Why Fat Shaming is Wrong

There are always those topics in any industry that seem to pop up every once in a while and then go away until it becomes big again. A hot topic in the fitness industry that is like that is “fat shaming”. Fat shaming, for those of you who don’t know, is a bullying tactic, singling out or making fun of an overweight person, under the guise of helping them realize they need to lose more weight. While this tactic may work for a select few, it is one that is not advised to be used at all.

One distinction to make is that NFPT is not saying being overweight and unhealthy is an okay lifestyle to live. But we are not condemning those people either. The bottom line of fat shaming, or other bullying tactics, is that shame DOES NOT inspire anyone to change. The large majority of people are not motivated by negative reinforcement. Some people may need some harsh words from their football coach to get them motivated, but that is a very slim minority of people. Most of us are better motivated with positive reinforcement.

Overpowering negative emotions can derail efforts at achieving any sort of goals. Especially weight loss goals. The hallmark of shame is a “constant awareness of our defects. Without realizing it, we become continual victims of shame-based thinking.” We start focusing on our failure rather than anything good. This throws people into a vicious cycle where they will most likely slip back into bad habits and fail once more. Then, they don’t feel like they are “good enough” and stop trying to achieve these goals altogether.

As a personal trainer, you are in a business of service. Your job is absorbed as helping others around you reach their goals and living a better life. So the opposite of shaming someone into something, is giving them positive reinforcement. People will react better to this rather then shaming or negative reinforcement. No one wants to be called names or singled out in front of others and be embarrassed. But I can tell you that a lot more people would like to receive some form of affirmation or encouragement. It is frankly more pleasant and effective in training others and ourselves to achieve goals. Think of a child; they are more likely to do something again if they received a positive outcome for it.

Telling your clients positive things that you see in their progress will encourage them to continue to do better in hopes of receiving more of your praise. Even telling them to have a “cheat meal” in their diet because they lost a certain amount of weight is an okay thing to do. People will respond better to your positive comments and actions rather than your negative. Plus, why do we want to bully anyone anyways?

What are some more ways you can use positive reinforcement instead of shaming your clients?


The NFPT Team is your #FitFam of trainer professionals who make various contributions to the NFPT Blog according to timed news and events, or interests in writing to current topics respective to individual skillset, talent and/or professional recommendations.