Dealing with the body image dilemma

It is no surprise to the clients I work with how I feel about the 'societal norms' both men and women are being faced with and being told what is attractive, strong, fit, pleasing to their partners etc. It is something that so often in the past I have myself battled with and emotionally it takes its toll. I don't have all of the answers but I do believe that as a society, as individuals and as coaches within the Fitness Industry we need to be asking how do we deal with unrealistic, unsuitable or unsafe body image goals. 

There is NO right or wrong body type when it comes to being fit and strong and to judge an individual on their appearance especially in what is supposed to be a 'safe' environment (the gym) is honestly something that just sends me over the edge. 

As individuals we are all built differently and of course there are some important health considerations when we are working with clients in setting goals, establishing their training programs and possibly even referring to specialised providers however, not everyone needs to be on some 8 week 'shred' or any sort of weightless program. It is important to recognise that a body weight or body fat % that is healthy for one person will not necessarily be healthy for another person and a continuous focus on this just adds to that vicious cycle of fuelling a service based insecurities. 

Fat or weight loss is most certainly a valid goal and to some extent a lot of my clients do have a goal along these lines however, I am also extremely transparent with my clients and educate that this number is quite literally just a number and we focus on strength training, building endurance, cardiovascular capacity, speed and agility - we revisit this number only ONCE every 12 weeks. Of course, if a client does need to lose body fat to be at a healthy weight range we do approach this differently but do not encourage them based on their insecurities. Slowly this number does not become the sole reason for training - I have found in the past when we base a training program on someone's insecurities it is simply not sustainable, and worst of all the client often comes out of it all with another insecurity because they had done nothing but pick themselves apart for the weeks prior to check in. 

I am all for challenges and getting clients to work within timeframes, as I said our programs are on a 12 week training cycle and timeframes are an essential component of a goal. I do think however, that making fat loss the promise of happiness is dangerous business - fat loss is simply another benefit of movement, strength training and a healthy lifestyle. I'd like to see the fitness industry step up promote fat loss for what it is and not pretending that being a certain size, weight or body fat % is the root of all happiness. 

Just my opinion - always open to hearing the opinion of others. 


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