Dear Straight-Size Trainer,
First of all, I’m going to explain that to be straight-size is to be the opposite of plus-size or fat. You are probably what people think of when they picture a trainer in their head. Thin and/or ripped, no second thought given to working out without your shirt on, you’re what everyone wishes they looked like.
I want to be your friend. I think we make great allies, and I want you on my side. I want to tell you something though, and I don’t want you to take it the wrong way.
Fat people don’t need to be saved.
I know, I know. You might have been fat once. You might specialize in weight loss or have a passion for solving the “obesity crisis” whatever that is supposed to mean. I see it in trainers everywhere. They see fat people and all of a sudden develop this savior complex.
My friend Michelle and I were talking about this the other day after a post popped up in a group for trainers we are both in. We are also both “bigger” or fat. By the way, fat is not a derogatory word. It is just a descriptor. I am 5’5” and weigh 200 pounds and am a size 14. I describe myself as big because I’m not quite plus-size but Michelle does describe herself as fat, as do many other plus-size trainers. Whatever we call ourselves or what our clients call themselves, we, as fat people, don’t need saving.
If often takes us a long time to develop the type of body positivity where we believe that we don’t need to be saved. That we can be healthy at whatever size we are. That we are more than our bodies and that our bodies are the least interesting thing about us. We have often read and researched and learned about the impact of habits vs. weight loss on health and while we know that BMI (a flawed measurement system) tells us we are at a higher risk of certain diseases, we also know that our other health markers (blood pressure, blood sugar levels, resting heart rate, etc.) tell us more about our health than our weight does. This brings me to my next point:
Good fatty vs. bad fatty
I posted a video of me doing rack pulls in the aforementioned Facebook thread and was assured that since I am active, of course a trainer wouldn’t bother me about my weight. Why? Because I’m healthy and active, apparently. But if you know me you’d know that I struggle with several chronic illnesses and only continue to lift through sheer determination to continue doing what I love. The assumption may be that if I lost weight I might be healthier, but I’ve been like this at every single size I’ve ever been. My health is not dependent on my size.
This makes me a good fatty, rather than a bad fatty who doesn’t exercise or eat well or _________ (insert some judgment on their health). The bottom line is that fat people shouldn’t have to prove that they are worthy of respect by demonstrating fitness to people they don’t know. I like to share videos of me doing things like that because I am proud of it and I want other big people to know they can do what they want. Others should be free of judgment whether they demonstrate fitness or not, because they are people and people deserve respect.
Now, all of this is not to say that I am against weight loss. If you want to lose weight, if a client of yours wants to lose weight, if your cat needs to lose weight, super. You do you, you help them, I help people do that too. The difference is that I’m not trying to save them. As Michelle pointed out in her own post about this in the trainer group, fat people know they’re fat. You know when you have to shop in the plus-size store or when fat is getting in the way of doing things or when you start struggling to get up several flights of stairs. We know, they know, everyone is aware. If you want to help people, stop thinking of yourself as their savior. You aren’t the solution to the problems you perceive them to have. We don’t need you to save us. And if you have a client come to you and they want to lose weight, approach it from a place of compassion. Approach it from a place of body neutrality, where we can change our habits and begin exercising and eating more nutritious foods and still reap the benefits thereof even if we don’t lose weight. Because that is scientifically backed. Weight loss through restriction isn’t.
Michelle listed some resources for people to look at and here they are:
Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon
Intuitive Eating by Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole
Big Fit Girl by Louise Green
Hungry for Happiness by Samantha Skelly
Body Kindness by Rebecca Scritchfield
I know it may be uncomfortable for you to be confronted with the idea that fat people don’t want to be changed or that they don’t need you to tell them they need to change. They really don’t need you to save them. I’m asking that you sit with that idea and try to see it from their perspective. In the end, the productive conversation is not the one about how we can get fat people to see what they need us. The productive conversation is one that teaches you how to be more accepting, client-centered, and inclusive in your approach so that you can help as many clients reach their goals as possible.
Please visit Michelle at her Facebook page and her website, www.coachsparkles.com. And if you have any comments or questions, please leave them here, or message me through this site or my Facebook page.
Thank you for reading!