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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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February 16, 2010

Trusting Authorities (or Not) Based on Appearance

By Mark Sisson
160 Comments

Personal TrainerRegina Benjamin, the United States’ 18th Surgeon General, is markedly overweight. She’s a highly trained physician who famously set up a medical clinic for Alabama’s poor hit hardest by Hurricane Katrina, and she’s unquestionably knowledgeable and experienced, but she’s also overweight. Does this negatively impact her role as the public face of health? Does her weight detract from the message?

Or take countless nutrition experts that fit the mold of the dietitian featured in this video? She’s educated, has dozens of books on nutrition and healthy cooking under her belt and, at least on paper, looks like an authority of sorts. But her physique (saying nothing of her healthy eating tips) doesn’t exactly instill confidence in her recommendations (as readers noted in the forum).

On the other hand what about someone like Jillian Michaels? Strong shoulders. Check. Trim waistline and ripped abs. Check and check. She must be doing things right? Right?

I’m sure you see what I’m getting at. Does the physical appearance of a fitness or nutrition authority affect the worthiness of the message? Do we discount weight loss advice from an obese expert who can’t take her own advice – or that takes her own advice a bit too well (in the case of Dr. Benjamin)? Do we listen, enraptured, to the opinions of a random gym rat just because he’s got massive guns? What about the lanky older dude with a Crossfit total of 1,000 pounds?

The natural reaction is to balk at the overweight nutrition teacher or the flabby fitness guru, and accept as gospel the recommendations of musclebound meatheads. And why wouldn’t it? If they practice what they preach and practice equals results they should look the part. But are we missing out on some great stuff by ignoring physically unimpressive people? On the same token, are we making false prophets out of people who are just genetically blessed statistical outliers?

Absolutely.

“Oh, I dunno. I pretty much eat whatever I want.” How often have we heard that from chiseled, elite athletes? Lamar Odom eats pounds of candy each day, sports sub-10% body fat, and is fast, tall, and powerful – does that mean you can do it and make the NBA, too? Michael Phelps eats upwards of 10,000 calories a day, most of it from refined carbohydrates and industrial, processed fats (he’s not sprouting his grains or whipping up his own mayo, folks), yet he retains a lean swimmer’s body and several world records. Neither Odom nor Phelps are telling us what to eat or how to exercise, but plenty of people point to them as evidence that nutrition doesn’t matter. Plenty of bodybuilders lift weights seven days a week for several hours each day without showing signs of overtraining. Try lifting heavy for hours each day without accelerating your anabolic hormonal response to superhuman proportions. Should Joe the middle manager with a pot belly be taking lifting advice from Ronnie Coleman? Of course not. These guys are statistical outliers; they’re the exception to the rule. Their success is often in spite of their training or diet (what if Odom and Phelps ate nothing but real food?). And in some cases, their success is amplified by chemical assistance or steroid use. And yet these are the people whose advice is trusted and sold to unsuspecting consumers looking to get in shape.

Big muscles make fitness magazine covers and sell supplements and lend credence, but that’s it. Statistical outliers don’t make the argument – for or against a particular training or eating program. We see them try, though, all the time. I can’t really blame them. I do the same. A bodybuilder’s physique makes for great marketing, and I would be remiss if I didn’t admit that my fitness levels and appearance make the Primal Blueprint more believable and easier to digest. I’ll also say that because I’m trying to reach the most people possible, it’s crucial that I maintain strong personal fitness; the knee-jerk reaction to a trainer’s appearance is a universal truth that we all must acknowledge, especially those of us who are trying to make a difference in people’s lives.

What you, as digesters of dietary and fitness advice, should focus on is what the science says, what works for the most people, and, most importantly, what works for you. If a massively ripped dude is giving out advice, citing actual evidence, and people of all stripes who take that advice are getting stronger, fitter, and faster, then there’s probably something to it. A scrawny old guy with the same support and the same results? You gotta listen to him, too. Fitness and nutrition coaches who can point to hordes of successful trainees and supportive science deserve a listen, even if their personal appearance leaves something to be desired.

I’ve witnessed people discount or dismiss folks like Greg Glassman’s (of CrossFit) or Mark Rippetoe’s (of Starting Strength) training advice simply because they don’t “look the part.” They don’t have a six-pack, they may have a bit of a belly, or they may even be totally out of the game (injuries largely prevent Glassman, a former gymnast, from working out). They may not even practice what they preach (watch Rip squat and deadlift, for you doubters) as much as they once did. They may even be outlifted and outperformed by some random lunkhead at your local globo-gym flexing in the mirror or commenting on YouTube videos – but who should you take advice from? Glassman has presided over an entire fitness movement that produces scores upon scores of strong, fast, powerful, well-balanced athletes. Rip is recognized as perhaps the premier barbell coach in the game. You want to learn how to squat and deadlift, you read his stuff. Yet, your average untrained person would be more than a bit skeptical if either one tried to school them on fitness matters, simply because of their appearance. A coach is a coach. You don’t see people rag on overweight football or swim coaches for not physically measuring up to their players. Basketball coaches are often as diminutive as they come, and they’re still successful. Knowledge is knowledge, whether it’s knowledge of sport, fitness, or nutrition.

If what a health expert is proposing and living has any merit whatsoever, I don’t think it’s too much to ask for them to at least approach the results they’re touting. But we have to keep in mind the complexities of physical fitness, statistical outliers, and other external factors. As for me, I attribute in large part my health, fitness, and physique to the Primal Blueprint. When I backed way off training I was concerned my body composition would suffer, but with the PB I’ve been able to maintain virtually the same body fat percentage while putting muscle on. That said, it would disingenuous to overlook the years of antithetical lifestyle behaviors I practiced previously. I did just about everything wrong – Chronic Cardio, endless grain and refined carb consumption, almost no weight training – and I looked pretty fit and healthy. I wasn’t, of course, but there are probably underlying genetic factors in my favor preventing obesity – no matter how many grains or sugars I eat. At the same time, you can look to the MDA forums and our many success stories to get a sense that the PB isn’t just for the genetically blessed or the elite; it works pretty well for just about everyone who gives it a fair shot. It better work, seeing as how it’s based on human evolutionary biology!

All the variables that determine one’s appearance and fitness levels – genetics, training history, supplementation, training frequency, training intensity, methodology – make deciding who to trust incredibly confusing. At the end of it all, though, you’ve got to follow the science and the results objectively and rationally, because that human instinctual tendency to dole out or withhold trust based on appearance is always going to be a factor. We’re always going to react to appearance, but we should never base our ultimate appraisal on appearance alone.

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143 Comments on "Trusting Authorities (or Not) Based on Appearance"

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Jennifer
Jennifer
6 years 9 months ago
Great post Mark – I was really discouraged by reading some of your readers’ comments about the overwieght dietician at WebMD. Obviously the advice sucked, and she seems to be reaping the benefits of it, but calling someone a “fat biffa”…really? I’ve just recently adopted a primal lifestyle and am seeing some results in body fat composition. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that,somewhere in the back of my mind, I daydream about being more ‘ripped’, but I’m short and stocky, and even at my leanest, no one would have even looked at me and realized just how strong… Read more »
kev
kev
6 years 9 months ago
I saw that a well. However, If she is fat she is fat. If she is a fat dietitian she is still a fat dietitian. If she wants to be a health professional that is fine, but if she does not lose weight most people will not take her seriously. I would not take diet advice from someone who weights 40 pounds more than I do and does not look healthy. Someone stated below, “why would you take financial advice from someone who is up to their neck in dept” – I agree with that and why should it be… Read more »
Jennifer
Jennifer
6 years 9 months ago

Fair enough. I mean, obviously she’s overweight, but we don’t know what her particular situation is – history, former weight, etc. It is unfair to judge someone without having all the facts.

Given her dietary advice, one can probably assume she’s gone down the wrong CV path, but I still don’t like the disparaging comments.

You can be respectful in expressing your opinion, and name calling and whatnot is no way to go about winning a debate….

Jennifer
Jennifer
6 years 9 months ago

I mean CW path 🙂

John
6 years 9 months ago

This is a simple one.

Would you take financial advice from a financial planner who is up to his eyeballs in debt? Of course not.

You can’t trust advice from those that don’t walk their own talk.

William
William
6 years 9 months ago

Anyone can know the right thing to do, yet do the wrong thing. It doesn’t make their knowledge any less valid.

The real question is, would you trust advice from any single person as gospel?

wd
wd
6 years 9 months ago

It certainly doesn’t help when one doesn’t appear to walk one’s own talk.

FoodRenegade
6 years 9 months ago

But how are you to judge if they’re walking their own talk?

For example, they may be overweight now, but what if they were *really* overweight before? Say they’ve lost a hundred plus pounds, but still don’t “look the part?”

Or what if their physical limitations actually keep them from waking their talk (i.e. injuries, etc.)?

Or, what if they really don’t care to walk their talk? Mark’s point about a coach being a coach is great. Knowledge is knowledge. We should judge it based on results.

~KristenM
(AKA FoodRenegade)

Kelly
Kelly
6 years 9 months ago
I would bet that most of our doctors would tell us to eat low fat. Yet we don’t eat the way they say, but are keeping an eye on what Mark is doing. Why? Because he has succeeded in reaching the goal that most of us have. I don’t see why this is such an odd behavior. Fortunately, Mark has provided the data that he uses so we can adjust things based on our unique situation. Many people in his position don’t, which is the main point that I take away from this. We need facts to pick the road,… Read more »
Kelly
Kelly
6 years 9 months ago

Hmmm…somehow stuck my post in the wrong place. Apologies.

oyvey
oyvey
6 years 9 months ago

Agreed. Mark, I really like this site, but I double like this post, and your willingness to confront the judgmental attitudes that are a part of our culture in general, and particularly around weight and health. Gotta admit, I give you even more credit for admitting that you benefit from it and think about it. Wicked awesome, and something that, to me, will mean that the Primal approach is more accessible to people of all sizes, which in my mind, is a darn good thing.

(Kristen, your site is also superfantastic)

Groktacular
Groktacular
6 years 9 months ago
A government official in a lofty post with questionable credentials (or a least suspect appearances)? Hmmmmm….let’s see…where has this happened before? To take the most recent example, #32,441, there’s Tim Geithner. Our current Secretary of the Treasury had, er, “tax paying issues” in the past. The fact that this lady would merit a tryout with the 49ers (I’m thinking run-stuffing DT) isn’t surprising at all. While Ms. Benjamin faithfully inhales her grains (as per the government’s guidelines), I think I’ll gorge on a Big Ass Salad for lunch today – just like in Mark’s video, but with dill salmon instead… Read more »
Sonagi
Sonagi
6 years 9 months ago

“You can’t trust advice from those that don’t walk their own talk.”

The irony is that she may very well walk her own talk if she preaches CW nutrition. Every year this nutritionist comes in to teach the USDA food pyramid to our school kids. She told them it was okay to eat sugar-coated cereal because they still had whole grains. She looks like she eats plenty of bread, pasta, and cereal.

Erin Davidson
6 years 9 months ago

Thank you so much for this, Mark. I’d have to agree… wholeheartedly.

Casey
Casey
6 years 9 months ago

On a similar note, how will you feel if you never look like a Calvin Klein model? The first poster made a great point about daydreams vs. reality, and it’s something to keep in mind when you start to hit rough spots and plateaus. Some people are outliers (for the better and for the worse), the rest of us are not, and need to measure our results accordingly.

Darcy
Darcy
6 years 9 months ago

I’ll never look like a Calvin Klein model, and with my build, I’d look darned silly if I tried. I’ll be successful if I just make it into old age not looking like my mom, my aunt and my grandmother (all over 300# for much of their lives).

Dania
Dania
6 years 9 months ago
Same here! Parents, uncles, aunts, grandparents, all overweight for most of their life. The only lean member of my family (my dear aunt Vio) had cancer at 37 years young. And although I really think that the primal diet-lifestyle make a perfect sense and I’m really trying to absorb a lot of info from this site, sometimes the comments are really hurtful. I really appreciate Mark’s attempt to point out that people are not created equal when it comes about weight control. I wish to be slim and I do my best for thatn in the same time I don’t… Read more »
Ben
Ben
6 years 9 months ago

Here Here!
Well said today, Mark.

Mike
Mike
6 years 9 months ago

I totally agree. I’m still a little chunky but I’m learning and loosing with PB. There are a lot of areas of knowledge that can be spoken of in theoretical forms by anyone. The truth of the matter has nothing to do with the state of the speaker, dismissing a persons arguments based on physique is ad hominum.

BTW, See you at Jupiter House 😉

Ben
Ben
6 years 9 months ago

Jupiter House was great. We need to hang out more.

Darcy
Darcy
6 years 9 months ago

I tend to be a little suspicious of trainers who don’t show any sign of ever having to fight the battles that I do. A trainer who’s been fit and healthy all his/her life is probably not going to really understand the issues I’m dealing with. Injuries, developing an exercise habit, changing eating habits. “Just do it” is one of those things that is simple in concept, but difficult in execution. A trainer that fitness just comes naturally to is less likely to understand that.

jsadberry
6 years 9 months ago

“A trainer that fitness just comes naturally to is less likely to understand that.”

Why would you assume that fitness came any more natural to that person than another just because they look fit? Also, one of the main premises of the “Primal” lifestyle is that fitness *does* come natural to all of us, we just aren’t enacting the appropriate dietary-activity cycle as a culture to make the realization.

Darcy
Darcy
6 years 9 months ago

I don’t assume anything based on how a trainer looks. I ask them. If their CV says “has been a lifelong athlete” or they tell me they’ve been slim and fit all their life, there’s a good chance they won’t understand my particular issues.

What comes “naturally” may not come easily.

bill
6 years 9 months ago

This is a very interesting post. I think physical appearance could be misleading. Having 6-pack doesn’t mean the person is fit and healthy. It’s not unheard of that once a while we hear a fitness guru suddenly have serious illness.

For me, I look for evidence such as “living a long, healthy and productive life” — the person I admire the most is Jack LaLane. He is 95, in excellent shape, practice what he preached, and his life is the best testimonial!

Ryan Denner
6 years 9 months ago

Without a doubt, someone has to “look the part”. That was one little piece of advice I learned in a graduate program, and might have been the most valuable of them all.

I equate looking the part to making a first impression – since that’s how people will think.

After time though, the logical mind (hopefully) kicks in, and if the eyes are sharp enough, they can see right through the BS (if there is any).

Primal Palate
Primal Palate
5 years 6 months ago

That’s how clever commercials are made.

Bran Cereal being eaten by some hot, young, slender, sexy girl with a smile on her face!

The human mind sure is easy to be tricked.

beckinwolf
6 years 9 months ago
This article reminds me of Dr. Sears from the Zone. I know the Zone isn’t the greatest program out there, but its a step in the right direction. Dr. Sears has a lot of knoweldge and talks the talk, but does not walk the walk, so to speak. Basically, he’s a nerd, and it shows. He always wears suits to his speeches and talks, and definately looks more like a professor or Dr. than a guy running on the beach like Mark. I still like what he has to say though. It’s a tough call I guess, and depends on… Read more »
Aaron Curl
6 years 9 months ago
“Does the physical appearance of a fitness or nutrition authority affect the worthiness of the message?” I have to admit, the main reason I like Jillian is because her body is smoking hot, but she is also very knowledgeable in her field. However, I never listen to just one persons view or knowledge of a subject. When I research or want to learn about something I read several articles or studies and make a logical decision based on how many articles or studies are the same. Unfortunately, this is not what most people do! We are a culture of judgers… Read more »
Ed
Ed
6 years 9 months ago

I believe someone who looks good, as long as they stick to their area of expertise. I would trust Jillian Michaels to teach me how to kick-box, but I’m not going to buy any of the snake oil in my local pharmacy that has her name on it.

Mark
Mark
6 years 9 months ago

Well said, sir!

Jon D.
Jon D.
6 years 7 months ago

Jillian has actually spoken out against supplements many times. She professes eating a healthy, balanced diet and exercise on The Biggest Loser. All of those supplements are nothing but a money grab.

I would respect her more if she hadn’t done it, but everyone has a price. And I bet if you contracted her as a trainer she would steer you clear of all of the stuff with her face on it.

Dave, RN
Dave, RN
6 years 9 months ago

And how long do we all think that Lamar Odom will be eating pounds of candy a day? I used to eat chocolate chip cookies crumbled up in a half a carton of ice cream mixe with milk every day and stay skinny. That doesn’t last forever. I paid later… he will too.

Timothy
Timothy
6 years 9 months ago
I’m very analytical by nature, and I disdained fitness for most of my life on the usual grounds — why care for physical appearance when mental and moral character is so much more important? It wasn’t until well into adulthood that I realized the qualities are intertwined. When I finally became physically fit, I found my mental fitness increased as well — and so did my emotional fitness, such as patience and kindness. So these days, I find myself emulating people who are strong both physically and mentally. It’s not enough for me any more just to accept that someone… Read more »
Geoff
Geoff
6 years 9 months ago
Although the appearance and expertise of a plan’s promoter can make some claims appear more credible than others, isn’t the real “acid test” of any system how it works for us as individuals in the context of our personal lives? I could get the most well reasoned and researched information from the healthiest looking “expert” in the world, but all of that would be meaningless to me unless the system actually produced the promised results for me, regardless of the results the promoter achieved through it. Mark’s experience and (to a lesser extent) appearance influenced my decision to explore PB,… Read more »
epistemocrat
6 years 9 months ago

Nice essay, Mark.

I remember Phil Jackson commenting on how he thought Lamar’s excessive candy-intake regime led to inconsistent play and lethargy on the court.

Imagine how good Lamar would be if he went Primal. Wish he could have ventured down that path about ten years ago; his NBA legacy would have been interesting to see–few big men posses the talent he does.

Cheers,

Brent

Timothy
Timothy
6 years 9 months ago

Well put. Just because you can carry a 50-pound rock up a hill doesn’t mean it’s making you go faster.

Kishore
Kishore
6 years 9 months ago

The terms health and fitness seem to be used interchangably. Michael Phelps might be fit enough to break olympic records, but his blood work might suck (I bet it does from the crap he eats). You might look like a Ferrari, but running on crappy parts. A holistic approach of internal health combined with external fitness should be the mantra. That’s one reason why you see so many ex-champions moving towards eastern medicine, meditation, detox etc. as they get older.

Kent Hawley
Kent Hawley
6 years 9 months ago
Appearance plays a role. When I bought “Fitness for LIFE,” I did so because Bill Phillips looks the part. I looked the part after three months, but it was a program I could not sustain. When I looked at “Primal Blueprint,” Mark’s physique made me think, “This guy might know that about which he speaks.” And PB is a more sustainable program. And I have to admit that when I first saw Rippetoe in a video, I thought, “OK, what’s he know?” I later learned that he knows a whole lot. But it’s difficult, if one does not look the… Read more »
Kent Hawley
Kent Hawley
6 years 9 months ago

It should be noted, as Timothy said above, that a healthy mind resides in a healthy body. And a healthy body is more than a thin waist and defined muscles. That is the great thing about PB, it works from the inside out, giving us good physical health on the inside that manifests itself outwardly.

Ryan
6 years 9 months ago

Well said Mark. I agree that we mistakenly listen or choose not listen based on appearance, but you have to admit that more often than not it’s a pretty safe bet that if the shoe doesn’t fit it’s baloney! It’s true that most coaches might not have been the best professional athletes, but the ones that worked the hardest to deepen their understanding and are able to get great results with tested science make the best coaches. Mark Rippetoe said it himself: “Mediocre athletes that tried like hell to get good are the best coaches”.

Dave C.
6 years 9 months ago
Mark, I think that with a personal training relationship, it is extremely beneficial for the trainee to have a trainer who can actually demonstrate the exercises they want you to perform. I think we are all familiar with the cliche of the overweight karate instructor. I believe it is natural to harbor a certain degree of skepticism towards a person who does not “practice what they preach”. But in matters of a highly physical and kinesthetic sort, like weight lifting or sports, having some demonstrable expertise greatly increases confidence and a sense of authority. I guess at the least, its… Read more »
Yelena
Yelena
6 years 9 months ago

Don’t knock the overweight karate instructors. I know a number of martial artists who are far, far more dangerous than they look. One chubby midwestern mom of my acquaintance has been teaching karate for decades, and could toss most anyone here around her dojo. The founder of American Jiu Jitsu is a pretty sizeable guy, but he’s absolutely amazing to watch in the dojo.

I know this wasn’t really the point of your post, but I just felt like I needed to stand up for the chubby martial artists. 🙂

Alex
Alex
6 years 9 months ago

Damn Right I want my fitness gurus trim. Mark, if you weren’t so damn pretty (err, I mean fit), I don’t think I’d read your blog.

I want my bakers and chefs chunky and my nutritionists and trainers thin.

MandyGirl77
6 years 9 months ago
One of my favorite quotes: “Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept… Read more »
Kishore
Kishore
6 years 9 months ago

Good Quote. Science is constantly evolving and we should keep an open mind. Dogma is for morons.

Michael Patton
Michael Patton
6 years 9 months ago

I remember reading a book on boxer Rocky Marciano when I was younger. Some of Rocky’s friends would question him on asking “fat” guys advice on eating properly and losing weight. He said “just because they don’t have the body, doesn’t mean they lack the knowledge”. (or something like that) He thought they had to work harder and learn all they could to try to lose weight and consequently thought they knew more.

Elizabeth
6 years 9 months ago

I think this applies twofold to many of the women out there who look up to “skinny fat” instructors and trainers, many of whom got to where they are physically by slashing calories, overdoing cardio and downing stimulants. We see them smiling in their tiny workout clothes, but we don’t see how this type of lifestyle has truly affected them (i.e. how many of them are depressed? have insomnia? digestive problems? etc.).

Yes, it may be somewhat of a stereotype, but this kind of “role model” exists fairly predominantly in the women’s side of the diet/fitness world.

Kishore
Kishore
6 years 9 months ago
Elizabeth, I agree with you. Every visit to my gym (a commercial one) is often witness to either a skinny fat or an obese female trainer training a bunch of unsuspecting muffin tops who think they are going to loose it all in 12 weeks. As soon as the session (cardio trauma) ends, the clients come and chat with the trainer for additional tips on workouts and diet.. The only weight training they do is a moronic tricep kickback with a 2.5lb pink barbie dumbell. Six months later, it’s the same scene with a diffrent crowd and possibly a different… Read more »
Tara
6 years 9 months ago

Yes, totally agree, but it’s not just the ‘skinny fat’ women. I was totally ripped, lean, and loaded with muscle. I was also totally fried, my adrenals mere shriveled up raisins and my metabolism sliding downhill fast.

Having lived in the bodybuilding world, I can attest to the fact that hard and ripped doesn’t mean health either. I’m trying to find that body again, only this time with the knowledge that fat is good for me and there’s more to a smokin’ hot body than what’s happening on the outside.

Ryan
Ryan
6 years 9 months ago

I agree. Perfect example is Fedor. He has more cardio and usable strength than any fighter yet he has a round mid sections. 30-0 doesnt lie though
Fedor- The Greatest Fighter to Have Ever Lived
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lVVrNOQtlzY

Mary Brighton, MS, RD
6 years 9 months ago
Ciao Mark, Thanks for your interesting post. I do agree that appearance has a big part in what a person is “preaching.” I am a registed dietitian living in France. Do you believe that some French people don’t “believe” what I advise for their health, just based on the fact that I am American? (Even though I am underweight and am a good “model” of a dietitian). It is because French people in general have a negative image of how Americans eat. I believe that you must play that role that you are in…I would never considering smoking, even though… Read more »
Kyle
Kyle
6 years 9 months ago
I disagree. A physically fit person might not be a good source of knowledge, but neither is an overweight health professional. Take Glassman, yes you could use his injuries to knock down any ad hominem arguments, but he’s been on record repeatedly saying that he wan’t to maximize his health and longevity. This is completely inconsitent with his appearance. Even if he were in a wheelchair he could be in better shape (either through diet or modified exercise). I don’t beleive an olypic coach must be an olympian but if someone sells me a diet saying it’s so easy, anyone… Read more »
rik
rik
6 years 9 months ago

A person has to practice what they preach. I find it difficult to believe someone who doesn’t. One of the many reason I bought into the Primal program is what Mark said, and how he looked. I was a grain, tofu, and carb nibbler. That, and 25lbs pounds, are behind me. I look forward to getting leaner. Maybe one day I’ll tell you the whole story.

jostle
jostle
6 years 9 months ago

Yes, your appearance does count and especially for first impressions. That being said these trainers, coaches, dietitians could have conditions or unknown circumstances preventing them practicing what they preach.

Kristin J
Kristin J
6 years 9 months ago

The first thing that comes to mind after reading this post is doctors. In my own experience, most of the doctors I know binge drink, eat tons of junk food, and don’t get enough sleep. Sure, they all look trim and healthy, but even they know the toll their lifestyle is taking on their health.

These people are giving our country health advice. They “know” what to do, but their words are worthless in my eyes because they obviously aren’t convinced enough by their own advice to heed it.

Grant
Grant
6 years 9 months ago

Great post, but man was it ever a pleasure to learn, at 19 years old, with a degree of biting clarity that cannot be matched, that truth is objective; completely independent of the person who’s saying it. It’s allowed me, I guess, to side-step all kinds of unnecessary confusions and tangents simply because I know how what to look for when I’m evaluating an argument. I’m just surprised that such messages have to be learned by some people while they’re already deep “in the field”, as it were, instead of in a broad, academic sense.

Kent Hawley
Kent Hawley
6 years 9 months ago

Yes. An objective reality exists. All is NOT relative.

Kishore
Kishore
6 years 9 months ago
I’m pasting an article by srength coach Poliquin on trainers. He’s in his 50s and maintains 6% bodyfat year round at a 200+lb frame. Ten ways to spot a useless personal trainer by: Charles Poliquin Travelling the World over, I get to see a lot of gyms and of course, lots of personal trainers, the quality is horrendous. The best personal trainers are found in the province of Quebec, the Dominican Republic, and Ireland. The worse are to be found in France, Australia, and New York City. Here are ten easy ways to spot a useless personal trainer: 1. He… Read more »
Crazy Diamond
6 years 9 months ago

It’s easy to assume that the person who looks the part knows what they’re talking about.

I still remember the day that I overheard my (ex)personal trainer telling another client about getting a box of See’s candy, chewing up one candy at a time, and then spitting the results out into the sink.

They might look the part, and they might have advice and it may even work, but- take it with a grain of salt.

TrailGrrl
TrailGrrl
6 years 9 months ago
As people move from being competitive athletes to coaches, I don’t expect them to be in the same shape as the people they are coaching. As far as I can tell, football coaching is stressful. Likewise, the Surgeon General is just as likely to be overworked and stressed as the rest of us. I don’t expect her to be perfect and without health problems of her own. I don’t expect all ex-Marines or ex-SEALS to still be in fighting form. Now if you are a current DI, then I expect you to be MORE fit than anyone else because you… Read more »
Kishore
Kishore
6 years 9 months ago

I can agree with you if it only relates to physical performance. You cannot expect legendary weight lifter Tommy Kono to still snatch a world record lift. You can still NOT be a fat bastard.

seb
seb
6 years 9 months ago

This is the first time I’ve seen habitual drunkenness characterized as “injuries.

Clay
Clay
6 years 9 months ago
Lamar Odom and Michael Phelps are awful examples. They do a ton of work every day that allows them to eat the crap foods they do. I rode my bicycle about 2,000 miles over 4 weeks this past summer. I eat following the Primal Blueprint guidelines year round, but during that bike trip I had to throw it out all out the window and feast on candy corn, cinnamon rolls, donuts, and giant subway sandwiches. Why? Eating primally simply didn’t provide enough energy and I felt like I was going to die, literally, on the days I tried it; as… Read more »
Jeanmarie
6 years 9 months ago
Clay, Lamar Odom and Michael Phelps are great examples of what Mark was illustrating: some elite athletes are statistical outliers, and their personal habits in no way translate to good advice for the masses. It didn’t occur to you that your body might have to adjust to burning fat instead of burning sugar? And even if you want to continue to burn sugar as your primary fuel, you don’t think you can do better than candy corn, cinnamon rolls, donuts, etc? How about fresh fruit, raw honey, even coconut oil? Maybe you were overdoing the cardio. It sounds like it… Read more »
Summer
6 years 9 months ago
I was just telling my husband yesterday that I would NEVER train or take nutritional advise from someone who doesn’t look lean and fit. BUT this post has prompted me to think otherwise – You can’t judge a person’s skills by the way they look because you don’t know what the person used to look like (maybe they’ve dropped weight), what struggles they are dealing with at home or any health issues they may have. There are many things in one’s life, like looking after a sick parent, going through a divorce or just being overworked, that would contribute to… Read more »
Mike Cheliak
6 years 9 months ago
I am a bit torn on this one. While I am not a slim jim by any standard, I do consider myself to be quite healthy (especially since going Primal). My body fat ranges around the 18% mark and I am thick but I am also as strong as an ox and can run 10K in less than an hour. Does it matter if you are “unconventinal” in your weight? I think if you are “unfit” that is the issue. Being a skinny, scrawny person with little or no muscular physique is just as “wrong” as carrying too much of… Read more »
Seth
Seth
6 years 9 months ago
I think part of the issue is assuming that some who is physically strong is automatically healthy. Athletes are burning more calories, but they are also using up more nutrients. The way I see it many elite athletes only take care of their increased caloric needs. Could this be part of the story behind athletes dropping dead of aneurysms or heart failure. It happens more often than one would think. I competed at a high level for years playing soccer. I ate better than most, but I know I didn’t eat as well as I do now. And I wonder… Read more »
Jeanmarie
6 years 9 months ago

Amen!

Jamie
Jamie
6 years 9 months ago
As a PT, I think it is important to ‘walk the talk’… which is slightly different from ‘looking the part’ (though presumably if one ‘walks the talk’ with something that holds ture, then they should come close to also ‘looking the part’). When judging ones appearance, it is easy to get caught up in whether someone has big guns, a narrow waist, etc. But there are other physical aspects that I think are more telling. I generally look at a persons posture, how they hold themselves, etc. I watch their movements. They might proclaim to be into their strength work,… Read more »
Kishore
Kishore
6 years 9 months ago

Jamie, I think your point about health being outside of arm measurements and chest width is true. For example, most bodybuilders have horrible skin from all the excessive, low quality supplements and tupperware eating (no break for your system from constant feeding). Yet, people might think about them as healthy.

lesliek
6 years 9 months ago
I consider the PB a lifestyle and health plan, and not a weight-loss plan, which is the reason I can look to Mark and others like him as role models. But when I really start thinking about weight loss (a goal of mine right now), I have a hard time full trusting anyone who hasn’t been there themselves. Tom Naughton just posted a video on his Fat Head blog wherein the thin Meme Rogers rages against obesity and how irresponsible fat people are. (link: http://bit.ly/9uhbQ6). He makes the astute observation that “She was born on the finish line and thinks… Read more »
Gina
6 years 9 months ago

Good for you! People will listen to you …you will *know* things that cannot be learned through books or courses but only the trial by fire!
Best wishes on your journey and role in helping others do the same.

Samson
6 years 9 months ago

This is idealistic bullshit. 99.999% of anyone at this site wouldn’t listen to a word Sisson said if he didn’t look the way he did….including me

Grant
Grant
6 years 9 months ago

lol… trashing “idealism” with the use of the 99.999% trick. If you’re going to say that you’re not an idealist, at least have the courage to use 100%.

Samson
6 years 9 months ago

There are at least a few people out there that would take anyone’s advise. 100% would be way too bold of a claim. 😉

Grant
Grant
6 years 9 months ago

So an idealist (aka: .0001% of the pop) is someone who’d take anyone’s advice? If so, doesn’t that necessarily mean that he has no ideas of his own? How, exactly, is he an ideals then?

Samson
6 years 9 months ago

I’m saying it’s idealist to tell people not to judge the messenger, and to only judge the message…especially when it comes to health and fitness.

jpickett1968
6 years 9 months ago

I can see both sides to the issue here and can’t help but think of boxing managers. Many are past their prime but have plenty of experience to share. I wouldn’t discount them. Look at Kung Fu Panda also!!

At the same time there is credibility gained when you look the part of that which you preach.
At the end of the day it’s relative to age, experience, and effort. That’s my two cents.

Good thoughts for us all to ponder Mark.

JD
6 years 9 months ago

The older the health guru, the more seriously I take the advice.

Paneristi
Paneristi
6 years 9 months ago

If I were a fat dietitian I would really question my own credibility and lose confidence I’m sure. I

Michael Ezell
6 years 9 months ago
I hear you Mark, and I agree that we can’t ignore sound advice simply because we don’t like the source. I just think that in this fast paced, information age, we’re so inundated with so many bits of info on a regular basis, it’s hard to find the time to weed out what advice is the most sound. Not having the time means we have to rely on split second signals as to wether or not a fitness pundit is a sage or a sucker, and looking the part is going to be one of those indicators. I don’t know,… Read more »
Jayadeep Purushothaman
6 years 9 months ago

This is a no-brainer IMO. If you were a pot-bellied guy giving advise on primal ways, it wouldn’t have reached anywhere. It is a different thing with a basketball or a football coach – what I would look in their resume is whether they have played the game in their prime years, not whether they can still play the game.

paleo_piper
6 years 9 months ago

I think that’s a preposturous idea. Should the greatest fashion designer I’ve ever seen be decked out from head to toe? No. He shows up wearing a t-shirt and jeans, that doesn’t mean he’s any less brilliant. Most people who do things for their living are a mess with doing it for themselves. “That’s work,” they say.

But in the case of dieticians and the like, sure they could know all the right advice and methods and still be fat. Look at me. I’ve read GCBC, been primal for nearly a year, devoured the WAPF sites and I’m still fat.

HKay
HKay
6 years 9 months ago
The ideas in this post are interesting but there’s something bugging me about the logic. A doctor or nutritionist giving advice to the masses on daily lifestyle changes does not equate to a basketball or swimming coach giving advice to elite athletes. In the first case, the advice and guidance is about necessary changes that are supposedly accessible to the masses to make them healthy and fit. They are marketing it as very doable and delivers results for everyone if followed. This is why people are appalled when they see the person giving the advice seriously overweight. If it is… Read more »
Tamara
Tamara
6 years 9 months ago

Today most people are excited by skinny looks. It´s also a common thinking of being obese=sick. As a matter of fact longevity comes in most cases with little overweight. Anorectic dieter with strict training schedules loose not only their weight but also important health issues like bone mass and brain cells – ireversible. We should focus an overall health and wellbeing and not a fake look. But therefore one needs balance and self-awareness. Rare traits.

mm
mm
6 years 4 months ago
actually you don’t lose brain cells from starvation (unless you kill them with actual toxins and anyone can do that) They did studies a while ago on some people who died of fasting and starvation and found all the proteins in their nervous systems, gonads and bones were intact (about 4.5 kg of protein total). They had an average BMI of 13.1 to 14.1 and the very few fat cells they had left were filled with something the researcher called “granules” instead of fat. I assume they were just filled with junk/filler until they could be filled with fat again… Read more »
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