An open letter to a narrow minded PT

Dear Mr Personal Trainer,

Today I saw your Facebook post about the sales assistant in the plus size retailer Yours and your response. For those who didn’t see it, here it is:

I just wanted to let you know that I think you (and possibly) the sales assistant are making assumptions about the people who shop at Yours and fat women in general. I’m a size 26-28 and as you so kindly put it: “so fat I need to go to a special shop” and apparently an abnormal size from your perspective. I’m also currently training to be a fitness instructor, after spending the last 5 or so years feeling out of place at the gym because of people like you and the Yours sales assistant making judgements about me, my body and my “progress”. I am still a size 26-28 after 5 years of regular high-intensity exercise, making progress and feeling my personal “gains” – personally, I am not there to lose weight! I completely agree with your closing paragraph about the benefits of exercise beyond the physical. You and I both know, through our training as exercise professionals that total fitness is made up of a number of factors, which impact on each other. Perhaps you remember these from your own studies:

Finding the right balance across these factors is an important part of fitness and finding a joy in exercise. Comments like the ones you made in your post and the constant obsession with weightloss amongst most fitness professionals have a negative impact on my emotional, social and spiritual fitness. For someone with less confidence or motivation to exercise, your words could cause significant damage or actually prevent someone from considering exercise as an option for them. The fear of judgement – particularly from an instructor – is a barrier to exercise for so many. So nice work there! Not everyone wants to exercise, but whether someone chooses to exercise or not, an individual should be able to do so without this kind of judgement!

In answer to your question – yes, it is OK to be fat. Being fat is not the single worst thing a human can be. Striving for health, beauty or taking up less space is not the only way to have worth as a human or the only route to self-acceptance or happiness. I wonder if you’d have had a similar scathing tone about your potential customers if the shop had sold straight (or “normal” as you so eloquently put it) size clothes or if you’d have targeted an old people’s home (there are benefits for the elderly to engage in exercise but you don’t see social media being quite so hard on them to get moving!).

What I’m trying to say here is perhaps the woman in the clothes shop was wrong to make the judgement she made about her customers – assuming you have quoted her accurately. Or perhaps (as the lovely Kathryn pointed out) she was doing the right thing by creating a safe place for her customers, free from judgement and unsolicited advertising about a product and industry that perpetuates the myth that weightloss is the key to happiness. Perhaps she just didn’t like you or the gym you promoted – maybe she too has had a negative experience at the hands of a judgemental fitness bod?!. But you were certainly wrong – your reasons for challenging her decision and your sweeping judgements about fat women are unhelpful and inaccurate. They also go against your own training.

Fat women (in fact most women) don’t want to be shamed into going to the gym. The ones who want to exercise want to feel comfortable, encouraged and welcomed. They want to have fun!

So next time, please think before you speak. And like my Mam always told me – if you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say anything at all!