Being a body positive fitness professional

Key points

  • By focusing on the benefits and enjoyment of exercise rather than appearance and weight loss, you will help create a balanced and healthy approach to fitness
  • Fitness goals aren’t always necessary, but if they are used, they should not focus on appearance
  • Fitness professionals who use health and wellbeing goals have greater attendance and retention rates

Tips for becoming a body positive fitness professional

There are a number of strategies that you can use to work with your clients or members to encourage healthy body image and a balanced approach to exercise, including:

  • Understand their motivations for exercise/sport
  • Accept that bodies come in different sizes and shapes
  • Build in non-appearance or weight related goals to their program
  • Avoid potentially triggering activities such as unnecessary measurements or weigh-ins, and never share weights or measurements with others
  • Pay attention to their attitudes and feelings towards exercise and looking out for warning signs
  • Pay attention to their attitudes and behaviours relating to food and dieting
  • Be aware of your own attitudes towards body shape, weight, exercise and food, and being a positive role model
  • Focus on the huge variety of benefits exercise can provide
  • Don’t support fad diets or an emphasis on weight loss
  • Be supportive even if training or competition schedules are disrupted while someone seeks help

Goal setting – for personal trainers and gyms

Your aim as a fitness professional is usually to make exercise a life-long habit, so having specific performance related goals isn’t always necessary. It might be the exercise is done purely for the enjoyment of the activity itself, rather than achieving a particular outcome.

However, if you do choose to work with your clients or members to develop goals, try exploring ways of relating the goals to health, enjoyment, performance, flexibility or stress relief rather than around appearance. Some examples of holistic goals are:

  • To exercise with friends and family
  • To try out a new activity
  • To find enjoyment in movement and exercise
  • To take rest days
  • To master a new movement
  • To improve cardiovascular fitness, or muscular strength/endurance
  • To incorporate other elements of fitness such as flexibility, posture, and balance

Often fitness professionals congratulate clients on appearance related changes, so shifting away from this and congratulating them on functional wins (for example, being able to lift heavy boxes while moving house, or completing a bushwalk without becoming out of breath) can help them reflect on how fitness is helping to make their life better.

By focusing on health goals rather than appearance goals, you will help your clients to improve their confidence, self-esteem and broader wellbeing as well as their love of exercise. You can also help your clients to better navigate and combat some of the misinformation that is out there about diets, weight loss and fitness.

creating a positive fitness workplace

education workshops for fitness professionals