The fitness industry is not a one size fits all, and for those who may have encountered body-shaming, taking that first step, whether it is finding the right trainer or gym, can be a trauma-filled experience.
“I was looking for someone who could help me feel like I belonged in a gym environment and my own body.” Carolyn (They/Them)
“I think almost everybody I’ve worked with has had an experience of being body-shamed,” says Vancouver’s Ruby Smith Díaz, personal trainer and owner of Autonomy Fitness. “Whether it’s because they have a larger body or because they’re trans or non-binary, their first experience at a gym can be traumatic.”
Imagine being greeted by someone at the door and being misgendered, or not being able to find a change room they feel comfortable using? Or being told their body needs to look a certain way for a specific gender?
Smith Díaz has heard their stories. “Even before they were able to get to know their trainer, they’re already getting measured with calipers without their consent and without the trainer checking in to see if weight or fat loss was even a goal?” Imagine if you had experienced trauma from a violating experience that resurfaced from someone touching you without permission?
It is fair to say that not all trainers are created equal, especially in the case of Smith Díaz. She is a body-positive and queer, trans-affirming trainer dedicated to empowering clients to feel their best in their bodies. A 2020 canfitpro Fitness Professional of the Year winner (Personal Training), Smith Díaz, offers clients support in gaining strength, power, endurance, and confidence while leaving diet talk, fatphobia, transphobia, and Eurocentric body standards at the door.
Fortunately, Smith Díaz says there are many directories out there today where people can find body positive or body neutral trainers. She recommends surrounding yourself with a like-minded community and finding a trainer that is supportive of your goals, specifically trauma-informed trainers that are fat positive or participating in health at every size and familiar with, or understand working with, queer or trans communities.
“She has a body positive approach, and a gender-affirming perspective. I really appreciate having a training and gym environment where this is possible.” B.A.
“I love being able to transform my clients’ relationship with their bodies to a more positive and loving one and reestablishes their connection to movement positively. For me, it is spending time with each client, getting to know their story, their journey, and then helping them realize that fitness and movement does not have to look like one particular thing.”
Many of Smith Díaz’s clients have either stopped movement altogether because of a bad experience through their fitness journey or have gone through diet cycling, which has left them in a place where they have no desire to go to a gym or start movement again.
The path towards celebrating body positivity and diversity should also include a rethink of your social media platforms. She encourages her clients to do a bit of a social media cleanse and unfollow those sources that make them feel negative or ashamed of their bodies. Take a break from social media, re-evaluate, and search out for like-communities that are supportive.
“I get so much joy out of seeing clients start to shift their relationship with their bodies and then come to a place where they can say ‘wow, this is something I want to lean into without guilt’, instead of having someone saying ‘oh you need to do this or you should look like this.’”
“People want to move their bodies but can’t because of how our society terrorizes those bodies that don’t fit the norm.” Smith Díaz is making room. There is no diet talk, no callipers, and no scales.
Ruby Smith Díaz