When someone feels that they either need to "lose weight", "get in shape" or both, they naturally tend to go and find a fitness program which they enjoy or that they feel will get them great results. It is not uncommon for a person who is looking for fitness to also desire guidance in their nutrition to help them get to their goals. In the public's eye, nutrition and fitness go hand in hand.
Unfortunately, on the professional side, that is not the case. When someone is certified to be a personal or group fitness trainer, their coursework is based in just that- providing effective and safe workouts for many types of people. Although the basic principle of thermodynamics (calories in vs. calories out for weight loss) may be discussed in a trainer's coursework, the amount of information provided is in no way intended to make the trainer a nutritional professional as well.
This misunderstanding on the public's side combined with the empowerment felt by many trainers is a dangerous mix. We've created a situation where a person who is only certified in body movement might very well be helping their clients develop harmful eating habits, poor general nutrition which may effect one's overall health and possible disordered eating habits without ever knowing it.
A gym in my neighborhood just yesterday posted on facebook that if you're ever feeling like you're "losing control" with your eating, to simply get naked and eat in front of the mirror. This advice coming from a fitness trainer with a client base of 200. 200 individuals who may or may not have a history of disordered eating, individuals who may or may not even give a crap about what they look like but may just be going to this trainer to get a great workout (hmmmm!), and individuals who-- most importantly--- TRUST this trainer to give them HEALTH related advice because we have been lead to believe, for some reason, that fitness trainers are educated in general health and nutrition practices.
Talk about a psychologically damaging statement. Eat naked in front of a mirror? Any certified mental health professional will tell you that a practice like that is THE OPPOSITE OF HEALTHY.
As a gym owner, my trainers are instructed to defer all nutrition related questions to me- the person with the background and education in weight loss related nutrition.
But guess what? My specialty is in weight loss. I, in no way, claim to be able to help a marathon runner develop a nutritional program to help them shave seconds off their PR.... I cannot help a bodybuilder develop a nutritional program to get the most out of their workouts resulting in efficient gains.... I cannot help someone with diabetes develop an eating plan which sustains their activity level and I cannot help a growing adolescent fuel themselves properly if they'd like to lose weight and keep growing healthily. Why? Because I know what I know and I'm not afraid to admit what I am not qualified to advise on.
Next time a trainer offers unsolicited nutritional advice, kindly tell them to keep their eyes on their own plate.
And if you're looking for the nutritional advice which will help you reach your personal goals---- seek out the right and qualified individual who can help you do so.