What Message are we Inadvertently Endorsing by Accepting Weight Loss as a “Goal”?

So this was an interesting moment for me as both a Personal Trainer and an coach for Personal Trainers… and i have pondered it off and on ever since.

At one of my 2018 courses there was a PT and Nutritionist who objected to acknowledging fat loss as a goal in the Post Natal period. She was vehemently (in a nice way) against validating fat loss as something we exercise for, because of the message we are subscribing to is the only reason to exercise is to look good, or that being skinny will miraculously make you happy. She objected to the idea that happiness and self esteem is tied to a number on the scales, or that fat loss was even a priority for the Post Natal woman.

Now we know at IntoYou that we are about improving mental health, improving community and social ties, and making exercise FUN. However we also listen to you when you say that you want to lose weight. While we will refuse to endorse weight loss under the “healthy” weight range, we are amenable to fat loss as a goal for people who are overweight or on the borderline.

It is an interesting quandary.

The crew in Adelaide who have got me thinking!

By accepting that someone wants to lose weight when they come to the gym, are we endorsing the misconception that to be happy, to be of value to the community, you have to be skinny? Or by  NOT accepting this goal are we devaluing, or dismissing their feelings and wishes?

It’s a fact that most of the women who enquire at our gym in the post natal period tick “fat loss” as their goal. So the question has to be WHY. Do they choose fat loss because they don’t know why else you would come to a personal trainer? Or because they believe it’s the only goal worth pursuing? Or because they think weight loss will make them happy, more valuable, feel better about themselves? Once we understand the why, we can then address their ideas and/or misconceptions about the whole fat loss = self value conundrum. After all, even if weight loss is an important part of the client’s health journey (perhaps if they are overweight) we have to separate the idea that they’re somehow worth more if they’re skinny.

We use Styling at IntoYou to help clients see what they like about themselves, not what they hate.

So here are my ideas that we could influence our “fat loss” clients to embrace their lifestyles, right now, rather than focusing on a  number on the scales:

  • Focus on learning how to FEEL good: right here, right now. it’s actually possible that your client will be MORE successful in their fat loss journey if they achieve self-acceptance as they are now*. Techniques to achieve this include psychotherapy, mindfulness and gratefulness practise, in at our gym, we use styling!
  • Focus on noticing the changes in your energy and vitality: this might be as simple as a 1-10 answer to a “how do you feel” question, before and after exercise, and over time.
  • Focus on the good stuff: this is where styling helps our clients so much. If they focus on highlighting what they like, they don’t see the bad anymore! This works in a variety of circumstances outside of styling too, like acknowledging your wonderful family, your job that you love, and your house and lifestyle.
  • Stop comparing yourself to others: this is well and good in theory, but it’s a fact that those 6-packed, bikini clad fitness models have thousands more followers that us ordinary folk! If you’re going to compare, compare yourself to the guy that broke his neck playing rugby at 15 years old, or the 30 year old mum with a Grade 3 Brain Tumour, or the mum who’s properly incontinent, or the child born with cerebral palsy. Can you see how f*&king lucky you are now??? These people overcome such incredible odds, to live fantastic lives, and so can WE! Who gives a sh*t about your six-pack in these circumstances?
  • Focus on changes to what you CAN do: how much heavier do you lift nowadays? How much further can you run? How much less do you leak when you exercise? How often do you participate in your kids activities with them now? These are meaningful goals. These are meaningful, and life-changing outcomes. After all, lifting a child when you’re strong is easy! Lifting a child when you’re weak on the other hand… is not.
  • Focus on eating whole, healthy foods and how they make you feel: don’t feel like you’re “missing out” on the sweets and treats. You can literally eat those foods anytime, you just choose not to, today anyway. Every apple you consume is a win. Every piece of celery is more nutrition and a step in the right direction. Every handful of raw almonds delivers insides-improving nutrients.
  • Set goals that challenge and change you: This is what our overseas adventures and outdoor training programs are for! Programs like these help you overcome real adversity, discomfort, nerves, fear and show YOU what you’re capable of.

Some of our Hike Nepal crew in 2017

For more on teaching clients to be satisfied with their bodies, please see our course series How to be Satisfied With Your Body.

I’d be interested in your feedback on this issue! Feel free to comment below or email me clare@into-you.com.au

 

*Michael L. Slepian, Simon N. Ferber, Joshua M. Gold, and Abraham M. Rutchick The Cognitive Consequences of Formal Clothing Social Psychological & Personality Science 2015, Vol. 6(6) 661-668
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