I hate to admit how much time I spend just trying to figure out how to market my services as a fitness professional. I struggle over how to present and promote what I do. How do I convince anyone that having a trainer or coach guide them towards their goals can possibly be valuable?

I am an exercise expert. I am an obesity expert. I have served as the exercise program director for three major weight loss centers over the course of my career as an exercise physiologist. I am a weight loss expert and here’s what I know… trying to lose weight makes you gain weight.

Plain and simple. Diets lead to more pounds gained than lost. Any weight lost initially is almost always regained and in some cases, even more. The greatest predictor for obesity is a history of dieting.

And even more scary.. dieting can lead to an eating disorder. Eating disorders need to be taken seriously and not dismissed as a passing fad or phase. Eating disorders can be fatal and need to be treated by a team of medical and mental health professionals.

So in a society where the majority of people are unhappy with the way their body looks and they are constantly striving to lose weight by one method or another, I find it challenging to promote fitness in a world that is obsessed with thinness. Somehow thin and fit have become synonymous. Thin and fit are not related by cause and effect. They are only related by our perception.

This morning I came across an advertisement that showed a woman in athletic shorts and bra. Her body was nearly perfect in form, very lean and muscular. She was promoting her services as a personal trainer and nutritionist. I found myself extremely agitated and bothered by the ad.

I realized I needed to do a little “self-assessment” to determine why I found her ad to be so offensive. The ad seemed to me to give the message that because her body was perfectly toned, then she would be the best personal trainer to hire. But the ad did not actually say that- it was the message I got from it.

Which got me thinking… when people hire personal trainers are they looking for help and guidance with an exercise program or are they looking for someone to emulate? Are people looking for knowledge and expertise or a certain physique? Would someone be more likely to hire a trainer who was thin or who was overweight? Would someone hire a trainer who was not the ideal body type but who was physically fit?

Then it hit me… image is everything. In advertising, people respond to the image. A picture is worth a thousand words and a thousand words cannot change the minds of the millions of people who are unhappy with their bodies and they want to look like that trainer.

And I realized that those who would seek my services as a personal trainer would not respond well to that image. I know that my clients are intelligent and savvy. My clients want answers and solutions, not perfect physiques. Although I may not agree with that particular trainer’s advertising methods, hers are not the clients I seek. For those who would be offended by her approach or find themselves uncomfortable with that image, those are my clients.

Now that I have had time to explore my reaction to that advertisement, I have gained a better understanding of how to reach out to those who need help that I can give to them. My role is to teach how to move the body in a way that creates balance and symmetry. I help people discover how great it feels when the body moves efficiently and properly. I help people move and feel better, to discover the “joy of fitness” for themselves.

I do have a message to share, however. The size or shape of an individual is not a reflection of his or her character or worth. Everyone has value and it cannot be measured on a scale. Health is not defined by a certain weight or size.

My question to you is… would you hire a personal trainer that looked overweight to you?

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