Should you hire an overweight personal trainer?

There are hundreds upon hundreds of personal trainers in your city – let alone the US or the world. Have you ever had one? How did you pick him/her? What do you look for when you hire a personal trainer? Certification? Years of experience? Did you stalk her, watch her train other clients to see how she interacted with them? Or did you select her because of her body?

Choosing a trainer based on looks is a bad idea.

Deciding on a trainer based solely on appearance is as bad of an idea as picking a life partner out of a magazine.

I don’t need to explain that. Do I?

Most people have a disconnect about what a trainer can do for them. They hire a trainer with the idea that they’re going to lose weight and look toned, and so they hire a trainer who has the body style that they, themselves, desire.

There are tons of trainers out there & many of them are good. Trainers are like flavors of ice cream. Yes, it’s important to find one that will get you results, but what’s equally important is their methodology behind how they do that. Also, how will they coach you? Do you want a drill sergeant? or a coach – someone who brings out the best in you?

Exercise is a terrible weight loss method

I don't need a personal trainer so much as I need someone to follow me around and slap unhealthy food out of my hand
I don’t need a personal trainer so much as I need someone to follow me around and slap unhealthy food out of my hand

Trainers are really only qualified to make you strong or increase your cardiovascular output, and help you with moving better. A trainer can make you stronger, but she may not do a good job helping you lose weight.

There are three driving forces that determine your weight, size, and how you store body fat:

  1. How active you are
  2. What you eat and drink
  3. How you handle your stress

Your trainer can influence numbers 1 & 3 (#3 only to a point). Notice I used the term ‘influence’. She is not in control of either of those solely because of the time that you spend with her. It’s your responsibility to work on all of these 3 areas when you’re not together.

Study after study demonstrates that exercise without changes in diet is a terrible weight loss strategy. It just doesn’t work very well. Now, just because exercise alone is terrible as a weight loss strategy, doesn’t meal that you shouldn’t do it. There are many benefits to exercise:

  • controls weight (for maintenance)
  • combats health conditions and disease
  • improves mood
  • boosts energy
  • promotes better sleep
  • reinvigorates your mojo
  • can be fun

But as a sole method of weight loss, exercise produces paltry results.

And since exercise alone doesn’t produce the weight loss results that most are looking for, there are two more issues with hiring a personal trainer to lose weight:

  1. Most trainers aren’t qualified to do nutrition coaching
  2. Nutritional coaching is outside of your trainer’s scope of practice.

This seems to be changing a lot in recent years, but outside of teaching clients basic USDA Food Guide guidelines, trainers just aren’t equipped to deal with complex issues like emotional eating, food imbalances, and blood testing for hormonal changes – or more severe issues like GERD, IBS, or fibromyalgia.

Lean trainers have figured out their own diet – but that doesn’t mean that they can figure out yours – or that they’re a good trainer.

A trainer who looks great may have figured out her own nutritional formula, but may know nothing about how to apply that to her clients.

Some trainers do have a handle on their own nutrition, but that’s where their nutrition information stops – with themselves. Everyone’s body is completely different based on age, lifestyle, & physiology –  how your body responds to different foods and exercise techniques is unique to you.

If you’re a 35 year old mom with 3 kiddos, it might not make sense to take nutritional advice from your 25 year old male trainer who isn’t married, and whose sole responsibility is taking care of his eating and training schedule.

He can’t relate to the demands that you have on your time, nor does he have any experience of having his body change after giving birth to three children. Your body just isn’t the same after going through that!

After being in the fitness field for over 10 years, I know my fair share of trainers who get caught up in their own dogma, ‘My way is the way is the only way you’ll get lean.’ And the only path to leanness is this:

  • You can’t eat out at restaurants if you want to meet your goals.
  • You have to cook ALL of your own meals
  • You need to bring your own food to all parties and events
  • You have to invest $$ in supplementation
  • You can’t drink alcohol
  • You have to prep your meals on Sundays and portion everything out into tupperwares for the week

That is a shit ton of pressure & change! It’s uncomfortable, and it’s just not true.

It might be true if your goal is to be a bodybuilder, but not every client wants that. In fact, very few do.

Overweight trainers haven’t figured out their own diet – but that doesn’t make them a bad trainer.

When I started out as a personal trainer, I thought that I was naturally going to be ripped from all the exercise I was going to get – just being around strength training equipment was going to make be strong and buff through the process of osmosis. Right?


I gained a LOT of weight in my first few years of training for a number of reasons, but mainly because I thought the same myths about exercise and nutrition that everyone else does: strength training can make you stronger, and strength training can make your muscles larger, and speed up your metabolism, but only if you’re fueling your body properly.

And sometimes it takes a LOT of trial and error to figure out what that is for your body. Because someone has studied and perfected strength, doesn’t mean that they’ve also mastered their nutrition. That doesn’t make them a bad trainer. I’ve worked with many trainers who don’t have their nutrition dialed in, but they’re really good at getting strength results from their clients. I’ve worked alongside many other trainers over the years, and I can tell you that I’ve worked with some excellent trainers who are obese.

Strength and leanness do not necessarily go together.

And for sure, it’s easier to exercise for 30 minutes than it is to change your eating habits.

But at the same time, it’s a lot harder to exercise off  200 calories than it is to NOT eat 200 calories (IMPORTANT NOTE: You can NOT out exercise a bad diet. Meaning, that 200 calories of exercise will not make up for 200 calories of cupcakes)

Both exercise and the foods you eat create a hormonal response in your body. And it’s actually pretty complicated.

Finding trainers who can do both is possible – but you probably won’t find them from walking into your local gym.

Hire a trainer to get stronger, and to move better. And it doesn’t matter if that person is lean or overweight. Do your research. Certification doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you find someone who is willing to listen to you, and who you like – because if you’re spending 1-3 hours with someone per week, you should like them! But you should also respect them, their opinion, and they should reciprocate that respect.

But if you’re looking for someone to help you get leaner, that will take some changes to your diet. Again, do your research, and find someone who will work with you and is willing to listen to you.

And if you want to do it on your own, join my email list. I send out great information on a weekly basis that you can easily incorporate into your own life. Sign up HERE.