The Value of a Coach You Can Relate To
So, it’s been another year (and a bit). Where have I been? What happened to this blog, anyway?
Well, I’ve been struggling with depression and weight gain. And I’ve been beating myself up and wondering how I could be a health coach when I’m so overweight myself and so prone to depression. How could I be credible when “clearly” I’m not able to achieve success myself?
And then I hang out on personal trainer and health coach pages on Facebook and YouTube and see things that make me so angry!
That is, some of it makes me angry. Not all coaches by a long stretch are so lacking in understanding about the myriad factors that contribute to obesity as the ones who raise my ire, and some are truly sensitive to their obese clients. But I don’t think a lot of them really know what it’s like to walk in an obese client’s shoes.
And that fires me up to be the coach who truly understands.
There’s a term in the coaching business, limiting factors, that the fit-all-their-life coaches often can’t relate to. I’m talking especially about the “just eat less and move more” mentality—the lack of understanding of circumstances such as the social and emotional hurdles an obese person who wants to optimize their health may be facing.
I’ve even seen coaches who have chosen to gain weight on purpose and then lose it “in order to understand” what their clients go through. What I’ve observed are people with a solid baseline of health and fitness allowing themselves to go to pot for a short time and then returning to baseline, complaining about how difficult it was. Yeah, right. If they can do it, so can you.
No, no, and no! There’s a world of difference between that stunt and trying to lose weight when there is no baseline of fitness (at least not in recent history) and perhaps years of coping with life in ways that aren’t amenable to leanness and good health. Not to mention genetics, mental health, environment, and social support, among other factors.
Perhaps I’m the one being insensitive now, but I doubt very much that those coaches who “struggle” to lose the weight that they’ve intentionally put on really do experience what their long-time-obese clients face. And they certainly shouldn’t use their contrived experience of losing weight as a tool to belittle their clients’ efforts.
Those of us who are plus-sized coaches truly get it. We’ve walked—and are still walking—in those shoes. With a solid foundation of knowledge about fitness, nutrition, and behaviour change, we need to get out there and use our understanding of what it’s like to be obese—our experience with those limiting factors—to offer solid support to our clients. Perhaps we will even coach them to higher levels than we ourselves have attained. That is, after all, a coaching relationship prevalent in the professional sports world.
I’m in a good place now. After half a lifetime of trial and error, I’ve gotten past the depression with the help of the right antidepressant at the right dose. So when I see some of that stuff on Facebook and YouTube… Yes, I’d better put those doubts about my credibility in their place and make myself more available to the people who need a coach they can relate to and who will relate to them.
I challenge other plus-sized people with an interest in nutrition and fitness to do the same.