Why My “Imperfect” Body Makes Me A Better Trainer

Why My “Imperfect” Body Makes Me A Better Trainer

I grabbed your attention, I hope!  The other day I was watching a video by the fantastic Miss Cassey Ho of Blogilates, called The Perfect Body.  

Wow.  It spoke to me, and I’m sure it spoke to you.  I feel for Cassey and the message she is sharing, because, let’s face it, we’ve all had people judge us by our looks. It happens all the time in life, but when you get judged based on the way you look as a basis for your professional ability, that is a whole other issue!

The thing is, I’ve heard that sort of stuff being said about me too.

“You’re a trainer?  You don’t look like one.”

“She isn’t even fit.”

“But you’re not skinny.”

whatever, you’re mean

I don’t know when it happened, but people have their soapboxes piled to the sky these days, and it’s getting old.

By the way, I throw the word imperfect in *quotes* because it’s such a bullshit term.  Seriously, how many times do you hear in a day/week/month/year, “there’s no such thing as perfect, ” but yet it’s so easy to judge people for being less than this so-called status?

I’ve heard all sorts of (albeit rhetorical) questions about professionals and appearance, and, after giving it some thought, I also came up with the following responses.

Would you go to an overweight doctor?  Yes, most of my doctors have been slightly overweight, and when I was sick, they helped me get better.

Would you go to a hairdresser with bad hair?  Plenty of hairdressers I have been to do things to their hair that I would NEVER do, but they still make me look great, so yes, I do and I would.

Would you go to a dermatologist with bad skin?  Yes, I have also done this, in fact, my dermatologist told me the reason he got into the field was that of his personal suffering with painful cystic acne his entire adolescence.  He uses his genuine connection to help others every day, scars and all.

What’s my point here?

My point is that just because these professionals don’t look like what (supposing you pigeonhole people based on their physical appearance) a doctor, hairdresser, or dermatologist  “should”  look like, doesn’t diminish the quality of services they are trained to provide.  In fact, the very reason they most likely became interested in their field, probably came from their personal experiences or struggles, which motivated them to want to help others.  It also means, they are only human and still struggle.

All of these observations applies to the fitness world as well, if not more so.  Many people think that because a person is a trainer or fitness instructor, they should have 0% body fat and look like a fitness model.  While some trainers do look this way, a lot of us, well, don’t.  I am not a heavy person, but I am petite and curvy, and even though I have muscular legs and arms, I don’t have a washboard stomach and probably never will.

My “imperfect” body makes ME a better trainer.

I know, in this society, I am a walking advertisement.  And just because maybe I don’t look the way another person believes that I should, doesn’t mean I’m any less talented or worthy of what I do.


When I was at my ZUMBA licensing, our ZES (Zumba Education Specialist) was incredible; she exuded confidence by being bubbly, energetic, and shaking it like it’s nobody’s business.  She’s also not a size 4 or 6, and doesn’t apologize for it – she is awesome at what she does, and that’s all that matters!  At about 5 hours into the training, she sat down to talk to our group about the importance of not judging people or allowing people to judge us by our size.

You don’t know why a person is out of shape or overweight, and believe me, I used to be one of those quick to judge types. Years ago, I probably NEVER would have listened to a person my size trying to teach me about how to make other people fit, but I have struggles and ZUMBA is what gave me my life back.  Don’t deny that from others and don’t allow anyone to judge your ability to lead based on how they view your body.”

However, people do this all the time, and it’s got to stop.

I’m not a good trainer because of what I look like.  I’m a good trainer because I’ve BEEN THERE.  I’ve been overweight.  I’ve struggled with bulimia and emotional eating. I’ve overexercised and injured myself.  I went through periods of despising physical activity.  I have struggled, and I have overcome, and I can help others do the same.

I used to be a person who didn’t have the tools to make myself healthy, and NOW I HAVE THEM.

I know how much work and commitment it takes.  I know that changing your life and working out isn’t easy.

I’m not always going to be the best fit for some people, but for others, I might create a sense of challenging comfort or a relatable struggle.

My body fat percentage and abs are not what make me a better trainer.

What makes me a better trainer is:  I’m the struggle and the progress, and whether the package I come in changes from pregnancy, aging, illness, or just a series of life events, the service, and passion I provide will be the same.  The only lasting change will be the wisdom I gain along the way – and that, in my opinion, can only make me more valuable.

I’m linking up with Jessica and Jill for #DishTheFit today and you should too! 

Do you feel fitness professionals have a duty to “look” the part?  Have you ever not taken a class because the instructor “isn’t fit”?  Do you believe in fitness at any size?





Spread the good word!


  1. April 28, 2015 / 9:51 am

    Erin this is awesome! Ever since I started stuyding for the CPT exam I’ve been thinking about this. Does being fit make you a better trainer? What if you’re a great trainer but you don’t look like one? Those kind of things. I think out personal experiences combined with what we learn is what makes a great trainer.

    Great take on this week’s Fit Dish topic.

    • Erin
      April 28, 2015 / 12:44 pm

      Thanks, Jill! It’s definitely a controversial sort of topic. I agree, I don’t think that it necessarily matters if someone isn’t like an airbrushed fitspiration meme, but there are people who really equate what a trainer looks like to how decent they are. However, those are probably the types of people who judge everybody regardless, and you just can’t win with them whether you’re a crossing guard or a dentist! Hope the studying is coming along well!! 🙂

  2. April 28, 2015 / 1:33 pm

    I’ve definitely fallen into this trap and it’s something I still struggle with sometimes. I also put more pressure on myself sometimes to achieve more during a workout where I work bc people know I work there and may be judging me on my performance. It’s all silly really.

    The best people at a profession are those who have a personal motivation to be there in my opinion.

    • Erin
      April 28, 2015 / 1:44 pm

      Absolutely, Erin! That’s exactly why I believe even though I have those comments made about me and they hurt, I know that I love it and I’ve helped people and that’s all that matters. Unfortunately, some people are always going to judge us, but really, they are doing it to everybody (including themselves) — the love has got to start somewhere, and it might as well be within ourselves! <3 Thanks for reading and sharing, as always!

  3. April 28, 2015 / 2:28 pm

    I think I actually love you, and want to have your imperfect babies. Seriously. You know what I thought of when I read this post? Most therapists don’t have their shit together, either. Just like doctors are overweight (mine is too!) and trainers might have squishy bits. WE ARE HUMAN. And I love us all. Well, the ones who don’t judge, anyway. They can go choke on their egos.

    • Erin
      April 28, 2015 / 2:41 pm

      Hahaha Suzy, I love you too! I’m so over judgmental people. They may say they are only stating their opinion, but I think their opinions should be taken with less than a grain of salt.

      You’re so right about therapists. Though I loved mine dearly, I know she got into it her field because she was just like her clients at one point. People who throw us life jackets are still wearing the ones that were thrown to them. And yes, we are all only human!

  4. April 28, 2015 / 2:29 pm

    This is such a great and profound point!!! Your past and present truly does make you an asset for your clients, and you will help so many people because of it! I learned yesterday that some peeps were talking behind my back a little recently, just explaining how they couldn’t relate to me because I’ve pretty much always been thin. To them, I don’t really know how it feels to struggle with weight. What is with all this judgement crap?! There will always be something to judge, but we just need to put or best foot forward, and help those we can. Thanks for speaking up about this! Much love Erin!

    • Erin
      April 28, 2015 / 2:46 pm

      I’m sorry to hear that you heard people discussing you behind your back. People really are so quick to judge people on either side of the weight issue. There are so few people I know who don’t struggle with their weight or food to some extent that I can’t even imagine ever assuming somebody must NOT have any perspective just because they are “naturally thin”. That’s a struggle too. You’re right though, their will always be people who will benefit from and be inspired by our stories and our strength so let the haters just talk, because we’re not listening! 🙂 Thanks Jess!

  5. April 28, 2015 / 3:16 pm


    • Erin
      April 28, 2015 / 3:19 pm

      This is why I love ya, Gigi– DAFOC muffins and all! <3

  6. jan
    April 28, 2015 / 3:58 pm

    You’re perfect because you try! You have experience and energy to go against some “tides” so you make the effort. I always wonder what those who criticize do. Most of them are too busy running their mouth to make much of an effort in other ways. Too bad for them….they miss a lot of wonderful people.

    • Erin
      April 28, 2015 / 4:47 pm

      Awww thanks, Jan! It’s awful to not be open-minded, and you’re right it’s really their loss! Thanks for reading and commenting! 🙂

  7. April 28, 2015 / 6:17 pm


    So true girl! We have no right to judge because we have no idea what brought them there. I would always rather work with someone who is “real” and working through there issues too.

    • Erin
      April 28, 2015 / 6:37 pm

      You’re too kind! 🙂 I agree, and honestly, this post really made me think so much about the bigger picture, like who have I maybe judged unfairly through the years, and why did I think I could? It takes a lot of courage to get immersed in the very things we still struggle with so we should all be much more kind to one another. Thanks so much for your sweet words 🙂

  8. April 28, 2015 / 6:33 pm

    Ahhh this is pure gold!! I have seen and heard those comments and you are so right to say that looks shouldn’t make that person a better professional. With fitness that is scary because what is the “good” level of fitness to become a trainer? Very simple..there isn’t!! I prefer to have a strong trainer rather than a “good” looking one. Sometimes looks can be deceiving and in the case of fitness professionals that is often quite true!

    • Erin
      April 28, 2015 / 6:41 pm

      Omg thank you so much! Sometimes people go to unhealthy lengths to look that “fit” and I’m not putting extremely fit, fitness model type trainers down – I admire their drive, but to overlook a trainer because maybe he or she doesn’t fit into that stereotypical physique, is just selling ourselves short. I will always think back to that Zumba training and hear the instructor’s words. We need to build each other up regardless of what standards we do or don’t meet. It’s time to change the standard. Thank you so much for reading and joining the conversation, Elsie! <3

  9. April 28, 2015 / 8:01 pm

    I think everyone else has said what I would be saying! You have to live YOUR healthy, as long as it is healthy. And that can take many forms. If you were obese and chain smoking? Then we would be having different words. But people never know the full story–and again, HEALTH should always be the focus!

    • Erin
      April 28, 2015 / 8:07 pm

      Amen! Health is what it’s all about, Susie! I agree that we can never really, as cliche as it sounds, judge a book by the cover! I love all the supportive words from everybody and I knew you’d tell me like it is! I love it! 🙂

  10. April 28, 2015 / 8:55 pm

    Girl, get it. Get it. So well said and so true. I especially love your last point about being the struggle and the process. Love it!

    • Erin
      April 28, 2015 / 9:05 pm

      Thank you, Jen! It is all about the struggle and the process and that’s why it hurts when people bring each other down! We’re all out there just fighting for happiness and health, so we have to be kind to one another. Thank you so much for reading and commenting! It means a lot <3

  11. April 29, 2015 / 1:45 am

    You bring up some very valid points!! I think the only physical requirement I would look for in a trainer is confidence, and you definitely posses that! Our society loves to judge things by sight and stereotype, I too am guilty, but it is sad!
    I enjoyed reading your post and I would love come to you for personal training regardless of your lack of a “perfect body.” Every body is perfect if it is lived in with confidence!

    • Erin
      April 29, 2015 / 5:45 am

      Awww thanks, Katelynn! You’re very right, confidence is important and even the most fit people can lack that at times. Passion and confidence make all the difference! Thank you so much for joining the conversation. <3

  12. April 29, 2015 / 4:06 am

    I love this! <3 I strive to live a healthy lifestyle because I want to be a good example for my future patients (and just, y'know, want to be healthy in general and all that goodness), but I definitely agree that the "imperfection" makes us better–we learn to accept our flaws and show our clients that we're also human, far from perfect, and that it can be a struggle for us to. I think it makes it easier for them to relate!

    • Erin
      April 29, 2015 / 5:42 am

      Thanks, Farrah! I think it is important to always be a good example as well, and sometimes the very fact that we do have to work at health and wellness too makes us better providers. I’m sure you can relate to this topic in a big way, being in medicine!

  13. April 29, 2015 / 9:21 am

    you nailed it with your use of the world PIGEONHOLE too.
    In all facets of our lives.

    • Erin
      April 29, 2015 / 12:22 pm

      Absolutely, Carla — this does apply to all facets of our lives. One of my late father’s friends gave me a pin at his service that just says “judge slowly, then not at all” I really like it and try to apply that to my thoughts at all times. It’s tough to not make snap judgments sometimes, but not impossible!

  14. April 29, 2015 / 4:54 pm

    I have the NASM materials, but I keep putting off studying for the exam partly because of this reason — I’ve been afraid that people won’t take me seriously if I am not ripped. So I work on myself over and over to get “the personal trainer image”. But, I don’t find happiness in getting that rigorous and detailed over everything. I know how to help someone that wants to do that, but it’s not for me. So maybe I should make the jump and get moving! Thanks for the message!

    • Erin
      April 29, 2015 / 5:56 pm

      Vieve, you are good to get started helping others. You have the motivation and heart, not every trainer is ripped but that’s ok, a client will love what you can do for their body, NOT for what your body is like.
      And you look great, anyway! 🙂

  15. April 29, 2015 / 9:42 pm

    Love love loved this post! I’ve been racing triathlons since 2008, I studied exercise science in school, I’ve even worked as a wellness coach in a corporate setting but I’ve been holding back from getting my personal teaching certification because I still have baby weight to lose from my second child I had at the end of September. I’m fit, I’m knowledgeable, and I have great experience but I had that same thought of who would want to work with me before I lose all the baby weight. You rock girl, thank you so much for the reality check and the confidence boost.

    • Erin
      April 30, 2015 / 5:49 am

      Amber, you have so much offer others. You will have the ability to connect in so many important ways, and people really want that connection! I say go for it! I’m so happy this post has encouraged others to stop holding off on going after their goals. <3

  16. May 2, 2015 / 2:49 am

    I am SO with you on this issue! I am a dietitian who LOVES chocolate chip cookies. In fact, MOST people know this about me. It is a part of who I am and I will never give them up because quite frankly I don’t have to nor do I want to. But, those people who consider dietitians as “perfect eaters” or the “food police” are often shocked when they find out about my love for cookies (or not eating healthy 100% of the time). I always say something like, “Look, before I became a dietitian I was a regular human being and I am still human just like you. If I gave up my favorite things I would be cranky and you wouldn’t want to hang out with me.” Life is NOT about being strict and rigid.. that’d be boring!

    • Erin
      May 2, 2015 / 6:30 am

      Bri, it makes me so happy you would share this! Of course you still love treats! As a role model and professional it makes people look at you under a microscope. Not every dietician loves chocolate or cookies, but I bet most do, and why not? It doesn’t make you any less of an awesome dietician, it makes you better, because you can approach advising balanced eating realistically, and that’s what your clients need! 😉

  17. July 29, 2015 / 7:15 pm

    Loved this, Erin! I’m so glad you told me about it. I have been guilty of judging an instructor of how they looked (before I had babies). Now, I realize there are so many reasons that someone might not look like the fittest person in the world (plus, I don’t think this is necessary for them to look like this anymore!). They could have just had a baby, hormones out of whack, auto immune disease, stress, and a plethora of medical reasons. The other thing that comes to mind is just because some is “fit” doesn’t mean they are good fitness instructor or personal trainer. Their reason for why they do what they do will a tremendous impact on how they are received by clients.

    • Erin
      July 29, 2015 / 7:44 pm

      I’m so glad you read my post, Elizabeth! It’s no wonder that we’ve all pigeonholed and judged people when it comes to levels of fitness and what a trainer should look like, it’s crammed in our faces sometimes. There seems to be a massive change now though, and it’s wonderful! I kept seeing so many people write that they were waiting to become an instructor or a coach because of their body and I was like, “HOLD UP!!!” Haha! You’re very right that being “fit” isn’t what makes a person a good instructor, coach, or trainer — it’s wonderful if a person is fit and good at leading people into a healthy lifestyle, but we’re all at different places, with different bodies, and that can be valuable and rewarding too! I have always found that people found me likeable and enjoyed my energy. I’m just no nonsense, and I truly believe getting strong and healthy in all aspects is what matters most. Sounds like you do too! Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  18. August 11, 2015 / 7:56 pm

    Yes. Yes. Yes. 🙂 I loved every word of this!

    • Erin
      August 11, 2015 / 9:42 pm

      Awww thanks, Emily! I’m glad you loved it. It’s one of the posts I am most proud of writing!

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