Intuitive Eating & Body Positivity with Terri Pugh

16. Can you trust a personal trainer to give you nutritional advice?

August 01, 2021 Terri Pugh Episode 16
Intuitive Eating & Body Positivity with Terri Pugh
16. Can you trust a personal trainer to give you nutritional advice?
Show Notes Transcript

You should be aware that not everyone you are getting nutrition information from is qualified to give that. So this week I'm answering questions like:

  • Can you trust your personal trainer to give you nutrition advice? 
  • How long is reasonable for a nutrition course to last before you know enough to give out this advice?
  • Are diet club consultants educated enough to give nutrition advice?
  • How much of your social media feed can you trust?
  • How can we find out who to trust?
  • What social media accounts should you avoid?

I'm also now a proud member of ASDAH, working in a HAES space, supporting you and the work that the organisation does. 

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Please note, this podcast is intended to be general information for entertainment purposes only. Any figures quoted are correct at the time of recording. As always, please seek the support of a registered professional before making changes to your diet or lifestyle⁠, or if you feel that you are affected by any of the topics discussed.


Related Topics:

Intuitive Eating, HAES, Health At Every Size, Body Positivity, Body Confidence, Body Positive, Anti Diet, Non Diet, Diet Culture, Food Freedom, Fat Acceptance, Fat Liberation, Self Care, Weight Loss, Eating Disorder, Eating Disorder Recovery, Disordered Eating, Nutritional Therapy, Slimming World, Weight Watchers, Cambridge Diet, Cambridge Plan, 121 Diet, Lighter Life, Noom, Coaching, Healing, Health, Wellness


Welcome to the Intuitive Eating And Body Positivity Podcast. I'm Terri, and I'll be talking about all things Intuitive Eating, body positivity and Health At Every Size, and shaking of weight stigma, diet culture, and food rules, so that we can all have a better relationship with food and our bodies.


Hiya. It's me again. These weeks fly by, don't they? Oh, it doesn't feel like minutes since I was last talking to you. Hope you've had a good week. I think I've been ok my end. Really nothing to tell you. Things are getting busier, aren't they, do you think, now lockdown's are easing a little bit. Restrictions are easing.


I've been to town this morning and went for brunch with a friend and that was lovely. But there were so many people around, so many different people around. The cafe was busy. A cafe, a restaurant, whichever. That was busy. Town was really busy. I don't like going to town at the best of times. I just don't like it very much, but yeah, there seems to be a lot more people out and about definitely right now.


So I hope you well, I had a good week. I hope it's been full of nice things. I'm just going to get straight into it. I've got nothing more to say on the matter of the week just gone.


So this week I want to talk about where you get your nutritional information from. Where you get information about food, your body and, you know, anything kind of related to that sort of thing. This is a subject that angers me most of the time. There are so many sources of information available to you and a lot of it is misinformation.


A lot of it is uneducated and it's people who are trying to advise on things that they have no clue about. For example, I saw a post from a diet company. It was a diet company rep who had no proper nutritional qualifications, and they were posting information grabbed from good old Google on the "benefits" of some flavoured water, and on the face of it the information could be true, but when you look into it more detailed and more deeply, you find the flaws in it.


So one point on there was that this water protected against cancer, which is a massive claim, right? Cue everyone running and making themselves some of this water. But when you dig into it, you see that the properties that they refer to haven't been tested in this respect on humans. So they won't know that these aren't facts because they're not qualified in nutrition. So what I'm saying is you need to question, question, question.


Just because people are selling you a diet doesn't mean they know about nutrition. It just means they know what their company has told them to say in order to convince you that their product is good for you.


Personal trainers are another group of people that are very quick to give nutritional advice because it's all part of the service alongside the training, right? Nope, wrong, and here's why.


This is something that angers me - the tough rap that nutritionists and nutritional therapists get. So I feel like this is going to be a bit of a ranty podcast episode, but it's not how I intend it to be. This is actually me just expressing the way things are in the industry so that you can see where you can get your information from safely.


So. Nutritionists and nutritional therapists and dieticians. People think that they do the same thing, but they don't. They do have separate roles. Dietitians are regulated by law. So if someone's a dietitian, they've gone through plenty of training. They're going to have a degree or higher. They will undertake regular continued professional development in order to be able to continue to use the name dietitian, because they will be regulated and registered and they have to jump through hoops to keep that title, and you can probably trust that they know what they're talking about.


The terms nutritionist and nutritional therapist, on the other hand, are not regulated, and that leaves them open to some abuse. So this means that anyone can do a bit of training and then give themselves one of those two titles, and these courses can be as short as a couple of days long. So have a think about that. How much nutritional information do you think you can learn in a couple of days?


Not much, huh? What if it was a couple of weeks long? Reckon you could learn some of the basics, get a little bit of information behind you, can't you? So what about a couple of months? That's bound to be able to give you everything you need to know, right?


I don't know about you, but I could not learn the ins and outs of the human body and the interactions with food in that time. In contrast to that, my degree is five years of constant studying. It's heads in the books. It's a never ending stream of journal reading. Countless assignments. Case studies. Essays. Clinical practice.


Five years of learning about the human body at a cellular level. The anatomy and physiology. The biochemical imbalances. Disease. Gut health right 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 systems. Then add into that the many health issues that people might have and the clinical practise involved in helping that person overcome them. Do you still think you could learn all of that in a couple of months?


If you think of a GP, for example, they haven't just done a quick course on the Internet to be able to help people with their health. And that's the way you should think about the people that you are getting your nutritional information from, because they're still messing with your body and your systems and how it's all regulated.


So let's bring this back to the PTs that I was talking about. Most of them will have done some personal training qualifications and some of those will be to a really high level and a high standard, which is excellent because as an expert in their field, I would expect that.


If I'm going to see a PT because I want to learn how to improve my body in respect of I want to be stronger, or I want to be quicker on a track, or I want to be able to learn how to do a specialist discipline like gymnastics or some athletics events, I would expect those people to be trained in the field that they're going to train me in.


Within their courses, there's going to be an element of nutritional training. There's probably going to be 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 it can be a real help to the trainer.


However, at the level of nutritional training that they get as a part of their PT training, I really believe that they shouldn't be advising people in that way. A PT cannot possibly have a full understanding of their client's health, and quite frankly, to mess with their nutritional impact can be quite dangerous if they don't know the full case history.


I saw an excerpt from a training manual for a currently available level three person training course. And in this excerpt, it clearly tells the student that after their course they can legally call themselves a nutritional therapist. They are taught by personal trainers, not by nutritional health professionals. Their assessment for passing the nutritional aspect of the course was a multiple choice exam where they were required to achieve a pass of either 70 percent or 90 percent, depending on whether they're a full time or part time student.


Can you imagine if my degree was decided on using a multiple choice test? Imagine if a doctor passed medical school depending on the results of a multiple choice test. It's crazy.


To bring that into context for you, a level three qualification is the equivalent to an AS or an A level or an advanced apprenticeship. That's in the U.K. I don't know what that translates to elsewhere. But basically, would you trust somebody straight out of college? Now in the U.K., that's age 17, 18.


Would you trust somebody straight out of their college course or an apprenticeship to advise you on how to get the best from your body by telling you how to alter your diet? And before you actually answer that, take into account that this course that I'm referring to is two weeks long if you're full time, and six weeks long if you're part time.


If that isn't worrying enough and you're 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 and even life threatening results. That's quite scary, isn't it, when you think of it like that one single vitamin can seriously damage your health. And we're thinking about trusting people who have done a two week course with our health.


My registration with a professional body says I cannot advise people until I have completed the full five years of the degree. So I'm not allowed to give out nutritional advice until I've completed my five years. Yet these PTs are happy to advise after a two week course or a small module on their PT course.


Doesn't that sound crazy? Now, 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 the snippet of information gained in a two week training course to the vast in-depth knowledge that I have through multiple training courses, Level five and above, and the degree, I think you'll probably agree that I'm a little more deserving of that title than they are.


And that's not me being braggy or trying to say I'm better than anybody else. I'm just comparing the level of knowledge gained through these courses. Yet we're still entitled to both call ourselves nutritional therapists, which I think is barmy.


And let's look at diet club reps. That's just a whole other ball game. I mean, I don't think that most of the time these people have even tried to understand nutrition. All these people are is salespeople for a business. They are selling a diet plan and they are probably educated in the diet that they are selling.


They know probably what level of calories and things that they are selling you. They probably have a vague idea of why they're advising one thing over another. But they don't know the impact that the food has on your body. They know what they are taught to know by the company selling the diet.


Very, very few of them have separate nutrition qualifications. You take these shake diets, for example. Let's go, let's go extreme. They are selling you products which are supposedly nutritionally balanced by the company that makes them. Now the consultants selling them know that they're nutritionally balanced. They don't know why they're nutritionally balanced, they don't know what level of each component is in that product and why it's there. They don't know which of those products you need to live a full, healthy life.


They're just they're selling this stuff, making themselves some money, getting themselves, oh, cars and holidays and, you know, awards because they're selling the most product or, you know, getting the most people to lose the most weight. They don't know what they're selling you. They don't really know the benefits and hazards to that product.


They just trust that the company that selling it has done that work for them, so they don't need to know. And I know that I've used the shakes as an example, but they're all going to be much of a muchness. The shakes, say Cambridge, Slim Fast, Lighterlife, Weight Watchers, Slimming World, the plans that these consultants are taught about the plans, they're not taught about the nutrition behind the plans.


And I genuinely don't think that anybody should be selling you something that impacts on your health so seriously without knowing why it's impacting on your health.


Now, I'm not saying that all PTs are bad. I'm not saying that all consultants will not have done any homework. I'm not saying that all of these people would give you advice. There are some that will happily say that they aren't able to give you nutritional advice and those people should be praised. They are staying in their lane. They are knowing what they are actually educated to teach you and staying away from the stuff that they're not.


But unfortunately, there are others that do try and give you that information and they often charge you extra for the pleasure. So PTs will quite often charge you extra for nutritional coaching and meal plans. Avoid, avoid, avoid. This is your health. This is your life. This is your well-being that they're messing with. And that person could do you some good or they could do a whole heap of damage. So you make sure that the person that you are paying your good money to really knows their stuff because you deserve to be in the best health and you deserve to have the right people help you with that.


Oh, and the people on social media, that's even more of a minefield, because at least when you're talking to parties or consultants for slimming companies and things, you can actually ask them to demonstrate their qualifications. Social media is a whole different ball game, you are seeing things all day long that people are posting, people are sharing and quite honestly, how do you know whether this information is good for you or not?


I think it's a really difficult thing for people to be able to do. You read the information, you follow accounts because you think they're giving you good sound advice, but quite often that's muddled in with stuff that's not so sound. So you might get somebody who has started some qualifications in nutrition and they've set up a profile and they're sharing information. And then they will have seen something that somebody else has shared and they'll have thought, "well, that sounds like good, solid information. I will share that." And so they've shared second hand information, which they haven't checked and now you are absorbing that.


So it's really difficult, really, really difficult, to gauge online what is sound and what is not sound. So I urge you to do your homework when you are taking people's information for granted. There's definitely things that you should look out for before you start taking on board nutrition advice from people on social media.


So what should you look for? Anyone advising you on nutrition should ideally be qualified to a degree level in a nutrition related subject. There are loads and loads of different nutrition subjects that you can study, and there are plenty of reputable places where these qualifications can come from. Ask about people's qualifications. Ask them what they have and what level they have. You can whip up a level three nutrition qualification in no time at all so ideally, if you're going to be taking sound nutrition information from people, you want to be looking at level five and above.


So level five, degree level, that sort of thing. And check out their sources of qualification. So was it a reputable university? Was it somewhere that is very, very well known for sound qualifications, or was it a cheap and nasty short course? Could you get on Wowcher and buy the course for nine quid, or is this something that has taken years of study with a university?


I think in the States, university is college level, because you come out with a college degree, is that right? Something like that? College in the U.K. is after high school, so age 17, 18, and then it's university. But I think in the states, college level is university level here, so, find out where this qualification came from. Find out how long it took them. If they did it for a couple of weeks, that's not good enough. If it's taken a few years to study, that's probably good enough.


And ask what registering body they're affiliated with, and if they're not registered with an affiliated body ask why. People in this industry need to be regulated. They need to have some kind of way of making sure that they are giving safe, sound information, they need to have done a good amount of continued professional development.


It's called CPD. Any decent professional worth their salt will be doing regular CPD and they should be keeping a log of the things that they're doing. They should be registered with an awarding body that asks them to do that sort of thing. And if they have things like logos on their website of bodies that they're affiliated with you can go on to those bodies' websites and check it out for yourself. You can see what kind of work people have to do to do that, because you can contact that body and say, could you please confirm that this person is registered with you?


They will soon answer your question. Some of them also have a search facility where you can find people who are registered with them. And don't be scared to ask for proof. Ask them to show you certificates. Professionals should always be happy to share their qualifications and prove their qualifications and registration numbers with you.


When it comes to social media posts, I ask them to back up their posts. Anybody posting information with regards to nutrition or any kind of health sciences should be able to provide you with a variety of studies that backs up anything that they're sharing, whether that's social media posts, blog posts, anything like that.


They should be able to provide you with some backup information that supports what they've posted. And if you ask them questions about what they've posted, they should be able to explain it to you well, if you ask them. The ball is in their court to prove that they know it. You shouldn't be feeling bad for asking them questions about the information that they're sharing. If you aren't sure what something means and you ask them to explain it further, they should easily be able to do that.


I'm always really happy to share more information and have a conversation about things that I post. I'm so interested in the stuff that I talk about on my social media and on my blog, that if people have conversation with me about it, I'm more than happy.


I love to talk about it. I'll always have resources that I can send to back up what I'm saying. I don't post references at the bottom of all my blog posts and social media posts, for example, but I've always got that information to hand. So if anybody wants to know more about what I'm posting, you just have to ask. I'm more than happy to do that.


Also, my final bit of advice on this is stay away from these profiles that demonise foods of any kind or that encourage restriction of any type. So if you are following a social media account, for example, that tells you that carbs are bad then you need to delete that person from your list of people you are following because carbs are not bad. They are very necessary in the body.


If you are following somebody who preaches about how damaging sugar is, for example, or fat, or that helps you calorie count, or anything like that. Anything that forces upon you that a food type, a food group is detrimental to your health, run a mile.


And any account that suggests restriction of any kind. Stay away from them. Because that's not how you learn to have a better relationship with food and your body. You don't learn how food impacts on you. You don't learn how food makes you feel if you are bound by rules that tell you when to eat, what to eat, how to feel.


And even worse is the sneaky ones, the ones that say that you don't need to lose weight, but here's how to lose weight. You can eat anything you want, oh, except that. The ones who tell you that they're all about body positivity, and then say how to lose weight. Conflicting information, but it's so subtle with a lot of people that you don't always see it.


So just a little something else for you to watch out for. Feels like this week's been a little bit ranty. Not really how I intended it, I just feel quite strongly about this. I feel strongly about people giving misinformation and the potential damage that it does, because people who are looking out for this information are quite often in a bit of a fragile place, or vulnerable somehow, or are just desperate to find the thing that works for them and makes them feel better about their relationship with food.


So hopefully that's helped you to spot some of the people you're following that may not be as qualified as they like to make out. I said it earlier. You deserve to have top health and you deserve to get that information from people who know what they're actually talking about, not people who are conjuring it up as they go along.


Oh, and while we're talking about these things, what I didn't say I'd done this week, which I completely forgotten about when I was talking about my week just gone, was this week I have become a member of ASDAH, which is the Association for Size, Diversity and Health.


So I'm super excited about that. Basically put, basically they own the HAES trademark. So that's Health At Every Size. And they are all about providing a world where people of all shapes and sizes aren't discriminated against in health care and communities. It's all about having equal access to resources and practices that support health and wellbeing, making sure people get the same treatment no matter what size or shape they are. They are committed to development and education and networking for professionals in that industry, and so I'm really excited to be a part of it.


For a very long time now I've spoken through a HAES lens, and I'm really proud to be able to now say I'm a member, so you can be sure that I am here fighting for you no matter what size or shape you are.


OK, that's it for me for this week.


Before I go, have you had a little look at the membership yet? Have you had a look at the weekly group coaching?


Come and have a look. It's at The link's in the show notes. Come and have a look, see what is on offer. Weekly group coaching sessions. We're doing some really good work talking about Intuitive Eating and body positivity. You're very, very welcome. We'd love to see you there. It is a steal at twenty pounds a month. An absolute steal. You cannot get the kind of support that I am giving you for 20 pound anywhere else. Group coaching session once a week, private chat group, downloadable resources and things to do through the week. There's plenty going on. Come and join us.


And have a great week ahead, I hope you've got some nice things planned, some nice food, be kind to yourself because you are awesome. I'll speak to you next week. Bye.