working out as a natural part of your day…just like breathing. The more you train, the better you’ll feel. But unlike breathing, it’s not the end of the world if you skip a workout. Don’t feel guilty. Don’t think you can’t eat the food you need. Just show up the next day (or when you’re ready.)
It is not a summer, wedding or challenge destination. Some months and years you will do better than others. This article is meant to help you create a mindset toward wellness that serves you well over the long run. Everyone is capable of developing this mindset on their own but if you do need some extra support or motivation, you can get it with me. Find out more here.
Hi I'm Chardét (Char for short.) I've been in fitness for over a decade now and practiced everything from martial arts to barre. I'm a NASM certified personal trainer with five years of experience training clients from ages 13 to 75, men and women of all abilities from around the world. I've taught classes in boutique studios in New York and most major gyms in London.
My training philosophy is one I've developed over the last seven years. I live and breathe it and I've taught my clients to do the same. Those who follow it are fit YEARS later - some fitter than me! You'll find that I'll motivate you without being too "bootcampy." I always keep fitness fun, creative and just a little bit different. Most importantly, I've been where you are and I know how to get you further.