Nutrition and the Personal Trainer

I recently attended PT on the Net’s Meeting of the Minds. For this biennial event, PT on the Net invites fitness industry experts from around the world to share their cutting-edge ideas. Presenters included Greg Roskopf, Mark Verstegen, Paul Chek, Ian O’Dwyer, Scott Hopson, Michol Dahlcourt, Rodney Corn, John Berardi, Nic Jarvis and Annette Lang, to name a few.

In light of some of the current events, I’d like to address the presentation given by Dr. John Berardi, a nutritionist and faculty member at the University of Texas. Dr. Berardi discussed an element of health that is often misunderstood, ignored, or simply left out of a wellness plan – nutrition. If clients are not making dietary changes, they simply will not make the kind of progress that can be expected when nutritional improvement is part of the overall health equation.

Everyone is talking about the First Lady’s Let’s Move initiative and I fully applaud her efforts to get kids moving. Active kids will lead healthier lives and experience improved self-esteem. Being active additionally improves cognitive development and myriad studies point to a positive correlation between fitness and academic achievement. A school in Naperville, Illinois attributes their strong standardized test performances on their “Zero Hour P.E.” class; a vigorous physical education class that takes place before school begins. Movement is therefore a critical component of any health initiative, especially if the goal is to correct sedentary behavior, improve the quality of life, decrease preventable health care costs, and increase academic performance. (For more information on the Let’s Move initiative, please see http://www.letsmove.gov/index.html)

However, as Berardi pointed out in his presentation, obesity, weight loss, and type-II diabetes will require more than just movement. It will require nutritional intervention. Fortunately, Michelle Obama recognizes this and is actively trying to promote healthy food choices in schools as well as affordable, healthy food choices across the country. Whole Foods also started a school lunch revolution and attention is finally being directed at the quality and quantity of food choices offered to our most valuable resource.

Last week, renowned chef Jamie Oliver went into an elementary school in Huntington, West Virginia; a town that has been categorized as the unhealthiest in America. The food choices offered to these students was appalling at best. Pizza for breakfast?! What was even more shocking, though, was the resistance and negativity directed at Oliver for wanting to offer kids healthy alternatives. Understandably, these school cooks do not want to believe that they have been hurting children by feeding them substandard food. To admit that would be far more difficult than ridiculing Oliver and dismissing his ideas. So that is what they did – showing very little hospitality and, in the process, making themselves look very foolish. (For more information, please see http://www.jamieoliver.com/campaigns/jamies-food-revolution)

Yes, eating healthy food is going to cost more money. But how much is your health worth? How much is your children’s health worth? Would you rather pay at the grocery store or at the hospital? How much does diabetes cost? My dog eats human-grade food without any by-products, wheat, or dairy. It costs more money, but her health is worth it to me.

Yes, eating healthy food is going to take more time to prepare. But isn’t a homemade meal more satisfying than opening up a box/can/bag of processed food? Author Michael Pollan recommends not eating foods if you cannot pronounce the ingredients. Remember when chicken only had chicken in it? Strength and conditioning coach Sara Wiley gives the following advice to her athletes: If the word cheese is spelled cheez, you probably shouldn’t eat it. If your meal can be ordered, paid for, and consumed within the confines of your car, you probably shouldn’t eat it. If it doesn’t go bad after two weeks, you probably shouldn’t eat it. Sound advice.

And finally, yes, eating healthy food is going to expedite health, wellness and weight loss goals. Something the majority of clients will desperately want.