I’m a certified personal trainer (cPT), and I’d like to say, you are not obligated to profess your exercise or nutrition habits to me in casual conversation or upon first meeting me and hearing what I do for a living. There’s no judgment, and I can assure you all of the feelings about your body and habits, I either feel them too or have at some point in my life.
In over 11 years of personal training, it never fails that when I tell someone what I do for work, they begin to tell me all of the things they are not doing, need to do, plan to do, or used to do when it comes to exercise and eating habits. We all feel like we are not doing enough at some point, but many of us are doing the best we can. We’re all trying to balance our physical and mental health, careers, and relationships, all while trying to filter out negative and unattainable societal pressures. It’s hard; sometimes it feels impossible.
Can I be honest with you?
My path to becoming a personal trainer did not originate from a place of “passion for health and wellness” or a desire to help “change other’s lives”. I wasn’t well, and I wanted to be in a field that helped fuel my eating disorder (ED).
When I started college in 2004, I was sick. I was in therapy and doing the bare minimum to get the help I desperately needed. I wasn’t ready to get better, but I promised my parents I would try. Little did I know, the nutrition class I signed up for would actually save me. I signed up for this class because I thought (naïvely) that it would help me justify my eating and exercise behaviors. I would finally have proof that the lifestyle I was living was healthy and sustainable.
In the first few classes, though, I quickly realized that I wasn’t well, and that that lifestyle wasn’t sustainable. I realized that there could be significant, life-altering consequences – greater than what I had already experienced.
This was the first time in the year or so of the most severe part of my ED that a light bulb went off, and I realized I needed to get serious about getting better. Over a period of 5 years, I ebbed and flowed mentally and physically, making some progress always, but having setbacks as well. But those seeds that were planted in that nutrition class, paired with therapy, never left me. I had an opportunity to keep inching myself out of this darkness.
I’ve always been very open about my past with an ED, but it’s always a surprise to people if it comes up and I tell them. “How could you go through that, you’re the healthiest person I know.” No. You cannot tell someone’s health, mental or physical, by looking at them or even by what they tell you. We must not judge our own health and wellness against what we perceive others’ health and wellness to be.
As a cPT, my job is to support, encourage, teach and guide my clients, judgment free. I can say that when I sat for my cPT exam I would (and still do), describe myself as passionate about individualized health and wellness, and I aim to work alongside my clients to help guide them down a path of sustainable and adaptable physical activity and exercise.
I’m always willing to talk exercise and physical activity with people I first meet, acquaintances, or my closest friends and family. And I understand the urge to bring up one’s personal level of activity or diet. However, know that we all have insecurities and feelings of inadequacy when it comes to health and wellness! Because I am a cPT, does not mean you should feel any guilt or shame; there’s never any obligation to share your level of activity with me or anyone else in the health and wellness field – unless you choose to.