Who is in charge?


15. August 2013 by swissfitchick

Hey friends!

This post is going to be short and pictureless, because I actually just have a question and I want to hear your opinions. So please make sure you fill up the comment section, cause I am really curious what you have to say.

A few years ago when I was member at a gym, there was an instructor who taught about 1/3 of all classes. Her classes were superintense and full. I only went one time, because I just couldn’t look at her. She was SO skinny, it was scary. I know that there are bodytypes which are naturally slim and sometimes they get misjudged of being anorectic.

This woman’s body changed though. She used to look fit, athletic and healthy, but then she lost so much weight and she just looked sick. If she didn’t have that overtan (like spending hours in a sunbed) it would have been even worse.

I was wondering, why the trainers and instructors at the gym would let someone like this teaching classes. I don’t want to upset anyone, I know that not everyone who looks skinny is sick, I am far away from saying that. But here, it was obvious and the one time I went, she even complained about ‘muffin tops’ – which was ridiculous cause she really wasn’t fat anywhere at all. I wasn’t sure how people feel about themselves when she speaks of muffin tops when there are none.

I thought, that an instructor is also kind of a role model and an inspiration and it irritated me, that nobody said something. Neither did I, which maybe was coward. Who is responsible here? The trainers or the boss at the gym? The instructor? Or are the participants of the class responsible for themselves and how they react on a role model like this?

Same goes with gym members. There is a girl in my gym who is doing cardio for hours (she is already there when I arrive and still there when I leave, so I have no idea how long she does it – but at least 1h45 first thing in the morning). I really feel sorry for her, I think that everyone can see that she is in a very critical state. She is nothing but skin and bones and it breaks my heart seeing here fighting on the cardio machines daily.

I’ve been there too, I did that. And I know it does not help a lot when people tell you to eat more and to workout less when you are in the middle of an ED. I didn’t stop until I realized MYSELF that I will kill myself if I don’t stop. But can we just stand here and watching her doing all this harm to her body? Or is it rude/inappropriate to tell her she should stop? Would it help her? Is it a MUST to draw her attention to her behavior? Who is supposed to say something, if at all? Is it allowed to forbid a person to workout at the gym?

Eating Disorders are still such a taboo subject around here and sometimes it drives me crazy. I realize it when I talk about my Eating Disorder this open, so MANY people give me this irritated look, like ‘how can you just say that out loud?!’ – I wish so hard that we stop denying that Eating Disorders DO exist and that we have to help each other by speaking our thoughts rather than hiding them.

Please let me hear your thoughts.



28 thoughts on “Who is in charge?

  1. I think that there is also something to be said about gyms that hire instructors or trainers that……welll…need some training. Most of the trainers at the gym I go to could stand do be a little healthier and it bothers me that they aren’t setting good examples for the people that they are supposed to be helping. But you are right, the extreme skin and bones isn’t setting a good example either. I want to see trainers who have a good balance, those are the ones that I would take classes from, be inspired by and take advice from

  2. Great food for thought, Lucie! In an ideal world, I would say that the gym is responsible in that they shouldn’t promote behavior which is could be physically damaging. Especially with instructors, the gym management should definitely keep an eye on trainers who could be an unhealthily low BMI. While this might not solve the instructor’s issues, it will definitely prevent clients from feeling like that’s the figure/attitude they need to adopts. As for gym-goers, I don’t think turning away a client who is too thin will solve the issue of them exercising-he/she will just find another location.

    • Totally agree. I am SO sure that she will do her crazy workouts no matter what the gym people say. I was the same way – if I felt watched, I just went to do my stuff somewhere else.

  3. This is definitely a tough topic…

    Ultimately, in the case of the trainers/teachers at the gym, I believe it is their responsibility to take care of themselves. They know that they are in a position where they are looked on as inspiration and if they truly want to help people lead healthier lives, they should practice what they preach 100%! As far as approaching someone you don’t know and offering advice/help/encouragement, I feel that most people (especially in this day and age) would be offended and then I would imagine they would probably rebel and do the exact opposite. I think those sort of words should only come from a trusted loved one and even then should be approached very carefully. I hope and pray that the young woman you described with the cardio has someone in her life who wakes up and sees what she is doing and helps her before it’s too late. 😦

    • Couldn’t agree more! I think instructors shouldn’t forget that they play an important role as a ‘model’ and should show a healthy approach to fitness, food and exercising.
      And I am also with you on the girl – I am pretty sure she would be offended and do her workouts somewhere else – it wouldn’t help her. I truly hope that she gets some support from family or friends!!

      • cottercrunch says:

        yes, i agree with heather. When i got really sick (from the parasite) and lost about 20lbs, i kept teaching. I looked like death. My gym told me take time off and get better. I didn’t want to teach looking like that. I took 6 months off to get healthy. I think the gym needs to talk to her

  4. I love that we just discussed this topic yesterday. Since you already know my feelings toward this topic, I’ll just say this post was PERFECTLY written.

  5. Hi, I just started reading your blog recently but this is my first comment. Just thought I would introduce myself first. 🙂

    I think it is the responsibility of the owners/managers of the gym to intervene somehow if they see an instructor clearly having issues with their health. Especially if it seems eating disorder related.

    I used to teach pre-k at a government headstart here in the US. They have dieticians that put a healthy menu together for the kids and council parents on the children’s weights. Tell them what they can do if the child is overweight or underweight. Well, one of the new dieticians they hired was clearly anorexic. We all went to meetings together, and it was so scary to see her that thin. I was afraid she would drop dead right there before me. A friend of hers defended her to me saying, “She used to be anorexic but she isn’t anymore.” I just shook my head in disbelief. She clearly was not better from her anorexia and I felt she had no business counseling others on the issues of weight and health.

    Anyway, that is just my long way of saying, I think if you are going to do a certain job, then you have to live up to the role. For instance if you are a dietician/nutritionist, you should have a healthy relationship with food and not be severely under or over weight. The same with any other profession. If you are going to be a police officer, then you can’t be out breaking the law that includes speeding etc.

    • Thank you so much Amanda for commenting! And thank you for telling this story. Things like this are concerning, especially in the are of nutritionists I think it is so important that the coaches play a healthy role model.
      And I love the comparison with the police officer. It might not be a law thing if you are over- or underweight, but it still is not fair and right to work like this.

  6. What an interesting post Lucie – and an issue that is something that I think about. Instructors at the gym who are quite obviously extreme in their nature are not only inappropriate but are also intimidating. They (and their employers) need to realize they are setting an example and act as role models and it’s important that they are responsible with this ‘power’ (that’s not the right word, but I hope you know what I mean).

    The girl, that’s a tough one…as someone else has said, she will just go elsewhere if anyone says anything. But on a wider point, if there was more awareness and talk about these things then maybe she would get help sooner of her own accord?

    • Yes, I totally know what you mean! And I agree.
      And this is the question I asked myself too – would it actually help her if somebody approached her? I, myself used to rebel even more – so I am really not sure, but I guess the reactions can be very individual too, so a try might be worth it!

  7. Wow. First of all, there is not enough partiece in my body or time in the world to make me do an hourse and 4 mins of cardio.

    On to more serious matters. I don’t think you can say anything…hopefully people close to them are talking to them, but being under weight is much like being over wight in that people aren’t going to get help and make a chance until they are ready.

    • That’s exactly what I thought too. And that’s how it was when I was anorectic. I ignored EVERY advice and only started to change things when I was ready to do so.

  8. This post definitely brings up something worth thinking and talking about, and I know that many people have different opinions on who has the to teach and if they practice what they preach. Above all, though, I agree that eating disorders and everything related should be an open topic that can be discussed without any taboo. Great post!

    • Thank you Gina! Yes, it is sad that the topic still is seen as somehting so ’embarrassing’ and only talked about behind backs. I hope we will make progress on this!

  9. This is such a tricky area… I would say that gym owners should do their best to promote a healthy image by hiring trainers that are … well… healthy, but you mentioned that she did look good before but ended up losing the weight a lot more recently. I’ve never really come across a trainer in any of my gyms that looked like they were really ill, but I HAVE seen girls slaving away on the cardio machines looking like they were literally about to die. Unfortunately, I don’t think that approaching them would be helpful at all. Having been in that position myself, I know that nothing that anyone said made any difference, and that having attention drawn to it only made me want to rebel more than anything else.

    • My word. I did the opposite of what I was told. Rebel. And that’s also why I think it wouldn’t make much sense to give her any advice, in the worst case things get even worse. On the other hand, I think it’s cruel to watch somebody walking closer to death every day. SO difficult. I so much hope for her that she let somebody help her asap.

  10. Sarah says:

    Tricky one! I think an instructor should be healthy, but then, there’s also doctors that smoke and/or ar overweight and the definitely know it’s unhealthy! Thing is, if an instructor really has an eating disorder, it’s a mental disroder and I don’t think it should be legal to forbid somebody from working because of it – imagine how far it would go? But on the other hand, it’s about protecting people from themselves. Sometimes I find a superfit instructor can be kind of scary for some people, but also motivating, but a chubby one could alos show others tghat you can be healthy and fit without being like a beanpole. As far as clients are concerned…I don’t know. They’re going to work out no matter what. If I had that kind of problem I think I wouldn’t like a stranger to talk to me about it straight from the blue – would you tell a fat person on the street not to eat ice cream?

    • I love this comment Sarah, so much great things you said. You are right, there are many professionals, not only fitness instructors or nutritionists who don’t play a good role model. And the reactions to how instructors look can be very different too, that’s so true! It’s funny, cause in the past, I used to get jealous on a fit and shaped instructor, but today I find it beautiful and inspiring.
      About the girl, it’s exactly what I thought too, I mean she is a member of the gym and pays her fees, I don’t think there is a way to just tell her she should stay away – not very realistic.

  11. This is such an awkward situation to be in – I’ve never had this sort of situation with an instructor, but I’ve seen girls slaving away on the cardio machines that were on the verge of death. While we all know that ED’s can’t be stopped until the person is willing to do so, I have to wonder if there’s some sort of legal liability on the part of the gym to say something. I feel like with an instructor, the only way something would happen would be if enough people complained to management that they were concerned about being taught by someone who looked ill, to be honest.

    • I wonder too! I have no idea if there is some sort of legal liability to do so, though I think as for instructors they definitely have the possibilitiy not to hire her. I mean, if I go to an interview dressed up beach style, I am not hired either. There is some sort of appearance we must show at work, at least that’s what I think.

  12. Lisa says:

    Such a great topic Lucie!! I’ve been there on both sides and it’s really tough.
    When some of my friends worked at the gym they were actually told to never say anything to anyone because all they wanted was their money so it didn’t matter to them what their choice was (nice, huh?). It’s definitely an awkward situation but I’ve had other gyms I like because there are actually time limits you can spend on machines. The scary thing is that if that really ill person fainted or had a heart attack in that gym than they’d be responsible. It’s weird because in a gym at my sickest I never had anything said to me, but I was told by a pilates instructor that I wasn’t aloud in class and you know what I understood why they said that to me. It was completely the right thing for that instructor to tell me that because I was so ill who knows if I could make it through the class. Definitely a difficult situation to approach! I think everyone has a different answer on how to approach these things.

    • Thank you Lisa, great comment! I like the option to limit the time on the Cardio machine, that’s pretty smart. On the other hand, I hate gyms which are only concerned about their money – disgusting. Especially, as you say, when they are responsible in the end.
      I think the Pilates Instructor did good. After all they are the teacher and have the responsibility for the class. Protecting their participants from themselves is a great gesture, even if it might seem rude in the first moment.

  13. Lucie I just love this post! This is such a thought-provoking post and really got me thinking. I tend to fall into the comparison trap a lot and at the end of the day I think it’s my job not to let other women affect me. At the same time I am strong believer that those who are suffering need love and support but honestly don’t think they will change until they themselves, are ready.

  14. This is a really good topic to bring up. I too have seen those people at the gym who look incredibly sick, but no one says anything. It is really tough because it might be out of line for a gym owner to confront that person; you never know the person’s situation. I think awareness is the most important thing. I didn’t think I had an ED until I started reading blogs and then I realized I wasn’t quite right. Maybe gyms should offer support groups or counseling.

    However, I do think that if it looks as though someone’s health is in danger, it is ethical for someone who works at the gym to say something. It is a huge liability and everyone would feel terrible if someone died or had a heart attack because they were working out too hard.

  15. […] of all I want to thank ALL the commenters of yesterday’s post about how to handle situations wit ill/sick looking people/instructors at the gym. I was really […]

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Who thought I would ever write again. Link in Bio. ‚'In essence, love is the consistent embodiment of care, compassion, kindness, and joy toward yourself, your partner, and each other as two interconnected and supported beings. If you encounter those feelings, you can't work around your own vulnerability.

But: there is one emotion that is stronger than fear, and that is forgiveness. For power is never simply a possession but an exercise; power is about how we understand ourselves. If we can forgive, we can let go. If we can let go, we can detach. If we can detach, we find happiness.' #blogger #heartstories #detachment #happiness

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