8 Ways to Spot Crappy Fitness Advice
NEW content is not always GOOD content. I’ve seen fitness brands, sites and publications settle for any kind of content, as long as it’s new. They also will post things people WANT to hear, not what they NEED to hear. SO, as much as you may wish alcohol is good for you, or you can eat more and still lose weight, you can’t trust everything you see in print – or online. (makes me think of this commercial)
Here are the facts. Brands and publications don’t always use fitness experts to write articles and blogs. Oftentimes they recruit bloggers with no experience or education to get more content for less. Then, for the brands who do hire experts, they often tell the expert what they want the expert to write on to get more hits, readers and subscribers.
I’ve experienced this firsthand. I have been asked to write about stuff I would never tell someone. So, I decline or make another suggestion because I refuse to write a blog for the sake of a catchy title and a good paycheck.
Quality vs Quantity
Unfortunately, I know that a blog entitled “5 Healthy Benefits of Chocolate” will get more hits than something like “Be as Disciplined in the Kitchen as You Are in the Gym”, but oh well. That’s just how the internet cookie crumbles. But, honestly, knowing about some of the health benefits of chocolate isn’t as helpful as understanding the need for portion control. I prefer talking about what will make the most difference.
The problem is, a lot of big companies don’t really care what they put out there, they just want the numbers. I personally think they need to rethink their business plan. People need help and our fitness leaders and publications need to be dedicated to providing help by providing quality, not just quantity.
8 Ways to Spot Crappy Fitness Advice
1. If it sounds too good to be true. Seriously people, if someone tries to say you aren’t losing weight because you are not eating enough, you have to ask yourself “does that make sense?”. Believe me, if we dropped you off on an island or locked you in a closet, you WOULD lose weight. The problem is there is a little truth to that statement, but taken out of context, it really is misleading. The media will often take a small truth and make a whole article on it, without explaining the rest of the important details. For instance, on this topic, someone must still eat less than they burn to lose weight, but they may need to eat more OFTEN – not MORE. However, people want to hear that they can eat more so “Eat More to Lose Weight” ends up making the headlines, when that isn’t what the experts are trying to say.
2. Check to see if the information lines up with the pros. Fitness leaders, like ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) and the Mayo Clinic publish tons of research and quality content full of nothing but information based on science. If you question an article’s content, google it and see if reliable fitness experts have anything to say about it. Nine times out of ten, you will find enough content to compare the topic to so you see if it is correct information or not.
3. Look at the author’s physique and personal experience. I’m not just saying that if someone is ripped and hot that you should trust everything they say. Unfortunately, there are some people who are gifted with amazing bodies who can eat pizza and still win a trophy. That doesn’t mean you can eat pizza. There are other people, like my husband (pictured left), who have to rely on science to get results. This means he knows how to manipulate his body’s physique through specific purposeful training and nutrition. With 6 years of exercise and nutrition education, and a degree in Physical Therapy, he has tested his knowledge on himself, as well as his clients. With that said, when someone tells you how to eat or train, look at their physique first. Some of the most opinionated and critical people often times are people who have not successfully sculpted their own physique, or never experienced weight issues. While I’ve never competed like Steve, I’ve gone from a size 2 to a size 12 – so I understand the challenges of dieting and weight fluctuations.
4. Does the author practice what they preach? This poor woman has been plastered over the internet for being an overweight fitness instructor, but we don’t know where this person came from or how much weight she has lost. However, it did raise the question, “do you expect your instructor to be fit?”
Here are my thoughts. Would you listen to a preacher if he didn’t practice what he preached? So why would we listen to a fitness expert who did not apply what they are suppose to believe in? Does that mean that person can’t cheat on their diet or take a few days off from the gym? No. BUT, what I am saying is, overall, they be applying what they know to their own life. It doesn’t necessarily mean they need to be shredded all the time, but they should be fit and healthy. Fitness is a lifestyle, not a quick fix or catchy trend. Fitness leaders should be leading themselves first before leading others.
5. Beware of articles that major in the minors. What I mean is, we can’t focus so much on the small diet tweaks that we miss out on the big picture. The media often plasters news about an ingredient that could give you cancer, or slow your metabolism, because it gets attention. This is sad to me because there are people are at a higher risk of major health issues from being overweight than they are getting cancer from a color additive. Don’t get me wrong, avoiding these things are great, but the major issue in America is calories in vs calories out. Obesity is the #2 cause of preventable death in the US, greatly outweighing death by diet soda. When it comes to weight loss, don’t sweat the small stuff YET. Focus on the biggest issue FIRST, which is losing weight and managing your macro-nutrients (protein, carbs, fat). THEN, once you have mastered that, start improving the quality of food you eat, and working to improve your health on a micro-nutrient level. Otherwise, you can get information overload, which can sometimes do more harm than good.
6. Read the WHOLE story. Titles are there to suck you in so you read the article. Sometimes titles are exactly opposite of what the story is about because they want to grab your attention. Here is a perfect example. This article was titled “Beer Can Strengthen Muscles“, but if you don’t read the fine print you’d miss the part about it being physically impossible to drink enough beer to get enough of the ingredient that is linked to muscle growth – and that you’d probably die of alcohol poisoning before you’d actually experience the benefits. Interesting story, yes. Helpful? Not so much. The truth is, it was very smart marketing while still offering quality factual content. BUT, if someone didn’t read the whole story, they could have been totally mislead.
7. If it sounds too good to be true, you are probably right – it’s probably too good to be true. I will not name names, but a major fitness publication posted an article on healthy snacks earlier this year that totally frustrated me. One of the first things on the list was Wheat Thins and string cheese. While I understand that may be healthier than Doritos, it was misleading. They suggested a single serve bag and string cheese, which is nearly 300 calories. 210 calories for the Big Grab bag (which is what was pictured in the article) and 80 calories for regular string cheese (they didn’t suggest low-fat string cheese). 300 calories, in my opinion, is too many calories for a snack for a dieter. 100-150 calories is what I shoot for. I can eat an entire meal for 300 calories! Also on the list was a bag of chocolate covered pretzels and bagel and cream cheese. Really?
8. Just because something is healthy doesn’t mean you can eat all you want. Many articles will single out a food item and tell you how healthy it is, but that doesn’t mean it’s calorie free. For instance, Quinoa is super healthy, but it still is high in calories compared to vegetables. We must eat it sparingly and treat it like any other carbohydrate, counting calories and watching portions. The problem is, many people will hear that something is healthy, and they think that gives them the OK to eat all they want. I’ve got news for you – you can still get fat eating healthy. The only way to manage your weight is to manage calories. The way to manage how you FEEL is to chose to get those calories from the healthiest foods possible.
Listen, I could write a book on this. I personally have had hundreds of people come up to me over the last 20 years asking me about the most bizarre diets, workouts and weight loss gimmicks – most based on something someone read or heard. I caution you to use your noggin and to be on alert. The media preys on people desperate to lose weight. Desperate people make easy targets unfortunately. Just remember, just because it’s on the internet (or in a magazine) doesn’t make it true. 🙂