Here’s How “Clean Eating” Is Ruining Fitness Culture

Burgers and fries aren't the problem. Trainers are.

1450886081_7771Personal Trainers Are Students Of Their Own Craft.

At least, they should be. I’ve written myriads of articles on this website that discuss this topic, and take things a step further by addressing the fact that the biggest bollocks spreaders in the fitness industry are given the largest platforms in the world upon which to defecate. If you think about it carefully while looking at what’s “trending” on YouTube, and channel surfing your TV, you’ll realize that what I’m saying is completely true.

It’s sad news when personal trainers don’t follow their own advice by taking the time to exercise at least fairly regularly; demonstrating their personal ability and commitment to their craft, and, by extension, inspiring and reassuring their current and prospective clients.

I constantly promise my readers that I am no nutrition expert, nor do I intend to pass off extensive knowledge on the subject through the things I write. I have no designations under the category and leave that for the true experts whose content I trust.  Despite the title of this piece, I’m not about to break down the details of a proper plan to fit your daily macros either.  What I will do is highlight the glaring myth that many fitness experts promote, and many non fitness experts base their expectations on as a result.

I’ll speak directly to fitness professionals when I ask you to call to mind a time when you got caught by a client or gym member (or maybe some other acquaintance) while you were eating or drinking anything that wasn’t top tier “healthy”, only to hear them reel off the trite jabs that each and every one of us has heard in some configuration similar to this:

“Pizza?! Come on Mr. TRAINER! That’s not quite a good example of eating healthy now, is it!?”

They feel witty. They feel original. But what they’re really doing is demonstrating the pervasive mentality in a layperson’s expectation of a trainer.  People in my industry are largely perceived to be full-scale embodiments of obsessively health-conscious adults who don’t consume a single potato chip to their name.  That thinking is perpetuated by fitness experts who only promote one side of the coin in pairing excessively clean eating with an elixir of supplements for daily maintenance.

We Are Humans

What does “having a good diet” really mean?  In truth, a normal, health-conscious person should still be able to eat whatever he wants. The key is to eat good, healthy foods most of the time,with a proper regard and respect for your training goals remaining in first mind.  The more fitness experts there were to spread this simple directive, the fewer members of the general public would be alarmed when their trainer isn’t eating fish and rice cakes for breakfast, lunch and dinner with a broccoli midnight snack.


And this goes beyond just setting the record straight on the strictures of a fitness guy’s diet. When a client or follower tries to abide by the meal plan of a trainer who clings to this thinking, the results are often unsustainable.  Whether they crash during their programming, or immediately after they reached their “goal”, they crash.  The accompanied feelings of guilt for not completing a program, having an unscheduled “cheat meal”, not holding the goals, or just plain not feeling like they’ve got what it takes to get the results they’re looking for can lead to a lack of motivation to even try, and diminished effort in future attempts.  Here’s a thought. Stop giving the public the wrong idea.

Like I said above: eat healthy foods, most of the time. You’re going to possess an athletic body that reflects that if you simply follow that directive, without even getting into particulars just yet. “Taboo” shouldn’t be sauntering through the minds of our clients when a trainer exercises his human nature to have a burger at the Raptors game. In most cases, there will be fitness professionals in good shape who fit this category.  In ways, I believe it does clients a service to show them that their coaches do enjoy their fix of “bad” food from time to time. It’s all about setting an example of proper balance – not complete exclusion.

I’m Not Saying This ‘Cause I’m Fat

I just stepped on a scale: I’m 257 pounds. On that note, it’s time to disappoint any hopefuls from my female readership by reporting that my fully clothed tutorial videos, training clips and website images aren’t hiding a shredded 6 pack and pelvic striations. To be completely honest, I’m not even a big fan of the look.  Here, I’m demonstrating my focus on the clients through my focus on their trainers. This isn’t meant to throw the trainers who eat clean day in and day out under the bus. They could have other reasons for doing so. Many of the most diet-conscious trainers in the industry I’ve met here in Toronto happen to be competitors in physique contests (that’s an area I won’t touch on in this article. To hear my thoughts, check out this article, or this one, or this one).  It makes sense.

That takes discipline, however. And what doesn’t make sense is expecting a client to walk into the gym with that same discipline right off the mark. It’s not realistic. And it’s messing with clients’ minds.

I find it funny that he almost didn’t remember.

Is this article promoting clean eating? Sure it is.

Is it promoting clean eating round-the-clock? Nope.

Is junk food bad for you? Yes.

It’s just unrealistic to think that any human will spend all his days not having any. Moreover, it’s unfair to ridicule a trainer who has an off-meal.  Or three.

Fries With That?

Pasta isn’t the enemy. Too much of it is. To last in this game, it’s all about creating balance. Depriving yourself of things you may enjoy will rarely work sustainably. A smarter option would be tuning out the spokespeople who say you can do that, and start by making smarter diet choices.  Chances are, that jacked trainer who’s downing his second slice of cake at a family gathering is doing just that.  And it’s keeping his mind in check. 

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