Why I don’t Offer Weight Loss
Because we live in a culture that stigmatizes fat bodies and praises thin ones, I completely understand why anyone--regardless of body size or shape--would consider pursuing intentional weight loss. People living in bodies that conform to the "thin ideal" automatically receive social advantages like respect, trust and increased access to all kinds of resources (accommodating seating in public spaces, job opportunities, higher salaries, quality medical care, etc). But those benefits come at the cost of marginalizing people in fat bodies who consequently receive less respect, trust and decreased access to resources. To learn more about weight stigma and anti-fat bias, follow the work of fat activists (Ragen Chastain, Aubrey Gordan and Dr. Asher Larmie are just a few who I follow).
This is why I am a weight-neutral fitness coach
Before I really understood what anti-fat bias was and how oppressive it is, I believed that helping people get closer to the thin ideal was a practical solution to the "weight problem". Now I understand that I was contributing to a system that privileges folks with one kind of body while oppressing folks with another and that goes against my values. Even if it wasn't problematic, sustained weight loss is not possible for the vast majority of people. For the few folks who do sustain weight loss, they do so by adhering to strict rules around food types and quantity (and often develop a chronic preoccupation with food and a tendency to binge eat) and routinely (usually daily) monitoring their weight. If this sounds unhealthy, it’s because I’ve just described disordered eating behaviors. This is rarely the outcome most people expect or want.
Weight loss is not fitness
Sometimes becoming more physically active and/or making dietary changes in pursuit of actual health and fitness does result in weight loss. This is different from intentional food restriction and exercise for the primary purpose of burning calories to make the body thinner/leaner/smaller. The opposite can be true as well--some people can gain weight when they make exercise and nutrition changes, especially if they were undernourished to begin with and/or they’re increasing muscle mass through resistance training. I support every body in finding and maintaining its natural weight.
If the goal is to improve health and fitness, this can be achieved without losing a single pound. For those seeking aesthetic goals, I believe every individual has the right to do with their body as they choose, including losing weight if that is what they want (I'm just not the right trainer for those goals). However, I would encourage anyone seeking weight loss to learn more about weight stigma, the success rate of diets and sustained weight loss, the weight implications of weight cycling (i.e. yo yo dieting) and who stands to profit from your desire to lose weight (and if their marketing messages feel respectful or shaming--because no matter what we’re talking about, your outcome will only feel as good as the process you went through to get there).
I am always taking in new evidence based health and fitness information and viewing it through the lens of my values. This is how I arrived at the intersection where a weight-neutral and non-diet approach to exercise and nutrition makes the most sense to me, my work and the clients I serve.
I'm Emiko Jaffe, a weight-neutral fitness coach. If you found this piece helpful, I invite you to subscribe to Sunday Coffee, my newsletter about fitness, culture, being more of who you are and doing more of what you love (all through a weight-neutral, non-diet lens, of course).