After reading a particularly harsh NY Times account of the navel-gazing self-indulgence carnival that was Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop Summit, it made me think – what does the public think that wellness professionals actually do all day?
Are we a bunch of wheatgrass-shooting, collagen-chugging hippies that have completely lost touch with the mundanities and responsibilities of the real world? Muscle-bound meatheads that only talk about food as “macros” and eschew any workout that doesn’t revolve around a plate-stacked bar? Even worse, are we jargon-spewing, unlicensed, fancy-rhetoric fanatics armed with a bunch of lazily Googled anecdotes to support whatever pill/product/program we’re pushing at the time?
God, I hope not.
The health/fitness/wellness industry as we know it is a multibillion-dollar one, including all manner of things from gym memberships to supplement sales to sleep analysts to meditation apps. We’re a diverse group of people and organizations dedicated to (hopefully!) bettering people and the planet by providing healthy and holistic solutions to common human problems.
Not everyone defines wellness as I do, but for my line of work, I like to use the simple idea that wellness is an active and self-aware pursuit of better health. This situates wellness both as a process and an activity, not a passive “state of being” that somehow just arrives onto your doorstep. You must work toward it, strive for it, and be realistic in the acceptance that wellness is a journey toward “better” – not “perfect.”
To refine my role in the wellness sphere more specifically, I am a personal trainer (first and foremost, I stand for the transformative and empowering experience of building strength and fitness), a nutritionist (not a clinically registered dietitian – rather, someone who advises individual food choices based on stringent data collection, iterative testing, and program revision), and a wellness coach (above and beyond the goals of weight loss and proper nutrition, I also help clients find balance with their sleep patterns, stress and time management, coping strategies, and goal setting).
Whew. It’s a lot.
But know this: it should be a lot because I’ve been doing this a long time. Looking back on my now 11-year career in wellness, I’ve been certified as a personal trainer by the American Council on Exercise, a group exercise instructor by the Aerobics & Fitness Association of America, a pre and postnatal corrective exercise specialist by FitForBirth, a nutritionist by both Precision Nutrition and the American Sports and Fitness Association, and a myriad of smaller sport-specific agencies (SPINNING, TRX, BOSU, SilverSneakers, THUMP Boxing, IndoRow, Aquaspin, and Stages Cycling, to name a few).
My point with listing all this here is this: it is crucial that you look at the qualifications of your wellness professional before you commit to an intimate, expensive, and time-consuming process with her or him. Ask questions about their experience, their success stories, and their methods. Ask for data. Ask for photos. Do not hesitate to tell them what you expect from working with them, and ask for progress reports and indicators toward those goals. And above all, make sure you “click” with them; you trust them, and you think they might inspire you to find a better version of yourself.
One of my fave quotes about working with a wellness coach in particular is this: “it’s like hiring a tour guide to a place you already live.” My day-to-day job involves a lot of “behind the scenes” wellness work with clients – for every hour I spend with them in the gym or consult room, there’s at least a half hour of workout planning, another half hour of text and email communication to ensure they’re feeling well and check in, potentially another hour of reviewing and commenting on food photos, and so on. I try to be entirely present with my clients, taking each of them for the individuals that they are, and giving full credence to their place in their personal journey.
Ok, now I’m the one sounding like Gwyneth. But it’s true: my most successful clients are those who use me as a guide, sounding board, facilitator, and second opinion – rather than co-depend on me as a guru, “yes” man, decision maker, magician, or savior. Finding a wellness pro to partner with you and help you create and stay accountable to action steps (a coach!) is much more valuable than finding someone that forces their way of wellness on you, pats you on the back for anything and everything you do, or worse, uses criticism and shaming to reprogram your habits and beliefs.
My message for this week’s #AskAmanda is this: we should all strive toward wellness, and we could probably all use some help doing it. Finding a trainer, nutritionist, wellness coach, or other professional to help you set and reach goals is a worthwhile investment, and one I (obviously) recommend as a top priority. Whether it’s coaching in-person, online (using a service like Trainerize) or simply exchanging a few well-thought-out emails with someone in the industry, investing in your own health is never a waste of time – as long as you do it with your best interests (and realistic expectations) in mind.
Have you ever sought professional help to reach a health, fitness, or wellness goal? What lessons did you learn?