Why I chose to get certified in training and nutrition instead of becoming a “coach”

The human body is incredibly complex, and the power of food to help improve our health is immense.  You could say I have a high level of skepticism for any sort of health solution that does not have a foundation of building healthy habits around food.  And unless you are comfortable with your wellbeing revolving on your “coach” making a monthly commission for the rest of your life, you should be skeptical too.  Because even if you are able to sustain replacing food with anything else for a long time, eventually you will need to eat again.

Eventually, you will need to eat again.  All of the meals.

And call me crazy, but if you have invested a great deal of money into the pursuit of improved health, it is reasonable to expect that your return on investment, or what you actually take from the program, will continue to help you in the long term.

Without additional investment.

Without a commission going to your coach until the end of time.

Excuse me for the crude analogy, but I’d like you to imagine your body akin to a car. A complex machine with working parts that requires regular fuel and operational inputs (fluid top-ups, joint lubrication, etc.) in order to keep up with the demands you put on it. If your car breaks down, you take it to a qualified mechanic to fix the issue. Would you take the advice of an untrained neighbor telling you to just add this proprietary blend of ingredients to your daily fuel from now on, and your car will be zippier than ever and lighter soon than it was in high school? Would you find it helpful or suspicious that the same neighbor will make a commission off your (now performance dependent) monthly purchase?

Well, no.

So why is it ok for an untrained layperson to recommend ways to supplement your diet with ambiguous claims and expensive products? Surely your body deserves more care than your car?

The second certification I completed in fitness education with the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) was Fitness Nutrition.   The course work took about 30 hours to read and test through, and the exam and case studies took ten or so additional hours to write.  I am by no means a subject matter expert or scientist, and often reference back to my textbooks and utilize the trainer resources provided by ISSA, but I have a good grasp of the ways our cells create, use, and store energy.

In the Fitness Nutrition certification we learned about how our cells and systems work, how they metabolize macronutrients and micronutrients, the relationship between hormone health and function, more than I personally ever wanted to know about the digestive system, the processes involved in storage of excess calories, and the processes involved in changing body composition in various ways.

We learned how to assess a client’s eating habits, stress levels, support systems, and lifestyle in order to build a customized program to help them reach their goals.

We learned strategies to guide physical change with different body types, and how an athlete’s nutrition needs differ from the needs of the average person.

We learned the specific chemical processes involved in processing carbohydrates, protein, and fat to use, generate, and store energy in our cells.

We learned how to guide different kinds of people to make lasting changes to support health and vitality throughout the years.

We learned that realistic, achievable goal setting is a powerful tool to manage expectations and that unrealistic goals cause undue stress on our bodies and minds.

We learned when we are not qualified to help a person, and when it is unethical to try.

We learned tools, skills, and strategies to help you learn about all of that stuff above without feeling like you are in science class.

What we did not learn is how to make the people we help into life long clients dependent on a product we sell to provide (dubious) “nutritional support.”

We did not learn how to target friends, family, and strangers alike by inviting them to “free” Facebook groups that then require a program purchase and a monthly commitment for meal replacement shakes and other supplements.

We did not learn to recommend “Extreme” calorie restriction to achieve “Extreme”ly temporary results.

We did not learn to hock over priced Tupperware as a more desirable solution than learning how to measure your food.

We did not learn to feed into people’s insecurities to force compliance or silence.

We did not learn to trust “proprietary ingredients”.  A healthy, diverse meal of mostly whole foods including quality protein(s), fibrous carbohydrates, and healthy fats will always be superior to a shake, especially one in which the flavouring and ingredients are protected (read: not listed) because they are a proprietary blend.   Companies that are proud of their high quality ingredients don’t hide behind a proprietary label.  They display them front and centre so you know they aren’t full of shit both literally and figuratively.

We learned that obesity is a multi-faceted issue with many factors at play, one that requires an individualized, dynamic solution with room for adjustments as you evolve.  Ebbs and flows are natural in life, plateaus happen.  Trainers learn how to work through them with support.

Finally, although it’s not particularly sexy, we learned that lasting change in the pursuit of health only comes from the creation of sustainable every day habits in four major areas of life:

Eating a diet that is right for your body and lifestyle, rich in a variety of whole foods with a balance of protein, healthy fats, and vegetable based carbohydrates.

Moving your body in ways you find enjoyable and sustainable on a daily basis.

Ensuring you get enough sleep to aid recovery and stress management.

Drinking enough water to aid in digestion, lubricate your cells and systems, and allow your body to recover from the changes you are asking of it.

It is HARD to reach out for help when you are frustrated with your body and life. It is predatory to seek people who are struggling with these very things and to sell them products that don’t work. Everything worth having is worth working for, if someone is telling you differently, question it.


  • Amanda Schissler

    June 10, 2017

    This is still one of my favorite blogs EVER and one I like to share every so often. So well written and tactfully explained.

  • Melissa Just

    November 11, 2015

    Well said, well written.

    • Amber

      November 11, 2015

      Thank you for reading Melissa!