At first, most people think that having access to lots of information about getting in shape is a good thing.
It’s usually not too long before they realize that it isn’t.
One day saturated fat is bad for you… then it’s good for you… then it’s bad for you again.
A guy with a physique like the Farnese Hercules tells you that steady-state cardio is essential for weight loss, and shows you the research to prove it.
Then someone else with an equally impressive physique and equally long list of studies says that it’s the biggest waste of time since the “fly episode” in Breaking Bad.
It seems like science can never make up its mind one way or the other.
All of which makes it extremely difficult to know right from wrong.
So what can you do about it?
Other Opinions Are Available
First, acknowledge the fact that different opinions are going to exist.
If you’re currently waiting around for everyone to agree on everything before making a decision about what to eat and how to exercise, you’re going to be waiting an awfully long time.
You may hold different opinions to the ones you held 10 years ago. Your future self may disagree with opinions you hold right now.
So if you can’t even agree with yourself, the chances of everyone in the diet and exercise “space” agreeing with each other are pretty slim.
Even top researchers and scientists, all with equally large brains and access to the same data, will interpret that data in different ways.
All of this is a good thing, and here’s why.
Different opinions mean that people on both sides of a debate have to “up their game” in order to strengthen their case.
Each side pushes the other forward, which helps to raise the quality of evidence. Over time, we come up with progressively better approximations of how things really are.
Keep The Door Open To Doubt
“The very foundation of science is to keep the door open to doubt,” says French physicist Carlo Rovelli.
“Precisely because we keep questioning everything, especially our own premises, we are always ready to improve our knowledge. Therefore a good scientist is never certain.
“Lack of certainty is precisely what makes conclusions more reliable than the conclusions of those who are certain, because the good scientist will be ready to shift to a different point of view if better evidence or novel arguments emerge.”
Only a small number of authors, coaches and scientists are worth listening to. They are always willing to revise and refine their opinions in light of new data.
Look For Common Ground
Next, look for common ground and convergence rather than conflict.
To help me explain what I mean by this, I’m going to enlist the help of a long-dead Italian economist by the name of Vilfredo Pareto.
Over a century ago, Pareto gathered data on wealth and income from many different countries through many different periods in history.
What he found was a principle that seemed to hold true no matter what the country – around 20% of the people controlled about 80% of the wealth.
This has come to be called the Pareto Principle, the 80-20 Rule or the law of the vital few and the trivial many. What it says is that 80% of results, rewards, or outputs are generated by 20% of causes, efforts, or inputs.
For example, 80% of the visitors to this website go to 20% of the pages… 20% of criminals account for 80% of all crime… 20% of your friends are responsible for 80% of the crap on your Facebook page… and so on.
The numbers don’t always come out to 80 and 20. Nor do they always add up to 100. But it’s rarely the case that 50% of causes lead to 50% of results.
In short, the relationship between input and output is not always a balanced one, and a small number of causes are usually responsible for a large percentage of the effect.
What does all of this have to do with diet and exercise?
Getting in shape requires that you do a few simple things right, do them consistently and avoid big mistakes.
Rather than getting frustrated and confused by the areas where people differ in their views, look for the “few simple things” that most experts agree on.
That relatively small number of things will be responsible for the majority of your results.
Focus your time and energy on those things, and just ignore the rest.
SEE ALSO: THE FLAT BELLY CHEAT SHEET
If you want less flab and more muscle when you look down at your abs (or where they should be), check out The Flat Belly Cheat Sheet.
It's a “cut the waffle and just tell me what to do” PDF, written in plain English, that tells you exactly how to get rid of belly fat. To download a free copy please click or tap here.
ABOUT CHRISTIAN FINNChristian Finn holds a master's degree with distinction in exercise science, is a former personal trainer and has been featured on BBC TV and radio, as well as in Men's Health, Men's Fitness, Fit Pro, Zest, and Perfect Body magazine.