Signs the Fitness Industry Has a Body Image Problem

By Amanda Vogel, MA
Mar 28, 2018

Expectations about body image in the fitness industry crop up in different ways for different people. Some fitness pros ruminate about body image quite often (every day or even every hour), perhaps taking extreme measures to alleviate concerns. Others never really give it that
much thought.

Many of your fitness colleagues may have experienced one or more of the following situations and felt unnecessary pressure to prove their worth in the industry. Perhaps you have, too. See how many of these statements you can answer yes to, keeping in mind that your industry colleagues may have had the same or very different experiences (why not ask them?). The point isn’t to tally the most or least yes answers. Rather, it’s to shine a light on our diverse perspectives and see how we might inadvertently be perpetuating the industry-wide body image problem we ultimately hope to alleviate. The more we understand each other’s experiences, the better we can unite to support each other and encourage better body diversity.

Have you ever . . .

  • had a client or colleague tease or chide you for not having six-pack abs or jacked arms? Or for having thighs that were too big or muscles that were too small?
  • severely restricted food, purged or overexercised to control weight?
  • been told you were hired at a gym or fitness company because you looked great in spandex?
  • been encouraged by a boss to lose weight or gain muscle?
  • worn Spanx under workout attire to teach a class?
  • compared your physique to the body of a hot “trainer” on Instagram who has a million followers and zero certs?
  • taken a selfie at the gym more than 10 times in a row, trying to capture your body at its best angle?
  • panicked because you thought you didn’t look fit enough for an upcoming photo or video shoot, fitness conference, or event?
  • worried about being ridiculed for how you looked when posting a fitness-related photo or video on social media?
  • had difficulty connecting with a deconditioned new client or participant because he or she felt intimidated by how fit you looked?
  • received a backhanded compliment from a participant, manager or colleague who was surprised you could be so good at teaching, training or presenting, since your body type didn’t fit the usual mold?
  • been personally surprised at the skills of an instructor, trainer or presenter who didn’t have a stereotypical “fit-looking” body?
  • scrutinized a body part that you perceived might not look conditioned enough?
  • been praised for “looking the part” of a fitness professional?

To read more about body image issues within the fitness industry, please see “Does the Fitness Industry Have a Body Image Problem?” in the online IDEA Library or in the February 2018 print issue of IDEA Fitness Journal. If you cannot access the full article and would like to, please contact the IDEA Inspired Service Team at (800) 999-4332, ext. 7.

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Amanda Vogel, MA

Amanda Vogel, MA, is a fitness professional and the owner of Active Voice, a writing, editing and consulting service for fitness professionals. She writes for IDEA, Health, Prevention, and Self, and has co-authored books on postnatal fitness and yoga. With a master's degree in human kinetics, Amanda has worked in the fitness industry for more than 15 years, including time spent as a program director and vice president for a chain of all-women clubs in Vancouver, British Columbia.

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