More Information on Weight-Inclusive Personal Trainers
Weight-Inclusive Personal Training
Weight-Neutral, Non-Shaming, Non-Discriminatory
WIPT In a Nutshell – a message from WIPT founder.
“Advising someone who it already “overweight” or “obese” to lose weight will make them more unhealthy. This is because the things people need to do to lose weight (control eating and do exercise with weight loss as the goal) WILL lead to more weight gain in the end. Even if we could prove that losing weight was good for the health (which we can’t because people can’t maintain the weight long enough to see) it still would be unethical to advise weight loss because we know it causes weight gain.
Being dissatisfied with the body leads causes harm and worse lifestyle behaviours so it is time to stop pretending that our clients are making lasting progress when we help them to temporary lose weight and face up to the harm we are doing.
A change from weight-centred to a weight-neutral (Health At Every Size) approach is required to move the fitness industry into ethical practice.”
Alison Hall founder of HFI Training, WIPT and Try Freedom Intuitive Eating Counselling and a HAES advocate.
Weight Loss is Unhealthy
Permanent weight loss isn’t possible for 95% of people. These 95% are damaged both physically and mentally by being in the process of negative energy balance. The more times a person has attempted permanent weight loss the less likely they are to succeed. If someone has lost and regained weight once they will be too psychologically affected to lose weight permanently in the future.
These are the damaging effects of the process of restriction to cause “weight loss”:
- Makes you ashamed of your body
- Make you believe it not “working” is your fault (shame)
- Make you think something is “wrong” with you
- Weight gain
- Slows metabolism
- Increases abdominal fat
- Increases cortisol (stress hormone)
- Slow stomach emptying
- Can’t feel physical hunger
- Can’t feel physical fullness
- Weight cycling
- Robs you of one of life’s most pleasurable activities
- Being told to restrict (or exercise) lose weight when this is the cause of your weight gain leads to depression, anxiety and paranoia.
Of the 95% of people who weight loss fails them, each subsequent time they try to lose weight becomes more damaging to their mental and physical health. So, the chances of being in the 5% are totally eliminated after the first try.
The “successful” 5% who maintain their weight loss are also damaged by that process of negative energy balance. To maintain their new weight, they are also paying an enormous price to their mental and physical health. Many of the 5% end up with eating and exercise disorders.
What Causes Larger Bodies?
Let’s just remind ourselves what causes weight gain in the first place:
1) Genetics: Larger body people become higher weight because plain and simple genetics. Their genetic code is one for a larger body. Their genes make them this way. They cannot change your genetic code.
2) Medical Issue: Another reason for someone having a larger body is because of a condition or medication that they are taking. The condition or medication makes them gain weight despite eating normally or increases the appetite beyond control. They cannot change their condition, the medication they are taking, or the added drive the medication leaves them with.
3) PTSD: Weight gain (from compulsive overeating or hormonal changes) due to a trauma they have experience. The brain’s reaction to the trauma makes them this way. Often this cannot be changed and, if it can, it takes years of the right kind of counselling to reverse this.
4) Dieting Damage: The remining reason people become “overweight” is because of the damage done by dieting. As children, they were introduced to dieting by significant adults as a way of “preventing” weight gain. This led them to overeat because restricting the eating causes overeating. Subsequently, they do more restricting and so the overeating worsens. The damage from dieting makes them this way.
Body Size Isn’t the Fault of the Person
All of these causes of larger bodies wasn’t anything the person did or didn’t do and most of the time cannot be changed. There are very valid physical and psychological reasons for weight gain which aren’t to do with lack of willpower or any other “character flaw”.
Science Demonizing Large Bodies is Wrong
We have all heard about the association between obesity worse health outcomes. But association isn’t causation. In other words, when something – like being fat – is shown to be associated with another thing – like increased illness and death – it doesn’t mean that the first thing caused the second thing to happen.
In science, we have to consider the “chicken or the egg” scenario. What came first? For example, did the weight cause the diabetes or did the diabetes cause the weight gain? There is research now to suggest that it’s not weight that causes diabetes but that the person started to get metabolic problems with their cells and their glucose control which caused them to gain weight. And it was only later that they got diagnosed with diabetes when they are already “overweight”. Here the diabetes caused the fatness, not the other way round.
Let’s also look at another thing that might well be causing the decline in health of fat folk.
In science, you have to control for confounding factors. These are things that could be the true cause of the thing you are studying. For example, do larger body people get more illness and death because of the fat on their body or because they received inferior – or non-existent – medical treatment because all their illnesses are blamed on their weight. And when they do go and |try and lose weight” their physical and psychological health is damaged further.
The next candidate for causing the worse health outcomes of larger bodied people rather than the body size itself is “weight stigma.”
Weight stigma is the belief that being in a larger body means that person has lower self-worth than someone in a “normal” sized body. A normal sized body can be thought of as one which is assumed does not cause detrimental effects to the health. Weigh stigma is defined as bias or discriminatory behaviours targeted at “overweight” and “obese” individuals because of their weight.
Weight stigma can come from all kinds of directions. Larger body people being less worthy than others is reinforced from every angle, not least from themselves. The constantly berate themselves because they too belief they are less of a human begin because of their weight. They also experience weight stigma from family, peers, people they meet in the street, the media and the medical profession. This is ill-informed bias and discrimination coming from everywhere and especially from the very people who are meant to be helping them to prevent illnesses, is getting so bad that they are dying from this stigma.
Such social stigmas can span a person’s entire lifetime and infiltrate their whole being.
“I Only Had to Look at Them”
Let’s look at an example, where a person in a larger body visits their G.P. with symptoms of shortness of breath (SOB). The doc takes one look at them (well actually they look only at their weight) and decides they are short of breath because of this. None of the tests, scans and investigations are offered to the “normal” weight person presenting with the same symptom would receive.
The larger body person takes the docs advise and tries to change their lifestyle (diet and exercise) to lose weight. And by doing so makes their overeating worse. It turns out their SOB was due to early stage lung cancer and by the time is was glaringly obvious what the problem was they were diagnosed with stage 4 inoperable lung cancer.
Weight stigma is something else that can easily explain the differences in health outcomes of larger bodied people.
What Feeling Like Crap Does to You
One last example of why being on the receiving end of weight stigma is so bad for your health. Basically, it makes you feel like crap and you are ashamed of your body 24/7. Plus, you blame yourself for it. You ask yourself, how can the medics be wrong? How can the world be wrong when they say losing weight is just a matter of willpower? When you are led to believe something is wrong with you at a basic character level is truly depressing and provokes high levels of anxiety. Stress like this is highly detrimental to your physical and mental health.
When larger body people repeatedly trying to lose weight means that their weight goes up and down. And up and down. The 95% are always trying again and again. The significance of this is that when someone “weight cycles” like this they are more likely to get ill and die sooner. So maybe it’s the weight cycling not the higher weight itself causing the health issues. This is especially interesting when there is also evidence that weight cycling is harmful to health no matter whether the person is “normal” weight or “overweight”. Something to think about for anyone of “normal” weight.
Health At Every Size (HAES)
HAES considers the flaws of the traditional weight/health science and looks at the emerging science about is going on with our health and weight. HAES is a growing trans-disciplinary movement and is gaining popularity. HAES shifts focus from weight management to weight-neutral health promotion. The main aim of HAES is to support improved health behaviours for people of all sizes without using weight as a mediator; weight loss may or may not be a side effect. HAES is synonymous with “non-diet”, “anti-diet”, and an “(genuine) Intuitive Eating” approach.
A review of the six randomized controlled trials comparing HAES to conventions obesity treatment shows that a HAES approach is associated with statistically and clinically relevant improvements in physiological measures (e.g. blood pressure, blood lipids), health behaviours (e.g. physical activity, eating disorder pathology) and psychosocial outcomes (e.g. mood, self-esteem, body image). All studies indicate significant improvements in psychological and behavioural outcomes; improvements in self-esteem and eating behaviours were particularly noteworthy. Four studies additionally measured metabolic risk factors and three of the studies indicated significant improvements in at least some of these parameters, including blood pressure and blood lipids. No studies found adverse changes in any variables.
All of the controlled studies showed retention rate substantially higher than, or, in one instance, as high, as the control group. Given the well documented recidivism typical of weight loss programmes and potential harm that may arise, this aspect is particularly noteworthy.
Another factor worth mentioning is that human race is getting heavier but we are also living longer! Therefore, how can we blame weight for shortening lives when we are living longer lives?
Applying This to The Fitness Industry
Are you ready to rethink and debunk the weight-loss approach of the fitness industry? Can you see outside of diet culture’s “weight loss is good” mantra? Will you be able to work with all clients in a weight-neutral way? Or are you still standing firm in weight-discrimination? If I were are more cynical person. I’d believe the traditional weight-loss scientific studies are being funded by the diet industry somehow. Shock horror.
Power in Numbers
The way to spread the word of inclusion, non-discriminatory, anti-racist* in the fitness industry is to work on healing our own internalised weight-bias. Can you be happy with the body you were born with and concentrate on your own true holistic health? When you understand how damaging “weight control” is to mental and physical health it’s a no-brainer to change tack and join the Weight-Inclusive / HAES movement and tell other people about it too.
Without a systemic change our clients are still going to be bombarded with diet culture and the erroneous belief that “weight control” equal better for health.
*The history behind “thin is best” stems from the early colonization of countries by white northern European people. They decided that a way of elevating themselves in comparison to larger and more robust “savages” they were stealing land from, was to eat differently and to shrink their bodies.
Call for Weight-Inclusive, Non-Shaming, HAES / Personal Trainer Allies
If this is ringing any bells with you own life and the experiences you imagine your clients are having too, please get in touch. I am looking for like-minded – anti-weight stigma, anti-racist, anti-discrimination – personal trainers to help change our industry and the whole world for the better!
Your Own Body Battle
If you are in a battle with your own body (and mind) a great way to immerse yourself in this philosophy is to come for Intuitive Eating counselling yourself. To be able to teach others to live HAES you have to be healed from your own battle with your body. I offer a low-cost plan for those in the fitness industry. Get in touch now if you need help.
I hope to see you on the other side of the diet culture fitness industry to a place where we genuinely can improve the holistic (mind and body) health of our clients.
Continue learning with WIPT. Coming soon Certified Weight-Inclusive Personal Trainer Course.