What’s the worst advice I’ve ever given?

It dawned on me while I was going off on some tirade about nutrition yesterday (I find myself doing this a lot lately) that I myself was once a misinformed dope, running around calling myself a so-called “expert” telling people stuff about nutrition that’s just blatantly false.

Mind you, I was young and stupid when I told my clients, “a calorie is a calorie.”  Nonetheless, that fact doesn’t make me want to throw up in my mouth any less when I hear the advice.

So I wanted to dedicate a few paragraphs to some of the my worst moments as a professional giver of fitness advice, because we’re all human, and we all need the occasional reminder that we’re all, to some extent, unstoppable morons (or at least I am).

“A calorie is a calorie”

As I said, this was at the heart of a lot of my bad advice as a trainer.  The notion that our bodies views every calorie the same is grounded in a complete misunderstanding of human biology.

First, a little background…

It was the very beginning of what I now know as my career.  I was sitting in a classroom to receive my Apex certification, a crappy (and I’m being very generous when I use that term) in-house certification that would allow me to start training clients at 24 Hour Fitness.  This was the beginning of the end for what would be the first several years of my nutritional advice.

It was in that classroom that I learned about the First Law of Thermodynamics (which is a very valid law, it simply has less than nothing to do with the human body, and it was never intended to).  Energy in minus energy out and you know whether or not someone will gain or lose weight.  Again, stupid, but I did not yet have the tools to know otherwise.

Two quick, very important reasons why it’s stupid, and why you shouldn’t be listening to people who tell you it’s the case…

First, the law applies to a closed system, which the human body is not.  Second, it assumes the only possibility for everything you eat is either usage or storage.  Wood chips have a great deal of energy, but if you eat one, your body isn’t going to be using it as energy or storing it.

It’s this complete misunderstanding of our bodies (that I was taught, mind you, by the same people who are instructing a HUGE number of beginning trainers) that led me to offer up chestnuts like these…

“Park further away from the store so you have to walk further.  After all, every calorie counts.”

“Every 100 calories a day in your diet amounts to a change in more than 10 pounds every year.”

“I know you’re only eating 1200 calories and not losing weight, so we’ll have to start exercising more.”

My face is turning white as a sheet while I write this, as the realization that all these words were, at one point, uttered by me.  In some cases several times.

Give me a moment – I’ll be right back…

(Sincerity alert)

One of the scariest things as a fitness professional is that, ultimately, the results our clients get are largely out of our hands.  The work has to be done by the client and it’s hard to conceive of anything scarier than someone paying you and not seeing the results they’re after.  At the end of the day, my job is simply to give people the best tools and information they can possibly have and hope they put it to good use.  It makes the job tough, but at the very least, I need to do everything in my power to provide the people I come into contact with a fighting chance.  It makes the job tougher that not everyone giving out fitness advice takes the responsibility so seriously.

I wrote this post to take some lighthearted jabs at myself, because honestly, some of the stuff that’s come out of my mouth is pretty funny.  But moreover I know that, even though not everyone is going to be a client of mine, someone reading this is going hear bad fitness advice sometime, and if it’s you, I need you to know not to listen.

Even if you’re not a client of mine, please feel free to use me as a resource.  Ask questions… learn… give yourself the tools you need to be successful.  I’m not perfect and don’t claim to be, but I’ve been in the industry long enough to know crap when I hear it.  Not everyone is going to use all the tools at their disposal, but at the end of the day, I want you to at least have the right tools.

‘Til next time!


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