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Bariatric Fitness – Is it a pipe-dream career path?

Desperately Seeking SlenderWhen I am sad, depressed or stressed out I get withdrawn and quiet. Like most of you, these are emotions I don’t deal with well. When I start to experience these emotions I instantly think, “I have to be really careful that I don’t start feeding my feelings.” Because, if I don’t, I know I am just a few Twinkies away from weighing over 400 lbs. again. It might seem like a drastic leap. But, for a recovering food addict like me, it’s an easy leap to make. My commitment to my own post-operative bariatric fitness program is the only thing that saves me from regain. That’s a true story.

Things have been difficult for me lately. First I was dealing with the strange and new grief of my ex-husband passing away. Almost exactly a month later, I starting dealing with a different sort of grief. The grief of a job loss. It’s not that I lost my job. I’ll always have a position as the Head Trainer at GoGirl Fitness Studio, so long as it is in business. But, this loss is the loss of my salaried position as the General Manager. The grief I feel is interesting. I’m sad, not just for myself but for my community as a whole.

This sounds strange at first I am sure. Why does my losing my position as a General Manager effect the weight loss community or the weight loss surgery community at all?

It doesn’t. That is exactly the part that makes me sad.

GoGirl When I began working at GoGirl Fitness Studio a little over a year ago, one of the stipulations of my taking the job as the General Manager and Head Trainer was that the company had to provide me a way to reach the population that I was most passionate about helping. The weight loss surgery population. I wanted to help other bariatric surgery patients like myself discover the mighty tool of fitness and how much it helps in their pre-operative, post-operative and weight maintenance phases of their journey. Bariatric Fitness. This was going to be my specialty.

I had dreams of being the Chris Powell of the weight loss surgery community. My goal was to become a leader in Bariatric Fitness. My passion was to make fitness fun. To make it exciting and affordable for a population that I feel the fitness industry often mistreats. Since this was a passion of mine, and the ability to chase this goal was of paramount importance to me, when GoGirl Fitness Studio hired me, they invested in a state of the art remote training system to make this possible.

Because I believed in myself, and in how I could help this population, the company threw it’s marketing money into helping me get the word out about this program. In the first couple of months we ran focus groups to work out the bugs. Next, we signed up as a sponsor for the Bariatric Foodie Pledge. The company flew me off to San Antonio to run a vendor booth at the WLSFA event. But, no matter what we did, the concept of Bariatric Fitness and remote training for a bariatric population just didn’t take off.

I believed they key was to make Bariatric Fitness affordable.

Financial objections always seem to be the biggest issues for prospective clients. “I can’t afford personal training.” – To answer this, I developed GoGirl Resolve, a personal training program specifically designed for those effected by obesity. A group personal training program that specifically catered to bariatric fitness. I priced it reasonably, and even offered huge discounts to the weight loss surgery community. $119 a month for 12 sessions a month. Less than $10 per session for a personal trainer to help keep you accountable on your fitness journey. Under $10 a session for a personal trainer to design workouts that keep things fun, exciting and to help motivate you into doing something that every single one of us knows we should be doing after weight loss surgery, exercise.

Yet still, the objections were that people could not afford it. It’s so heart-wrenching to me. To hear someone tell me they can’t afford a reasonably priced fitness program that will help them not fall into the pitfalls of regain. Yet, if I followed most of the people who tell me they can’t afford it on social media, I’d watch them post about spending money on all sorts of other non-essential things. It’s not that most people can’t afford it, it’s that most people don’t make it a priority.

We don’t initially see the value in paying for a bariatric fitness routine.

Bariatric Fitness - Personal Training for Weight LossI did the same thing. Told myself I could do it on my own. I’d pay $20-$40 a month for a gym membership I swore I’d use and then never had the accountability factor I needed to actually go. Accountability goes a long way. Knowing that you’re paying someone else to be there tends to make you actually go.

But these are hard things to overcome in a sales consult. Do I practice empathy and be understanding? Or do I practice tough love and ask hard questions?

“Will a fitness routine be valuable when you’ve regained 30-60 lbs. and realize that the fact that you didn’t listen when your surgeon told you to exercise might be a contributing factor to that?”

“What kind of value will a bariatric fitness routine hold when the honeymoon phase of your surgery wears off? When you can eat like a relatively “normal” person again? How about when you start to realize that the only way you will maintain your weight loss is with exercise and activity?”

“Is it more valuable to spend a third of what you would pay for a specialized bariatric fitness program where you have the accountability and motivation factor to actually show up for a gym membership that you might use for the first 30 days and then will likely stop prioritizing?”

Watching someone slide down the slippery slop of regain breaks my heart.

When it is happening, we are acutely aware of why it is happening. We stopped eating as healthy as we were. We aren’t exercising. We’ve fallen back into bad habits. The carb craving monster reared it’s ugly little head. Sound familiar? I know it does, because I’ve been there. Remember, I lost over 200 lbs. and gained it all back. I’ve been there too. I firmly believe that the only reason I don’t fall prey to this downfall is because I have a solid bariatric fitness routine implemented into my life.

Yet, even when we know that it is happening. We don’t see the value in hiring someone to help us. We’d much rather come up with the reasons why we can’t.

“I can’t afford personal training.” “My schedule is too hectic. I just can’t make the time for the workouts.” These are by far our favorite barriers. The reasons we give for not making a commitment to a bariatric fitness routine. Rational reasons we use as an excuse for the truth; that those of us that are effected by obesity seem to be highly predisposed to choose inaction over action. Why? Because it’s a hard habit to break when we have been doing it for such a large portion of our lives.

We’re so use to being sedentary, it’s hard to choose to be active.

Remote Training Bariatric FitnessThis is a harsh, sad reality. A reality that has truly made my dream of bringing fitness to the weight loss surgery community a challenging task. Perhaps I set too lofty of a goal for myself.

I’m honestly not sure. What I am sure of now, is that chasing that goal cost the company I work for a lot of money. Money that didn’t convert into clients in our remote training program. Funds that didn’t convert into my training schedule being full of clients searching for a trainer that specialized in bariatric fitness.

I believed in myself. Believed in the value of what I was doing. I was passionate about helping the population I was attempting to serve. Even now, I wholeheartedly believe in a bariatric fitness program. A program for people effected by obesity designed by people who have been effected by obesity.

Before I started this, I constantly used to hear, “I wish I lived closer to you so that I could work out with you.” I spent a good deal of blood sweat and tears developing a program that broke the confines of distance and location. But where are all those people now?

Now, I’m sad. I feel defeated. In fact, I feel like a failure. 

Not because my dreams didn’t pan out. Not because my program wasn’t successful. I feel like I failed because I took someone else down this path with me, the owner of GoGirl Fitness Studio. I overestimated my reach and potential in the weight loss surgery community. As a result, I focused on the population I was most passionate about helping rather than building up the business within a population of people who already see the value in fitness, activity and exercise.

I encouraged the owner to put our marketing efforts into the weight loss surgery community and a bariatric fitness program that yielded so little results in its first year that the company isn’t making enough money to be able to afford the salary they pay me to run it for them.

Now, I’m back to a part-time job in the fitness industry. Only getting paid for the time I spend training. I feel defeated. For the first time in the eight years since I started chasing this dream of being a Personal Trainer for people fighting obesity, I am honestly starting to ask myself if this is all just a pipe dream. If I can’t make a decent living working with the clients that I want to specialize in working with is it time to find a new career path?

Is Bariatric Fitness a pipe dream?

I dunno right now. I’m trying to figure out how to get back up on this horse and keep riding. Trying to persevere and get back up despite the fact that I feel like I’ve been knocked out of the saddle. Right now, I’m dealing with a huge pay cut, and the challenge of standing on my own to feet on a 19-25 hour a week paycheck. I don’t how I am going to pay my bills. It feels like Christmas has been canceled. I’m sad, I’m depressed, and there is a weight of uncertainty on my chest.

I’m struggling. Usually when I am struggling I am silent. But, when I returned to blogging this time I promised myself and my readers that I’d be writing through the struggles. Sharing, being transparent and being honest. Honest right now is, I’m struggling with my emotions and it is taking everything I have not to feed my feelings right now.

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Pandora Williams author of Desperately Seeking Slender is an ISSA Certified Personal Trainer and Cooper Institute Approved Wellness Coach Trained in Weight Management Strategies. Her training and coaching services are offered exclusively through GoGirl Fitness Studio.

Sex Love and Obesity Part 8

In Sex Love and Obesity part 7 we left of with Superman being an unattainable man in my life, me being unwilling to tell him the truth because now that I had lost all my weight for the second time in my life I was plagued with the excess skin issues that still made me uncomfortable with my own body.

It is amazing, the shift that happens after you lose so much weight. I always thought I would lose the weight and life would be perfect. I’d lost 250 pounds, but with all the skin, I still looked like someone who suffered from obesity. I was happy with my weight loss. But, I was still ashamed of my body. I might even say I was more ashamed of my body than I had been before I lost the weight. Because quite honestly when the skin issues set in. there was this mental part that came with it. I had to face the mirror each day and see the damage I had done with my food addiction and with my struggle with obesity. It was hard enough for me to deal with. But it kept me from telling Superman the truth because I really didn’t think my heart could handle the rejection I’d feel if he couldn’t love me because of it.

It was now 2013, I’d been lying to this man for the better part of 10 years.

I was in the middle of planning my exit strategy. I was finally at a place where I knew I was leaving my husband. I had come to terms with the fact that I had to move on with my life. I had stopped working as a phone sex operator. I had accepted that my body even after reconstructive surgery, wasn’t going to be perfect and I wasn’t going to progress that career into video technology. I had started attending weight loss conventions. I had found a new passion to help others that were struggling with obesity. I wanted to do something for a living that I was proud of and I was in the middle of get the education I needed to pursue a career in the fitness and wellness industry.

It was the summer of 2013, I was in Dallas on my last hiatus from home before I started to figure out where I was going when I left. I was just about to undergo my final round of reconstructive plastic surgery. What I looked like after this, was going to be as good as it gets. This was going to be my final outcome. Whether I liked it or not I just couldn’t afford anymore reconstructive plastic surgery to fix anything else.

Superman and I were discussing meeting for the 100th time in the last 10 years. I can only guess that in his mind, we were planning another trip I would never show up for.

My life was in such an emotional place that I honestly can’t tell you how it really went down. Maybe someday I will ask Superman how he remembers it. But somewhere, during planning this trip I think we both assumed would never happen, I remember him saying something to me like, “We’ve been doing this for 10 years. Whatever it is that you need to tell me. Whatever it is you’re lying about, and you are afraid of, after all this time I deserve the truth and the opportunity to decide whether or not it is something I can deal with.”

After 10 years of loving him, years of fearing his rejection. It all came down to this moment…

I told him the entire truth.

I admitted to every lie I had ever told him. I sent real photos and I crossed my fingers held my breath and hoped that he’d be able to forgive me for everything I had put us through and love me regardless.

The following October, I got on a plane and I went to meet this man I had been in love with for nearly a decade.

A two-week trip turned into a four-week trip. We were everything I had always dreamed we would be. The trip had gone perfectly. I had known I loved him for 10 years and I wasn’t wrong. Everything I had done up to this point had been worth it. It had worked. He loved me. We were going to have a future together.

I didn’t want to leave. All my things were in Portland, I had so many loose ends to tie up. I had no job, no income, no idea where my life was going, – all I knew was that I didn’t want to be away from him. I didn’t want to say good-bye. I didn’t want to get on a plane, go back to my miserable life in Portland and face tying up all those loose ends. I just wanted that part of my life to all be over. I wanted to be with him. He wanted me to be with him. We were going to be okay.

I sobbed the entire way on the two-hour car ride to the airport to put me back on a plane.

I could hardly get out of the car when we got to the airport, my legs didn’t want to carry me. He watched me break down, watched me struggle, and part of me resented him a little bit for it. Why was he making me go back? Why didn’t he tell me not to go? Did he not see how much this was hurting? Didn’t he understand that I didn’t know if I was strong enough to face everything I had to go do?

We sat at a little table outside the path that leaded to the TSA checkpoint postponing our good-bye for as long as we could. He was on his phone. At first, I was angry. Here we were about to say good-bye, part of me questioned whether we would ever see each other again. I silently wondered if he was putting me on a plane and sending me home so that he could break up with me when I got back there instead of having to break the news to me face to face.

It wasn’t long before he sat down the phone, held my hand, looked me in the eye and in that voice that had been my solace for so many years explained to me that he had been texting his roommate and making sure that what he was about to offer was alright with him. He suggested that I didn’t have to go home, that this could be home for me now. We could have them pull my bags off the plane, put them back in the car and I could put an end to all this right then, stay with him, figure the rest out as we went.

I wanted this entire saga to be over. I wanted to not be a sex slave. I wanted to not be with someone who wanted to control me, take advantage of me. I wanted to not ever answer another phone sex call again. I wanted a normal life, with a normal man who loved me as much as I loved him.

Every single fiber in my being told me to stay.

All I wanted to do was get back in the car and go back with him. But that little voice in your head that plays the devil and angel on your shoulder started talking. How do I explain to people waiting for me back in Portland that I am not coming back? What about all the things I have there? What if they get so angry at me that they destroy all my things? What about my dog? What about my car? What about my Dad’s things? All I have is what is on the suitcases on that plane. Can I just let it all go and risk losing it all?

I didn’t want to get on that plane. But I knew that I had to. I had to go back and get the things that were important to me. Strangely enough, I suddenly had the strength to do it. His offer had given me the strength and confidence in the fact that we were going to be together in the end. I wasn’t afraid of the sting of his dismissal and rejection hitting when I got back home. His offer to let me stay right then and there told me everything I needed to know. He loved me. Somehow, after years of lying to him, he’d forgiven me. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t the girl in the photos anymore. I was me, and that was who he wanted.

I got on the plane, went back to Portland and started the wheels in motion to move to the other side of the country to start a new life. Superman and Lois Lane against the world. I’d fought obesity and I’d won. I was on my way to a brand-new career, I had the man of my dreams. This story should have had a happy ending. Should have. But things don’t work out quite the way they should sometimes.

Stay tuned for Sex Love and Obesity Part 9 – I was too broken and damaged to be loved.

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Pandora Williams author of Desperately Seeking Slender is an ISSA Certified Personal Trainer and Cooper Institute Approved Wellness Coach Trained in Weight Management Strategies. Her training and coaching services are offered exclusively through GoGirl Fitness Studio.
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Author: Pandora Williams

Author of Desperately Seeking Slender

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