Archive | January, 2014

Beware the Meathead!

10 Jan

meathead stash

Oh, I’m just super pissed!

I was at the gym, having just finished training a very hard-working and brave client, and thinking about how lucky I am to be in a position to usher women into healthier habits that could lead to longer and better-lived lives. I was feeling high from watching my client push herself to the limits of her (safe) abilities, seeing the look of utter satisfaction flood her face when she lifted something she was certain was far too heavy for her, and thinking about my place (as a fat and body-positive self-taught 42-year old recovering bulimic) in the fitness industry, an industry with which I am pretty regularly disgusted. I was all aglow with the pleasures of making a living doing something I love so much. It was like a personal trainer’s equivalent of a sexual afterglow.

As I started my own workout, I was thinking about how my personal challenge for that day was to lift the kind of weights that my clients would be proud of, to live up to their expectations of me in the same way they consistently live up to my expectations of them. I was primed and ready to roll. I started grabbing weights to load on to an easy curl bar when this gym meathead I had never seen before interrupted me. He said something vague like, “So, you’re a trainer, huh?” He looked me up and down in that trying-to-be-sly-but-not-at-all-succeeding way that I’ve become fairly used to at this point: it was a clear assessment of my body, and I could see the messaging running through his head. He obviously questioned my authority in the gym and my own ability to maintain a healthy body for myself. After all, I don’t look the part of a trainer: I’m clinically obese, rock a pair of serious sidecars, and lovingly admit that I have so much back that it’s coming up front. So I understood his dubiousness, at the same time I didn’t really feel like entertaining it.

So I answered with something not at all vague but hopefully silencing – “Yep!” – and started to put my headphones on, the international symbol for “I really don’t want to talk with you right now.” As one might expect, Meathead didn’t take the hint. Turns out he wants to become a personal trainer, too, and started picking my brain. He asked lots of questions about my clients, where and how I ”signed” them, how I set their goals, what I do to “make” them lose weight, and what I tell them about nutrition. After a big sigh, I realized I was going to have to entertain Meathead for at least a minute or two.

I explained that I don’t “sign” clients, I work along side them. I also don’t set my clients’ goals, but work with them to determine goals that are appropriate and safe for them to set. I don’t do one damn thing to “make” anybody do anything, let alone lose weight. And since I’m not a nutritional counselor, I talk to my clients about food only when and if they ask me about it – I’m not proactive on that point. He looked dumbfounded about all of this, so I continued on, feeling the whole time like I was talking to a brick wall but still obligated to defend my business philosophy and my clients.

I explained that my clients aren’t really looking for six-pack abs or striated muscles; that’s just not the type of person who seeks out a trainer like me. They aren’t trying to make the weight lifting boards or compete professionally. My clients want to increase their quality of life, and just work from their starting point, whatever that may be. I never impose my own agenda on any of them…because I don’t have an agenda in the first place.

I thought I had been all eloquent in my explanations, and was expecting him to thank me for my time and perspective. But no. Meathead went on to say, “What do you do if they overeat?” I was a bit stunned, and after a moment of silence, I just replied, “Well, since I’m not the food police, and since my clients aren’t required to report their food choices to me, and since I only train adults who are, by virtue of that adulthood, capable of making their own choices, I don’t do anything at all about that.” I went on to explain that while I certainly advocate a healthy diet for all of my clients (and everybody else, for that matter), I also think there’s something to be said for a truly healthy and intuitive relationship with food that allows for occasional unhealthy choices: I want my clients to feel great about eating a piece of birthday cake at a party, or indulging in a decadent meal to celebrate an anniversary, or even just ordering in a pizza once in a while because it just sounds so damn good. His reply was… I can’t even. He said, and I quote:

“If I was a trainer, I would just tell my clients to eat a huge meal, totally pig out, then go home and purge.”



::waiting for the tumbleweed to go rolling past me along the floor::

After picking my jaw up from the floor, I said, quite simply, “I would never, ever suggest that my clients purge. Under any circumstances. EVER.”

He actually asked me why not. So I rounded up all the internal diplomacy I possess and replied, as calmly as possible, “Because I want my clients to develop healthy habits, not dangerous ones. I wouldn’t suggest they purge any more than I would suggest they start smoking. Because I don’t want my clients to die.” I slammed my headphones on my head, grabbed my easy curl bar, and firmly turned my back and walked away.

As I performed my skull crushers, still trying to tap into my clients’ expectations for me, I realized that while my afterglow was clearly destroyed by Meathead over there, he had given me a wonderful gift: a concrete reminder that if the fitness industry is left in the hands of a bunch of body-obsessed, jug-headed, stereotypical and ignorant douchebags like that one, people who are more concerned about what they see in the mirror than what they see in their blood panels, people who will go to ridiculous and potentially deadly lengths to lose that last ounce of unwanted fat, we’re all screwed. If I ever needed the inspiration to double up my efforts to introduce women to kind and appropriate and safe ways to build healthy muscle and develop more loving relationships with their bodies, I certainly got it. Thanks, Meathead!

But God help us all if that douchebag becomes a personal trainer.

Lily-Rygh Glen

meathead archie