Writing this the day after World Suicide Prevention Day seems rather poignant. As much as fitness instructors are fantastic in motivating our clients to achieve the very best they can, we also play a part in destroying people's self-image, confidence and overall mental health. We put ourselves on a pedestal and we expect our clients to be able to do what we do. We say what we want, and not do what they need. We post images of our bodies and that creates a false sense of achievement for people who follow our social media profiles.
We post the glamourous sides of us. That's what social media is. And that creates this false sense of hope and achievement that others want. What they don't see are the health issues that we go through. One personal trainer told me he had issues shitting after his competition because of his diet. I once dieted until I had blood in my stools. Scared the living daylights out of me. These are stories we don't talk about, and you may find it disgusting, but that's part and parcel of "looking good for the Gram."
We prey on people's vulnerabilities. When people come to us for personal training or to attend our class, they come to us in a vulnerable state. They are seeking change. For some, they already find it hard to love themselves. A percentage may have given up hope and are trying to possibly gain some hope from you. Yet we tell them, you're too fat. Or you're too skinny. Or you're not good enough. They come in and some of us start selling them snake oil.
"If I eat this for 7 days, I will lose a lot of weight"; "If I do this workout for 30 days, I will be fit"; "If I buy this supplement, I will become stronger". And when it doesn't work, they blame themselves. "Maybe I didn't do the workout correctly / eat the right amount / buy the right supplements." And it becomes a cycle of never enough. It becomes a cycle of blame. And for some, they hate themselves enough to do harm to themselves.
Unless we are trained, otherwise we are not nutritionists. We are not doctors. We are not anything but fitness instructors. Our job as is to teach people how to move and how to move better. If your clients need such help, we refer them to the respective professions for them to do their job. Our job does not include telling people they are going to die because the BMI says so. We cannot and should never do that. The fact that we as fitness professionals don't even believe in the BMI in the first place. Otherwise all bodybuilders are obese. Stop preying on people's vulnerabilities because you want to make a sale or want to fill an extra slot in your class.
Start teaching people to love themselves. Inculcate in your clients a sense of "I am enough." Let them know that they are worthy. They need to believe in themselves first and then they can choose what their next step is. It is their choice. Not yours. You should be following their lead, not the other way round. Teach them to show up for themselves. Teach them to pick themselves up when they fall. And that it is okay to fall. It is okay to eat ice cream if they want to. It is okay to eat a burger if they want to. Not guilt them into, "if you eat this mooncake you'll need to run for how many minutes."
When people are ready, they will do what is best for them.