Friday, 14 June 2019

The problem with coaching and why you're bad at giving advice.

I have been coaching and training people for nearly 20 years. If you include assisting my dad coaching badminton, it's more like 25 years. Whenever you hear the word 'coach' people think it is merely someone telling another person what to do. This perception is often the put down used when I advise someone to hire a coach. They often say, "why would I pay someone to tell me something I already know?" This is the misunderstanding about the process of coaching and inevitably makes people think they can coach someone because they have information which they think they other person doesn't have. Before I carry on, I will firstly define what coaching is and if this gets too long, I'll split the blog up into smaller blogs so you don't feel you have to read this in one chunk. It is over 20 years of work so it will be hard to condense it into a few words.

Here's a good definition of coaching.

Put simply, coaching is a process that aims to improve performance and focuses on the ‘here and now’ rather than on the distant past or future.
While there are many different models of coaching, here we are not considering the ‘coach as expert’ but, instead, the coach as a facilitator of learning.
There is a huge difference between teaching someone and helping them to learn. In coaching, fundamentally, the coach is helping the individual to improve their own performance: in other words, helping them to learn.  

Note the difference between coaching and teaching. Did you ever have the one or two teachers who you thought for some reason were great teachers? They were probably good at coaching and teaching. 

I'll be honest, whenever I hear someone trying to give advice (attempted coaching) I cringe inside. The problem is it comes from a good place. People are genuinely trying to help. The problem with their help is they aren't skilled enough to understand what the problem is, and they don't understand how the person will interpret the information. When we learn a skill, we learn in layers. Take for example learning to walk. From the outside, it is literally putting one leg in front of the other. However, the levels to the skill are: 

Balancing through your feet (which can require the tendons ligaments and muscles to get conditioned to cope with the loads. 
Then it requires your brain and your eyes to get used to a higher view point.
Once you are upright, your trunk needs to control your centre of gravity so it stays balanced over your hips. 
To move from one leg to the next, you need to be able to perform what is called plantar flexion, where you push the ground away from you. However, most kids stay heavy footed for a while and can still walk. This is why you shouldn't put young kids in footwear which prevents the natural mechanics of their foot. 
Once you move forward, you require counter balance from your upper body and the opposite arm. Then muscles of the hip pull the leg up as it swings in front of the other leg. The muscles again need to be conditioned enough to resist the additional forces created by movement from one leg to the next......

So it is isn't as simple as putting one leg in front of the other and there are way more processes involved in the above example. 

Some people learn the different phases quickly, whereas some will learn them a little slower so they need to spend more time on each phase. A good coach will see at which phase the person is stuck (or child in this case) and they break down the task even further. This requires knowledge, skill and most importantly patience. A good coach will have an arsenal of ways to move the person on through the sticking point of their task. A bad coach will simply call out instructions such as, "stand up straight..." or "it's easy....." 

A problem with the well-meaning coach is they have forgotten the time and effort it took to learn skills. The brain condenses our learning experience into small chunks and we forget about the pain staking hours spent learning something. This makes us unsympathetic to people who are learning something we can do with ease. A good coach on the other hand, knows exactly how complex the task is and has the patience to guide someone through it. What I have learnt through training and coaching people, is people learn at different rates. Talented people learn very quickly. This doesn't mean they will be more successful. What it does mean is they will appear much more skilled earlier on in their life, than someone who isn't and they will pick things up quicker. 

The inspiration behind this blog came from the the numerous times I have been around people on a golf course and one person decides they want to offer advice. Again, this mainly comes from a good place. In one example, a guy in my group was having a bad day. He's shanking it and hitting it fat. On one hole, he's 250 yards from the green and he tries to hit the hell out of the shot. A member of our group who is known for shouting out advice to people said, "he's so stubborn. I tried to tell him to chip out and play up but he doesn't listen. " I never like to create a flash point when I play. I like to keep myself to myself and try to be a good playing partner. However, I thought it was time to make him think a little about what he was trying to do. I presented him with some alternative ways of thinking about offering advice. 

  1. Never give someone advice when playing a round of golf. A good coach is comfortable at watching someone struggle because they know they probably need a hug rather someone trying to fix something they think is the problem.
  2. He might have so many other things in his head that you will simply confuse him. He may only be concerned about having a day off work.
  3. You had better be damn sure that your 'fix' works as his experience will go from bad to worse and he might end up hating you a little bit. 
  4. Broadcasting his problem to the whole group doesn't really instill confidence in a player. He might have been thinking, " I hope I don't embarrass myself."  Now you've just done it for him. 
Another spark for this blog was when I was asked to talk to a boy who kept having arguments with his mum when she was watching tennis. She said he had issues and asked if I could talk to him. I watched him play a few games and then had a chat about what he was going through and how he felt he played. I asked how it made him feel when his mum watched him. He said he hated how judgemental she was. Her comments always wound him up and he used to get a knot in his stomach as he waited for the next barbed comment. The disconnect between mother and son was she didn't know or ask him how he wanted to be supported. He on the other hand hadn't told her how it made him feel. He felt nagged and she felt rejected and that her son was ungrateful. With all this bubbling underneath, you can see why they always argued. This is my issue with some parents who try to coach from the sideline. Ask you child how they would like you to support them and you might but surprised by the response. The solution in the end was simple. She gave him a hug by the car, wished him luck and she never watched from the side of the court. He reminded her how appreciative he was of her support and was able to play free from this distraction. This is how you coach. You don't have the answers. You merely hold a mirror up to people to help them figure it out for themselves. 
I told you it was going to big! In part 2, we will look at how you give someone advice without them hating you. 

Wednesday, 23 January 2019

The problem with beards

I feel privileged that once a year, I can step into a world which I never knew existed. This is the world of beard owners. It is a strange world where a significant group of people have no idea what it is like to grow a beard and some of the trials and tribulations that can follow. By 'significant group of people' I mean women. I know it's unpopular these days to highlight differences between men and women, but I'm going to based on what women do not know about our facial hair. This for all the women out there who didn't know this world exists in a bid to help educate, create understanding and hopefully bring some much needed humour to the situation.

Every year, I do what I have now titled ‘Christmas beard’. It is the time of the year where I let my facial hair grow and shave less. All throughout the year, I keep my facial hair pretty low. My hair is coarse and thick so I suffer from quite bad in grown hairs. If I were to shave over these, I can scar the skin. This is the blight for many Afro Caribbean people, hence why there are numerous 'no bumps' skin products on the market. The 2 golden rules for anyone who suffers from razor bumps are:

1. Don't shave the hair too close to the skin, otherwise the hair will grow back into itself before it clears the skin.

2. Always shave with the hair. Never shave up!

There are lots of other tips and tricks which i've picked up from barbers, but this isn't the reason for writing this blog.

Most boys during puberty check daily to see if they have facial hair (to be honest, most hair...). It becomes a talking point of, "when you start shaving." After years of incessant scraping, the novelty wears off. However, there is still something really satisfying about shaving which I can't get my head around. There was definitely a sense of 'manly superiority' about the 3 boys who are early shavers when I was at school. As was the broken voice, (but funnily enough, not body odour). While the rest of us nursed our bum-fluff.   You couldn't wait to shave and to buy shaving products. However, what this early experience taught me, was we were not operating on a level playing field. I think we all thought one day we would all be able to grow thick vi king-like beards, when the opposite is the case. If I look back at the 'beard distribution' amongst my school friends, this disparity is probably reflective of the general population of today's beard owners. There weren't many who could grow full beards. Some were patchy. Some had thick hair. Some had thin hair. Even as we got older, there weren't many who could grow thick beards. Many were still scraggly and stubbly. Yet it wasn’t really pointed out.. This was the case until I became an adult and women started pointing out all the inadequacies which were never pointed out amongst young men. I used to let this wash over me but the frequency of being in a conversation about your facial hair, which you hadn't instigated, was mind blowing. I wondered if the subject changed, whether people would notice what they were doing? For example, a women who decided to not shave her body hair, would never find herself at the centre of conversation about how she needs to "shave it off." Would you tell a Sikh, "nah, I don't really like beards.."? Or if someone is trying to hide a skin condition, would you start touching it? I then heard a comedian mention this as his sister-in-law said she didn't like how the beard made him look. His reply was, "my face is still underneath the insult!!"

Most men who get comments about their beards from other women don't really care because if one woman (usually your wife or girlfriend) says it's ok and most of your mates agree, you're good to go.

The problem with beards is growth. They grow in their own time and people see you trying to grow one. It would be great if it was an overnight thing. You could wake up and your beard of choice is done without people highlighting your inadequacies.

Trust me, I'm not hypersensitive about this. I'm laughing while I write this. What I really like is the inconsistency and in some areas double standard. Imagine if as a woman, you had decided to have your hair done for hours (of which I still have no idea how) and you then find yourself in the middle of a conversation of men who are discussing whether they like it or not. Comments include, “I really don’t like blonde hair...” or, “I’m not sure if I like it.”

Beard Checklist. 

Not all men can grow full beards.
Not all men can grown thick beards.
Many men have patchy beards.
We have no choice whatsoever over what kind of beard we have.

This last point is my central argument. To comment (negatively)without asking is one of the weirdest social norms I have witnessed, and for this, I thank you beard community. I have witnessed your pain. To ensure there's balance, one man has commented on my beard, saying, "I don't trust people with beards."  The overwhelming number of negative comments have come from women. I do apprecaite the women who either don't comment or say, "nice beard,"  either side of the barbed comments. Some of the gems include , "urgh, I don't like beards.." and "hmm, I'm not sure." Again, this is only by simply walking into a room of women. The situation isn't helped by the current hipster thing going on as these beards are incredibly high maintenance and unachievable for the average person. So when a man decides to ditch his blades for a while, let's embrace the good and the bad as we have not control over it. It grows where it wants to.

Yours, Beardy Mcbeard face.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Eating meat will kill you within 5 seconds.

Now the dust has settled down, I will comment about the latest WHO findings on red meat and the increased risk of colon cancer. What often surprises me is the reaction and interpretation from the public which can often differ from what has actually been said.

The study looked specifically at colon cancer rates and concluded there was enough evidence that red and processed meat consumption increased your risk of getting colon cancer. This is what people interpreted from the findings.


It's easy to see why, but it's not so black and white. Firstly, this information has been around for while. A study on rats who had chemically induced colon cancer, showed that dietary haemoglobin had a catalytic effect on the formation of cancerous lesion. This is the formation of the theory that heam in meat 'might' contribute to cancer. This might not sound great news for those who are espousing the virtues of organic or free range meat. Heam is heam, regardless whether it is organic or not.

Secondly, this current study looked at processed meats. They are defined as anything that has been:

  • Smoked.
  • Cured.
  • Salt, additives or preservatives.

The additives and preservatives list is quite extensive. Here are a few but not all are used exclusively in meat.

  • Benzoic acid - preservative.
  • High fructose corn syrup - makes things sweeter.
  • Sodium nitrate - preservative.
This study then claimed processed meat (which was shortened to 'all meats' by militant vegans on twitter) should be put in the same category as smoking, alcohol and asbestos for know carcinogens. You've got to be a pretty hardy meat eater not to re-read that bit. So that's it. Meat will kill you. 

What concerns me about these articles, is people jump to extremes and these are the only voices you hear. Meat eaters were claiming that this is all a rubbish and to carry on eating as much meat as possible. This isn't the best tip if you have gout. Vegans were claiming that they have known this all along, despite cancer rates being similar in meat and non-meat eaters in the western world ( which in some way is more concerning than this study). I prefer to operate in the middle and let people make up their own minds, once the facts have been presented. 

A study in 2010 found 3 extra cases of bowel cancer per 100,000 attributed to meat consumption. If the next year this rate went up to 4, the papers would report it as an increased risk or that you are 33% more likely to get cancer. When in reality, we are talking about 1 extra person. It probably would be a a less sensational a headline if it read, "Bowel cancer rates are up 0.001%........."

"For an individual, the risk of developing colorectal (bowel) cancer because of their consumption of processed meat remains small, but this risk increases with the amount of meat consumed"
- Dr Kurt Straif, IARC

Here are some statistics on bowel cancer rates from Cancer Research.

8,000 cases of cancer can be linked processed meats.
64,000 cases of cancer can be linked to smoking.
12,000 cases of cancer are caused by alcohol - There is no safe limit.

We are winning the war on cigarettes, but unless you are going to address how much you drink or smoke, you are trying to put out a blazing inferno with a water pistol. What the report doesn't mention is that you can decrease your chances of getting colon cancer by simply not eating processed meats. To do this, I suggest you find a good butcher. A good butcher doesn't need to preserve the meat because everything is locally sourced and is bought or consumed within a few days.

I wish the papers had gone into who this is really about. It isn't an attack on meat. It's about manufacturers and supermarkets doing things to our meat which increases our cancer rates. They are the ones who need food to last longer as it spends longer in transit. They want meat to last longer on the shelves. They create the ready meals which are full of salt and additives to disguise the poor quality ingredients. It appears clear to me that what we do to food, is more important than what we eat.

Cancer is a complex matter. We tend not to know much about it unless it affects us or someone close to us. This then makes us terrified when he read an article which has the word 'cancer' in it. Cancer happens when DNA is damaged and this damage then spreads throughout the body. The damaged part of the DNA is then replicated as a mutation. As DNA tells the cells what to do and how to grow, once there is a mutation, the body replicates this and the body starts to tell certain cells to grow. This is how tumours start. DNA gets damaged all the time and normally by a process of methylation, we can repair our own DNA. DNA damage occurs by known carcinogens, diet, lifestyle and genetics. We've known for a long time that processed meat or burnt food can overburden our bodies ability to naturally detoxify. So again the news about meat isn't really that surprising.  

Here are some of the known carcinogens if you really want to avoid them. Good luck!

  1. Tobacco smoke
  2. Sunbeds and sunlamps
  3. Aluminum products
  4. Boot and show manufacturer repair
  5. Chimney sweeping
  6. Isopropanol manufacture - found in cleaning and disinfectant agents
  7. Rubber
  8. Alcohol 
  9. Diesel
  10. wood dust

If you want the full list of 116 known carcinogens, click on the link below.

So if you are serious about cancer and reducing your risk, I would look at meat eating as a general strategy. Cut down or cut it out but don't think you have reduced your cancer risk if you smoke, drink, eat processed foods or don't take regular exercise. 

If you are in need of meat free recipes, click here.

Hopefully this blog has left you less confused and probably a little hungry. If you are still thinking about going 'red meat free' we've created a cookbook to add some extra variety to your diet. It will be released on 1st  November. We will release it via our Website and our Facebook page so look out!

Stay fit.


Learn more about Fit School.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

J K Rowling/ S Williams vs Twitter troll

Another year of Wimbledon has passed by and I tried to watch as much as I could. Unfortunately, my children didn't appreciate Daddy monopolising the T.V. to watch people hit a ball backwards and forwards to each other for hours on end. So I only caught glimpses. 

Serena Williams won her 6th Wimbledon title and her second Serena slam at the age of 33. Kudos to her and let her enjoy the praise and glory. However, when the picture below was published, some people decided to comment on how masculine she looked. This brought about a rather witty response from J K Rowling. 

As sad and as dumb as some people are, I thought this would be an opportunity to explain why this guy is a moron and to shut this discussion down once and for all. I'll also show how these kinds of morons are unwittingly attracted to men, despite being heterosexual. 

  • Men and women are very similar. It's only a small genetic varation which brings about such a difference in how we look. Young boys and girls are very similar in their performances until puberty strikes. Then the gap widens. Your genes don't change the older you get, but some genes are expressed differently. 

  • Successful female athletes tend to be those who display more male characteristics. Narrow hips, long arms and low body fat. There  There is also a syndrome known as androgen insensitivity which means that genetically you are male, but your genitals don't develop and you look female. So being classed as 'female' may not be as straight forward as people think. 

  • The most overlooked point of this topic is Serena has curves, which  is a distinctly female characteristic. Hips, thighs and breasts. You can't get more feminine!  Men on the other hand don't have curves. If you saw a man with her curves, you would say she looked like a woman. 

  • Testosterone differentiates men from women. Men have higher levels, but not all women have the same levels. Many athletes have higher levels of testosterone which enable them to build muscle more than women with less testosterone. The debate continues about whether black athletes have a genetic advantage as a high proportion of athletes are black. Those that do will look more muscular (if they train) than those who don't. 

  • Most female track athletes have male qualities. Narrow hips are more efficient for speed than wider hips (like Serena). However, many men seem to make an exception when the athlete has an attractive face. They are prepared to overlook the male qualities. 

  • Models display more male characteristics than you would think. Narrow hips, long limbs and above average height. What makes them unique is the have a feminine looking face on a male frame. Again men overlook the male qualities. 

Back to Serena. The only reason people may think she looks masculine is mainly cultural. We don't see women with muscle. It's the same when we see a person over 40 who is muscular or lean. We think there is something wrong with this picture. Personally, this is a regression in us as a species and we shouldn't we lauding this as the new 'norm.' However, when I look at Serena, her body fat levels are at a guess in the normal ranges for women (10-30%). She looks like she can build muscle better than other women (which is true for a lot of athletes). Even you would build some muscle if you played sport for 8 hours a day.

If you showed this to black males, or those who live in Africa or the Caribbean, they would think she was slim. What I find funny is if Serena didn't exercise, she would be slightly softer and would carry more bodyfat. She might even be classed as overweight. So people need to stop comparing her to Maria Sharapova (who has male characteristics despite many men finding her attractive) and they should compare her to a bigger version of herself. However, I doubt they would be wearing a dress like she is and this conversation wouldn't be happening.

Find out more about Chris and Fit School.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Save yourself a trip to A & E.

My son absolutely loves his scooter. He actually prefers to scoot instead of using his bike. He is now more coordinated and strong enough to get up to a good speed. From day 1, we have always been keen to extol the virtues of head safety. Someone we know was knocked off his bicycle and luckily survived due to wearing a helmet. His neck was pinned for many months and he can now walk again. You don't have to look very hard to find similar stories like this. I would like to make clear my position from the start of this blog. I completely refute any notion or statistic that people who wear helmets get injured just as much as those who don't. So should you.

It always interested me how we get used to not wearing something which will protect a vital organ such as the brain. Not wearing a helmet starts with the HABIT of not wearing one. One day, you think it will take too much time to put one on. Or your friends will laugh at you because you have one and they don't. Then you convince yourself you will be careful or you're only going down the road. This also happens with your parent telling you, "it will be ok," on the day you are about to walk out the door and they can't be bothered to go back to put it on. Then as you develop more skill as a rider (or false confidence) and get older, you really believe that the likelihood of crashing is down to your own individual skill. It's people or cars crashing into you which you need to worry about. Being careful makes no difference at all to the likelihood of an extrinsic blow to the body.

We've seen the same attitude with wearing a seat belt, and more recently, wearing helmets while skiing. Liam Neeson's wife died after an innocuous fall on a nursury slope. She wasn't wearing a helmet. Michael Schumacher will most likely have died had he not been wearing his helmet. People are now rushing to wear helmets on the ski slopes as this attitude is changing. Yet I see many cyclists still not wearing helmets.

We recently bought our son a new helmet. We let him pick it out which he was excited about. The shop fitted the helmet and we were discussing how we see many kids not wearing helmets properly. Also, helmets have a lifespan. The materials and foam degrade and wear down. The recommendation for the life of a helmet is around 5 years. People think this is a marketing ploy to buy more helmets. It could partly be, but you only need to think about this. Fresh polystyrene has some give to it. Old polystyrene crumbles and snaps very easily. Which would you rather have supporting your brain?

Getting back to the topic. Isaac fell off his scooter a few days ago. He was scooting down a hill and lost control. When my wife got to him. His helmet had turned to the side and it was clear he had hit his head on the peak of the helmet (the sticky out bit). He was obviously shocked, but then he jumped up and carried on scooting. Had he not been wearing a helmet, it would have been a trip to A & E for sure. We were very lucky that he got a new helmet a few weeks prior to his fall, and was fitted properly. So here's a quick guide of how to, and how not to fit a child's helmet.

The helmet should be covering the eyebrows and sits as the brain is positioned on your spine.

If you follow the line of the edge of helmet (sticky out bit) straight down, it protects the forehead and nose if your child falls face first. 

It shouldn't be worn like a hat or to hold hair in place. 

The forehead and nose are completely exposed if the child falls face first. Also, the protection is too low at the back. this section of the head will never come in to contact with the ground. 

Hopefully this helps. Let's get kids active but let's try to build a good/life saving habit too.

Learn more about what we do at Fit School.

Monday, 13 April 2015

Ha ha ha you're fat. Part 2.

Carrying on from part 1. If you didn't read it, here is the link.

There are some great personal trainers out there doing great work in helping to change people’s habits and lifestyle. However, this doesn't make trainers obesity experts. Sometimes on Facebook, some of my fellow trainers take to their keyboards to vent their frustration in obesity being classed as anything other than ‘lazy-ass syndrome.” This if often off the back of an obesity related article in the media. One guy said obese people should be forced into having a medical procedure or they should have their benefits stopped. Or comments such as, “they got themselves into this mess. If they can’t be bothered to help themselves, why should we?” In a freakish coincidence, I heard a similar comment made by someone who was upset at the proposal of a new HIV drug to stop the spread of the disease amongst promiscuous males.

“If they’re stupid enough not to protect themselves, why should we help them?”

At least stupidity pops out in all walks of life.

People dislike those who are classed as obese because of what they feel they represent. What I am uncomfortable with is stereotyping used by professionals who are choosing to ignore evidence which they have access too. Or having any balance to their arguments, when they are perfectly placed to do so. At least the public can use ignorance as their excuse.

I believe those who work in fitness hold these views regardless of working in fitness. So I'm not criticising the industry as such. I feel they use their knowledge of health and fitness to fuel their dislike for people who are obese. It’s a bit like a gynaecologist deciding to wage a war on the lady garden and using intimate knowledge about said region to back their case. We would find that pretty low and disrespectful. Maybe that’s the word I am looking for. I would like people to be more respectful. 

The delusion that trainers become experts on obesity, follows this logic. 

Ø  I help people lose fat
Ø  I am not fat
Ø  I make people work beyond the point they want to stop
Ø  I am an expert in motivating people
Ø  Not being obese is about losing fat and not being lazy
Ø  I am an obesity expert

Now compare this to people who are researchers in obesity. This is taken from the abstract of a research paper.

Obesity is a genetically complex disorder that produces a myriad of health problems. Most of the recognized complications of obesity are not only strongly influenced by lifestyle factors, but also present with independent genetic predispositions that are notoriously difficult to disentangle in humans. Most studies on the causes and consequences of acquired obesity are encumbered by the incomplete ability to control for genetic influences…….

Causes and consequences of obesity: the contribution of recent twin studies. Naukkarinen J1, Rissanen A, Kaprio J, Pietiläinen KH. Int J Obes (Lond). 2012 Aug;36(8):1017-24. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2011.192. Epub 2011 Oct 11.

What trainers don’t realise is to people who actually know a bit about obesity, they sound pretty dumb. Which is interesting as many trainers are fighting for the right to be taken seriously. Here’s a thought. Treat others as you expect to be treated and you might push your cause a little.

We accept we can help someone lose weight, but we can't all help someone looking to get down to 6% body fat. We accept we can help someone put on some muscle mass, but not all of us can get someone 'hench' or 'henched (I believe these terms mean something to some people.). So why do trainers and society think eating less and moving more is a simple solution? I experimented with doing the recommended daily steps as advised but the gov. It worked out as walking a round of golf, every day. Even I would find this seriously challenging, yet trainers think that people should just 'find' this motivation from somewhere and keep doing it until they are slim. Most trainers will agree that our clients aren't motivated all year round, so how should those who don't have trainers stay motivated? 

The word obesity is interesting as it’s merely a categorisation for health risk. The figure is only one aspect of health as someone with low body fat can be classed as obese. What we are talking about is fat people. In my opinion, a lot of the venom is a different version of, “ha, ha ha, you’re fat,” you used to hear in the playground.”  I know people who have worse diets than some who are obese, but their weight gain isn't obvious because of their build and genetics. I've tested people who look slim, but they are known as ‘skinny fat,’ or TOFI (5). Add these to your list of the lazy when you wake up looking for an argument.   

There is also a slight sense of a superior judgement which comes across from some sections of the training community. Today it will be obese people. Tomorrow it will be something else. I put this in the list of, 'things that the public do which trainers find funny.'

List of topics trainers like to mock.

  • Cardio
  • Weight Watchers
  • Counting calories
  • Not using weights
  • Not exercising
  • Eating cereal
  • Not eating chicken
  • Having a life outside of fitness
  • Not knowing what Cross Fit is. 

This blog will probably play in the hands of those who think this is namby-pamby left wing nonsense. It is nothing of the sort. In fact, I agree with Jill Tipping from HoopUK (6) who said, “this isn’t accepting fat either.”  We should do everything in our power to make people aware that action needs to be taken. But if you are only prepared to offer criticism, then you are most likely fuelling the obesity fire. Watching Panorama also doesn't make you an expert on obesity. Facebook posts from trainers go crazy immediately after a programme about obesity. 

Finally, obesity is a fairly ‘new’ phenomena. We used to see larger people or the pot belly as a sign of wealth. Sugar used to be very expensive and was classed as ‘White Gold by British Colonists during the slave trade. Therefore it was eaten very sparingly or only by those who could afford it. As the price dropped, sugar was used more in foods and is a cheap way of making food taste better. So Sugar is the enemy? It is one part of the problem. People in the UK sit down for on average 9 hours a day which contributes to obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. There are campaigns trying to address this (7). So obesity is affecting all people from different social backgrounds, economic backgrounds, races, sex etc. But whenever people fat shame, they have a picture of someone watching Jeremy Kyle, living off benefits. Obesity is everywhere. Even though it does come down to energy expenditure, it is much more complex than telling people to eat less. If you really want to look into the causes, this diagram explains it pretty well. It looks at every aspect of obesity and does look at taking responsibility.

To be honest, chances are, most people have made their mind up and this blog has done very little to change it. All I have tried to do is to divide people into 2 groups. Those who are committed to helping people tackle weight and inactivity related disease. The other group is those who like to laugh at 'fat' people. I think you know which camp I sit in.

For more info about Chris and his Essex based business, check out


  1. .
  3.   Daniel Kahneman, 2011. Thinking Fast and Slow.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Ha ha ha you're fat.

I've been a personal trainer for 13 years. Over the last few years, I've noticed a worrying trend occurring amongst my fellow professionals. Fat shaming. It appears that we as health and fitness professionals feel adequately placed to say derogatory comments about anyone who gets in our way. It appears that overweight people are now feeling our wrath.

The thing is, I would fight for the right for people to say what they want (to a point). In this case, it is completely different. This is professionals using their status or anecdotal evidence to justify attacking people who are very overweight or obese. This is also without actually working with obese people. Some very overweight people seek out Personal Trainers, but, but what they need to ensure success is a team of people including a dietician and psychological support. This is well beyond the scope of a PT.

Fat shaming is something we do as a society, so first let’s look at some of the views society seem to have of obese people.

  • ·         They lack self-control.
  • ·         They lack discipline.
  • ·         They are sponging of the state.
  • ·         They are talking the piss out of everyone.
  • ·         They want to be fat.
  • ·         They don’t care about their health.
  • ·         I hate fat people because of their attitude.

This is the tame version. People say and think much worse about this topic. This was evident when obesity was deemed a disability in certain cases in employment law. Social media was rife with some of the most hateful and vile comments that I had seen in a long time. The same is evident when the words ‘obesity’ and ‘disease’ are mentioned in the same sentence. The reason being people feel diseases are things outside of your control and obesity is something well within your control. This becomes semantics when you consider most cancers are considered to be influenced by lifestyle rather than genetics (1).Something tells me people don’t have the same appetite to attack people who suffer from cancer compared to those who are obese.

Obesity is also an easy target. You can see someone putting on weight so it is easy to pass judgement. You can’t see someone slowly getting cancer. I can hear people now.

“Is he seriously comparing a serious, life-threatening disease such as cancer to obesity? He must be a liberal, lily-livered lefty.”  

Not really, and I am merel comparing 2 biological states of the body. I just like to question the conclusions I'm asked to reach, especially when they include stereotyping of whole groups of society. This piece also isn't about excusing obesity, as I’ll go into later.

We justify our venom because we think obese people will eventually lose weight or they need to be treated harshly to ‘wake up.’ How is that working out for you? Have you managed shame someone slim? People are so unwilling to question their logic that even when presented with the reality that kids will die before their parents due to weight related disease, some say, “they got themselves into this mess, so they can get themselves out of it.”  It’s almost as if they have cemented their ill-informed opinion to the extent that there is no way any other point of view can get through. Not even empathy. According to cancer research, survival rates are at 78% for breast cancer (2). IMO, this is what happens when you dedicate funds and resources to tackling diseases irrespective of how they start. This is a threat to our survival, shouldn't we look more at like that instead of the blame game?

Then you have the logic of those who say, “you’d hate it if your child was sick and they didn't get the care they should because funds were diverted to obese people.” No, this isn't a party political broadcast for UKIP. I find it interesting how it is mainly cancer that is used to strengthen the argument. Why? To create an emotional argument. Obese people get cancer too. Are we going to say that they shouldn't get treatment because they are obese? Or hold the view that they have got themselves into this situation, but the slim person hasn't?  This is the argument of the truly lazy who have a simplistic view on how healthcare works. It’s also fuelled by the vision of obese people sitting eating a Macdonalds (stereotype #466)  all day. As soon as the media report that some are on benefits, this is all the ammunition people need. I used to work in Macdonald’s and I would say the majority of people who came in weren't obese. That’s not actual research, but I did work there for 9 hours a day.

Lastly, I heard man on a popular radio phone-in say, “you know the people I mean. Those who sit around all day, eating Macdonald’s, living off benefits.” Oh, so you mean you watched the programme ‘Benefits street,’ and you now have enough information to make a well informed opinion? Seems logical to me. What you have here is what is known as the availability cascade (3). If we talk about something enough, it becomes the centre of our concern and we want leaders and governments to do something about it. Are you still as worried about Ebola compared to when it was mentioned 2-3 times a day? In fact, governments are often looked down upon by not acting on these concerns, despite their logic/importance being questionable. I am troubled by the obesity epidemic. However, I'm more concerned about inactivity related disease and illness as it is twice as deadly as obesity (4). I’ll accept that it’s difficult to disentangle the two, but unless you are prepared to look into these figures, don’t attempt to judge people.

So that’s society done. Let’s look at trainers.