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Why you can’t trust a PT to give you nutritional advice

Why you can’t trust a PT to give you nutritional advice

Why you can’t trust a PT to give you nutritional advice

Bad advice will blind you.
Good advice will instruct you.
Great advice will enlighten you.

Matshona Dhliwayo

PTs (Personal Trainers) are very quick to give nutritional advice. It’s all part of the service alongside the training right? Wrong!

Here’s why……

Something that angers me is the tough rap that Nutritionists and Nutritional Therapists get. Let me explain. Dieticians are regulated by law. Therefore, if someone is a dietician they have been through plenty of training, will have a degree or higher, and will undertake regular continued professional development in order to be able to continue to use the term dietician. They will be registered and regulated, and you can probably trust that they know what they are talking about.

The terms ‘Nutritionist’ and ‘Nutritional Therapist’ on the other hand are not regulated which leaves them open to some abuse. This means that anyone can do a bit of training and then give themself one of those two titles. These courses can be as short as a couple of days long.

Now have a think about that – how much nutritional information do you think you can learn in a couple of days? Not much huh? What about if it was a couple of weeks long? I reckon you could learn some basics. Ok, so what about a couple of months – that’s bound to give you everything you need to know right? I don’t know about you but I couldn’t learn the complete ins and outs of the human body and the interactions with food in that time.

In contrast to that, my degree is 5 years of constant studying. Heads in books, a never ending stream of journal reading, and countless assignments, case studies, essays and clinical practice. 5 years of learning about the human body at a cellular level, anatomy and physiology, biochemical imbalances, disease, gut health down to a microbial level, hormones, the components of food and how each vitamin and mineral interacts with the body in a multitude of ways from the brain to the gut and all the surrounding complex systems.

Then add into that the many health issues that people might have, and the clinical practice involved in helping that person overcome them. Still think that can be learnt in a couple of months??

Let’s bring this back to the PTs I was referring to. Most of them will have done some personal training qualifications, and some to a high level and high standard which is excellent. As an expert in their 

personal trainer stood in a boxing ring

field I would expect that. Within these courses there will be an element of nutritional training, and probably some guidance on how to set meal plans to get the best from their physical training plans. A basic understanding of nutrition is good for them to have and can be a real help to the trainer, but I truly believe that at that level of knowledge you should still not be advising people. A PT cannot possibly have a full understanding of their client’s health status, and quite frankly to mess with their nutritional input can be quite dangerous.

Here’s an excerpt from a training manual for a currently available Level 3 personal training course.

excerpt from pt course

This clearly tells the student that after this course they can legally call themself a Nutritional Therapist. They are taught by personal trainers, not by nutrition health professionals. Their assessment for passing the nutritional aspect of the course is a multiple choice exam where they are required to achieve a pass of either 70% or 90% depending on whether they are a full time or part time student. Now, if only my degree was decided using a multiple choice test!

To bring this into context for you, a level 3 qualification is the equivalent to an AS or A level, or an advanced apprenticeship. Would you trust someone straight out of college or an apprenticeship to advise you on how to get the best from your body by telling you how to alter your diet? Before you answer that take into account that this course that I’m referring to is 2 weeks long if you are full time, and 6 weeks long if you are a part time student. If that isn’t worrying enough and you are still thinking it’ll probably be ok, be sure to think about the fact that getting the balance of just ONE single vitamin wrong can have drastic, even life threatening, results.

My registration with a professional body says that I cannot advise people until I have completed the full 5 years of the degree, yet these PTs are happy to advise after 2 weeks. What are your thoughts now?

Now technically…. TECHNICALLY… that person can indeed call themselves a nutritional therapist because they have undertaken some nutritional training. But so have I, and when you compare their snippet of information gained in a two week training course to the vast and in depth knowledge that I have through multiple training courses (at level 5) and the degree I think you’ll agree that I am more deserving of that title than they are.

What this rant is basically saying is please do your homework on the people that you are taking advice from. There are some really excellent Nutritionists and Nutritional Therapists out there that have done years of training to be able to help you in a competent and safe way. Never be afraid to ask someone what their qualifications are when they try to give you nutritional or dietary advice. Check out their registrations and ask them what they are required to do to stay up to date with the latest information in their field. Ask them what they specialise in. Does that translate to what you think you need? They might be very lovely and make you feel safe with them as a trainer, but that does not mean they are the person to coach your nutritional needs.

I’m not saying that all PTs are bad or that all PTs will give this advice. There are some that will happily say that they aren’t able to give nutritional advice, and they should be praised. Unfortunately there are others that do though, and will often charge extra for the pleasure! These are the ones to avoid. This is your health, your life, your wellbeing that they are messing with. That person could do you some good, or could do you a whole heap of damage. Make sure the person you are paying good money to really knows their stuff.

You deserve to be in the best health. Have the right people help you with that.

Movement, not exercise

Movement, not exercise

Movement, not exercise

Your body is the most complete and miraculous piece of gym equipment you’ll ever need

Toni Sorenson

Do you exercise and love it, or struggle to find the will to get up and do it?
Do you feel excited to do the activity, or feel fear and anxiety? 
Do you exercise somewhere you love and feel safe, or somewhere you feel you are constantly being watched?
Do you do it because you want to, or because you feel you should?

I feel so sad for people who don’t enjoy their exercise. Not that you have to do the traditional definition of ‘exercise’ but if you do you should at least enjoy it. All too often people moan about dragging themselves out for a run, or to the gym, or to a class that they detest. And don’t even get me started on people who say they have to do it because they had something to eat earlier that they feel they now need to burn off. Let’s just get this straight – exercise is not a punishment and you never have to earn food or burn calories. 

I like to think of it as movement, not exercise. Movement is good for you. It’ll keep you supple and keep your muscles in a good functional condition. It keeps your bones healthy and helps with circulation. It helps you regulate your energy levels and your sleep. It has a multitude of benefits throughout the body that you wouldn’t even think of.

Movement should be done for the sheer love of it. It should be something you can’t wait to do, something you do because you enjoy the way it makes you feel.

Remember when you used to jump on a trampoline as a child, or when you used to dance around your bedroom with a hairbrush as a microphone. Do you still dance around the house when music is on, or has that disappeared from your life? What about when you used to kick a football around the park, or ride your bike so far that you got lost and had to find your way home (oops! Navigation never was my strong point!). What about when you used to go to the swimming pool and splash around, just having fun?

Where has the joy gone? Where has the fun movement gone? Has it been swapped out for sweaty gym classes or the dreaded spin bike?

two ballet dancers

If you don’t enjoy it just don’t do it. It’s as simple as that. What is the point in half killing yourself because you think you should be doing it? Life is too short to spend time doing things you don’t enjoy. Find a way to move that you do enjoy. It’s going to be each to their own.  One man’s pleasure is another man’s torture, but that’s fine. The world would be a dull place if we all liked to do the same things.

Even if you really truly love the activity you have chosen you should not be uncomfortable in that space while exercising. If you are in the gym and feel like people are criticising you for example that’s not ok. The reality is they’re probably not! They’re far too busy checking out their own ‘guns’ and their abs in the mirror, but whatever the reality if you feel awkward and can’t get past that then you are not in the right space for you.

Find a friendly class where you’re welcomed with a smile when you walk through the door. Go jogging with a friend you love to catch up with. Do some YouTube videos with your partner or kids if they’re up for a giggle and a bit of movement with you. Or just do something alone if you like your own space.

legs wearing running shoes on the beach

Find something that you love to do, something you are excited to start, excited to go to, in a place that makes you feel joy, with people you enjoy spending time with. If the by-product of this movement just happens to be health benefits then that’s amazing, but it shouldn’t be the main reason you choose your movement.

It doesn’t have to be overly strenuous or make you feel like you’ve been trampled on by a herd of elephants the next day. Ideally something that gets the blood pumping and the heart rate up a little for the health benefits, but you do you and if you are finding a way to move every day that’s got to be better than spending your days on the couch.

Move in a way that makes you feel fantastic, empowered, strong, free, mentally stronger, excited. Walk, dance, run, skip, ride, play, lift, breathe, stretch, connect. Which of those words makes you feel good and like you’d find happiness doing them?

What movement do you do that makes you feel amazing? Maybe have a look at possible new opportunities locally. Is today the day you try something new?

Please note:  This post is intended to be general information that applies to people who don’t have diagnosed medical conditions and are not pregnant. As always, please see a registered professional before undertaking any new exercise routines. Please continue to follow any professional advice you have been given in respect of movement and exercise.