The Glory of Trial and Error


Written by Alexandra Black MPH, RD, LDN, Health Promotion Manager, IHRSA

The best way to learn something is often simply by doing it. Of course, this usually involves a healthy dose of trial and error. How many quarterbacks do you know who executed a perfect spiral throw on their first try, how many chefs created an award winning meal on the first go around, and how many authors have written the Great American Novel in the first draft?  I would make the argument that the same goes for getting healthy: few people find the diet and exercise habit that works best for them on the first try.

As a dietitian I have heard from plenty of patients and clients (as well as friends) who have tried this diet and that workout regimen, and this meal plan and that fitness class, with little or no results. The problem is, everyone is different and has different needs. Each person has a unique genetic makeup, different life experiences, and varied medical histories that make it nearly impossible to prescribe one great diet or one great fitness plan for all. There are overall patterns of course – most people would benefit from eating more fruits and vegetables, exercising regularly, drinking more water, and getting enough sleep. But none of these patterns help us really hone in on what works best for us in the long term. And, according to research published last year, the best diet is the one you can sustain for the long haul.

This is why trial and error is so important. If there’s no blanket prescription, then we need to figure it out for ourselves. Guidance is important, of course – few people can just “figure it out” without a little help from experts like dietitians, doctors, fitness professionals, etc. IHRSA member clubs know it is very difficult to walk into a health club for the first time and know exactly what to do to get the results you want, which is why they offer personal training, group classes, health promotion programs, and other health and wellness services.

As the trend towards individualized healthcare continues, we’re recognizing that every person is different, and that treating them as such – both in healthcare and in wellness – is often where the real magic happens.