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In this blog I usually cover technical nutrition and exercise concepts.  However, the subject of this article, while not specifically related to those fields, is just as important to your ability to self-manage your body composition and health.  Applied nutrition is not an easy subject for many people to master if they don’t already have a background in biology, chemistry, and other core sciences.  Many people simply dedicate their life to other things, like business, history, or fine art.  For some, the prospect of understanding the fundamental concepts of nutrition and exercise can seem daunting.  The idea of being able to dynamically apply those principles to their own lives on-the-fly can seem even more alien.  But learning is part of any new experience and becoming truly self-reliant when it comes to nutrition and exercise takes many people a decent period of study and practice.  Luckily, there is a way to speed up the process that benefits not only yourself, but those around you who are in need.  By becoming a teacher to those less experienced than yourself, even as you continue to learn and develop, will allow you to more completely understand the concepts that you are trying to put into action.

Children are fantastic learners for many reasons.  One of their greatest assets in this vein is the unabashed manner in which they ask questions.  It’s the classic game of young children in which every answer from the parent is simply responded to by another iteration of “WHY?”  They are curious (sometimes annoyingly so) and aren’t worried about “looking stupid.”  So they ask questions whenever they need an answer.  Oftentimes, parents with kids of this supremely inquisitive age find that gaps in their own knowledge are unearthed when they can no longer answer the question of “why?”  In much the same way, teaching another adult about nutrition and exercise even as you yourself are a student will shine a light on the limits of your current understanding.

You really never know what questions a student will come up with.  Part of the beauty of learning through teaching is that every person thinks about a subject in a slightly different way.  A problem does not appear identically to all.  When a student becomes confused or has lost the train of logic guiding a discussion, their questions may cause you, the teacher, to reexamine your level of understanding and hopefully dig a bit deeper into the fundamental concepts underlying the subject at hand.  Through this process of learning, teaching, questioning, and investigating, you will become an ever-improving master of your science.  Always remain humble and open to questions posed to you.  Discovering that you don’t know the answer can allow you the opportunity to improve yourself.

While taking on the role of teacher can indeed make you a better student, it’s always important to remember Spiderman’s Uncle Ben when he said, “With great power comes great responsibility.”  As one trusted to provide an education of sorts, it’s imperative that you don’t overstep the bounds of your current knowledge.  Never be afraid to say, “I don’t know.”  The worst insult to a trusting student is a lie.  When you come upon a question for which you don’t have a surefire answer, simply respond that you’ll have to look it up and report back.  There’s nothing wrong with not knowing.  The only mistake is pretending that you do.  In the end, people respect honesty above almost anything else.  Be honest with yourself and those around you and in time you will become not only a knowledgeable practitioner but an excellent teacher, as well.

Taking a student under your wing, even as you continue to learn and develop, can benefit both you and those you choose to help.  They gain the benefit of your knowledge and you are forced to deeply examine the true depths of your understanding.  Explaining from the ground up the concepts that you are trying to master can show where your knowledge is weak, allowing you to address these holes and become more informed.  Above all, don’t be afraid to admit ignorance.  It’s simply an opportunity for everyone to learn something new.

 


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    Rob Bent is the founder and lead nutrition counselor at Nutrition Perfected.  He is a multi-sport athlete and works constantly to maximize sports performance through scientifically-guided nutritional optimization.

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