People often ask me where I stand on certain topics. What I think about this training style, that diet, some product, whichever method of cardio, you name it. I live and exist in this industry, so it’s good to have opinions on things and be able to explain and articulate those opinions to others.
Something I think we need less of in this industry is emotion. Specifically when it comes to taking a position, developing a vested interest in the advancement of that position, and shooting down challenging theories without engaging in an honest debate or taking the time to really learn about them.
The flexible dieting movement is a great example. For those unfamiliar, this is the concept that you can eat whatever you want and, as long as your macronutrient numbers add up at the end of the day, you’re good to go. When this theory just started to gain mainstream attention, the traditional bodybuilding community was in outrage. “YOU MUST EAT TILAPIA AND ASPARAGUS EXCLUSIVELY AT 4 WEEKS OUT,” they cried – otherwise you are not a real bodybuilder, or something. Eventually there was a large enough body of evidence that this theory actually produced results, and it started to gain acceptance.
Then, something funny happened – the pendulum swung the other way around. Now people who chose to eat clean were suddenly slaves to their diets, miserable, and living a life of dietary prison in which the only possible outcome was the development of an eating disorder. Clean eating had become a villain, and coaches who advocated that approach – even those who did so responsibly – were becoming “old school” at best, or “stuck in the past” and “ignorant of science” at worst.
The problem is that people have taken these dieting theories and turned them into positions. With a position, you have – for some reason – developed an emotional attachment to a particular philosophy. While emotion and passion are good things, they do little to further honest debate and assessment.
Whatever the dietary strategy – old school clean eating, flexible dieting, low carb, paleo, high fat, intermittent fasting, blah blah blah – I don’t care what it is, there is likely a place for it. Maybe not for you or me, but for someone out there. The same with training styles, with different types of cardio, with various cleanses, with every potential variable you could have when it comes to fitness and changing your body. A responsible and intellectually honest coach will not take a hard position on something, because doing so means you become unwilling to listen to the needs of your clients.
One of the hardest things I do is listen to people and determine what approach is going to work best for them. Often times we start out with one strategy and then – either because I’m not happy with the rate of progress or because the individual I’m working with wants to try it – we’ll switch gears. I have a lot of clients who choose to figuratively bury their head in the sand and trust whatever I tell them to do. They get results, it works, they’re happy, no need to complicate the issue. I work with others who read incessantly and always want to try new stuff – I like that too. It’s my job to keep things from getting too A.D.D., to make sure that if we try something new, it’s under the right conditions and we stick with it for long enough to give it a chance to do it’s thing. I’m a fan of experimentation.
So if you’re searching for a coach, ask them what their philosophies are. If they give you concrete answers, you’ll know what to expect – exactly that, and probably not a huge degree of flexibility if that doesn’t end up working out for you.