Lifestyle Choices: Eating for Success

I frequently get asked this question, “What movement will get rid of this?” or “What exercise do I need to do to get a six-pack?” (as the person motions to their mid section.) The answer is: First and most important step; eat right, eat correct. Second is the incline trainer, but that’s another topic. NASM put together this short article on nutrition, I like it.  Give it a read.

Lifestyle Choices: Eating for Success

By Mabel J. Robles MS, CES, PES, NASM-CPT
As health and fitness professionals, it is important that we are able to provide our clients with nutritional guidance that supplements their weight loss and weight management goals. Staying on top of current guidelines and sharing this information can help your clients lose or manage their weight while at the same time preventing nutritional deficiencies.


Diet vs. Dieting
The term “diet” refers to the food choices that are made on a daily basis whereas the term “dieting” refers to a restriction of food (1). Diets that promote significant calorie restriction are difficult to maintain and are usually not successful. Instead, let your clients know that they should develop a diet of moderate intake that includes foods they enjoy and that allows them to maintain a healthy body composition.
Portion Control
Clients who are trying to lose or maintain weight will need to be weary of overconsumption and this is often related to portion sizes (1). According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), food companies have increased portion sizes over the last 25 years (2). Consequently, the perception of what a portion should look like has become severely distorted. For example, a typical plain bagel that is three inches in diameter may only be 140 calories whereas a bagel that is six inches will be closer to 350 calories. The NHLBI defines the term “serving” as an amount of food that is recommended to eat whereas the term “portion” refers to the amount an individual chooses to consume (3). Clients should enjoy the food they eat while being mindful of avoiding oversized portions (4). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and, restaurant meals are more than four times larger than they were in the 1950s, perhaps a reason why we are also 26 pounds heavier than we were then (5). Help your clients understand portion control by teaching them how recommended servings are typically defined and what they should look like.
One Serving What it Looks Like
1 cup of cereal flakes Fist
1 pancake 1 compact disc
½ cup of cooked rice, pasta, potato ½ baseball
1 slice of bread 1 cassette tape or 1 compact disc case
1 slice of cornbread 1 bar of soap
1 medium fruit 1 baseball
1 baked potato Fist
1 cup salad greens 1 baseball
½ cup fresh fruit ½ baseball
1 ½ ounces of cheese 4 stacked dice
½ cup of ice cream ½ baseball
1 teaspoon of margarine or spread 1 dice
3 ounces of meat, fish, poultry 1 deck of cards
2 tablespoons of peanut butter 1 ping pong ball
Source: December 2007 Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter


Other Tools
Other lifestyle choices that promote successful weight loss and weight management include creating a food log, being more mindful of your eating, and eating small meals throughout the day. Through small and sustainable diet changes, your clients will be better able to manage their weight and reduce their risk of nutrient deficiency. Encourage your clients to choose permanent lifestyle changes through better diet and eating habits versus extreme dieting. This will ensure that your clients are eating for success. For more tips that you can provide your clients, check out the NASM Fitness Nutrition Specialist (FNS) course.


  1. Insel PM, Ross D, McMahon K, et al. Nutrition. 4th ed. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett; 2011.
  2. Health & Nutrition Letter Special Report: Solving the Portion Puzzle. December 2007. (May 23, 2012).
  3. Keep an Eye on Portion Size: What is the difference between Portions and Servings? National Heart Lung and Blood Institute Web site. Accessed May 23, 2012.
  4. Weight Management: Decrease Portion Sizes. United States Department of Agriculture Web site. Accessed May 23, 2012.
  5. The New (Ab)Normal. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Web Site. May 30, 2012.


About the Author 
Mabel J. Robles MS, CES, PES, NASM-CPT, is the Fitness Content Development Coordinator for the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). Mabel has developed, reviewed, and managed education content, from courses to publication items. She has worked in the health and fitness industry as an occupational and physical therapist’s assistant, a personal trainer, group fitness instructor, and as an education support representative for NASM.

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