I’m not going to pretend that the main reason I got certified as a personal trainer in 2010 wasn’t because of my eating disorder.
I “wasn’t” an anorexic at the time. I was just getting my toes wet again with EDNOS—a nice combination of “clean eating” (read: rabid orthorexia) and “lifting heavy” (read: compulsive exercise). I wanted nothing more than to be featured in the pages of Oxygen Magazine, so I spent as much time as I could in the gym and the kitchen, the latter of which I learned was “where abs are made.”
When grad school and theatre—two things that I formerly loved with a fiery passion—started getting in the way of my workouts, I knew that I needed a way to be in the gym as much as possible. I reasoned that personal training was a great way to live my new passion, while also “helping” the “pathetic cardio bunnies” I sneered at while I did my own fasted cardio after lifting a favor by showing them how to fall in love with the squat rack as I had.
I was not in a good headspace, as you can clearly tell.
Now, I know a whole bunch of fitness professionals who are the most UN-disordered people in the world—people like Jessi Kneeland and Luke Robinson and Kevin Geary, who truly, truly get that fitness isn’t a punishment and that women’s bodies are different and beautiful and don’t require harmful force to reach and maintain some perfect ideal.
There are also a lot of trainers out there who don’t get it—or don’t know that there’s a dark underbelly to the world of fitness. There are a lot of well-meaning trainers who think that fitspo and harsh cues (“go harder so you can do penance for last night!”) are a great way to motivate everyone. Well, they can be a great way to motivate—but sometimes that motivation is a little too great.
There are also also a lot of trainers who got into the bus because they were like I was: disordered without knowing it.
When it comes to using the modern gym—whether that be a Crossfit box, a spin class, or a squat rack, I think that personal trainers are an invaluable resource. Even personal trainers should be training with someone watching and cueing them, because it’s really hard to watch your own form and make corrections when you have a bar across your back or a dumbbell in your hand.
And when someone is paying you to push them hard and get results in strength, leanness, or performance (or some combination thereof), it’s easy to just do the job you’ve been trained for.
But…what do you do when you end up with a client who is (or you yourself end up) getting “destructively fit?”
This question, surprisingly, hasn’t really been asked—or at least addressed—much in the personal training handbooks. Yet disordered eating and compulsive exercise is absolutely rampant in today’s fitness facilities. And, according to today’s podcast guest Jodi Rubin, a whopping 42% of regular gym goers have a destructive relationship with exercise—which means that this is a question every personal trainer needs to be asking their clients on day one.
Jodi Rubin is an LCSW and Certified Eating Disorder Specialist, as well as an NASM certified personal trainer. She’s also the creator of Destructively Fit, a certification and continuing education program—and if you’re in the fitness industry, you definitely need to take this course. Jodi’s intention with Destructively Fit is not to teach personal trainers how to treat eating disorders—but how to ask the right questions, recognize the signs, and work with the right trainer professionals to keep fitness healthy.
In today’s podcast, we discuss what happens when someone else’s eating disorder becomes your business—literally.