ACE has partnered with Louise Green, creator of the Size Inclusive Fitness Academy (SITA), to launch the new program Full Size Fitness Specialist Of course, released last month. The creation of this course is part of ACE’s larger effort to help build a more inclusive fitness industry.
Louise is also an award-winning author, educator and fitness coach whose expertise has featured in over 150 media outlets highly specialized training to break down barriers and help get your older clients moving in a sustainable way. We reached out to Louise to chat with her about the importance of this course and how we can all work to become more fitness professionals.
ACE: Why is the Total Size Fitness Specialist course so important?
Louise: A full volume fitness specialist course is very important because we are dealing with marginalized populations and this often transfers to the fitness spaces. Our industry typically lacks mass scale and as a result has created barriers for people in large bodies to access the fitness spaces. As numbers continue to rise in an even larger population, which now inhabits nearly 70% of the USA’s population, fitness professionals have an opportunity to be a catalyst for creating lasting health outcomes for this population. If we can educate the right professionals to specialize in this field, we stand a great chance of making a very significant impact on the health of the nation.
ACE: What do you think is important for fitness professionals to understand about weight bias?
Louise: It is important for fitness professionals to understand that weight bias is so pervasive and that we live in a weight biased society that bias itself becomes normal. The data show that weight bias is more harmful than overweight as it includes individual bias from both societal pressures and internal weight bias. Mental health consequences on internalizing weight bias can have devastating effects, and weight bias in general creates a high-level barrier for individuals to overcome. The problem is that many coaches and organizations don’t realize that they operate with a weight bias because of this bias that is widely accepted and normalized in Western society.
ACE: How did you get into this business and can you tell us more about SITA?
Louise: I had a very profound experience in 2004 when I joined a running program [and] My trainer was plus size. She was the first plus-size woman I’d seen on a fitness lead, or anywhere for that matter. She had a body like mine and trained me to be an athlete without any ramifications about calorie expenditure or diet culture. I have never exercised from this position and it was the catalyst that led me to…becoming a fitness professional. In 2007 I opened the first plus-size fitness camps in Canada and since then I’ve been training, teaching, speaking and writing on the topic of including size and fitness for everyone. She opened the Size Inclusive Training Academy after developing the Size Inclusive Fitness Specialist which has now taught trainers from all over the world.
ACE: How do you think fitness professionals can help improve a client’s body image?
Louise: I think it’s important to work with clients from a weight-neutral position and I know many trainers will find this a difficult transformation but this is why…More often than not, people in larger bodies struggle with their bodies for too long. They often hate their bodies and deal with the weight bias around their body size almost daily. Some have had traumatic experiences in the fitness and wellness spaces, such as being on diet programs as a toddler, having parents jogging after school to lose weight, or being bullied endlessly. Obesity in America is one of the most underrated identities and this client feels this as part of their normal life. Most people who live in larger bodies feel their bodies are wrong and live with an internal weight bias.
The biggest thing a fitness professional can do is not contribute to the weight bias and negative experiences this client has already endured. Make the client feel that his body is on his side and that his body is capableTrain them and treat them like athletes. When we focus on losing weight and restricting with clients who have a long history of body distrust, hatred, or trauma, we actually inflict more pain on the situation. Work with clients to configure them [and] Don’t talk about getting them to reach a certain size or weight. We know that as health indicators improve for regular exercise, people feel better, and when we empower our clients with exercise and support their bodies, their confidence levels rise.
ACE: What advice do you have now for everyone reading this to become a more comprehensive fitness professional?
LouiseRepresentation is important. It is very strong. Remember that having a coach who looks like me, only one woman, changes the course of my life and my health. Take a moment to audit your website, marketing materials, and social media and note how diverse your representation is. Furthermore, if you are in fact representative of body size diversity, examine how larger people are positioned in marketing and social media. Is it symbolic? Are they weight loss appropriate? I talk a lot about how weight bias can seep through photos into how larger bodies are positioned and how stock photography can be a breeding ground for harmful stereotypes and weight bias. Photos, transcripts, and messaging should be useful considering that individual’s challenging life experience and the obstacles they encounter when approaching the fitness and wellness spaces.
Louise also collaborated on ACE CEC”Space per body: Addressing weight bias in the fitness industry. “