You’ve probably read the fine print or heard the warning with any new diet or exercise program: Consult a physician before beginning. But let’s be honest—most of us don’t. In my experience over more than a decade as a personal trainer and nearly a decade as a nutrition consultant, I’d say that fewer than 5% of my clients really go sit down with their doctor before beginning a diet or exercise program. Is that OK?
In a perfect world, we’d all have access to a health and wellness professional we could call up with little questions when considering options for new activities or choices, but the reality is that most of us give new things a try because of a recommendation or tip we got from a friend or trusted celebrity. So it’s not really a question of whether it’s OK to try new things without consulting an expert—it’s more a question of when you should make the effort.
My first rule is: When in doubt, ask. So, if you have any doubt about whether a new diet or exercise program is a healthy choice for you, ask the healthcare professional you trust for her/his input. This especially applies if you have existing injuries or conditions that might affect your success with the new program, or if something in your life has changed– like getting pregnant or having a baby.
My secondary rule is: When you’re feeling your limitations, ask. A friend has been loving her daily yoga practice at home. Now that she’s been at it for a while, she’s identified some poses she can never get all the way into, and rather than force it and risk injury, she’s ready to start attending classes so a trained instructor can help her push past her limitations safely. I’d apply that same rule to the point where your weight loss plateaus or your progress with any program hits a wall. If your progress is slowing, it’s time to talk to an expert.
My third rule is: When you’re not sure which way to go, ask. If you’re ready to begin or advance in any area of health/fitness, you’ve likely got a zillion options for what to do next. This is a moment when consulting an expert can be a huge time saver and give you peace of mind about your selection. It’s literally my job to stay on top of the latest research about nutrition and the latest techniques for fitness. Any client who asks me for advice about their next move is going to get well-researched and well-reasoned answers.
Finally, when you’re not comfortable, speak up. You need to be your own advocate when you’re dealing with health and wellness. This means asking frank questions when you’re receiving care from a healthcare professional, and it means speaking up when you feel any kind of discomfort during a diet or exercise program. If you know your knee feels “off,” it’s up to you to make it clear to your trainer or coach before they ask you to do something that could result in injury. There’s no benefit to being shy about making your needs and concerns known, and those of us who are in positions of responsibility for people striving to improve their health tend to take our roles pretty seriously. We need to hear from you so we can help you!
There are definitely other moments where it makes sense to seek help, ask for advice or speak out, but these four are kind of fundamental. If being your own advocate is uncomfortable, finding someone you trust to partner with you in making healthy decisions can make everything easier. Talk to me any time for assistance with the things I specialize in or referrals to other wellness professionals who can help!