I have been offering weight-neutral group fitness for 10 years and weight-neutral personal training for 5 years. At the outset of my journey as a trainer, I was extremely vocal about the importance of supporting weight-neutral fitness offerings. Weight-neutral fitness is still rare, still essential for decolonizing health, and still takes so much courage, strength and dedication to offer. And still, not enough people support it financially — even those folks dedicated to dismantling weight-centric health & fitness systems and building a weight-neutral world.
Two big lessons I’ve learned about fitness, in general, in these 10 years is:
Additionally, what I’ve realized about the personal journey of body liberation from diet culture is that MOST folks leave ALL movement behind for at least a short period of time. Physical activity has become so enmeshed with diet culture for these folks that to have a chance of escaping, they have to put ALL movement aside for a time.
Sometimes, this putting aside of movement becomes a full-scale life approach: The “fuck-it” plan. Sometimes people get stuck in the “fuck-it” plan for a long time.
When someone is stuck in the “fuck-it” plan or is leaving dietland for the first time… they are actively NOT seeking out fitness. Thus… those of us offering weight-neutral fitness specifically for these folks, are left with fewer people who want our services.
This leaves those of us offering weight-neutral fitness in a bind. Few people want to pay for fitness. Even fewer people are seeking out weight-neutral fitness. And, those people who COULD/ WOULD be seeking out weight-neutral fitness are often in a state of feeling like any seeking of fitness is triggering of diet-culturey thoughts and behaviors.
What’s a weight-neutral fitness professional to do?
Weight-neutral fitness offerings can be THEE antidote to the “fuck-it” plan AND THEE thing that allows an anti-dieter to find true Body Liberation. Weight-neutral fitness can help us see that all kinds of movement belongs to all kinds of bodies.
AND… going against the weight-centric grain of fitness WHILE trying to run your own business (most personal trainers are also small business owners even if that business is just them selling their own services) WHILE trying to educate people about what weight-neutral fitness is WHILE trying to convince folks to support weight-neutral fitness can be both a recipe for burnout and a way to go broke quickly.
On top of all of that, most successful trainers now are NOT just offering simple one-on-one sessions. We are creating online programming so that our clients can workout at their own convenience, wherever they like. Trying to live the life of a weight-neutral fitness professional while creating ALL the programming from scratch, on top of all of THAT? I’ve done it. It’s superhuman, lonely and unsustainable (unless someone else is paying all your real bills) work.
Confession time: I can’t afford to pay a lot for fitness programming either. I’m working on that. My dream is to one-day have an income again that allows me to hire a weight-neutral personal trainer. Until then the reality is I have to get my own fitness programming from a cheap, reliable and motivating source. For this reason, I have a BODi (the company formerly known as Beachbody) membership.
Beachbody was part of my dieting days so when I left dietland, I left it behind of course. Not only was it personally triggering of my eating disorder but the whole concept and practice of the company was — and still mostly is — some of the most insidious pushing of weight-centric fitness in the biz. From this perspective it’s gross.
On the other hand, because of their success at selling diet culture, BODi has THOUSANDS of fantastically taught fitness classes and expertly-designed programs available in sleek, beautiful packages. To date, it is STILL the most agile, fun, and convenient fitness programming I have found. It is also the cheapest of its kind. There is cheaper fitness — even free fitness — but the production value of those programs is not inspiring to me personally.
I still offer STRICTLY weight-neutral fitness. I am still working toward a world where weight-neutral fitness is the norm. Until then, I — on top of my other traditional, weight-neutral offerings— have become a BODi partner in order to help my clients who — like me — still need to navigate the weight-centric fitness world because of its affordability.
BODi is this company’s second iteration. It is trying HARD to adopt the language and mindset of weight-neutrality in certain areas. BODi’s stakeholders clearly see a financial reason to be doing this — obviously, they are not making over their company because they’ve suddenly had a change of HEART. And I am under no delusion that BODi is a weight-neutral space. OH! FAR FAR FROM IT! But, MY BODi groups for MY BODi members WILL be weight-neutral. In fact, my entire purpose in being a BODi Partner us to help my members navigate BODi offerings in a weight-neutral way.
BODi provides me with a sleek and easy-to-use infrastructure to stay in touch with clients every day in an easy, effective way. And it is continually making new beautiful, motivating fitness programs that I don’t have to — and wouldn’t be able to make at that level of production anyway.
So, I’ve made a weird choice. I’ve decided to see if helping my clients weight-neutrally navigate a traditionally weight-centric fitness brand might help bring them the quality, affordable and convenient fitness programming that some of them are looking for. For now, it is an experiment. One, I’m hoping a handful of clients will try with me. And we’ll see.
The beautiful thing about weight-neutral fitness is there are no fucking rules. So, we can do whatever the fuck we want wherever the fuck we want.
It’s time for a TRULY weight-neutral infiltration of BODi. This will be the highest production quality (with 1000s of instantly available fitness videos), highest touch (daily check-ins), cheapest and most convenient training I have ever offered. I will start with one small group this month!
Update: I wrote a follow-up to this post titled "Well, That Was a Mistake". Read here.
About JodiAnn Stevenson
JodiAnn Stevenson lives in the U.S., in the Northwest Corner of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, on The Big Lake. Her writing has appeared in numerous venues since 1996. She is the author of three published chapbooks of poetry: The Procedure (March Street Press, 2006); Houses Don’t Float (Habernicht Press, 2010); and Diving Headlong Into A Cliff of Our Own Delusion (Saucebox, 2011). Her mixed-genre work Marina Abramovic Is My Mother is available in the form of a short-run podcast. She has also produced eight chapbooks of poetry for The Broken Nose Collective which she co-founded in 2013. JodiAnn was founder and co-managing editor of the feminist micro-press, Binge Press and its sister journal, 27 rue de fleures, from 2004 until 2017.
A (more or less) complete list of publications and appearances: