Addressing Obesity In Others…

I’ll state from the start that I’m less trying to initiate a discussion, than I am sharing the experiences of a career fitness trainer.

Discuss if you wish, but I reserve the right to delete, ignore, and to pass judgment based on my experiences.

As a career fitness trainer, I’ve been privy to discussions on obesity at many levels. My expertise has been sought to advise, to consult, and to help in framing such discussions.  I’ve seen the obesity of others addressed by family, friends, and coworkers from every possible angle.

Hint: these discussions almost never go well, and often have a negative, and even a contrary result on the individual’s behavior in matters of eating and drinking.

In cases where it’s a parent talking to an adult child, a spouse talking to his/her partner, friends talking to friends, or co-workers talking to their contemporaries about the need to lose weight, it can go south very quickly — even if the intentions behind those conversations are good.

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The primary example of such good intentions usually cited is “for reasons of health”. That is, an individual wants to guide another individual towards weight-loss for reasons of improved health. And though that may be the foundation for many of these discussions, it’s my opinion that at the root of them it often relates as much to what the person looks like, as it does to their level of health or wellness.

Even in matters of obesity, human beings have the ability to cleverly mask their prejudice with so-called good intentions.

I have a client who has been with me on-and-off for nearly a decade. He’s approximately 80-lbs overweight. His parents speak to him regularly about the health implications of his obesity.

Though I am certain the parents of this man, who is now 30-years old, do have concerns that relate to his health, he is also the face of the family business. And as the face of that enterprise, I am just as certain that the parents of the young man would prefer he be at an aesthetically more pleasing weight.

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Each time his parents address this with him, they speak in terms of improved health, but often segue into matters of appearance. This can send my client into a depression, and his eating and drinking tendencies often increase. He has confessed this to me.

Did I mention he was not far from a healthy weight when he began working with me…?  The whole reason he became a client was because his parents wanted him to trim down a little for photographs and videos that he would appear in on behalf of their business.

As he resisted and went in the other direction, his parents applied even more pressure, to which he resisted more, and the snowball effect was an 80-pound weight gain over an approximate 4-5 year period.

The pressure from outside, as gentle as it might be, was not always gentle.  For my part, I have tried to do my best to provide him with beneficial workouts, and I’ve encouraged him to eat in support of those workouts.

This is not an isolated case. I have known many like this, too many, and have known of many more.

I once had a client who was a contestant in the Miss Los Angeles pageant. She was in my studio one day with her mother there to photograph the session. Suffice it to say that if you’re a contestant in the Miss Los Angeles pageant, you’re drop-dead gorgeous to begin with, and probably quite fit, despite the very slight muffin top hips.  I was demonstrating an exercise for the young woman when her mother said in a voice loud enough for people in China to hear…

“Look at her, she’s fat!” pointing to the muffin top.

I wanted to hang myself. Instead, I just stood silently, broadcasting the most apologetic look I possibly could toward my client. I was grateful that she wasn’t obese, or she probably would’ve been disowned. And that feeds into my message more than a little bit…

If we have the ability to be judgmental and prejudice over people that we love being 5-lbs overweight, it probably gets much easier for us to be inexcusably judgmental over people we don’t know who might be 100-lbs overweight. Many people I know carry that level of prejudice and more. They put the blame squarely on the shoulders of the individual who is carrying the extra weight.

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No adult who is overweight, be it by 5-lbs or 200, is ever unaware of their situation or caught off-guard by it. Never.

From my perspective, whether a person desires lose 5-lbs or 50, they need cheerleaders, not false natured pundits of change hiding behind the facade of good health. There is no doubt that if I were the only voice in the ears of my weight-loss clients, they would be less likely to push back, even subconsciously, to their own detriment as many do when guided by the so-called voices of love.

By today’s sideways and prejudiced thinking, opioid abusers are now most often seen as full-on victims of doctors, insurance companies, and pharmaceutical companies, while obese people are seen almost exclusively as weak gluttons. This, in my opinion, is not the case.

Though we all do get to make choices about the foods that we put in our bodies, we all exist in ever expanding systems of complexity in which corporations and marketeers work harder than ever, and more intelligently, at leading us into lesser choices.

I can’t go an hour online without somebody putting information in front of me demonstrating how the corporations behind our technology and behind our pharmaceuticals work hard to lead me into being more dependent on their technology and their pharmaceuticals. With that in mind, I can assure you that the corporations behind our food products are working just as hard to get us to eat more, and more frequently.

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Take a good look around in any room, social setting, store, or playground.  Though the temptation may be to blame an individual’s weakness for their excess bodyweight, they are increasingly tempted, if not outright lead into lesser eating choices.  That’s why it’s happening to so many more people with each passing year, myself included. This, all done by companies that make a little more profit with every pound that we gain.

So if you have a concern that a friend, family member, or coworker might be overweight, and you truly are concerned about their health, maybe mention it to them one time, and then let it go. After that, channel your energies toward the ever-changing structures and institutions that have allowed obesity to be on the increase.

Hint: It begins with your vote each November.

Lastly, and I cannot be more clear about this, if you use the word ‘fat’ in any fashion when addressing or describing an individual who might be overweight, that is moral equivalent of using the N-word… Jhciacb

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Lead us not…

Who’s Your Cheerleader…

The standard of what we call fitness has become skewed and distorted. Priorities are misguided, leadership lacks, and followers are not blind so much as they are just subject to a necessary yet almost random faith in an increasingly complex subculture which, in my opinion, is headed in the wrong direction and does not need to be so complex.

I don’t recall where I was or what I was doing when the screaming trainers of reality TV, CrossFit, and Navy Seals became the leading spokespeople for the fitness industry. Respectfully, I get that reality fitness shows may inspire people, CrossFit looks cool, and Navy Seals are good at killing bad guys in difficult situations.

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None of these though, and I mean this emphatically, are helping people who are truly in need of improved fitness, the way those people need to be helped. Nor do I believe they represent sustainable fitness values. They better represent good marketeering, confusion, and conflicting information.

Most people who seek improved physicality need three things in order to achieve change:

1 – A relatable cheerleader

2 – A basic understanding of just a few principles of movement and eating

3 – A schedule of movement and eating to adhere to

When assembled, these three things can serve many more, far more, than a stellar WOD, some bitchin’ before and after pictures, or a screaming trainer in an unsustainable boot-camp workout. Not that anyone is in compliance with these for the long-term anyway, but that’s my point.

It just seems that people are placing their fitness faith on all the wrong shoulders, all the while overlooking some simple principles and not-so-difficult decisions that are much more useful for changing their physicality than the trends, promises, and good marketeering that dominate the fitness culture of today.

From Confucius to confuse us…

It is a 3,000 year old Confucian ideal that we have a responsibility to take care of ourselves on behalf of our families, our employers, and our communities. Society simply functions more efficiently and at a higher level that way. Relinquish our physicality as a collective, and things begin breaking down proportionately as a society.

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This in no way is me being judgmental of those who have lost or decreased their physicality. A quick glance of our culture though, will quickly illuminate a growing disparity. We just have an increasing segment of the population on their way the gym for an unsustainable workout screaming, go big or go home! Yet we have another increasing segment of the population eating moon pies, shooting insulin, and looking for a way out of those behaviors, but looking primarily to the go big or go home set for inspiration. The middle class of fitness is disappearing.

Buddhabuilding: The Middle Path…

At times I have been guilty at being extreme with my personal fitness. Rarely though, unless requested and paid appropriately, have I ever preached or led a client down an extreme or unsustainable exercise path. One of the things that attracted me to the ideal of recreational bodybuilding to begin with is that it’s an old person’s endeavor. Strength training can enhance a quality of life, while also prolonging it, though I see few people or entities teaching strength in moderation these days.

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I would love to see those who don’t exercise do more of it, and eat a little better. I truly believe that would serve our society better. I would also like to see those who lead do a little less screaming, a little less boasting, and be a little more mindful of their leadership. And for those who truly are seeking leadership to help motivate and improve their fitness, I beg you, please let sustainability be the cornerstone term in your search. Be well. rc

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Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this Prine cover from Stu Larsen and The Once. Enjoy…