Last night I had the opportunity to sit down and watch ‘Fat and Back’, which is a documentary about international model turned personal trainer, PJ. He came up with the idea of living a sedentary lifestyle for six months and eating everything and anything his little heart desired in order to gain 40 kilos. His goal was to be able to gain in knowledge of how come he has so many clients that come to the gym for personal training, but then drop off. He wanted to experience being overweight in order to get his overweight clients experience, so that he would be a better personal trainer to these clients. The entire reason he started this journey was because he called a client, who missed several appointments and he said to his client, “Listen! If you just follow my program for four months you will be where you need to be!” and his client responded, “if you did what I do for six months you would see why I can’t!”
The documentary goes through PJ’s experience of gaining the weight over this suggested six month period of time, in order to then turn around and start to lose the weight gained, along with being a personal trainer to an overweight client, with his hoped for knew perspective on how to keep the client engaged throughout the personal training process. What was very interesting was that he was not able to achieve his objective. PJ did gain his 40 kilos, he did struggle in losing the weight, he did gain a new perspective in regards to how difficult it is to take on a different lifestyle, and then work on turning around the bad effects that he experienced.
At first the training with the client went well, but then sessions started to be missed and eventually the relationship became hostile, in which the overweight client stated that, she did not find him to be motivational at all. What I found particularly interesting about this documentary was that there were many neurological and physiological professionals that were consulted about obesity and there were none to do with emotional and social aspects of weight management.
All of us have value systems that we acquire when we are children, and we keep them lifelong. Our values are on a spectrum, one of which is the value of competition vs relationship. Competition is at one end of the spectrum, and the other end of the spectrum is the value of relationship. Highly competitive people are based in looks, everything needs to look good. They set goals, they compare themselves to others, a competitive lifestyle is about rules and restriction, food is about fuel, not emotion, about looking good and standing out and being hyper-vigilant in this; nails done, not one hair out of place, weight maintained to perfect order, food consumption structured, muscles toned.
The other end of the spectrum is relationship. When we think about eating, eating is emotional and eating is done in relationship. Eating is done to feel good, so therefore it is based in feeling states. Relationship based people have a tendency to be relaxed and they look relaxed, it is not about setting goals or following rules, it’s about wearing sweat pants, putting your hair in a pony tail, not wearing makeup, and being okay when things aren’t perfect.
Unless there is some sort of crisis that forces us to re-evaluate our value system we do not ever make significant jumps down the spectrum. We may move one or two notches, but that is all.
PJ is based in a very competitive environment. The documentary showed how everyone around him was based in looking good and they joked with him to force him to conform back to the way they needed to see him, as buff. You could see how PJ was so frustrated in himself that he could not force his body back faster. His client on the other hand has a whole different basis of values, hers was based in relationship and you could see it in how she lived her life, dressed, smoked, and didn’t maintain her commitments. Even her final statement to him was based in emotion, “I find you de-motivating!”.