Why I Created The Body Image Fundamentals Training ProgramOct 19, 2023
If you work in the fitness industry for more than 2 minutes, you soon come to understand the prevalence of disordered eating and body image concerns amongst your clients.
Clients come to you because they are deeply unhappy in their bodies and want to lose fat. Or they’re insecure about how they look and hope that a muscular and lean body will be the ticket to self-confidence. Or they’re feeling out of control around their eating and can’t break the cycle of self-sabotage.
As a compassionate coach, you want to support your clients in a way that improves their physical and psychological well being, not one at the expense of the other.
So what do you do when you can see a weight loss goal isn’t really what your clients need? Or that maybe they would benefit from losing excess body fat (from a physical health perspective) but they’re currently experiencing a lot of body dissatisfaction and uncontrolled eating, and intentional dieting is contraindicated…
This leaves you in a tricky position:
- You want to do everything you can to help but you aren’t sure how to get through to clients who aren’t fully open to working on their body image.
- You’ve tried to learn more about boy image but you’re lacking specific techniques and frameworks to confidently support your clients in a structured way.
- You’re feeling like a hypocrite for struggling with your own body image and want to see some personal progress whilst supporting clients too.
There’s nothing worse than feeling like you can't help someone. I know exactly what it’s like to feel like you could be doing more, and that’s why I went down the whole body image rabbit hole in the first place…
How I Realised The Importance of Body Image
I was working with a powerlifting client who had her sights set on getting leaner, with a specific goal weight in mind. We were 'flexible dieting', so she could actually live a normal life and enjoy her weekend brunches whilst reaching her physique goal.
But something wasn’t working. Her weight was stalling even though she should have been in a deficit on those macros. I thought she might be sick of dieting, so we tried it all: calorie banking, diet breaks, non-tracking weeks... but still we couldn’t break the plateau. My client became increasingly disheartened - she felt so restricted and still wasn’t getting anywhere.
If I’m being honest, I couldn’t figure out why she cared so much. She was already physically healthy and we were literally stressing over a matter of a couple of pounds. I kept thinking: why not just end the diet now and enjoy your life?
I knew there had to be something more we were missing and I hated feeling like I wasn’t helping her…
So I delved into the research on dietary restraint. Macro tracking was supposed to be flexible right? Why were some of my clients super rigid about it? It was during this deep dive that I discovered the importance of body image. I realised no amount of fat loss was going to satisfy her if she was placing too much of her worth in how she looked.
So I began reading every body image research paper I could find. I started to carefully apply research findings to my clients' journeys, and their results literally transformed.
My testimonials went from:
‘Shannon is a friendly and knowledgeable coach who provided me the education that has allowed me to make choices for myself’
‘Shannon has been able to influence me to make smarter nutritional decisions to reach my physical goals not only quickly but most importantly, comfortably. Shannon has been instrumental in helping me enjoy a body fat loss phase and I cannot recommend her enough.’
(Which is fine, but not massively impactful)
To suddenly changing lives:
I remember working with one client who came to me in a pretty bad place. He was constantly thinking about food, experiencing a lot of gastric distress from his very high volume diet and too many protein products, doing hours of cardio on a daily basis (even though his goal was to build muscle) and had a very small list of foods he would allow himself to eat, with no deviations.
What did we do?
Gradually increased his food variety, dealt with all the fears around that, worked on having a meal out with his friends every now and then, reduced the cardio, focused on building strength…and worked on his body image.
We recorded a podcast about his journey and I received this message out of the blue. Not gonna lie, I read this whenever I feel like I’ve lost my spark. It reminds me of exactly why I do what I do:
That was in 2020.
I continued to share the testimonials I was receiving. Coaches were starting to get curious. They wanted to know exactly how was I able to achieve such meaningful changes with my clients.
So I decided to put on a few webinars... and it all went from there.
Three years later, I’ve condensed decades of body image research into an 8 week training program to teach compassionate coaches the science of body image and a proven framework to implement it.
I had spent SO MUCH TIME in understanding the research and applying it with my clients that it would be a shame if only a small number of people were able to benefit. If I could teach the coaches, that amplifies the impact.
So I made it into a course. I was chatting to body image researcher Dr. Eva Pila after the podcast we recorded together and she asked me to present the program to her lab. So I did. They gave me some feedback and recommended I get in touch with another lab. So I did. And that’s how the research trial came about. A team from the Health, Behaviours and Emotions Lab at the University of Toronto put the course to the test!
What did we find?
- Reductions in HPs’ self-oriented perfectionism
- Reductions in idealisation of thin and athletic body ideals
- Increased body appreciation
- Increased body image knowledge
So this brings us to the present day.
Over 120 value-driven coaches have been through the program and are helping their clients on a deeper level. That’s 120 coaches who feel better about their own bodies, hundreds of clients with healthier relationships with food, and who knows how many friends and families who now have a positive model in their lives.
I’m not sure what will come next, but I’m looking forward to making the program as impactful as it could possibly be.
And if you’re a compassionate coach who wants to help clients to improve their body image and reach their health goals without the harm, I invite you to join us. Who knows - your life might just change too.
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