Keep Your Thoughts about Other Bodies to Yourself

Episode 13

In the fitness industry, there is often too much emphasis placed on being a certain shape and size. Even though there isnt just one way to be strong, fit, and healthy, the images typically showcased in related marketing, social media posts, and education are still pretty clichéd: noticeably muscular men and slender women who glow” rather than sweat. In todays episode, we unpack why these stereotypes are harmful, why coaches must be especially careful when it comes to voicing their own unconscious biases about body image, and why commenting on another persons body is almost always inappropriate, even if you believe its well-intentioned. Tune in to find out why we should take the focus off size, shape, and appearance in the fitness industry and celebrate movement instead!


Key Points From This Episode:


  • The (sometimes harmful) body image stereotypes that prevail in the fitness industry.
  • Reasons that coaches need to be cautious about their unconscious biases.
  • Loving the skin you’re in and celebrating movement over appearance.
  • An instance where Hannah called a student out for commenting on another student’s weight.
  • Why “you’ve lost weight” isn’t necessarily a compliment.
  • Our golden rule: keep your thoughts about other bodies to yourself!
  • How we will expand on this topic in upcoming episodes.



HT: There is far too much pressure and marketing about being a certain shape and about putting goals in there that are shape-related. So, you know, in the case of women, that’s usually about being smaller. In the case of men, it’s about being more muscular. Those are stereotypes but they hold true through a lot of different marketing. I thought this would be an interesting place to start our discussion.”




[0:00:39.1] HT: Welcome. Stick around if you want to learn about the art and philosophy of beautiful movement mixed with evidence-based exercise science. We’ll be having tough and inspiring conversations with other coaches, experts, artists, and athletes. Our goal is to challenge myths, explore concepts, and engage in healthy debate as we dive deep with intrigue and curiosity. 


I’m your host, Hannah Teutscher. I’ve been teaching dance, Pilates, and yoga for over two decades, and what I’ve learned is that movement can be the joy that integrates us all together. When we can trust and express ourselves through our bodies, we are unlimited in our ability to change ourselves and our communities for the better. 


We, as movement teachers and coaches, have the power to help people experience this for themselves. Okay everyone, let’s dive in. Exchanging ideas and changing people’s lives, one session at a time. This is The Pilates Exchange.




[0:01:37.8] HT: Hello, hello, everyone. We have opened up a can of worms on Instagram, a few different tags, and I think we’re just going to keep on going down this route of, yeah, talking about body stuff, body imaging, and its role in the fitness world and in coaching. I’d like to narrow down the scope of what we’re talking about today because this is a huge, huge conversation and you’re going to hear a lot about it from us in upcoming podcasts as we actually talk with different experts in the field and see if we could sort through some of these stuff.


But today, we’re going to be focusing on the coaching aspect and talking about bodies and with people of just being in a body, okay? Different body shapes. So, I’d like to make the point that in the fitness industry, there is far too much pressure and marketing about being a certain shape, and about putting goals in there that are shape-related. 


So you know, in the case of women, that’s usually about being smaller. In the case of men, it’s about being more muscular. Those are stereotypes but they hold true through a lot of different marketing. So I thought this would be an interesting place to start our discussion. What do you think Chris?


[0:03:05.5] CT: Yeah, I think the whole topic is body image and the first thing that comes to my head is when you started already the studio here in 2015, I was still dancing professionally here in the theatre and I was already in helping you out here. I guess was just assisting a couple of classes, learning stuff, and I was really body image-wise because in the theatre, you had these ladies and these men like, super skinny and thin and maybe – 


[0:03:38.1] HT: Eating disorder.


[0:03:38.6] CT: Yeah, to being unhealthy, and then I remember once I came over here and I saw a woman and I was just asking you, “I think the lady, she’s like overweight, she’s obese,” you know? And you were just saying, “No, that’s normal, that’s what people look like.” You know, it’s not like these dancers being super skinny, unhealthy and having 10, 15 kilos too less or – 


So, I was just – I had to work on my body image a lot because I was being surrounded by these skinny people over half of my life and then I was also thinking about myself. Is it this – being skinny dancer shape, is that – does it mean that the person is fit? Or whatever. Fit is also not the wrong term, has a good life quality or does it mean that you need to have muscles unique to me in order to do this stuff? So, that’s the –


[0:04:38.0] HT: I think when you got out of the ballet life because it’s not just theatre. It’s specifically being in a ballet company and it is not true for all dancers but many, many dancers suffer through eating disorders or disordered eating or body image disorder. Okay, so this is – we’ve grown up around it and it has become our normal.


So, what your eyes see, you identify that as normal human stature already and I would say, many, many times that dancer’s physique is not healthy because they’re so underweight that they come up with other – not only mental issues but there’s also physical issues that come around that.


So, when you first started entering the studio space and just the gym space, you did have a little bit of a reckoning, of like, “Oh, okay, this is what actual normal humanity looks like” right? “This is what a healthy body looks like.” Healthy is a whole bunch of different shapes and sizes and looks.


[0:05:59.0] CT: Yeah because when you grow up with this shape, you think that’s the body image, that’s the place to go.


[0:06:06.1] HT: Right.


[0:06:06.8] CT: So, but it’s like also other people have a body image when they think this is what people should look like but where do you think that it’s coming from? Is it from because they believe in that or society is telling that person or is it from social media?


[0:06:23.6] HT: It’s a lot of stuff. I mean, as a – I mean, that’s a huge, huge discussion that I think we could get into a different time but there’s many different influences that go into that. Us, as coaches, we need to be really careful what our – what’s called unconscious bias, what you prefer unconsciously just because of your history, your personal history, and also other influences that you’re not even aware of. 


So, from marketing to social media to movies and all of that. So that has – that influences the way that you see the world around you, right? So there’s that aspect of it and as a coach, we have to constantly be working on what those views are. Being aware, being aware of where your unconscious bias is so that you don’t make mistakes with treating people differently in the past.


[0:07:27.2] CT: So then, what you like to talk about the situation, what happened in the studio the other day, which was leading you to your Instagram post?


[0:07:35.7] HT: Oh, yeah, okay. So – 


[0:07:36.9] CT: Do it without names.


[0:07:38.2] HT: Yeah, no-no-no, no names, no names.


[0:07:40.1] CT: Just the situation. Just tell us the situation.


[0:07:41.6] HT: Okay. So first of all and around here, anyone that is a client, a student of ours, we have deep discussions about bodies and just loving the skin that you are in and we celebrate always movement because movement is fantastic, movement is beautiful. Like, anything that we could do to enjoy being in our bodies is what we do. 


It is never about the shape aesthetically. It just is, that’s not what we – that’s not what we’re involved in, of making people lose weight or we’re going to tone this muscle or get your six-pack abs or your summer bikini shape – that’s all. Yeah, that’s not our jam.


Okay, so what had happened was we – it’s actually a couple different situations but I’ll just focus on one. One client had not seen the other student. So, the two clients hadn’t seen each other over a period of time because of the pandemic, right? And the one guy says to the woman, “Oh my gosh, ‘First Name’ I haven’t seen you in so long. You’ve lost so much weight, you look great.” 


[0:08:58.5] CT: Sorry, so he said, “Did you lose weight?” I guess, this is how he was running in.


[0:09:05.8] HT: “Did you lose weight?” Then, the next sentence was, “You look great.” Okay. So let me unpack this, which I did say something to that person because I was furious.


[0:09:17.1] CT: So you called him out?


[0:09:17.9] HT: I did call him out because losing weight does not mean looking great. Losing weight can be a whole bunch of different things and you know, because we have people here that train with us that have medical issues. Like they’ve, you know, lost weight or gained weight for different medical issues, from thyroid stuff, we have cancer, we have – you know, like, all different things. 


We have people who either lose or gain weight because of depression. We have people that have lost family members and they’re going through – we have different life situations like they are getting a divorce and now they have to take care of the three kids on their own and stuff and that also has an influence in what our physical, you know, the – on the physical body.


Gaining or losing a few pounds or kilos is not an indication of health and it is not an indication of looking great or of beauty, right? And that’s where I really – I did have a little bit of an angry moment with that person but I said it clearly, what I – the problem that I have with it.




[0:10:31.3] HT: When I started teaching, I felt underprepared and overwhelmed. I needed to learn how to plan my training so that it made sense but I wasn’t sure what was working and what wasn’t. So many teacher training programs leave out the actual art and business of teaching. This is why we created Train the Trainers. 


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[0:11:19.6] HT: Yeah, so you understand what I’m talking about, right? 


[0:11:21.5] CT: Yes, yes. 


[0:11:22.1] HT: And so it brought up a whole bunch of things for myself, especially because I know the background of each person that’s here and that particular comment to that person was totally inappropriate for their life situation too, which you know and then it put them in a bad place of very much uncomfortable because how do you, as the receiver say of the pseudo-compliment if you are going through a hard time in your life, what do you say? 


“Yeah, thanks. Cancer is awesome.” You know like what – that’s just silly. It’s silly, it’s stupid to have to put someone in that situation to have to quantify or qualify their weight loss or their weight gain. So, my proposal for always is, do not talk about people’s weight. Period. Done. That’s easy, you know, and it goes for us coaches too. Sometimes I’ve seen like, “Oh yeah” a pseudo-compliment again of like, “Oh, you know our program is working, you’ve lost the weight.” 


Well, I mean, is that really necessary to praise people like that? Chris, jump in, what do you think? 


[0:12:36.2] CT: So what you say that, what we’re talking about now, that people should maybe go back and then probably everyone who is listening to that had already probably a situation. Maybe as a man doing a compliment or not a compliment, it’s probably – 


[0:12:55.5] HT: A comment maybe? 


[0:12:56.3] CT: A comment, yeah, it’s almost the same, no? A comment to a lady or maybe then also ladies have been in this situation. So when you say that everyone who has been in this situation who did the comment should reconsider the way they see people, their body image, or should they actualise their –?


[0:13:18.3] HT: Well, yeah because I think it’s more than just men and women but women do it to each other too. You know, I think it’s a human thing and we’ve been programmed into doing it sort of in this like, “This is the compliment that you give people.” “Oh,” you know? Like it’s, “I haven’t seen you in a while. You lost some weight, you look awesome,” and that’s what we’ve been taught is a good way to lift each other up and that is not a good way to lift each other up, you know? 


[0:13:47.6] CT: That was just framing. 


[0:13:48.8] HT: So for example, like let’s see how it looks like, “Oh.” So I am going to again say pseudo-compliment, “Oh, she just had a baby. She lost all the weight, she looks great. She bounced right back, she got her old body back,” you know? It’s harmful, it’s not – 


[0:14:05.8] CT: So that means she didn’t have the body image this time when she had the baby, so she was not – she was bad or kind of, you know, it’s kind of – 


[0:14:13.6] HT: Well, you know it is not being respectful of birthing people, you know? Of like having, going through pregnancy, going through a birth, and then the entire physiology changes and it will just be different, whatever that looks like afterwards, you know? So it takes its toll on the body in different ways and there is no need to bounce back. So, what I am talking more about is the comments that are around mothering or pregnant people. 


I am also talking about body image as a whole, how we support people. So, it’s not just us as coaches that do that, that need to be aware of it but just as people, as humans to say, “Look, you don’t always know the situation of the person across from you,” and unless you are in an intimate enough relationship where you can say, “Hey, so and so, I haven’t seen you in a while. Do you want to catch up over coffee?” 


If that person says yes and you can have a conversation that was built on trust that you could share information about each other’s lives, if you’re not in that sort of intimate relationship with the person, you have no right to be talking about their bodies.


[0:15:39.5] CT: So then we – 


[0:15:40.1] HT: And to compliment.


[0:15:40.5] CT: It would be a superficial comment or the person’s superficial, just, “Oh, you lost weight” or “Did you lose weight?”


[0:15:48.5] HT: I think that society has – I think that was a form of, “Hey, how are you?” You know, I think it was more of a form of like, “I’m trying to be nice but I –” or “I’m trying to get in touch with you” or build rapport with you or build a friendship with you, and that’s how that comes across but we just need to drop all the body talk.


[0:16:11.7] CT: So that would – it’s probably better to leave. When you have it in your head, just probably, if you don’t have a relationship or relation with that person, just to leave a comment about the body image out.


[0:16:24.0] HT: I think even if you do have a relationship with the person to leave it out.


[0:16:26.8] CT: Okay.


[0:16:26.5] HT: I mean, I’ve had – I’ll give you another example of – with a person who knows me pretty well and actually knows me very well but I don’t let that person know, you know, the intimate details of my medical stuff and I was going through a bad bout of endometriosis, which does make your belly sort of swell and very uncomfortable.


So, that person said, “Oh my gosh, are you pregnant?” Excuse my language and this is open for adults but, “Excuse me, fuck you, I’m not pregnant, I have a giant tumour in my belly that is causing me so much effing pain right now, and that’s why I look pregnant.” You know, and it was ridiculous and then it made – you know, I’m very actually, pretty secure with my body right at this point. 


But it makes you think, “Oh, well, I’m so – now I look pregnant,” you know? Not that there’s a problem with being pregnant, it was just totally uncalled for because the thing was, if I was pregnant and I wanted that person to know, I would tell them.


[0:17:42.2] CT: Yeah, and then if you lost weight and you’re proud of it, you will let the person know, “I lost 10 kilograms, what about you?”


[0:17:49.9] HT: Well, no but that’s so right Chris, you hit the nail on the head. If it was something that I wanted to share with someone that I hadn’t seen for a while. “Hey, how are you doing baba? Oh my gosh, I just lost, you know, 10 kilos,” or “I mean, I’m feeling awesome, I’ve been lifting weights, I put on a lot of muscle mass, I feel awesome.” I would tell the person the information that I would like them to know.


[0:18:13.2] CT: And then you can say, “It looks great” or – 


[0:18:14.9] HT: And then you could say, it looks great. Exactly.


[0:18:18.8] CT: I realized it before, I wanted – “I wanted to say something but now, you look much better,” or a person who was really skinny got some – put some weight on, it looks more healthy then, also then leaving it not up to the person to judge it. Just when the person wants to talk about it, wants to share that information, then you can comment on it.


[0:18:38.0] HT: Right. Well, you can. You can yeah, have a conversation about it if they allow you to.


[0:18:41.6] CT: Yeah.


[0:18:41.8] HT: You know, if they want you to.


[0:18:43.4] CT: So, they should start the conversation about it if they needed something.


[0:18:46.7] HT: If they want it, they will talk about it. You know, and it’s also again, this thing of like where do you – if you were on the receiving end of something like that from a teacher and we’re going to open this up with I have some other people that I’m going to invite on. We’re going to talk about this a little bit deeper with some other teachers, yoga teachers.


If you were on the receiving end of something like that, what do you say? You know, my – I’m a pretty tough lady. So if I’m not in the mood for it, then I will probably say something snarky back but that’s not always a safe thing to do for people, you know? So that’s hard, it’s difficult.


[0:19:28.7] CT: Probably someone would say to them which is confident enough, I’ll just start good thinking, yeah. I wouldn’t care about the person because it’s a comment which is not necessary.


[0:19:41.2] HT: Right, right. But you know if –


[0:19:43.0] CT: For some people, I imagine it can be really, really – it can hurt them. 


[0:19:47.8] HT: Yeah, it could be really painful. It could also set off some – 


[0:19:52.3] CT: Yeah, it could trigger some stuff. 


[0:19:54.6] HT: Yeah, definitely. Definitely. So we don’t have an answer on this right now but we would like to get in touch with a couple more body image coaches. So, maybe we’ll invite them on in an upcoming podcast so we can unpack this a little bit further. So our big takeaway for today is just don’t talk about people’s bodies like that. 


[0:20:18.6] CT: If you want to, keep it for yourself. 


[0:20:20.2] HT: Keep it for yourself. Talk in your own head. 


[0:20:23.3] CT: Yeah, write it down. 


[0:20:24.9] HT: Leave it in your head. All right, my friends, we’re going to wrap up. Thanks for joining us today and if you have any thoughts, definitely let us know, we’re curious. Have a good one. 


[0:20:39.6] CT: Bye. 




[0:20:42.0] HT: Thank you so much for joining us today. I hope you enjoyed the conversation. A great cost-free way of supporting us and the podcast would be to give us a five-star rating. You could also look down into the show notes and grab anyone of the free resources for teachers. I hope to see you next week on The Pilates Exchange. Happy teaching everyone. 



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