The Truth Shall Set You Free?
This article was written by "Mike" who is a regular contributor to the forum
For those of us who are the fit spouse in a relationship, trying to get the fat spouse to exercise and eat properly can be all but impossible. You’ve heard every excuse in the book. You’ve beaten your head against the wall to the point of suffering a mild concussion.You’ve preached endlessly about the benefits of eating properly. You’ve lectured continuously on the benefits of regular exercise. You’ve set the example in your household by eating well, working out regularly, and you continually reap the benefits of looking and feeling good. But the fat spouse continues down his/her same path undaunted, box of donuts in one hand, family size bag of UTZ in the other, 2-liter bottle of Coke wedged under the fat folds of an arm. Am I right?
I’m sure if I asked to see a show of hands right now, everyone’s would be raised. But what’s left? What’s the answer? More importantly, is there even an answer at all?
When I worked as a Certified Personal Trainer, I heard every excuse in the book. I grew to learn over time that most overweight, out of shape people walked into our facility ready for battle. Unfortunately, “battle” never meant rolling up their sleeves and getting down and dirty with the weights and treadmills. Rather, it referred to the longest filibuster in history regarding why they were fat and couldn’t do a thing about it. Oh, the preparation time some clients must have put into these speeches! And this was just the medical evaluation and a few basic fitness tests to determine capability before signing up. What I wondered each time I sat there glazed over ignoring all these lies (yes, I would stop listening once I knew it was a load of crap) was why they bothered coming in at all. One day I finally decided to just ask. One of my clients, who we’ll call Nancy, trained with me for over a year and never got anywhere. Nancy’s husband dropped dead of a heart attack unexpectedly a year before she set foot in my facility. She was supposed to come three times a week. We sold packages of 10 sessions a pop, at which time you’d either renew or go on your merry way. Most fat people chose the latter, as you might imagine. But Nancy renewed over and over and over again, even though she frequently cancelled, showed up late, or hit me with every excuse short of “the dog ate my homework.” Nancy was the biggest excuse maker I’d ever met in my life. She was a pro. If she could have found a way to make a career out of convincing people why she was destined for a life of fat and sloth, she would have made billions. Instead, she saved it all for her sessions with me. I use Nancy as opposed to other clients because she was the first client I ever had where I finally decided to retaliate. Many people blamed me for their failures in the gym, but Nancy’s attacks against me were blatant and mean. She also chose to publicly humiliate me in front of other staff members and clients. I suppose this was to teach me a lesson for not making her thin as I “promised.” I pulled her aside during one of her rants when I knew that no job was worth this anymore. I asked her to come into the office with me, and I shut the door. I was very calm but very firm with her, the same way I’d speak to my kids for misbehaving. I asked her flat out, “Why are you here?” Naturally, she got belligerent and stated that I knew damn well why she was there. Then I got specific and stated the following:
1) You don’t want to be here. If you did, you would not cancel appointments. You would not show up 35 minutes late to a 60-minute session. You would not expect to see results stemming from a 25-minute workout once a week. You would not spend half of each session gabbing endlessly as a means to delay every exercise.
2) It is not my fault that you are fat. I have given you a blueprint for how to change your physique very effectively. You have chosen not to utilize it inside or outside of the gym. Unless you wish to hire me to follow you around 24 hours a day, I cannot be held responsible for what you shove in your mouth.
3) You are wasting your money. In the beginning, I used to waive your cancellation fee (i.e. failing to provide 24 hours notice) because I was giving you the benefit of the doubt. Now I charge you each time. So far this month alone you’ve only used 4 sessions but have been charged for 12. What does that tell you?
4) Your problem isn’t health related. You need to see a therapist if you’re not over your husband’s death. Yelling at me and blaming me for your failures isn’t going to make you fit. Hard work and dedication to your cause is the only answer. If you honestly can’t make that commitment, I’ll refund the remainder of your money right now so we can put an end to this.
Let me tell you, my boss was not happy with me when he found out I did this. He’s obviously trying to run a business, but I told him that we’re not running a successful business if no one ever shows any improvement. I didn’t see how that was going to win us any referrals down the road. Incidentally, he ended up having to close this facility because it failed. I wonder why…
Back to Nancy. Everything I said was very difficult for me. I’m a wuss by nature and avoid confrontation tooth and nail, but I couldn’t tolerate this excuse maker any longer. She was furious with me! She cried her eyes out and suddenly played the hapless victim in this never-ending game, but I refused to falter. As soon as another heap of excuses began pouring out of her mouth, I decided for her. All I had left to say was, “I’ll get a refund check to you in the mail for whatever sessions you haven’t used. I didn’t become a Personal Trainer for this reason.” She then insisted that she didn’t want to leave. I told her that if she wanted to stay, I’d make arrangements for her to work with another trainer. Then she says she doesn’t want another trainer. She wants to stay on board with me. I apologized and said that wasn’t going to be possible at this point. I wished her well and she left fuming. She never called back to schedule sessions with another trainer, so after about a month, I sent her a refund check.
Evidently, my words had some sort of remarkable impact on her. Eight months after this fiasco, she came to the gym to say hello. I barely recognized her. She was 60 pounds lighter! At first I thought she was there to throw it in my face. Instead, I got a pleasant surprise: she thanked me. She said she hated me that day eight months ago, but my “get real” approach sunk in only days later when she repeated the story to a good friend. Thankfully, her friend was a true friend. She said, “Your trainer is right. You need to shit or get off the pot because it’s no one’s fault but your own.” Between my rejection and her friend’s honesty, she immediately got her act together. It seems in her case that that’s all it took. At the time, I wasn’t shucking her off as some means of reverse psychology. I just wanted to get rid of her because I was tired of wasting my time. But the sheer fact that she knew I found her to be a “waste of time” really affected her. If I felt that way, and I was just her trainer, how did more important people in her life feel about her actions?
This brings me back to the first paragraph of this story. Is there an effective answer to ever getting someone to lose weight? Perhaps no, but perhaps the truth doesn’t hurt one bit. Nancy is an extreme case in many ways, but she still responded to the truth. I continued this approach with all my clients going forward until I got out of training. Sadly, the norm is to deny until hell freezes over. I decided that I wasn’t getting enough enjoyment out of training for this reason. I was there to apply my knowledge in a practical sense, and see results. It became too taxing to be the Dr. Phil of the personal training world. With that in mind, maybe this type of harsh reality should be reserved strictly for loved ones that matter most. When everything else you’ve tried has failed miserably and all other efforts have been thwarted, a nice dose of reality might be all it takes to turn someone’s life around. If you’re as miserable and hopeless about this situation as you can get, then what do you have to lose?