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Is it Motivation or Bullying?

As a personal trainer, I have to present myself as an expert in the fitness field and maintain a high level of professionalism when talking with my clients. One of the things that I have to remain conscious about is my word choice when discussing things related to weight loss because I do not want to offend them since that usually results in a loss of credibility in my clients’ eyes; this is particularly dicey when it is a brand new client whom I am still in the process of getting to know.

The main thing is that subjects, such as body weight, are very sensitive issues, so one has to be smart when approaching it. A few days ago, I listened to a commentator dispelling vitriol as a guest on a popular podcast with immature name-calling towards overweight women and JC Penney for “encouraging being overweight”. While I question the sincerity in JC Penney’s true convictions in their promotion concerning overweight people, but I agree that all persons, including those that are overweight or obese, ought to be respected, just as people of different races, ethnicities, religions, etc., deserve respect.

Obviously, resorting to name-calling and ridicule is an extreme that no personal trainer in the right mind would resort to; also, in my opinion, an overly sensitive culture can be just as dangerous. Just as being extremely skinny is horrible for anybody, so is being extremely obese since both carry substantial health risks that may be life threatening.

Recently, particularly in the last couple of months, there has been a growing belief that “not succumbing to political correctness”, “keeping it real”, “telling it like it is”, “being honest”, etc., present an open door that permits rude comments. This, I believe, is highly naïve. To go up to an obese family at Pizza Hut and criticizing them for their poor eating habits is unproductive and merely an opportunity for one’s perceived self-depiction as the superior at the cost of belittling others. In fact, in my experience, I have noticed that those who are most judgmental are often the most sensitive when they find themselves on the receiving end of comments.

As a health expert, does this mean I am not opposed to seeing people at unhealthy states to make less than healthy food choices? Not only do I not like to see these folks walking into fast food restaurants, but I also dislike seeing anybody, including super athletes, walking into such establishments (unless it is their designated cheat meal, which I have written about before).

It is common knowledge that nobody likes to be ridiculed for any reason, and those expressing their vitriol towards others know this, as well. For this reason, I have to remain highly cognizant about this when talking about weight loss with anybody, and not just my clients. Nevertheless, I am not a fan of handling things with “kid gloves”. When it comes to discussing being overweight, I choose to explain the risks with scientifically proven evidence and offer solutions that can help one lose weight in a healthy fashion, thereby, reducing potential health risks. By presenting scientifically validated information, I am able to share my opinions and concerns without damaging my credibility as an expert by offending the other person. Also, one of the nice things about my job is interacting with others, which means that I get to joke around, quite a bit. One of the things about telling jokes deemed risqué is that it is best to do it with an audience you know well, as opposed to someone you just met.

In the end, my advice is simple-- just be nice. There are ways to help people get in better shape that do not include being overtly rude. “Keeping it real” should not be perceived as the legitimization of belittling those more vulnerable than you because it lacks any real benefit. Recall your favorite teacher in grade school: did he/she call you a “moron” or “idiot” because you answered a question incorrectly. Probably not; instead, that teacher approached the issue through a different route that guided you to the correct answer, without making you feel dumb. The same approach applies for guiding individuals that overweight or obese. Meanwhile, if you find yourself on the receiving end, use negative comments as motivation. Power is surrendered to the vitriolic party by allowing yourself to be offended by their comments— much like a barking Chihuahua, ignore them, walk away and, eventually, they will shut up. I like to have a realistic view of the world, with a hint of optimism; one where most of those around us are good, but maintaining awareness that there are a few bad apples. Keep the good folks close and don’t pay attention to the bad ones.

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