Fat-Shaming and Gyms: Are Your Ads Triggers?

A close-up headshot of psychotherapist Bonnie Skinner.

Mike (00:03):

Newsflash: Pinterest recently banned all ads with weight-loss imagery and language. What does that mean for fitness and nutrition coaches who just want to give clients what they want? Psychologist Bonnie Skinner looks at the gap between nutrition coaches and diet culture. Right after this.

Chris (00:17):

Chris Cooper here with a word about O2. Your gym members will love O2’s hydrating, non-carbonated beverages after a tough workout. Even better, O2 is a community-based brand that wants to give back to gyms. If you sell O2 at your gym, you get a free sponsored event every year. Gym owners who wholesale O2 also get their first order for a dollar. Visit wholesale.drinko2.com to apply for an account today.

Mike (00:44):

This is Two-Brain Radio and I’m your host Mike Warkentin. Be sure to subscribe for more episodes. Today, clients often come to gym owners for help losing weight. And these owners have nutrition and exercise programs that work. But if they try to advertise them on Pinterest, now they can’t, due to a recent weight loss ban by the popular platform. That means no weight loss testimonials or products, no mention of body mass index, no before and after pictures. Here’s a quote from a press release. “It’s an expansion of our ad policies that have long prohibited body shaming and dangerous weight loss products or claims.” That’s from a July 1st Pinterest press release, also out quote, unquote, “language or imagery that idealizes or denigrates certain body types.” We can all agree that attacking people is wrong. But what happens when you’re trying to advertise a legitimate service to someone who might need, want and benefit from that service? Sault St. Marie psychotherapist, Bonnie Skinner, is here to help us dig into fat-shaming, shame, triggers, guilt, and identity. Bonnie, welcome to the show.

Bonnie (01:42):

Thank you so much for having me. It’s great to be back.

Mike (01:45):

I am excited. So I’m going to jump in. I’m going to give you a scenario. I’m scrolling through Pinterest, which I do all the time, actually like the platform a lot. And I see a before and after picture of a backyard, the first picture shows a complete disaster. The second shows an urban Oasis. Post is linked to a landscaping company, selling a service. I feel like the before picture kind of looks like my yard and I want to hear more about after. So I called the company and away we go, why is this sort of thing not problematic, but the exact same situation has all sorts of triggers when it comes to weight loss. What’s going on here?

Bonnie (02:17):

Wow. That’s such a good question. You know, I think really what is happening is there’s been kind of morphing over time about in terms of how media targets and to be fair, like some of it is, like you said, you know, like here’s my lawn before, here’s my lawn after. Nobody’s making any assumptions about the kind of person that keeps the lawn like that, or, you know, whether or not a person that keeps a lawn like that is worthy. It’s just, here’s a lawn before. Here’s a lawn after. You move on with your life. But I think when we start to talk about things that are integral to the person, it can be very easy to trigger shame or guilt, right? So I think a lot of the messaging, especially in terms of what, you know, Pinterest is trying to push back against is this idea that somehow if you need the help, there’s already something quote, unquote, wrong with you. But not just in terms of, you know, am I looking to go from one size to another, but it’s, there’s a generalization, I think, that they’re trying to avoid that says, oh, well, if you are of this body type, if you are of this number on the scale, then there’s something wrong with you as a person versus, Hey, there’s a series of scientific evidence that says you’re at risk for these things.

Mike (03:30):

You know, what’s funny, I chose the lawn care thing because I often look at Pinterest for like home, you know, garden, renovations, decorating, all that stuff. Cause I’m kind of into that. I actually look at my lawn and when it looks crappy, I feel shame. And that’s super funny. I just grew up always thinking that like a nice lawn relates to like, you know, having my stuff together and being, you know, like up to date and having my stuff organized. So it’s kind of a funny one for me. Right? So, but it’s interesting how, when you get into weight loss and others, you know, physical things, there is a whole element of shame attached. And like we talked a little bit before the show about internal psychology, psychological conflict and how media can trigger that. But I think you said it doesn’t, the media doesn’t really create that conflict necessarily. It just stokes the fire, like are the weight loss ads the problem, or is something else going on here?

Bonnie (04:19):

Well, that’s multifaceted. So I think, yeah, that’s OK. I think, you know, like it’s, you don’t have to go very far to see that one of the things that media does really well, and by media, I’m talking about marketing, advertising, that their goal is to exploit the fear. OK. Like that is the goal of marketing. It is I am either going to explain and try to get you to purchase something based on the fact that you’re afraid to be something, look something, look a certain way or whatever, or I want to give you that really positive feeling of achieving, right? So there’s two sides. But when we’re talking about generalizations that are being made from viewing an image, right? So I think one of the things that we’re talking about was, you know, if I have an image, two images of a female in front of me, you know, one is the abs girl and the girl is, you know, obviously working out in the gym, very fit, very whatever.

Bonnie (05:11):

I have another, you know, somebody that maybe, you know, we consider clinically obese or morbidly obese, you know, am I making a general generalization? Am I saying smaller is better? And what happens is we go from, OK, well, smaller is better if we’re looking at that in terms of the scientific comparison. Yeah. There’s risk factors go along with one body type that don’t necessarily go along with another to the same degree. But what happens, the problem that gets created is we start making these internal generalizations about other things. So this is when people, when they’re talking about people getting triggered is they go, oh, I don’t look like that. Therefore. And the next sentence is something derogatory about ourselves. So if we look at an ad and we go, oh God, you know what? I don’t look like that.

Bonnie (05:54):

I gained weight over COVID or you know what? I’ve got that 20 pounds, you know, that I haven’t lost since I had the baby. And we jump from that, maybe that fat, to the generalization, which ends up being a judgment of ourselves. And that’s the problem. So when I say like, you know, there’s internal psychological conflict going on, the question is really what’s stopping me from seeing something and just leaving it alone, just saying, oh, well, what they’re doing is they’re comparing, they’re trying to sell me a weight loss pill, a program, or whatever the case may be and not allowing that to attach to my self-worth.

Mike (06:28):

Yeah. So what happens there? How do people get into that and just give up their self worth? What happens?

Bonnie (06:33):

Usually it’s all, there’s already a crack there. Right? And in fairness to companies like Pinterest, marketers know this, right. They know there’s a crack there. And so, because we’re not, we may not always necessarily be aware of that fact. Right? I’ll give you a prime example. I have a lot of clients that come in and they’ll say things to me, like, you know, so-and-so made me feel XYZ. And if any of my clients listen to this, they’ll know, I don’t ever let that slide because I’ll go, well, what do you mean? Well, they made me feel like this. I’m like, no, that’s impossible. Nobody can make you feel anything. That is not a possibility. Because think of this for a second. So if I come into the building in the morning, if it was true that an external event could by just by happening, make me feel something, then here’s what should happen.

Bonnie (07:24):

One, everybody should have the same response to any external event. And two, I would be up and down all day. So if I walked into the building in the morning and Mary’s in a happy mood and she’s happy with me, then I’m going to feel good. I’ll come down the hall. And you know, Kyle has just encountered or a difficult situation. And she’s feeling really stressed and overwhelmed and coming to me and I may be stressed and overwhelmed. If I get down the hall further, Chris is upset or stressed or whatever. Right. So, what happens then if that was true, is my mental state will be bouncing all over the place and that’s just not sustainable for biological organism like us. So our brain actually has a protective mechanism that we don’t realize happens in probably what is the hundreds of milliseconds is that we need to interpret something before we have an emotional response to it.

Bonnie (08:12):

So I have to look at that picture of, you know, the lady with the abs and the tank top on, and I have to go, oh, I don’t look like her. I’m not good enough. Or, oh, I don’t look like her. Nobody’s ever going to want me or whatever. Whatever the negative reflection of the self is. I actually have to tell myself that first, before I have an emotional response and I may not do it consciously, which means it may happen so fast, I actually think it is the picture that upset me.

Mike (08:41):

So there’s two steps going on there, but we often miss, we don’t realize there are two steps because it happens so quickly. It’s just a reaction.

Bonnie (08:49):

Absolutely. Most people only ever think there’s one and you’ll hear it because people will say, you made me feel like this. That made me feel like this. I remember it was a conversation with Demi Lovato being upset because she had gone into a fro-yo store. And I think there was like diet ice cream or low-calorie ice cream or something. And they talk about, you know, she was quite upset with the store owners for even just having it. And so that’s a trigger, but it means that there’s already something there. So I saw it a couple of weeks ago, if I see you and I talk to you and I’m like, Hey, Mike, how you doing? No big deal. But if you break that arm and I do the exact same thing, you are much more likely to flinch.

Mike (09:25):

Yeah. OK. So this is an interesting one. And this is, I’ve been waiting to ask you this question all week. So how does self-efficacy figure into all this? Because when you look at it objectively, fitness and nutrition, at least the legitimate parts that don’t involve, like gimmicks and shams and so forth, all of the legitimate parts of fitness and nutrition, they’re based on the idea that people can make lasting positive changes and take control of their lives through action. That doesn’t, we’re not even talking about aesthetics here, they are involved, but they can make changes. This is as much mental as physical. I’ve seen incredible stuff in the gym. When someone says I can, and it’s like, they’ll do things you never thought. And they never thought they could do. But when someone says I can’t, or, you know, going the next step, that ad made me feel shame. I wonder about how giving that control away affects a person. So like, what is the psychology here behind self-efficacy and self-improvement, as it relates to bodies, nutrition, and fitness?

Bonnie (10:15):

It can be catastrophic. Or it can be absolutely liberating because here’s what happens. OK. Remember I said, we whether or not we realize it or not, we cue our brain into certain things, right? So if I say, oh my God, it’s Monday. I hate Mondays. Mondays are going to be crappy. Guarantee you, you aske me six o’clock on a Monday. What happens? Oh my God. It was the worst thing in the world because I’ve already told my brain that’s what to expect. So if I am preconditioned and my precondition, you know, we have a certain way of seeing the world that comes from, you know, our experiences and how we grew up. If we’re preconditioned to see the world in a way where we are helpless, we are victim of what’s happening now.

Bonnie (10:59):

And that’s not to say that some stuff has happened to us that was outside of our control. But if our message to ourselves is and I can do nothing about it. And that’ll never change. Then what happens is your brain goes, OK, no problem to work on here. I guess we’ll just sit back because this is never going to get better. It’s not going to go looking to solve a problem. And now if I, you know, if I say, I want a lawn like that, or I want abs like that, or I want a flashy car like that. Then my brain starts to go, oh, oh, well, how do I do that? How do I get that? And what it does is it starts problem-solving. This is the reason hope is so important. And we see it in study after study, hope and optimism, aren’t just feelings. It’s actually a process that starts to engage our cognitive abilities.

Mike (11:49):

So by giving up that control or, and saying that makes me feel, or X makes me feel Y or whatever it is by giving that up, you’re almost removing control and hope from the equation.

Bonnie (11:59):

That’s exactly what you do. Because if the only way I can feel good about my body is for everybody to only ever say positive things, for me to only ever see positive images, for me to only have ever have positive feedback, then that means I am powerless when it comes to the one person that’s not going to conform, or the one company that’s not going to conform, and you never want to be powerless. You always want your power to be inside you.

Mike (12:28):

So in the current climate kind of, you know, we’ll call it. There is like a lot of angry people running around right now. And it’s a high stress time. We’ve got the pandemic, we’ve got, you know, social justice issues. We’ve got all these just very, very important, but also incendiary things going on, you know, how do gym owners kind of navigate this? Like where does the morality sit in the sense that let’s say, and, you know, I honestly believe this as a gym owner and a nutrition coach, you have the ability to make dramatic health changes. And I think science would back back me up on that. You have this ability and you can do it. We’re not selling gimmicks. We’re not selling, you know, shrink wraps and different, you know, pills and things that don’t necessarily work. So we’re looking to help people. How do you connect with someone and be helpful without triggering shame or without being part of the problem an, or even getting the ear of people who maybe have given up some control and are just looking to lash out, like, how do we do that?

Bonnie (13:19):

That’s why I’m a big proponent of education. I think the best way to do is education. Most people don’t know what triggers it. They don’t know why they got triggered. They just walk away and go that guy was a jerk or that, you know, that girl hurt my feelings or whatever. But when you, you know, if somebody is walking into your gym and they may, you always ask them, what’s their goals. Maybe they say weight loss. At some point, wherever it ends up. And whoever the person ends up being that’s in front of the client or the potential member, incorporating a conversation about there’s a difference between whether or not you’re worthy and whether or not you’re overweight. That one has nothing to do with the other. We’re going to give you some skills that are going to get your body to where your body wants you to be.

Bonnie (14:00):

But that has nothing to do with whether or not you’re capable and valuable as a human being. You already are here. And you’ll see that the gyms that do well, they talk about their community. They talk about the cohesion of the community. And I would bet my bottom dollar, that if I walked into any one of those gyms, they would tell me that they feel valued in that space, in that environment. And so this is really just adding one more conversation to the way in which you make your members feel valued, because they may not know, they may not actually have language, right? They’ll say, oh, I want to, you know, I want to lose weight. That may be the only language they have to talk about the transformation that they’re looking for. So if gym owners and their staff can start to provide context and to provide language around it, then all of a sudden the shame no longer necessarily has to be a thing, because you say, you know what? I’m going to help you fix your body, you know, get you where you need to be, but we’re going to value you as of today, because your weight has nothing to do with your worthiness.

Chris (15:07):

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Mike (15:42):

Something that we always try to do, we don’t have a physical space anymore, but something we always tried to do was value effort and character. And we always try to like make that a big deal because we had all shapes and sizes and all colors and ethnicities and sexual orientations. And we really just tried to boil it down to, did you show up and try hard? Good. hat’s all we’re asking for. And the interesting thing we’ve talked about, Two-Brain Coaching has brought this up a lot. And Chris has as well. Motivational interviewing. So if you ask someone what’s your goal, they say they want to lose weight. You know, you and I both know that’s not the real, that’s not what they’re really after. Right? That that’s just a thing. There’s always another step. And it’s like, I want to lose weight.

Mike (16:18):

Well, why do you want to lose weight? And it’s always something else. Whether it’s like, I want to fit into that dress or suit for my high school reunion, or I want to be more attractive to my partner, or I want to find a partner or whatever. And then let’s be even more clear. There are some quote, unquote skinny or ideal body sized people who are very metabolically unhealthy. So it’s not necessarily just a quote unquote fat person problem, right? It’s such a nuanced sort of thing. So it’s like in the advertising, is there a way that we can use, I’ll use this for lack of a better term, like safe language, or is there something that we can say to advertise weight loss that’s going to be the kindest way we can do it if people are need that and want that in their life?

Bonnie (16:57):

I think it’s really about, you know, figuring out what it is that you’re selling. Like, I mean, and what it is that the person wants. So when we’re talking about weight loss. Really what we’re actually talking about is dropping the number on the scale. Like that what a weight loss program is going to measure. If you are 168 pounds in the beginning, can you get to 130 or wherever it is you’re trying to go. The second you move and generalize what that means? Now you open yourself up to all kinds of different interpretations and the possibility of offending somebody and the possibility of upsetting somebody and people look at for refunds and you get into this really mucky place. So if you’re clear with your members, here’s what this is going to change. Here’s what this is going to fix.

Bonnie (17:47):

And I don’t know how much freedom you guys have to do it in your interviews. But I mean, for me, I’m very clear with my therapy clients, my mental health clients that, you know, when they say things to me like, you know, if I could just get this weight off or just, I tell them, like, that’s not going to work. I’m not saying that the issue isn’t going to change how much you weigh. I’m saying that if we’re already at a place where we can’t get to self-acceptance where you are, now, I’m not saying justification. I’m saying, if you can’t say, OK, I’m worthy as a human being in this role and still acknowledge that there are things you want to change, then changing those things isn’t isn’t going to help that.

Mike (18:23):

There truly is no quick fix in weight loss or, you know, psychology.

Bonnie (18:29):

No, no, no. I think that is the problem that created, or I shouldn’t say, that’s the problem that created the need. But I think as the populist turns and what they’re really pushing is, and quite rightly so, they’re pushing back against this assumption that they feel the public is making that if I’m not a certain size then I’m not worthy, but what the actual goal is, I think is just not well-defined. So what exactly is the thing that, so, OK, sorry. I digress a little bit. Let’s say for example, I’ve got a magic diet pill that we all know doesn’t exist. OK. And I put that on Pinterest, Facebook, whatever the case may be, is that harmful, right? I got a group of people that are going to say yes, absolutely. You are convincing people that they can take a pill and lose weight.

Bonnie (19:24):

  1. If I put on a diet and nutrition program, here’s the 12 weeks, 12 weeks where I’m going to teach you all of these things about how to eat, right. People will say, oh no, that’s OK because that’s teaching you something positive, but they’re both the same thing. They’re both an offer, right? It’s an offer. Bu if I’m coming in with lenses that say whatever I see outside in my world is how I’m going to judge myself. Now, I’m going to start making opinions about those offers. I’m going to start saying what the company should and shouldn’t do and all this kind of stuff. Instead of saying, when I put myself on social media, when put myself into the world, I am going to be subject to messages that other people are going to have about me. And that is going to impact me if I allow it to. And you’ll see that the people it impacts are those that are already struggling, whether it’s with their identity, whether it’s with their mental health, whether it’s with their sense of self. I’m not saying to be clear, I’m not saying that media has no influence, but I’m saying that the struggle, that the real problem is the vulnerability that already lies.

Mike (20:31):

How would you address, or would you address, let’s say, you know, a gym puts up an ad and they mentioned weight loss and not on Pinterest, of course, cause you couldn’t get it through anymore, but, or mentions transformation or whatever changes they can help a person make. And someone runs at them and says, this is, you know, you’re fat shaming. This is negative. I feel bad. How would you handle that? Or would you?

Bonnie (20:53):

I would literally look, I always answer it. Right. But I think it’s, you know, what are we looking at? If I said something like, you know, oh, you know, fat people don’t care about themselves or this, that, and the other thing, you know, that is fat shaming. Yeah. I’m drawing conclusions that I have no way of knowing. Right. That’s a dumb thing to do. And I think that deserves to be called out. But what we’re typically talking about is an interpretation. And if somebody says, when I look at that, I see this, I can’t control that. I can’t control that. So when I say things now it’s different. I mean, you know, a lot of companies will, you know, they’ll for example, not target their ads or their weight loss ads or whatever the case may be towards minors. I think that is incredibly appropriate. Because minors do not have the neurological development always to be in a more firm place where they can understand and critique and think for themselves.

Mike (21:47):

Yeah. Joe Camel needed to go, the cigarette-smoking camel needed to go.

Bonnie (21:52):

That’s right. You know, but I think, I think sometimes we need to have the backlash for these kinds of things because they open up a conversation that says, well, what exactly is happening? What exactly is happening is we’re looking at things we’re going, oh, that’s one more message about me. And I guarantee you that the person that put up that ad is not thinking about Bonnie. They’re not thinking about what Bonnie’s been through or thought about or her history. They’re just trying to get to a certain goal. It’s what I’m going to make of what I see that’s going to determine how I feel about it. And that’s the part we need to help people understand that if they’re getting triggered by ads and by all of that stuff, we have to say, OK, let’s think more critically, let’s go in and shore up what we need to in ourselves so that we’re not bouncing all over the place just because somebody else thinks differently or wants to sell us something they think we need.

Mike (22:42):

So let me ask you this, because this is a huge one. In the gym industry and in the nutrition industry before and after pictures do really, really well. Like my wife put one up, hesitantly of course, because she’s nervous about stuff like this and thinks about it, we had a client who lost a hundred pounds and it was just epic. And this woman, she wanted to do this and she wrote a testimonial for us and she’s just like living her best life. And we celebrated that and her picture got a huge reaction. And then stepping back from that story, in advertising before and after pictures always do really well, they just do. It’s just one of those things that people are always interested in. So what are your views on those kinds of pictures? Like how do, how did gym owners use them responsibly? Or can they?

Bonnie (23:26):

I think it really goes back. That for me is such a great question. I think it really goes back to what is the message that accompanies the picture? Now if you, because what’s going to happen when everybody, if it’s just the picture, everybody’s gonna look at the picture, they’re all gonna see something different. Right? So you can’t control that. However, if you are putting text with pictures, let’s, let’s say you had, you know, before and after, you know, lose weight, be happy. That’s a problem. That’s the problem because now you’re equating size with happiness, right? In a very direct and intentional manner. That is manipulation. Because whether or not, you know, like, OK, fat people can’t be happy or larger people can’t be happy.

Bonnie (24:15):

Yeah. Like, I mean, so in my own weight loss journey, when I was almost 300 pounds, 298 pounds, I’ll tell you right now, you couldn’t encounter somebody with more confidence than I had, you know, and I think it’s, so you have to be very careful about the generalization, not only that we’re making about ourselves, but also what others. So if you’re selling a nutrition program, what our nutrition program gives you is information about nutrition. It gives you habits. It gives you tips. It gives you strategies. That’s what you’re selling, sell that, but be careful not to make the jump to, oh, this will give you happiness. No, this is information. If you apply it, you’ll get a certain outcome.

Mike (24:57):

  1. So now we’re getting somewhere. So what we’re really talking about here is that gym owners who are going to advertise or use these stories and testimonials. They need to really be cautious about their language and consider what they say and do. And I’ll give you an example. This was someone old CrossFit Journal article that someone wrote and he was talking about. It was a very good coach talking about the reaction when a client says something and a client comes up and says, puts a number on the whiteboard and says, I deadlifted 150 pounds. And the coach goes OK, really? Wow. That’s kind of a reaction that happens a lot of the time. But what that reaction is actually saying to the client in some cases is, oh, I didn’t think you were capable of that, or I don’t believe you. There is some room for interpretation there.

Mike (25:36):

Right? And I thought it was so interesting that that coach said, that’s not the reaction you want to give at a whiteboard. Great work. I’m so proud of you. That’s a huge accomplishment. You know, things like that, that don’t allow that room for like that gray area. So I guess what we’re talking about here is like, if you start putting up ads and testimonials and start implying that, you know, this person is happy because the weight was lost, maybe that’s, you know, and that might be true, but maybe that’s a negative step. Whereas, you know, you could probably frame that in the instance of goals accomplished this client came and had this goal. We taught her how to do it or him. We taught him how to do it. That person has had success. Like, would that be more appropriate?

Bonnie (26:16):

I think definitely moving in the right direction. Because the, because you know, let’s say you got somebody that comes into a fitness or nutrition program that dropped 30 pounds, 50 pounds, and they give a testimonial. I’m so much happier. I’m so much this, so much that. Right. And now they attribute it to going through that process. But here’s the question that I have, like, if you think critically about these things, you go, OK. Which part was it? Was it the education? I learned things that I didn’t know, which meant I could then do things that I didn’t know I could do. Was it the encouragement? Was it working with somebody for three months or however long that, you know, they, they never judged me. They always gave me positive feedback. They encouraged me to think about myself differently.

Bonnie (27:01):

Right. So what part of that is the actual thing that makes the change, right? So, so when we say, oh, no, it’s the losing weight. It’s because she lost 30 pounds. She feels so much better. And it’s like, well, you know, that is directly attributing the weight to the mental health change. It’s a very fine line. And I think when we say what the product is capable of achieving, right. You know, any product that we’re talking both in weight loss, nutrition, it’s going to give more information. You’re going to work with people that are going to encourage you. They’re going to actually model how you should, how you should encourage yourself and reward yourself and care about yourself and take care of yourself.

Bonnie (27:51):

That’s what you’re also going to get. And so moving, you know, if we’re talking about, OK, well, how does that show up for our advertising? It means promote what you’re selling. Right. If you’re having testimonials, have your client talk about the different parts, right? Like I, you know what I got here and I really worried, and I was feeling really insecure, but there was just so much optimism. There was so much encouragement. I learned things that I didn’t even know I could apply versus one ad that says, eat healthy, be happy.

Mike (28:23):

I’m so happy I lost a hundred pounds versus I’m so happy I had a supportive environment and a caring coach who helped me accomplish my goals.

Bonnie (28:34):

Yeah. And I think even if you didn’t necessarily get that far down the psychological end of it, right. It may be something as small as you know, it was a chance for me to learn what my body needs. I had no idea what my body needed. Like I said that to my coach all the time, like I had no idea, I’ve no idea. So where we, I guess if I was to kind of summarize it is one is that we cannot control the projection of people make about things. We cannot control the assumptions they’re going to make. When they see an image, we can try our best to create ads, create images that tell a bit more of a story. But, you know, you got one glance or you got one, two minute video. When you have somebody in front of you, I actually would encourage not to shy away from that conversation because in this, in today’s society, mental health and media is so intertwined that people will make an assumption that you you need to be careful when you’re talking to me or you need to be careful when you’re advertising to me.

Bonnie (29:41):

Cause, you know, I don’t want to be upset by something you put out. And my answer is always, well, if you get upset by something somebody puts out, explore that, talk about that. Don’t just get offended and shut it down and cancel it. Let’s talk about what’s happening because what’s happening is we’re not sure how to solidify our own identity. So when all these other things come up, making suggestions one way or the other, we get confused, we get upset, we feel shame. And then we lash out.

Mike (30:11):

I love that because it’s such an interesting issue where you have some people that very clearly believe that advertising weight loss, or even, you know, supplying weight loss techniques is a bad thing. And I’ve seen the debates online. It’s very aggressive, but then the other side of it, you have out entire industry, the fitness nutrition industry that can help people if they want to make changes. And so I’ve always been very curious about when those two things collide because there are like we’ve had clients come to us regularly and every gym has had this and they say something like this, which is just, you know, undebatable. My knees hurt a lot. And my doctor told me that I need to take some weight off just to relieve that pressure on my knees. And that’s the gym owner has and quote the Chris Cooper helped first strategy.

Mike (30:59):

The gym owner can help with that. You know, the strategies exists, the positivity exists, and it’s nothing about shaming. It’s actually giving the client what he or she wants, but there are elements that said that, you know, that you do not have to change. You should not be forced to change. You’re not responsible for your conditions and so forth. And that’s why I wanted to ask you so much about that self-efficacy because in the gym that power that people create when they say I can, or when they try and make changes in the kitchen, in the gym, whatever changes they want to make, I’m so inspired by that. And by giving that away and saying, you know, it makes me feel, or I can’t, it seems so almost inhuman because then you just become this boat on the sea, right. Without a rudder. And you’re just drifting, you know. In your practice do you have success in moving people from that, you know, sort of victim mentality to a more proactive self-efficacy? Is that something that takes like years or months? Or how does that work?

Bonnie (31:54):

You know, surprisingly enough, if we took away the belief that if we took away for our clients, the belief that they weren’t good enough, or they didn’t measure up in some way, we would probably eliminate at least 70% of our caseload. It’s that pervasive. The struggle is that people don’t know it’s that pervasive. They think they’re the only ones. So by having this underlying thread, if you will, of insecurity beneath the surface that we don’t know is there, then what happens is we get triggered into something. We have these emotional responses. And we think about the outside world simply because we don’t understand that this is what’s going on underneath. And you’ve got, you know, you’ve got a whole society full of people that that’s happening with. So if what we actually want is to give people the most effective tools for change, we can’t not tell them about the landmines.

Bonnie (32:59):

You know, like we, can’t not tell them that when they come in and they, they look at the board and there’s, you know an AMRAP and an EMOM and we can’t not tell them that, Hey, listen. And if you look at the board and you’re confused, totally. OK. Cause that’s normal. We’ll walk you through that. Exactly. Right. And that, I mean, we do it in the therapeutic context. We do it in terms of their friends. It’s simply reframing it saying, Hey, you see it that way. No problem. Hey, that’s common. Think about it like this. And now what you’re doing. And that’s what I mean, when I say we start to give people language, we start to help normalize some of the insecurities. And if the people that are, you know, that you’re working with as coaches, if they start to hear you talk about some of the struggles that people have with shame and self-worth in the gym and you say, yeah, it’s totally normal.

Bonnie (33:51):

Right. But we got to remember that, you know, like our body, yes, our bodies are valuable and we want to learn how to take care of them. But the number on the scale says nothing about how valuable you are to a person. You want to know how valuable you are to a person, go home and sit with your family for an hour. Right? So it’s just about introducing a different way of seeing things. Because as human beings, we’re so locked into our own worldview, our own perspective that we don’t necessarily always know that there’s something else out there and the feeling of being offended will travel so much quicker than empowerment will. But the second you tell somebody, no, the world actually has to be different in order for you to feel good about yourself. You disempower people in a way that can be absolutely catastrophic in the long term.

Mike (34:39):

Bonnie, this has been so insightful, you know, as a gym owner, but also as a marketing person and also as just a human being. It’s so interesting to look at this and I appreciate your perspective. So listeners, I hope that you’ve found some ideas in here, do some thinking, see how you can connect with people in a positive way. And like Bonnie said, have discussions and talk things out rather than react. I love that, Bonnie. Thank you so much for being here today.

Bonnie (35:03):

No problem. My pleasure.

Mike (35:05):

That was the always insightful Bonnie Skinner. And I’m your host, Mike Warkentin. Be sure to subscribe for more episodes. After all that psychology talk, I’ll hit you with a tiny dose of FOMO. Be sure to join the Gym Owners United group on Facebook so you don’t miss any of the helpful strategies from Chris Cooper, other gym owners and our very talented Two-Brain business mentors. We need you in there. That’s Gym Owners United on Facebook. Join it today. And I’ll see you next time on Two-Brain Radio. [inaudible].


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