Trusting Authorities (or Not) Based on Appearance

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?


“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.

TAGS:  marketing

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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145 thoughts on “Trusting Authorities (or Not) Based on Appearance”

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  1. 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 and fit I was. Heck, I’m stronger and fitter than I was then, but not quite as lean.

    I’m happy to strive towards my fitness goals and improve my body composition, but the fact is that for some of your forum commentators, I might never ‘qualify’ for consideration as a true PB follower, just based on my appearance.

    I knew I could expect more from you, but I was hoping I could also expect more from the generally well educated crowd that visits this site.

    Hurtful comments don’t help anyone, and even if we can agree to be dismayed at this woman’s advice, condemning her for her appearance isn’t appropriate.

    1. 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 any different for other professions? It would be the same as a 25 year old claiming longevity. If anyone 25 years old claimed longevity most people would simply laugh at them. It has nothing to do with being mean. Sometimes you just have to call B/S.

      1. 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….

  2. 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.

    1. 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?

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

    2. 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.

      (AKA FoodRenegade)

      1. 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, but we also need someone who has been down it already to tell us where the rough spots are. Don’t settle for half a “loaf”.

      2. 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)

      3. I agree with this. There are so so many factors at play. I’ve been overweight since my last child and have gone paleo, then keto, then primal and I can’t seem to budge the weight no matter what. But the funny part is, I’m not gaining either. I’m just stuck here. Maybe I just eat too much? But aren’t we of the enlightened opinion that calories don’t matter?

        Meanwhile, I watch women my age eat like garbage, do very little exercise (or the same as I do) and stay very thin.

        I have had multiple nodules on my thyroid which were biopsied twice (fun to have a large gauge needle stuck in your throat when you’re anesthetic resistant). I’m told by doctors there’s nothing wrong. it’s normal for me to have these growths and they are benign. Went to an Endocrinologist and was told I need to eat less (1200 calories a day) and exercise more. I basically told her to piss off. I’ve tried everything – iodine and other supplements, dessicated bovine thyroid. My other symptoms have gotten better (notably my hair and eyebrows have gone back to normal thickness) but the weight hasn’t budged.

        So all of this to say:

        I follow this lifestyle. Not to the degree that Mark r most of you do, but I cook all my own organic whole foods and stay about 90% Primal. I exercise almost daily. I could coach someone, but I don’t “look the part”. I clearly have some underlying issue. And I’ve been treated like some out of control pig when I sought help.

        People don’t choose to become fat. Some are indeed out of control, but many have the same habits as their thinner counterparts. It could be genetics, underlying issues – you just don’t know. Fat doesn’t always equal bad choices and poor self control.

        By the way Jillian Michaels thinks keto is a “terrible idea” and that our “cells are literally made up of fat, carbs and protein” so we need to eat all those things 😉

    3. 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 of chicken.

    4. “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.

  3. 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.

    1. 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).

    2. 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 see (over)weight as ugly or bad. What is ugly or bad is judging people because of it. Each human is a universe. Weight is just one dimension of it. Take for instance the Surgeon General, I would say that her work (saving lives and other small stuff like that) is much more to be appreciated that her weight to be critiqued.

    1. 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 😉

  4. 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.

    1. “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.

      1. 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.

  5. 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!

  6. 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).

    1. 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.

  7. 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 where you’re coming from. I’m a nerd too, so I can relate to him. Although I do wish I could get into as good of shape as Mark. I can certainly give it my best primal try.

  8. “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 (is that a word?) and a culture who wants fast results. So, we look at a person and think to ourselves “look at him he’s in shape, he knows what to do, follow him”. Quick to judge by looks alone!

  9. 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.

    1. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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 has the right answers — I want to see that they have the moral fortitude to apply their own advice. A scrawny old guy has my attention. An overweight government doctor — not so much.

    Years ago, before getting fit, I enjoyed the Maury Povich show. There was occasionally a guest host, I believe named “D”, who was an ex-gang member. I don’t remember a single thing he said to the wayward types on the show, but they took his advice readily — because he had very convincing biceps. I wished that I too could have convincing biceps, but thought it just wasn’t in my genetic potential.

    Now that the Primal Blueprint has, in fact, given me convincing biceps, friends and strangers alike seem to be giving me the sort of credit once due to “D”.

    Insight and rhetoric are important, but we are not brains in jars. A strong mind requires a strong body.

    And if you’re new here, and have always dreamed of being “ripped” but didn’t think it was possible, follow the PB and think again!

  12. 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, but the reason I continue to accept it is that PB has started to produce the promised results for me. So, I don’t “judge a book by its cover,” but I also don’t simply judge the book simply by its contents. I judge the book by how its contents work for me.

  13. 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.



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

  14. 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.

  15. 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 part to say, “Come, follow me,” and expect a wide following. A good appearance conveys the message “I have done it. You can do it, too.”

  16. 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.

  17. 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”.

  18. 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 nice to know that they use to be able to do it at some point in their lives.

    1. 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. 🙂

  19. 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.

  20. 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 it and live up to it.” Gautama Siddharta Buddha

    We do need to rely on “experts” to an extent. And this is why I love the internet, specifically the forums where we can all share in our experiences and not only learn from experts but also from each other.

    But it is only when you truly experience something yourself that you learn the truth.

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

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

    1. 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 trainer.

      1. 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.

  23. 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 I know French women who smoke a couple times a week for pleasure (plus satiety and weight control).
    In graduate school I knew a dietitian who was very overweight…I couldn’t imagine her giving advice for weight loss. (Just because I was thinking of how people would react to that). However, her area of expertise was in the hospital setting providing tube feeding prescriptions for patients. And she was good at it.
    I am really anti “labeling” or discriminatory…but, yes..your appearance counts A LOT!
    Mary Brighton, MS, RD

  24. 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 can follow it and it’s so effective it works for everyone–but they are overweight my two questions are ‘if it’s so easy why don’t you do it’ and ‘if you did, why didn’t it work?’

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

  28. 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.

  29. 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 never records anything. Unless he has a way to show your average load used, your relative strength index on each exercise, progress curves etc…, your trainer is a big dweeb. He cannot produce any data on how you have made progress outside of weight on scale.

    2. He is more into entertaining you than training you. Jumping laterally from a Bosu ball to a bench while pressing overhead a dumbbell with the opposite won’t get you lean or fat.

    3. Program design is a function of the equipment closest to the person he is interested looking at. It should instead be a function of your goals.

    4. He talks to you about random stuff while you are doing your set. He should be monitoring your rep count and tempo pace.

    5. He tells you about his personal problems. Hey, you pay him to get you in shape, not to be his personal counselor. Outside of greetings and goodbyes, talk should be centered around your exercise performance and the whys of what you are doing.

    6. He uses his cell phone to take calls, make call, or text while you are working out.

    7. His video does not match the audio. In other words, he either is a skinny fat bastard with the calf development of parrot, or could consider a career in Sumo wrestling. He talks the walk, but cant walk the talk. Would you go see a dentist who sports a dentition that looks like a piano?

    8. He does not associate with a functional medicine practitioner to make sure your health is not limiting your progress in the gym.

    9. He has never taken a class to expand his horizons and his knowledge on the basics of training: such as anatomy, program design, stretching, etc..

    10. He cannot sell his business. Why? It is worth nothing.

    The sad truth is that 99.99% of personal trainers could not sell their business tomorrow. Why? They have no records, no results to show for. They work for their business, not on their business.

  30. 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.

  31. 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 are the the role model for what being a Marine is all about, and you are the one who will get them to that level. But that doesn’t mean some old Marines who aren’t up on their PT can’t tell you how to do it.


    1. 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.

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

  33. 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 soon as I switched to junk food, my body was getting enough energy, and despite getting in about 5,000 to 6,000 calories a day, I lost fat.

    I normally agree with everything on this site, but disagree strongly with this post. I would never hire a web designer with a terrible site showcasing their work; I would never hire someone to handle my money who’s completely broke; so WHY would I hire someone who’s overweight and unhealthy-looking to get me healthy and ripped?

    1. 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 was a higher-than-usual level of exercise. And what other damage might you have done to your body eating the junk food? Just maintaining or losing weight doesn’t mean all is well inside.

  34. 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 one’s lack of ability to look fit – following the PB nutritional guidelines alone doesn’t automatically make you look fit – you need sleep, stress management, fitness and happiness in your life. We also have to consider that they may be suffering from a medical issue, like an under-active thyroid that may make it impossible to lose weight. This post has prompted me to never associate one’s ability at providing health advice with their appearance. You need to take the time to find out about their background, education, experience and approach with fitness/nutrition to truly understand whether they are ‘fit’ to do the job.

    Great (and timely) post Mark!!

  35. 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 the chub.

    A fit person is one who practices fitness, good nutrition and wellness. If you don’t do all of these, you are NOT fit to tell anyone what to do. If you do practice these aspects of life, you shouldn’t be obese or “skinny fat”.

  36. 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 how much better I could have been had I fueled my body appropriately.

    I abused the fact that I had a fast metabolism and athletic build. In fact I had trouble putting on weight of any kind until going primal.

    When I was in college and started putting worse I actually lost weight (Muscle) and only gained slight padding.

    I don’t mean this statements in any kind of bragging way to those who have more difficulty with weight. The point is that my body led me to assume that I was healthier than I probably was.

  37. 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, but if I see their knee fold in each time they take a step, I can see that they have weak hips & that doesn’t add up with what they are telling me. I look at skin condition, at their eyes, etc. There are all sorts of cues that allow you to see health beyond just big arms & ripped abs.

    To be honest, if I hadn’t have seen the photo’s of Mark & his wife Carrie & proclaimed ‘whoa!’, I don’t think I would have climbed onboard the PB as quickly as I did. Of course, everything Mark says has to stack up from a scientific perspective… I’ve invested too much in my own academic credentials & have stuck my neck out career-wise by turning my back on CW (I’m a university trained nutritionist & exercise physiologist), to take a risk on the ‘ramblings of a Malibu Ken-doll’. Clearly Mark & the whole Primal/Paleo community do stack up. But it was his appearance AS WELL AS what he was saying that sold it to me.

    1. 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.

  38. 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: He makes the astute observation that “She was born on the finish line and thinks she won a race.” Andrew Weil made a similar comment on Larry King Live to Mehmet Oz about his authority in dispensing diet advice as a naturally thin person.

    Many people who are overweight think they were just stuck with a bad hand of genetic cards, and I don’t blame them for not trusting people who have always been thin. They want to be able to relate their own lives to the success of others. That’s why people like The Biggest Loser so much, right? There’s much more emotional salience there for them. I can’t wait for the day that I hit my goal weight and can be one of those role models for people. (And a primal one at that!)

    1. 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.

  39. 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

    1. 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%.

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

        1. 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?

        2. 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.

  40. 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.

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

  42. 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, Maybe we should just slow down enough in our lives to do the proper research. Very thought provoking article.

  43. 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.

  44. 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.

  45. 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 so easy and doable, then where did you go wrong?

    In the second case, the advice is for a small group of people and is not at all necessary for everyone, only for people who are earning a living off their looks/fitness/sport talent… That’s why we’re ok with an NBA coach who’s not fit. No one expects him to put all that effort because when it comes down to it, it is not necessary.

    What I’m trying to say is we (most people at least) see being of healthy weight and decent built as the minimum we should strive for. We’d be bothered by someone who can’t even achieve the minimum.

    Being ripped or built like an athlete is far above the minimum, it is not necessary or average. We won’t be too bothered with someone who knows how to get there but does not see to want to get there.

  46. 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.

    1. 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 and begin multiplying…

      As a former skinny person turned fat, now turning normal weight I can tell you most health messages didn’t target me at all, I acted like I was indestructible and ate a ton of garbage. This is really not good especially for skinny-fats who are at risk for insulin resistance/T2 diabetes (which is even more dangerous for them)/metabolic syndrome/heart disease without even knowing. Not to mention they have poor muscular strenght to support their bodies and no caloric/protein reserves to speak of if they get sick

  47. I recall reading somewhere that skinny men who don’t exercise have twice the mortality risk as overweight men who do exercise. Bruce Lee is someone I would have taken health advice from (before he died at 32)

    I love mark’s final statement here: ‘We’re always going to react to appearance, but we should never base our ultimate appraisal on appearance alone.’ The river may carry water to you without drinking any itself. I think inevitably we’re influenced by appearances but always need to look deeper. Perceived authority is a powerful behavioural influence (think Stanley Milgram)-unfortunately we can make assumptions as to what is authoritative by allowing externals to unduly sway us. A white coat here, a governmental approval stamp there; and we stop looking deeper.

    Thanks Mark great post.

  48. Wow – what a discussion we have here! Super post Mark!!

    I agree with the majority here and I personally can only trust those who practice what they preach. For me that shows true belief and our bodies (inside or out) do reflect our lifestyles. In many cases, the skinny guy who eats junk will suffer for it evenutally. Sometimes you get the chain smoker who lives to 100 but why take the risk when the evidence is so strong? It’s just the way the media works – anomalies sell better! So I believe in the healthy lifestyle I follow!

    I’m currently in marathon training and met with British marathon champion Liz Yelling and Lucozade Sports nutritionalists last week at an Adidas event. It forced me to come to come to terms with the fact that I have to change my diet for endurance (and you have already addressed this Mark in ‘Primal compromises for endurance Athletes’). I have to admit that Primal nutrition will remain my bedrock because I am not an endurance athlete full time but whilst I am running silly distances on a weekly basis, for now I am not going to cry about eating sugar and fast digesting carbs. I admit it – these help me perform better! Rest asssured that once the marathon has passed, I wont strain my body with these sports foods unless absolutely necessary.

  49. It’s just a simple case of ‘do what I say, not what I do’ at times…

    1. Good Lord, we have “aunt Jemima” as Surgeon General. Combined with the rest of the White House, our kids are screwed. Give me back my Amish lookin C. Everett Koop!

      1. Hey Chris, you probably don’t realize this, but nowadays the term “Aunt Jemima” is actually be quite offensive.

        1. Sorry, but I am not taking any racist bullshit. She is a fat, black woman, in a public position promoting “health”. My comment was not racist. Take it up the syrup company.

      2. Hey Chris, this post is for grown ups only. We’re trying to have a genuine conversation here. You’re just being distracting.

        1. The fact that you used black in your descpription makes it racist i.e. based on her race. Maye think things through a bit more before posting.

        2. Wow! You are right, that is not (just)”rasist bullshit”. This is clearly rasism in full bloom.

  50. I take advice from people who have done what I want to do and look how I want to look, but that’s just me. That’s the reason I put a before and after pic on my blog so that people know that I’m not just blowing smoke. I’ve been fat, unfit, and unhealthy but I’m not now and people want to follow other’s advice who have walked the path that they want to walk with an outcome that is highly desirable. It always cracks me up when people give out advice about this or that, yet don’t follow their own advice or pay their own price.

  51. Leaving coaches and trainers aside as they may have different goals or physical aspirations, lets focus on health care professionals such as dietitians, PCPs, and non-surgical specialitists (I don’t care what a brain surgeon looks like if he has great hands). We and they should have the same goal, a state of health and absense of disease. The physical apperance of the health care professional speaks volumes to their knowledge of nutrition and how it relates to disease. If they have a disease of civilization (way more than just obesity, too many to list)and are not actively working towards change, then they have not been enlightened to the intimate relationship of food, lifestyle, and well-being. Therefore they can not enlighten me. I will be destined to fall victim to their advice as they have. Why would someone with excellent dietary and lifestyle advice that they KNOW works withhold it from themselves? Getting big biceps is not everyones thing, but being free of disease and promoing well being should be (particularly in health care) and apperance can tell you a lot about who “gets it” and who doesn’t.

  52. I personally am more inclined to trust someone who walks their talk. Mainly because I just can’t fathom knowing all of the things I know now about nutrition and exercise, and NOT wanting to put it into practice!! It just doesn’t make sense to me!
    I saw someone mentioned that they would have a hard time taking fitness advice from someone who had never struggled with thier weight. This is a bit of a tough spot for me–I’ve never really been technically “overweight” in my life. I was one of those skinny kids who could (and did) eat whatever they wanted, as much as they wanted. It started catching up to me in college, when my junk food consumption went up and my physical activity went way down, but the worst it got was basically me not feeling comfortable with my weight, but other people still saying “you’re too skinny!” So now whenever I am trying to help someone who is overweight, I tend to get the “you just don’t know how it is, you were always thin!” Which is frustrating to me, because I wish it didn’t matter, but I can kinda see how it does make a difference.

  53. Oddly enough, I addressed something similar to this on a website that my friend and I are trying to start.

    I had to laugh one day as a skinny friend started telling me all about the things he’d learned about insulin. Fat people know this stuff because they’ve been reading about it for years.

    I see no problem with taking advice from a “do as I say, not as I do” kind of person. I’ve been in work situations where I’ve had to tell people, “Never do what you’re about to see me doing. It’s dangerous and stupid.” Then put myself in harm’s way.

    Let’s put it this way, if two people are telling me how to get out of a burning building, I’m going to listen to the one with the burn scars at least as hard as the one without.

  54. Freakish genetics aside there is something to “proof of concept”. The fact that we have a fat Surgoen General at a time when the administration is pushing for better eatting in our kids is sure sign that the gov. cannot help them. They cannot help themselves. You wouldn’t hire a shrink for marriage help if they are a two time devorce statis. You wouldn’t hire a money manager knee deep in debt driving a rusted out shitbox. We shouldn’t listen to our government when they push around a wheelbarrow full of potatos(sugar) saying this is how to lose weight and be healthy.

  55. What a great discussion! Thought provoking post Mark. The first time I stopped by your site I definitely noticed the physical shape you were in and especially for your age(that’s a compliment-we’re about in the same age group!) ..that attracted me to reading what you had to say. I tend to agree with your statements at the end of the post about the science. My husband is 6’4″ pure muscle always has been no matter what he eats or much as that makes me want to sometimes slap him(j/k) I also realize it’s genetics. So I’ll stick to sound science with a good dose of observation.

  56. Mark,

    Thank goodness, and I’m secure in my own masculinity to say this!, that a guy like you is out there who’s easy on the eyes AND/YET humble enough to tell people that you’re not afraid in this life to learn and change your opinion (e.g., your marathon days to primal living). You set a great example for changing one’s lifestyle for the better. And for the reasons that you mention above, based on science and the feedback you received. In my opinion, your humility allows for your wisdom to be that much more credible, and the chances of a primal blueprint to be accepted that much more likely by people who are struggling with all of the mixed health messages out there.

    Great message in this post.

  57. To me, a good health and fitness regime has to fulfill three criteria:

    1) It has to work, and by work, show on your physique (I don’t mean some kind of beefed up mental body, just low body fat and good muscle tone).

    2) It has to work, and be HEALTHY. Not CW healthy, but the kind of healthy that results in such an unparalleled sense of wellbeing – energy, vitality, happiness – that you can’t bear to lose that feeling.

    3) It has to work, be healthy, and be achievable in your lifestyle within today’s modern world. It is no good telling me to get 5 hours of sun based exercise when I have to be at my desk for a while.

    Fat / unhealthy people with a lifestyle approach will never sell it to me. Because, it must come down to the fact that either:

    1)It doesn’t work.
    2)It works, but doesn’t make you feel all-around great enough to bother to stick with.
    3)It works, makes you feel great, but is too difficult to follow.

    I don’t want any of those options.

    The PB lifestyle however:

    1) WORKS (and boy does it work, people do double takes at my physique)
    2) Motivates me to keep at it because I have boundless energy, hardly ever get sick, and literally glow with health
    3)Fits into my lifestyle – I can eat out, hold down my job, maintain a social life and have ‘sensible vices’. Sticking to PB means keeping yourself happy, which means (to me) red wine a couple of times a week and the odd bit of dark chocolate (the only thing i can’t give up is tofu – I just LOVE it too much…).

    So no, I will never be swayed by someone whose body I don’t aspire to, because they don’t have a holistic, achievable plan.

    Just my 2c.


  58. anyone in the health industry should portray a healthy image along with their advice or else they are just hypocrites in my opinion.

  59. Funny, I was just searching a few days ago for a yoga instructor because I’m not at all comfortable taking diet/health/fitness advice from the one (yes, one…it’s a small town) local yoga instructor who is overweight. Call me crazy…

  60. At age 68, I’m continuing to explore fitness and nutrition. Purchased Primal Blueprint and Primal Body, Primal Mind recently. Halfway through Mark’s book and finding it helpful. Three weeks into an 80% Primal effort nutritionally and physically. It’s been a very positive exploration so far. Interesting for me as my fitness efforts date back 50 years……physical education minor in college, college athlete, nine marathons, basketball into my 50’s, and still playing competitive carry the bag golf. I was often in the chronic fatigue arena during my working and parenting years. WHAT I PARTICULARLY LIKE ABOUT THE PRIMAL BLUEPRINT IS THE UNSPOKEN PURSUIT OF LiFE BALANCE through reasonable, focused exercise and dramatic but simple changes in diet. No question, after one month I’m feeling and seeing the difference.

    Have also been exploring CrossFit for the last 2+ years, and like the synergies of Primal and CrossFit. It was a CrossFit305 (Miami) owner who had a copy of Primal Blueprint who suggested it to me.

    I have a nine year old grandson who consumes bad stuff every day. MOST of his diet is bad stuff. Significant sugar highs and lows. Runs around the house like crazy for 30+ minutes in the evening and then has a rough time getting to sleep. Craves sugar, and strongly balks at eating good food put in front of him. I’m in the middle of a six week visit his family right now. It’s hard to watch him make poor diet decisions. We spend about an hour a day together at an athletic field messing around with a soccer ball and kicking field goals with a football. He’s good. Very strong kicker. He kicks 50-60 field goal attempts each day and regularly nails them through the uprights on a high school football field from 25+ yards. It’s internally frustrating to me to see him willing to work hard at kicking endeavors, then to go home, eat crap, and melt down 30 minutes later. I can tell he’s confused and upset with himself, but his antics indicate he doesn’t know how to act or behave appropriately. SURE WOULD LIKE SOME SUGGESTIONS FROM PRIMAL PARENTS WHO HAVE WORKED THROUGH STUFF LIKE THIS WITH THEIR KIDS OR GRANDKIDS.

    1. Wisc Tom,

      Perhaps you ought to post this again, as a separate stand alone query. It’s so far down in the replies, I think it might be a bit lost. That I can see, nobody has yet replied & surely there are Primal relatives & parents here dealing/dealt w/ this concern of yours.

    2. Dear Jessica,
      I was reading the comments and I saw yours. I can understand your frustration and admire your dedication to helping your grandson without trying to impose your opinion too much. My oldest(she is 10) has similiar tendencies to your grandson. If she eats foods with a lot of sugar, colors she goes as I call it “to the moon.” However, it is a lot better now as I don’t let her imbibe too much on those foods. I think his parents need to learn to say “NO!” to those foods and “YES!” to other healthier options. In the evening only water with meals, a nice balanced dinner with good balance of protein, fats and carbohydrate. Maybe a 5-10 minute walk outside after dinner too. I don’t agree with parents allowing their kids to have whatever they want, especially a child like your grandchild who needs less sugars, colors and simple carbohydrates in their diet. By being strict it will only help him out in the long run. Good Luck, Mary Brighton

  61. Great Post Mark!

    Most of my clients look way more fit and toned than I do…and each one suffers from years of eating disorders. I help them regain their lives beyond their body image.

    You cannot judge a book by its cover, and we are much more complex than our outer appearance…even the surgeon General. Even if she were sporting a size 2 she could be spouting bad info.

    Would you believe her more if she were a size 2…come on!

  62. Elaine Magee’s dietary advice sucks. Fat or thin she doesn’t know what she’s talking about.

    I can distinguish between good or bad dietary advice but the majority is clueless so they will go by the look of the person giving the advice.

    Knowing the right thing to do dietary-wise is one thing but putting it into practice is another.


    I loved the “healthy snack option video”…
    My favourite part is: “Let’s put some cheese and beans on this massive plate of low-fat nachos and now it’s totally healthy because it has carbs and proteins… ooooh”

    I can do that too.
    Look at my McDonald’s Burger
    it has lettuce in it, it is now a healthy snack because it has the following food groups: protein (melted processed gum-like fake cheese), lettuce and a rotten tomato (practically a salad!), and carbs (unfortunately this toasted bun isn’t as the healthy as the low-fat nachos… but, you can’t have everything…)
    Let’s making it healthier by getting rid of the only thing that tastes good, the burger, and now you’re both healthy and a martyr for not eating helpless cows.

    Look ma, no medical degree!

  64. So if I’ve lost the genetic lottery and still remain hefty even after following Primal for years and years does that mean that I’m not allowed to talk about it? Or does that mean it doesn’t work and all of you are just crazy?

    Glad to see everyone just ignored Mike’s point. Maybe Primal eating makes you an idiot.

  65. Ummm… Anyone remember Susan Powter? She was fat. Then she was skinny. So… fat makes you fat, right? We should be eating pasta with chickpeas, right?

    1. Oh that name rings a bell! Susan Powter certainly had her way with us. Bowls of air-popped corn! I wonder if she ever suffered the ill effects of her very bad dietary advice.

  66. I think, with all due respect to any obese bloggers here (and I genuinely don’t mean to sound terse) that, no, thin doesn’t always equal healthy, but fat NEVER does. Yes, many people who we encounter that are obese (according to the CDC obesity equals at least 30 lbs overweight) may be on the path to fitness, but that just makes them HEALTHIER, not actually HEALTHY. Your blood vessels are still struggling to supply nutrients to your body, which elevates your blood pressure. The weight of your body is still reeking havoc on your knees and ankles and that’s just for starters, let’s not even mention what’s happening to your heart. Now, 1) if a so-called “fitness expert” is aware of the afore mentioned biological effects and still doesn’t practice what he/she purports to know, he’s a fool and you can’t be both a fool and an expert. And 2) If the said “expert” isn’t aware of these effects, well again, “fool”.

    1. Just a comment, a good way to look at obesity is using the BMI. If someone has a BMI greater than 30 kg/m2 they are considered obese. Tall males could be just overweight with the 30 lbs. calculation, where as short women would be obese using the 30 lbs. mark. I like using BMI to assess obesity-it is more of a clue also exactly how obese someone is (there are different stages).

      1. BMI? riiight, so a powerlifter with some visible muscle-hiding fat is unhealthier than someone else weighing a bit less with no muscles or a concentration camp survivor…

  67. Mark said it perfectly in the last sentence –

    “We’re always going to react to appearance, but we should never base our ultimate appraisal on appearance alone.”

  68. Great perspective on this Mark. I have to admit, when I hear someone touting fitness, nutrition, etc. I look them over good to see if they practice what they preach and it always bothers me when their appearance says otherwise but you have given me another perspective to consider. Thank you!

  69. I mildly disagree…

    You wouldn’t take real estate advice from someone who doesn’t own/sell/invest in real estate. You wouldn’t take parenting advice from someone who isn’t a damn good parent. You wouldn’t take advice on opening a small business from a person who deosn’t own a successful one.

    So why would you take fitness advice from someone who isn’t fit?

    And before someone/everyone points this out: yes, I know sport coaches can’t do the things that their athletes do. My counterpoint to that, is 1) sport coaches are a notable exception to my stance for many specific reasons, and 2) sport coaches and fitness coaches are two diffrent animals.

    Just one opinion, DaveR

  70. It should be about the information. I know a lot of golf instructors who can ‘naturally’ strike a ball better than anyone but have no frigin idea whatthey do or how to teach it correctly. I know others the no everything but aren’t ‘gifted’ players but they students improve every time.

  71. Not necessarily a fan, but Jillian Michaels use to be overweight. As a teen and later, I think. So, it’s not her genes, its her hard work.

    And other than her part in that stupid TV show, I haven’t heard her say anything wrong. And she’s one of the very few who recognize the diet and acne connection.

  72. I want to correct the above to say that her genes do probably affect her ability to have such a muscular body unlike most women.

    But she doesn’t look fit and healthy despite poor lifestyle habits, but because of them.

  73. My operating theory is this: never, never, ever, never trust anyone in the government. Or anyone associated with someone in the government. The government is always wrong until proven, without a shadow of a doubt, to be correct.

    1. We are the government. It works best in participation not from idleness. Quitters are plentiful under your flag.

      1. I’m not sure what you mean by “quitters under your flag” but we would be far better off if 80% (to pick a number) of the government and it’s associates would “quit.” Just think of the damage that was NOT done by Congress when it was shut down for those four or five days of heavy snow.

    2. Devil’s Advocate: not 100% true. Even the paranoid homocidal maniac Stalin knew better than to let Party politics and ideological purges affect the productivity of his nuclear scientists and military researchers.

  74. A lot of us follow the Primal Blueprint. but are still overweight, including me. According to many of you, my advice is worth little, because I’m overweight, but Mark’s advice is worth a lot, because he’s in fantastic shape.

    Yet it would be the same advice.

  75. I wish I had been blessed with good health my whole life. I’m grateful for every day I feel good. I am, however, dealing with many health challenges, including hypothyroid, adrenal fatigue, candida, and Lyme disease. A Paleo lifestyle has enabled me to get out of bed in the morning without thinking twice, which is a HUGE improvement from just a year ago. I’ve been able to lower my thyroid meds significantly just from the change in diet.

    I teach and coach about lifestyle change in an effort to give back what I’ve received.

    If people judge my by the shape of my body, I doubt they’ll want to work with me. They’d have no idea of the 20 pounds I’ve lost, and the fact that I struggled to get out of bed only a year ago. They’d only see the generous hips I still carry. They’d probably miss the fact that my skin glows, that I can easily walk up flights of stairs when a year ago my knees were so swollen and painful I had to pull myself up any kind of incline.

    I’m grateful to be able to help those that are open to change.

  76. Iwould not take my car to a mechanic whose car did not run well, go to a hair stylist whose haircut looked terrible, hire a yoga teacher who could not hit the poses, ect. ect. I can’t stand people who preach do as I say not as I do. I do not think it is shallow to expect nutrition and fitness “experts” to look healthy and fit. They should instill confidence in their clients by their example. Come on Mark, that is what you do.

  77. While I agree that I would prefer some one who can talk the talk and walk the walk, it is not necessary, merely a preference. Luckily for the New England Patriot’s & New York Jets football teams, who have arguably the best offensive & defensive football coaches in the NFL, the players do not follow the logic of many of the posters here. Rex Ryan weighs 350 lbs and Bill Belichick doesn’t look particularly fit — neither one of them ever played in the NFL. Great coaches learn and get better by experimenting and observation — there is no advantage to applying their knowledge to themselves, in fact, it may muddy the process.

    1. Bravo! Well said Jim.

      Too much more of the cookie cutter mentality and my business will be even busier…we cannot judge someones total health by how they look.

      I hope we don’t start having body requirements to give Nobel Prizes.

  78. Interesting discussion. I have to disagree though. Sports performance and knowledge are different from nutrition. Only a few outliers can compete physically. More can coach. But nutrition and eating well is not based on one being a genetic outlier. Everyone eats everyday.

  79. Um.. what happened to getting references? Any professional worth his weight in grass fed beef should be able to show their past successes, be it personal or client based.

  80. When you are in the business of making people fitter, you “walk the talk” by MAKING PEOPLE FITTER. I don’t care how fat you get, if you claim to know how to make me fit and you can show that you’ve made others fit, then what else do I need from you? That is your service and you have evidence that it is effective.

  81. That said, a trainer who looks too good is probably too focused on himself to be a great trainer; a trainer who is too slovenly probably doesn’t care about himself enough to be a good trainer. I choose a professional who cares about his health and appearance, but cares about others just as much or more. That’s why great football coaches are at least a little fat. If they spent too much time concerned with working out and looking nice it would take away from their coaching. That’s why Belichick wears the same sweatshirt everyday and why Coach Glassman wears jeans and hiking boots with neck ties.

  82. As far as the Surgeon General goes, there’s a lot more to the position than looking the part. I like that Regina Benjamin has first-hand experience with the impact of poverty on public health in this country, not to mention first-hand experience with the challenges of building a primary care practice in an economically depressed area. I’m sure I’m not the first to make this observation, but there’s a real problem in this country with people making public-health proclamations that would work great if everyone was just an upper-middle-class white collar professional; I don’t see much danger of her doing this.

    Which reminds me, one of the more helpful professionals I’ve consulted was an obese dietician. She was the first to acknowledge she didn’t look the part, but what she had was the wealth of experience that came from working with thousands of clients before me, of varying body type, background, and goals. The meat of her advice was much more sensible than the dietician in the video (quite paleo-compatible, actually), but what was valuable about working with her was her varied professional experience.

  83. Yes, I, too, am more inclinded to believe or seek info from those who walk the talk. But, I also know life can throw you curve balls. Mourning, trauma, thyroid problems, divorce, etc., can cause a person’s lifestyle (eating & exercise habits) to change.

    1. Thank you Debra! We would all do well to count our blessings and I am grateful to be living long enough to *know* the problems you mentioned cause not only your eating and exercise to change but your constitution, hormones,life force (chi)…we change and we adjust and sometimes the adjustment takes a long time.

      I pray I never begin to judge health care promoters or anyone by their body size/condition. Like I said earlier this kind of body image pressure has done more harm than good AND I am saddened to see the men now jumping on the band wagon…it is reflected in the rapidly increasing numbers of men with full blown eating disorders.

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