Have you ever asked a burning fitness question to a personal trainer, expecting a long winded answer, only to get – “it depends”.

Questions such as ‘what are the best foods for fat loss’, or ‘what exercises should I be doing to strip fat?’.  Seems like straight forward questions to be asking. I mean you just want to know the answer to the question so that you can uncover the quickest way of improving your life – right?

Wellll…. not really.

This type of questionnning can be a future screening tool for assessing the intellect and experience of any fitness professional that you happen to be chatting to.

Here’s why – an answer such as ‘it depends’ does NOT mean they don’t know the answer. On the contrary, an answer such as this shows that the professional you are making conversation with has a good understanding of a much larger concept.

A concept that is one of the most UNDERRATED and UNDERUSED concepts in the fitness industry.

This often neglected concept is = CONTEXT.

When I get asked about “the best exercises for fat loss”, or the “best diet” I always reply – it depends. Because the truth is the answer will always depend on the context in which it’s placed.

To get to the root of this we need to understand what context means. It’s is defined as:

the interrelated conditions in which something exists or occurs: environment, setting [Thanks Merriam Dictionary!]

In the context of this context (see what I did there?) asking a seemingly straight forward question such as ‘what foods should I be eating to get lean?’ is not that straight forward. The answer is going to depend on you.  YOU are the context as you are the setting.

The answer will vary depending on a host of variables; things such as your genetic make up, preferences, lifestyle, experience, current level of body fat, sex, age, gut function etc..

The best fat loss exercise or food groups for one person may not be the best for another. Sure there’s some basic fundamentals or building blocks of effective exercise and nutrition prescription but the key is adapting those fundamentals to the individual. In other words the success of the advice depends on the person.

Let’s look at a couple of real world examples.

I have a client who LOVES vegetables. Particularly Broccoli. She goes through more Broccoli than an obssessed Hamster. Broccoli was the major vegetable she ate. For two reasons she loved Broccoli – the taste, and the nutrition. I’m sure you would agree that Broccoli is one to those foods that falls into the ‘healthy and need to include’ groups right?

She was certainly correct in assuming that Broccoli was a super food – just not for her! Turns out she has a Thyroid issue and the sheer volume of Broccoli she was ingesting was causing more harm to her Thyroid than good. Alas, she had to put herself on a Broccoli ban.

So if she asked me the question – ‘is Broccoli a great food for me to eat for fat loss’, the answer would be ‘it depends on your health history, likes, dislikes, goals etc’. Knowing her health history the answer would be no (for now.)

"alt='hamster' eating Broccoli"

Another client of mine was experiencing exercise-resistance. She had been a long time, experienced exerciser and knew the theory of fat loss and getting fit. Each week she would diligentally do her heavy weights and intervals and relish in her ability to sweat hard and burn calories.

But by the time she came to see me she was experiencing a plateu in her results. In fact she was going backwards, was putting on weight, feeling lethargic, having difficulty recovering and was feeling anxious about exercise.

She was feeling terrible!

After much digging it was revealed that her entire lifestyle was having a negtive affect on her health. She worked in a highly stressful and demanding environment (think burning the candle at both ends), wasn’t sleeping and having a few personal relationship issues. The exercises that used to give her the results she wanted were now working against her. The exercise had become a stress trigger.

In this example understanding her lifestyle and emotional health gave me the context in which to prescribe more effective (and nourishing) exercise. Once again, if she asked whether she was doing the ‘right things’ for her results I would’ve replied ‘it depends on your lifestyle, energy levels, health and mental capacity to give’. Clearly the answer would have been no.

Become The Expert In You

These examples are just a couple of the many, many ways in which CONTEXT plays out. That is why a major pillar of my business is focussed on helping people become the experts of their body.  It is also why I encourage fitness professionals to adopt an ‘it depends’ approach.

I give them what they need and then teach them how to apply context to it. I encourage all my clients/peeps I work with to take a vested interest in getting to know themselves. This happens by showing them how to take into consideration ALL their individual variables that will have an impact on their health and results and monitoring how they feel on a day to day basis.

Teaching clients how to use their own intuition (which is the sum of education, experience and wisdom) to make great choices for their bodies is what gets results – not the next best exercise or diet.

The Take Aways

  1. Always high five a fitness professional who answers “it depends on…” (or a variation of such)
  2. Realise that there are many variables that affect your exercise and nutrition – apply context.
  3. Get to know yourself. Get to know how your body responds to food, exercise, stress, sleep etc… Once you know your ‘normal’ you can better identify when something is ‘not normal’


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