Health is important, right? I don’t know anyone who would challenge that assertion. If we are healthy, we are more likely to be productive, active, engaged, and experience a better quality (and quantity) of life.
Many of our clients come to us to achieve just that – a better quality of life by improving certain parameters of their individual health. As the fit pros, we help make that happen. It’s what we do – we are passionate advocates for better living. And we should be! But is it possible for our clients (or even ourselves) to become too focused on and too obsessed with health and what is “healthy”? Much like overtraining, can we over-focus and ultimately derail? I think so.
I’ve seen passion turn to obsession in clients. Learn how you can watch for the signs and reinforce what it means to live a healthy, not a restricted or deprived, life.
Signs Clients (or you) Are Overdoing It
Yes, clients should take a healthy interest in eating mindfully, engaging in physical activity, limiting sedentary time, and managing stress. We know that individuals who do these things and do them consistently are much healthier – metabolically, physically, and mentally. When a client reaches this stage in their time with you, you know your work (and theirs) has paid off.
But what does it look like when a client develops an unhealthy and unproductive attachment to dieting and exercising?
A client may be too focused on exercise if you notice
- Chronic fatigue
- Frequent illness
- Desires to exercise excessively (no rest days and/or extremely long workouts)
- Missing important meetings or engagements to exercise
- Exercising when sick or injured
- Unrealistic body image, body fat, or body weight goals
- Constantly checking body weight (multiple times a day)
On the nutrition side, there’s a term experts use to define obsessive behaviors individuals display in the pursuit of a healthy diet – orthorexia (Eating Disorder Hope, 2016). Individuals with this condition fixate on only “healthy foods” and avoid specific types of foods or whole food groups.
A client who is potentially suffering from this condition may
- Follow an unrealistically strict diet
- Never varies the diet – only sticks to certain foods
- Obsessively weighs and measures food and drinks
- Consume multiple supplements or meal replacement “shakes”
- Leapfrogs from fad diet to fad diet
While it is not within the designated scope of practice of a fitness professional to diagnose or prescribe, it is the professional’s responsibility to monitor signs and note potential concerns and address those with your clients. If necessary, refer out to another professional in your network such as a social worker, counselor, and/or dietitian to help your clients get back on a rational and productive track to better health.