TOXIC FITNESS, WHO IS PT DICK?

PT Dick represents the toxic side of the fitness industry. He is not based on one particular person.

I have had my fair share of dealing with Dicks over the years (keep it clean please).

I listened to everything they were telling me about my body. That I need to ‘STRIP THE FAT.’ That I would never be taken seriously as a fitness professional unless I lost a lot more weight…

This is the thing with fitness professionals, we seem to put them on a pedestal, because so many promise so much. They seem to have the one thing that we all think we want and have been conditioned to believe we need;

THE ‘cure’ to fatness….

But is there really a cure to fatness? And how is this narrative affecting us? That, my fabulous friend, is discussed in another blog (published soon).

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The arrogance that then comes with this pedestal just means they carry on being, well, a Dick. Or where they a Dick before the pedestal? Your classic chicken and egg scenario. Although we know in this case who comes first….

Anyway I digress…

So whenever I post or talk about this character it is me proving that what they say about fitness having a look is BS!

It is proving it to myself as much as it is to you that we can be fit and healthy while still being in a larger body. But it also is proving that there is NO MORAL VALUE TO HEALTH.

People are deserving of respect NO MATTER WHAT BODY THEY ARE IN.

And, I hate to break it to you, PT Dick, we are not all supposed to be one size.

sports equipment of top of marble surface

The thing is though, a lot (maybe a lot, maybe some, maybe very few, who knows?) of fitness professionals are not intentional Dicks.

cheerful black woman smiling and training in gym. Fitness does not have to be toxic

But why are they Dicks?

Understanding this can help with Body Image, because it helps realise that often it is not actually personal, it is due to what they know, what they have been taught, and their own cognitive bias.

Studying Personal Training really opened my eyes to where a lot of the weight stigma in the fitness industry comes from. The course that I took to qualify as a Fitness Professional is ran by one of the leading training providers for Personal Trainers, Nutrition Advisers and Pilates Instructors in the UK. It gave me all the qualifications I need….

but the knowledge of how to actually work with people in larger bodies? Not so much. Luckily I have first hand experience of that myself!

On the Nutrition and Weight Management module (I had to take to pass 🙄) it relates ‘ob*sity’ being due to laziness.

It says; “(there is) a significant positive correlation between increased inactivity and increased rate of obesity through each of the past 5 decades. In other words, as inactivity increased through increased car ownership and increased hours in front of the TV, the rate of obesity also increased at a similar rate.”

And thats it – thats all. It doesn’t mention anything else about ‘ob*sity’ in terms of what other factors could come into play. It clearly blames it on laziness. This attitude is a reoccurring theme throughout. This is quite disturbing. This is possibly one of the main reasons you get toxic PTs that fat shame, like the lovely PT Dick.

This correlation between being fat and lazy is a very easy, obvious assumptions to make though, but quite ironically a lazy one too.

The thing is, the writers of this course (and society as a whole really) are influenced by very narrow information with fails to go into the bigger picture.

cable wire wrapped on a person s body

Having this view can reinforce shame rather than take it away. It is not actually entirely clear (and so therefore not entirely accurate) that the changes in culture have led to larger bodies. There are so many factors to consider here. 

One explanation could be due to the fact that the worry about changes in our lifestyle led to diet culture.

We do know that dieting tends to drive peoples body size up over time.

This shift in lifestyle took route in the mid 1800s, more than 150 years ago. Well before arguments about an “ob*sity epidemic” came on the scene. Which was only exposed around 25 years ago after fatness had been demonised so heavily in society. And people had been dieting for over 100 years

If the average body size has crept up it probably also has a lot to do with diet culture. This and the pressure to shrink ourselves. The shift in lifestyle having some part to play in some scenarios.

So creating messages like this, for personal trainers, to then go out and add to diet culture is actually adding to the ‘problem’.

Note fatness is not a problem.

But more importantly it is just attacking peoples self esteem.

Much more education is clearly needed. A deep level of understanding on both sides of the argument is needed before anyone can go out and advise on health.

People have been worrying about sedentary lifestyles right from when industrialisation began, as Christy Harrison says

It isn’t neutral to say that sedentary work and convenient food cause more people to be in larger bodies. That argument comes with baggage.

woman thinking what to eat

Often then people hear this basic narrative about fat and health, panic and go on a diet. Attitudes like this are often just triggers for dieting behaviours which can be more harmful to people.

These narratives can trigger shame for clients when they are coming to the PTs for the complete opposite; to feel better about themselves. 

Things are not just black and white. Human behaviour is complex and we are all so unique and so often simple explanations are not explanations at all. They are narrow views / beliefs based on societies or an individuals cognitive bias.

Cognitive Bias is something I will also discuss in another blog.

My Definition of a Toxic Fitness Professional

I have used this term ‘Toxic Fitness Professional’ a few times now in various places. On a recent podcast I got asked what I mean by this so I thought I would explain. When I relate to a fitness professional as toxic I mean that it is an individual that works in the health and fitness industry that has views and behaviours that align with diet culture. Someone who;

  • Equates thinness to health and moral value
  • Promotes weight loss as a means of attaining higher status,
  • Demonises certain ways of eating while elevating others
  • Oppresses people who don’t match up with its supposed picture of “health,”

Adapted from Christy Harrison’s amazing definition of Diet Culture.

And so the weight stigma carries on because of attitudes like this.

This is worrying in an industry that is supposed to be about making people feel happier about themselves and healthier. The way our culture seems to work is to expect and to accept that dieting and body hatred is normal. Toxic fitness professionals along with diet culture tend to use this body hatred as a way of “motivating” you.

The problem here is that shame backfires.

Your Body Is Not The Problem⁠. It body is not flawed.
YOUR BODY IS GOOD ENOUGH.
Add some sass to your hot drinks with this sexy little mug.

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  1. That insight into the PT training material is unnerving! It explains a few things 😬 …but sadly, a Dick is still a Dick 🤷🏻‍♀️