There’s a new show on A&E called ‘Fit to Fat to Fit.’ On the show personal trainers are challenged to gain a significant amount of weight over the course of four months, they then work with a client to lose weight along with them.
The thought behind the show is that trainers don’t know what it’s like to be overweight, they don’t understand the daily challenges people who are trying to lose weight face and therefore aren’t able to empathize with the weight loss process.
Clients on the show repeatedly say that fit people, especially trainers, think that overweight people are just too lazy or aren’t committed to the process of getting healthy.
I’ve watched several episodes of the show and it’s caused me to take a long hard look at myself as a trainer. Do I lack empathy? Do I judge clients about their commitment to change?
And to both those questions I can confidently answer, ‘No!’ I can and do empathize with the challenges of healthy living because I struggle with them myself.
In my youth I played sports and was very active. But once organized sports were no longer part of my routine, exercise wasn’t necessarily a priority. However, youth was still on my side so while I maintained a relatively healthy diet, I pretty much ate and drank whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted it. Pizza? Sure! Ice cream? Two scoops with extra toppings please. Beer? The most full-bodied on you have!
Fast forward a few years to when I started to have children. Like most pregnant women I had cravings. But my downfall was I was happy to indulge in all of them! I would even slouch in front of the tv and use my belly as a table to hold my snacks. The most exercise I got when I was pregnant was during those last couple weeks when I was trying to urge the baby out of me! I don’t think all of the shopping in my adult life can equate to the number of mall laps we did in anticipation of our three children.
We were one day away from having three children under three years old. My first two were 22 months apart, so I had a fair amount of time to slim in between them. I exercised moderately and tried to be a little better about my diet. Unfortunately, I had developed some really bad eating habits that weren’t quick to overcome. My second two children were 14 months apart. The math makes it pretty easy to figure out my body didn’t have much time to bounce back between number two and three.
I was a working mom of three small children. The days were long, the nights were extremely short and meals were often planned around what would be the quickest and cheapest way to feed everyone. We consumed a lot of pizza and a ridiculous amount of fast food.
Between lack of sleep, poor diet and lack of physical movement I was exhausted and unhealthy.
I dreaded the mirror…
I dreaded wearing anything but sweatpants (this was before the big Yoga pant movement)…
I dreaded meal time because it meant I would have to make hard choices…
I dreaded the little amount of down time I had because I didn’t want to fill it with being a couch potato while eating potato chips…
I dreaded exercise because it was so hard…
I dreaded the alarm clock because it was the start to another day that I was afraid to fail at…
I realized that while I had everything in the world I had ever wanted, a loving husband, three healthy children, supportive family and friends, and a budding career, I was living a life of dread and regret. I regretted the choices that turned me into a person full of dread.
I realized it was time to make different choices. So I started by using nap time as MY time instead of hyperdrive time for getting things done for work and the house. I found some Jillian Michaels DVD workouts that were only 30 minutes long. Each one had a different focus and required very little equipment. I can remember those 30 minutes being the longest part of my day. But each day got a little easier and it wasn’t long before I was shopping for slightly heavier dumbbells.
While I started with exercise, I have to admit I didn’t do a whole lot to change my diet. I still had cravings for junk and often gave in to them. So of course I wasn’t seeing the results I was looking for. Sure I was getting stronger but the scale didn’t reflect much of a change.
Naturally, my next step was to start looking for that magical diet. You name the diet or cleanse and I probably tried it. Who doesn’t want to lose 10 pounds in a week, right?
The problem is none of those things worked for me long term. I could stick with them for a period of time but always found myself reverting back to old habits.
I cycled myself through a variety of eating plans and exercise programs for about 5 years. I learned a lot about myself and my faults, I learned how to test my limits and when to recognize I was giving up, I learned there were no quick fixes and no matter how hard I tried, my willpower would always be tested.
In 2010 I studied to become a personal trainer because I wanted to be a part of helping others along their journey to better health. Unlike many trainers, I’ve lived out unhealthy habits and learned tools for overcoming them.
Do I still have cravings? Absolutely. Do I have days that I’m too busy or tired to work out? Of course, I’m human.
But over time I’ve developed tools to help me overcome the cravings and excuses. Do they work every time? No. Not every day is perfect. But I have more days that I overcome than fail.
As I trainer I work with my clients to discover their tools for change. There isn’t any one magical formula. Each person has to determine what this equation means to them:
Exercise + Eating Lifestyle = Healthy Living
Exercise needs to be something you enjoy or you will find excuse after excuse to skip it. As a trainer and fitness instructor I make time for my own workouts as well. Some days it’s boxing, other days it’s lifting heavy weights and sometimes it’s a good old fashioned run. At the beginning of the week I schedule when I will get in my own workouts so there’s no excuses.
Your eating lifestyle has to be filled with things that you enjoy or before long your cravings will win the battle. I’ve found strict meal plans just don’t work for me. I get overwhelmed and give up all together. So each week I plan my meals based on the healthy protein I want to eat that week. I cycle through chicken, salmon, turkey, eggs, and tuna. For others using meals plans is the perfect solution because it keeps them accountable.
So do I understand the struggles? I sure do.
But I also understand the things that work for me aren’t what works for everyone. As a trainer it’s my job to help you discover what works for you and empower you to own the choices that will lead you to healthier living.
I’m not going to gain weight just to lose it with my clients to prove I understand the struggle. I know the struggle is real and every day is filled with challenges. But the more you are equipped with personal tools to help you face those challenges the more success you will achieve.