6

votes

Recommending Paleo to my clients

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created June 14, 2012 at 12:13 AM

I'm a fairly-recently-qualified Personal Trainer - my previous background was teaching yoga and Pilates and doing PT rehab type of stuff - so I'm fairly new to the weight-loss side of things. Obviously part of my job is coming up with fitness plans for people who want to lose weight - that I'm fairly comfortable with. But I do have to advise a little on diet as well.

My question is how much I should or can be advising the Paleo diet. Here are some reservations:

  • I'm still trying to figure out what 'Paleo' means for me, what works best in terms of macro/micronutrient ratios, etc. Even though I've seen a big improvement in my health (IBS is nearly gone, feel better in general, gained a bit of weight which I needed to), I've only been doing it for 5 months, and I'm still very much experimenting with myself. I feel like there's so much information out there about what 'Paleo' is and isn't, low-carb vs moderate carb, etc... loads of anecdotal evidence but not really 'Paleo' scientific studies. It's overwhelming, and I don't want to put my clients' health (or my reputation) at risk.
  • My boss (who happens to be a holistic nutritionist) isn't a huge fan of Paleo. She believes that lots of meat is bad (China study) and causes inflammation etc... and I don't feel like I understand the science enough yet to argue back with her.
  • I'm not a nutritionist and thus can't prescribe a detailed diet etc., so I don't know how much I'd be allowed to help people if they had problems with Paleo. Guess I could always refer them to PaleoHacks... :)

Any Personal Trainers have any advice? Or anyone else? It's one thing to experiment on myself (and my family...), but when people are paying me to help them lose weight in a specified time period, that's a different story.

F0a3e3f17d9a740810ac37ff2353a9f3

(3804)

on June 15, 2012
at 01:05 AM

@JayJay: I just wanted to apologize for my previous outbursts. I had a bug up my ass yesterday for some reason. I still think you're underestimating the liability that can come from giving health-related advice, though.

5e5ff249c9161b8cd96d7eff6043bc3a

(4713)

on June 14, 2012
at 02:15 PM

"Whether it is USDA guidelines or not is irrelevant, and this would never be an issue in "court"." Sorry JayJay but this is way off. It would be almost the entire issue in court, to determine the reasonableness of the recommendations, which would establish negligence and thus control liability.

246ebf68e35743f62e5e187891b9cba0

(21430)

on June 14, 2012
at 01:49 PM

Go for it, where ever in the world you are, Carmen Sandiego.

3327924660b1e2f8f8fc4ca27fedf2b2

(2919)

on June 14, 2012
at 04:47 AM

It might be slightly paranoid, but it's best that Mike T has his back covered.

F0a3e3f17d9a740810ac37ff2353a9f3

(3804)

on June 14, 2012
at 04:10 AM

@JayJay: We're talking about the realities of offering dietary advice in exchange for money, not Paleo La-La Land.

F0a3e3f17d9a740810ac37ff2353a9f3

(3804)

on June 14, 2012
at 04:07 AM

@JayJay: I'll bet you think that standards of care for doctors are "irrelevant", too. They just interpret the available data, and if the patient dies, no one thinks of suing them because, hey, they interpreted the data the best they could. Why, I can't remember the last time a doctor got sued for malpractice. That must explain why their liability insurance is so cheap.

3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on June 14, 2012
at 03:23 AM

I think your being a bit paranoid. The fella is a trainer, and it is his job to make these sort of recommendations based on his interpretation of available data. Whether it is USDA guidelines or not is irrelevant, and this would never be an issue in "court". That said, he does sound like he needs to do a bit more research before he's comfortable instructing others in this aspect.

3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on June 14, 2012
at 03:22 AM

I think your being a bit paranoid. The fella is a trainer, and it is his job to make these sort of recommendations based on his interpretation of available data. Whether it is USDA guidelines or not is irrelevant, and this would never be an issue in "court". That said, he doesn't sound like he needs to do a bit more research before he's comfortable instructing others in this aspect.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on June 14, 2012
at 01:33 AM

Right on the money.

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6 Answers

16
Ae8946707ddebf0f0bfbcfc63276d823

(9402)

on June 14, 2012
at 12:32 AM

It's always safe to recommend to focus on whole foods (meat, fish, eggs, fruits, vegetables) and to avoid processed engineered crap (bread, chips, cookies, crackers, candy, seed oils, etc). I think it's safe to recommend to eat enough protein and to suggest meat and eggs as good sources of complete proteins. That will probably give your clients the most bang for their buck anyway.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on June 14, 2012
at 01:33 AM

Right on the money.

6
F0a3e3f17d9a740810ac37ff2353a9f3

(3804)

on June 14, 2012
at 12:34 AM

Carmen,

The sad reality is that if you offer any advice that falls outside the USDA Dietary Guidelines, you expose yourself to civil liability. Your average jury doesn't know much about nutrition science, and they are perfectly willing to accept that the Guidelines are the "gold standard" for advice about diet. If one of your clients dies of a heart attack six months after you recommend they increase their fat intake, some lawyer is going to start looking for a deep pocket.

That's why, for example, the "official" Crossfit diet is The Zone. The macronutrient ratios and emphasis on lean meats and monounsaturated fats, and the fact that it's calorie-restricted, put it within the USDA Guidelines. (If you go to Crossfit's nutrition webpage you'll see they only recommend learning about Paleolithic diets, not following them.)

So, if you're keen to introduce your clients to a Paleo diet, just tell them that it worked for you. Also, since they now have the approval of the American Diabetes Association, it's safer to recommend a low-carb diet, as long as you stipulate that it's for weight-loss only and not to be followed for more than a year.

F0a3e3f17d9a740810ac37ff2353a9f3

(3804)

on June 14, 2012
at 04:07 AM

@JayJay: I'll bet you think that standards of care for doctors are "irrelevant", too. They just interpret the available data, and if the patient dies, no one thinks of suing them because, hey, they interpreted the data the best they could. Why, I can't remember the last time a doctor got sued for malpractice. That must explain why their liability insurance is so cheap.

3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on June 14, 2012
at 03:22 AM

I think your being a bit paranoid. The fella is a trainer, and it is his job to make these sort of recommendations based on his interpretation of available data. Whether it is USDA guidelines or not is irrelevant, and this would never be an issue in "court". That said, he doesn't sound like he needs to do a bit more research before he's comfortable instructing others in this aspect.

3327924660b1e2f8f8fc4ca27fedf2b2

(2919)

on June 14, 2012
at 04:47 AM

It might be slightly paranoid, but it's best that Mike T has his back covered.

F0a3e3f17d9a740810ac37ff2353a9f3

(3804)

on June 15, 2012
at 01:05 AM

@JayJay: I just wanted to apologize for my previous outbursts. I had a bug up my ass yesterday for some reason. I still think you're underestimating the liability that can come from giving health-related advice, though.

F0a3e3f17d9a740810ac37ff2353a9f3

(3804)

on June 14, 2012
at 04:10 AM

@JayJay: We're talking about the realities of offering dietary advice in exchange for money, not Paleo La-La Land.

3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on June 14, 2012
at 03:23 AM

I think your being a bit paranoid. The fella is a trainer, and it is his job to make these sort of recommendations based on his interpretation of available data. Whether it is USDA guidelines or not is irrelevant, and this would never be an issue in "court". That said, he does sound like he needs to do a bit more research before he's comfortable instructing others in this aspect.

5e5ff249c9161b8cd96d7eff6043bc3a

(4713)

on June 14, 2012
at 02:15 PM

"Whether it is USDA guidelines or not is irrelevant, and this would never be an issue in "court"." Sorry JayJay but this is way off. It would be almost the entire issue in court, to determine the reasonableness of the recommendations, which would establish negligence and thus control liability.

4
D7cc4049bef85d1979efbd853dc07c8e

(4029)

on June 14, 2012
at 01:13 AM

Regarding the China Study, don't argue with her. Point her to Denise Minger's takedown. Or this excellent review. http://www.humananatura.org/viewarticle.php?article=2030

2
E2d885a66875eb01e931d369fac7353c

(427)

on June 14, 2012
at 12:38 AM

Science is subjective (most studies rely heavily upon human interpretation of data, etc. See Bruno Latour for more on this)...so I don't think you're going to out-science your boss. As professional, you are basically just offering your clients options -- one of those might be paleo. There are many weight-loss diets that 'work.' It's really up to the client to experiment, etc, and determine which diet feels right. This is coming from someone who's worked w/a personal trainer before (for muscle gain & other fitness goals, not weight loss), but who's also deviated when necessary and consulted outside sources.

1
Fd70d71f4f8195c3a098eda4fc817d4f

(8014)

on June 14, 2012
at 04:09 PM

If you can spare a little cash, why not buy a bunch of Mark Sisson's or Robb Wolf's book (get a bulk discount) and hand 'em out when people ask?

Whatever your own personal beliefs about "Paleo," MS and RW both keep things simple: eat real food, get your butt to bed, get some sunlight, and get up off the couch once in a while. (But I agree with Mike T as well - eat REAL FOOD. The only thing is, if you make simple suggestions like that, then you might have people asking questions about why red meat and eggs aren't bad for them, or why they're supposed to avoid all those "healthy whole grains" and fat-free yogurts they've been eating all their lives, and you'll need to be prepared to answer them without scaring people off.)

1
B41cdb2253976ba9b429dd608d02c21f

(1495)

on June 14, 2012
at 12:36 PM

I think this largely depends on what state you live in. I'm in Ohio, one of the strictest states. I don't tell people what to eat, but I will respond with what I eat if I'm asked (which is often - the most common question is what do you eat before a workout).

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