Body Image Issues And Why I Stopped Doing Fitness Testing

Recently one of my ladies brought up this study, which led to a conversation about body image during Pilates class. We (I include myself) are a chatty bunch and I do my best to keep my group focused and moving, while allowing them to socialize and have a few laughs. If things get to out of control I throw the hundreds/ criss cross/ scissors combo at them and the room gets real quiet real quick.

Back to the study, which showed that sixty seconds of exposure to either a “plus size” or a skinny model can affect our perception of beauty. See a bigger person and bigger people are more attractive to you. See a skinny model and skinny starts looking good (I am paraphrasing, follow the link above to watch the three minute video). Being aware of how the images we see can affect our perception of beauty may help us (and our daughters) develop a healthy body image.

My legs are strong vs. my butt is jiggly.

As a personal trainer I help my clients establish goals to track their progress. “I want to feel better” is vague. “I want to to fit into this pair of pants by August” is specific and measurable. Prior to 2012 I took all of my clients through fitness tests that included push ups, sit ups and a waist measurement. In 2012 I stopped doing these.

anne waist measurement

Here’s why: My clients had been complaining about the push ups (I nodded, smiled and ignored these complaints) but when they complained about the waist measurements I started asking questions. I found out these tests were not being viewed, as I had hoped, as a benchmark for success. They just made my ladies feel bad about themselves and dread test day – who needs that?

While I have not quit doing these entirely, the tests are no longer standard practice. When a new client comes in we discuss her health history, establish her goals, and our plan of action. When it is appropriate I will offer certain strength and cardio tests which may include stairs, a plank hold or push ups, wall sits or squats, and – if they request it – a waist measurement.

Val Squat 2.13

I want my clients to feel successful. This “success” varies depending each client and each session. One day they may push their limits, cursing and sweating through a grueling workout, the next session may include quiet release work done lying on the floor (which can be just as challenging in a different way).

When my clients leave feeling positive about their bodies I feel successful.

How do you feel about body image and fitness? Let me know in the comments below.

 

Anne McCranie is a Portland, Oregon based personal trainer and Licensed Massage Therapist. She works with her clients one on one and in small groups using a combination of movement + massage to aid in pain relief, stress relief and improve muscle and joint function. Contact her today for your complimentary consultation.

1 Comment

  1. I am fine with being a plus size, and I don’t have any body image problems at all. I just have trouble pulling up my shorts sometimes.

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