Helping Fitness Clients Read Between the Lines


We all get asked about the latest fad or research results on the regular from our clients. People may ask you questions about a piece of equipment you haven’t heard about yet or a nutrition study you didn’t read. They might also question you about something that seems like common sense. It’s ok. Be patient and encourage your clients to ask you questions. Use the four tips in this article to scrutinize new information together.

The web can be enticing but problematic especially for the person that is new to fitness. They will often turn to the web to learn all about their new lifestyle choice. The internet is a fantastic resource and offers people a library of information that they can access anywhere at any time, but requires a little more than common sense to navigate sometimes.

We’ve all had a client like this one

A woman asked me to review her diet because she was gaining weight. She was very upset because she was exercising hard and eating healthy but she was gaining instead of losing weight. I asked her to record her food consumption in a journal for one week.

One day I saw her eating handfuls of almonds out of a large can as she sat on a bench after her workout. Mysteriously almonds were not mentioned anywhere in her food journal. When I asked her why they were not entered she said because she read that eating fat does not make you fat. She thought that meant you can eat all you want and not gain any weight.

She seemed shocked when I told her that eating anything in excess will make you store fat. She was so convinced that she printed out several articles for me to read where the authors stated that “eating fat does not make you fat.”

I read the articles myself and I could see why she might draw such a conclusion. There was a lot of great information on the health benefits of eating fat but no mention whatsoever about fat being very calorie dense. The message was clear, “eating fat does not make you fat” period.  Bold statements that promise something for nothing elicit a strong emotional reaction. Common sense will sometimes take a back seat to wishful thinking.

I asked her if that didn’t sound a little too good to be true. I explained that people have taken the fact that fat you ingest is not directly stored as fat and created a false statement that fat will not make you fat. Any excess calories will cause you to gain weight. Fat has nine calories per gram. Protein and carbohydrates only have four. In a gram per gram comparison eating too much fat will make you gain weight twice as fast as eating too much carbohydrates or protein because it contains over twice the calories per gram.

I got a food scale and weighed out 1 ounce of almonds to show her how few almonds were in one serving. She said REALLY? My next question was how much have you been eating? She replied about 2 cans a week. Once she applied critical thinking and common sense to what she had read she understood that all calories count.

Teach your clients to evaluate what they read

There is a lot of good information that your clients can learn on the web. However they need to be a bit skeptical and apply some common sense when they evaluate it. Often times there are misleading statements that seem to catch fire on the web. The information may have some validity but there is often an omission of a key fact that needs to be known to make the statement true.

Four Guidelines for Evaluating New Information

1. If it sounds too good to be true it usually is

It is a pretty sure bet that if something sounds too good to be true it probably is. People that are just starting out want there to be a shortcut. Generally speaking anything that sounds too good to be true usually is.

2. There are generally two sides to a story, research the opposite view

When you find something to be very compelling researching an opposing viewpoint. That will help to either validate it or disprove the validity.

3. If a source stands to gain from a given conclusion question the conclusion

Quite often you will find that a company that is selling a product or service will pay for scientific research. That may not invalidate the findings but it certainly should make you somewhat skeptical.

4. There is no free lunch, nothing comes without some expense

Just as in the example of fat not making you fat there is almost always a price you pay for everything. When you see great benefits you have to look and find at what price the benefits come.

It is a very important step in learning that a person learns to be objective while also not becoming overly cynical. By applying critical thinking and some common sense the information on the web can greatly assist a client to reach their goals. Without a good foundation of how to properly evaluate what they read a person can easily become a victim of misinformation.
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John Rutnik is a NFPT Certified Personal Trainer. He holds an AAS in Electrical Technology and has been a certified personal trainer since 2008. John has been involved in physical fitness and weight training since the late 70’s and is an avid outdoors man. He became a personal trainer after rehabilitating himself from a spinal injury he sustained in a car accident and losing 70 pounds. John later obtained ISSA Certifications as both a Fitness Trainer and Specialist in Sports Nutrition and became Lead Fitness Trainer at Anytime Fitness in Schenectady NY. His training philosophy is “no man left behind,” everyone deserves a chance to succeed.