When you do as much research as I do, you quickly come to a humbling conclusion- you can’t read it all. It’s impossible. When dedicated to an industry that has scientists releasing constant streams of data and analyses, fitness and nutrition professionals continually reinventing their “results” approach, doctors (who have taken all of one course in either fitness, nutrition, or disease prevention throughout their studies) giving contradictory and sometimes harmful advice (HCG, fat-free, high-carb, very low-calorie, low-intensity training, etc.), random health bloggers spewing out variably helpful articles by the butt-load, hundreds of authors throwing their hat into the fitness and health book craze every month, dozens of genetically blessed gym rats in every fitness establishment instructing everyday peeps like you and me how to reach their level, shelves of magazines which put new spins on old advice in order to appear relevant, a handful of talk show hosts who are much more concerned with their own ratings than disseminating accurate scientific information, and a world of eager consumers inhaling it all in and breathing it all back out in a whirlwind of misinformation, you simply cannot keep up. And, quite honestly, you shouldn’t be expected to.
This is what I do for a living. I dive headfirst into this godforsaken fitness and nutrition typhoon, extract only the most proven variables, and optimally synthesize those variables into the simplest programs possible for one main reason- so you don’t have to. Even still, some people enjoy gathering health info for themselves just as much as I do, and being as though you might not have 75 hours per week to spare on such an endeavor, I want to share with you my 3 Steps to Rejecting Rubbish. These steps will instantly improve your ability to shrug off the marketing ploys and misinformation and help you to zero-in on real, proven, result-producing strategies.
#1 Put it in Your Pocket
Look. You will be overloaded with print advertisements, screen marketing, and all manner of fad fanatics on an hourly basis. There’s not much you can do to prevent that. But, here’s a little trick I’ve learned throughout the past 23 years of scientific research that has helped me stay on the truth track: The first time you hear about something new that seems extraordinarily promising, put it in your pocket.
Think about it. If you jumped at every miracle pill, fad diet, and super-hardcore, awesome-riffic fitness program, you would be poor, confused, drained of energy and time, and without optimal results. For example, when I read a new study, I research it thoroughly (finding who funded the study to determine potential biases, seeing how well the variables were controlled, deciding if the interpretation of the data gathered was appropriate, etc.). Even if a study passes all of the preliminary tests, if it is the first study of its kind, it would be irresponsible of me to assume that the study’s conclusion is irrefutable. Before adding the findings of the study into the synthesis of clients’ programs, I require greater proof than one, measly study.
Aligning your lifestyle with this same approach is an excellent way for you to save your money, energy, time, and motivation from being squandered. That doesn’t mean you have to shun every interesting, new fitness or nutrition tidbit, but just put it in your pocket and wait for the evidence (or lack thereof) to mount up before going all-in. What’s the saying? “Patience is a virtue?”
#2 Consider the Source
How many times have you heard this one? “Consider the source!” This advice is applicable in any situation in which information is being offered. What is a supplement salesperson likely going to tell you about their supplements? What is a scientist likely going to say about a product when the manufacturer of said product is paying the scientist big bucks to do the study? What is a magazine going to write in its articles about the products and services of companies who advertise with them? What is a government going to say about an unhealthy food made by a manufacturer with billion dollar lobbies? What is a doctor likely to say about a drug that they get paid to push onto patients? Get the picture? Nearly EVERYONE has a dog in the race, and it is up to us as individuals to take the responsibility to do our own research rather than to blindly submit to so-called “experts,” because almost NO ONE is completely impartial. This certainly isn’t meant to implicate all scientists, media outlets, politicians, and doctors as frauds, but it should bring to your attention the major chink in the armor of “official” information.
Sometimes, however, the information from a source must be scrutinized for reasons other than pure bias. You’ll also want to consider the source if the source happens to be someone close to you. For obvious reasons, we tend to find it easier to believe close friends and family members over impersonal advertisements. We feel that our loved-ones are more likely to be truthful with us and genuinely want what’s best for us. I have no doubt that this feeling is usually accurate. But, sincerity doesn’t get results any more than bias does. Please, tell your family and friends not to hate me for this, but my suggestion is that unless they happen to be experts in the field in question, thank them for their input and advice, and quadruple-check all claims before following through. The key to considering the source is to know that the source from which you are getting your information is both honest and knowledgeable. If you can confirm both, you’re on the right path.
#3 Know What "Works" Means
Oh, man. I’m really feeling like Danny Downer right now, but this has to be said for your own protection. I’ll keep it brief, because volumes could be written on this subject, and you have stuff to do. So, here it goes. “Works” probably doesn’t mean what you think it means. If that’s too cryptic, I’ll say it like this…you most likely don’t know what you want, but you think you do.
Still a little confusing? Let me just ask you this question. If you are overweight, do you want to lose weight? The obvious answer to that question is “Yes! Of course, I want to lose weight.” Well, OK. There are many ways that you could go about that. You could amputate a leg. You could starve yourself. You could train every day for five hours. You could have some organs removed. What action will you take to reach your goal?
Yes. These are ridiculous examples, but they prove a point. When someone’s goal is to “lose weight,” they will celebrate the loss of weight. But, the weight lost will often consist of more than fat. It can include muscle, bone-density, organ mass, connective tissue, glycogen, water, and other critical resources needed to not only reach optimal results but to sustain life. So, if in the midst of destroying your metabolism, losing muscle tone, weakening your bones, shriveling your organs, destroying your ligaments, and draining your life-sustaining resources, you exclaim, “It works,” because you see the number on the scale go down, you can be fairly certain that you don’t know what “Works” means.
To clear up this little misunderstanding, I’m going to leave you with the foundational non-negotiables of optimal results. It you are trying to reach your highest genetic potential in the simplest way possible, this is what “works” means: increase/maintain muscle, lose fat, adequately nourish your body, feel energized. Therefore, if any of the following things are happening to you (you’re losing muscle, not losing fat, aren’t getting enough nutrition, and feel tired), I have news for ya, I don’t care how much smaller you are or how much weight you’ve lost…IT AIN’T WORKIN’!
It's Work, but It Works!
Surprise! It’s work. It will take time to be able to kick all the fitness and nutrition rubbish to the curb, but you have to start somewhere. Putting It in Your Pocket, Considering the Source, and Knowing What “Works” Means, are the first and most important three steps that you can take in order to begin making some sense of this dense, confusing swirl of fitness and nutrition information. But, just remember that it’s better to brave the weather than to be lost forever. Don’t forget your umbrella.