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Location: toronto, ontario, Canada

Saturday, September 09, 2006

the doors of perception

so, in case you haven't figured it out i have finished losing my accident weight. in fact i'm probably sitting about two pounds lighter than i was after my accident... which puts me about ten pounds away from my original, pre-accident goal.

do i give a shit if i ever lose that ten pounds? not really.

do i expect to lose it if i continue as i've started? absolutely.

is that what this post is about? of fucking course not.

i was talking with a fellow instructor recently about one of the people who regularly comes to some of the classes that we teach. this particular person complained about me every time they took one of my classes.

they bitched me out.
they left half way.
they invented their own moves.
they wrote complaint cards.
they walked in half way.
they would correct my exercises to their fellow students.
they would 'explain' what i really meant to the rest of the class.
they told us all they were better than us....

this person walked into my class the other day, did everything i said, listened to my corrections AND laughed at my jokes.

the entire time i was staring at them, no seriously regardless of where my eyes were i was staring at this person in shock.

so after class i say to one of the ladies who has been coming to my class for a couple of years 'um was that really x in my class AND having a good time???'

and she says 'yeah' and then she goes on to tell me that she's convinced it's because i'm thin now. i *look* like a pilates teacher now... i fit the expected image of my job.

this pisses me off actually because i liked being overweight when i taught, i thought it was really good for my clients and students to see an overweight pilates instructor... but i digress.

so i was talking with my fellow instructor and telling her this story and also how i've noticed that it's a LOT easier to get work now and a lot easier to get my clients to hear me. they have to be hearing me because they're finally starting to do what i tell them.

she, my fellow instructor, is currently having some thyroid problems so she's gaining weight at about the rate that i'm losing it. not too much, not too fast, but a steady and visible weight gain.

actually that's a lie, she's peaked and is now starting to treat her thyroid and i think she's actually getting thinner now... but that's not the point.

the point is that she's noticed the exact opposite reaction in her classes.

sure the students that she's had for years are aware that something isn't right and that she knows what she's doing so she has no trouble with them. but she does have trouble with the new ones.

they take one look at her and figure she can't possibly know what she's talking about because she doesn't *look* like a pilates instructor. not that a pilates instructor looks like anything in particular.

hell a lot of the older ones are a little chubby...

but she's probably thirty so they're assuming she doesn't exercise and she eats badly and then they project that since she doesn't work out or eat right she therefore can't possibly know what she's doing.

the irony is that for both of us (me a couple of years ago and her now) all you EVER had to do was hear what we were saying and it was clear we knew what was going on.

if you just listened when we told you what to do and did it you would get a great class... but people are so busy expecting their trainers to look like greek goddesses that they're missing the real message.

a fit and healthy body isn't necessarily a skinny one.

do you want me to say that again?

just because you can grab an inch or ten worth of chub on your tummy doesn't make you unhealthy, out of shape OR incapable of teaching others to use their bodies better.

being skinny doesn't make you in shape, it just makes you skinny.

being in shape doesn't make you skinny but it tends to lead to weight loss and reshaping of your body.

your eyes don't know shit about what does and doesn't make a good instructor, your ears and your body do.

i'm almost tempted to gain a bunch of weight just out of spite but i can't, the back and knees can't take it.

it would be a nice excuse to eat mcdonald's again though...

regardless, the real message should be about how you feel and not about how you look and i just cannot seem to find a way to get the majority of people walking through the doors of any studio i'm in to hear that.

when i was fatter it was a lot easier to get them to hear me, it was just harder to get them in the doors... now they look at me and wish for my body and come to my class to get it...

it's funny how things swing from one direction to another... just like fashion and 'healthy weight' perceptions do.

if any of you learn anything from me let it be this... fitness is about how you FEEL and not about how you look. worry more about climbing stairs without losing your wind than about how many inches are around your waist...

trust me, if you do that the waist will take care of itself and put itself at your body's healthy and happy weight...

your homework today is to say something nice about your body to yourself :)


Blogger HuneeB said...

I can see the point either way...I can see joining a class if the instructor is overweight and you are overweight because you might feel more comfortable there like they are in the same boat dealing with the same struggle...or the opposite not joining it because you assume that either he/she does not practice what he/she teaches or like you said they do not know what they are doing, although I do not agree with this statement I can see why people do it.

The gym I was a member of has three locations in my town and one of them happened to be the place where the "goddesses and gods" worked out, everyone that was there had magnificent bodies and although it was closer to my house I would not work out there. It wasn't until I took up yoga that my instructor showed me just how in shape and okay I was. It wasn't like I had a horrible body or low self esteem, It's just when all you see is gymorexics that mostly have eating disorders and you have a normal body it throws off your comfort level a bit. I had way more stamina and flexibility then the waif thin girls with their coordinating outfits and perfect makeup (yes at the gym) that I was totally avoiding in my sweats and makeup-less face. I started to go to the gym that was close to me and you know what I got hit on all the time...I actually had to change my workout times to avoid some people that had started to creep me out with their consistent pestering. (I am actually much happier working out in peace without people ogling and hitting on me) I have been guilty of both positions of assumptions at some point but that teacher helped really emphasize to me that healthy did not mean skinny. She was amazing and I really enjoyed her yoga classes, after that I even started doing weight lifting classes twice a week and wow what a difference it made in my perceptions of the body. I was so much stronger than I thought. So yes that is an important lesson!

"Skinny" does not mean healthy and "fat" does not mean unhealthy.

I put them in parenthesis because everyone's perception and definition of these is different...

nice post Sass...good to hear from a teachers perspective!

9/08/2006 10:15:00 PM  
Blogger HuneeB said...

I think because you are in the occupation of health and fitness you are subject to this kind of ridicule to some degree, it's like a race car driver not having a license or a priest not going to church...some things you just expect. Not saying it is right or wrong...

I once had a math teacher (who was doing his intern to become a teacher) his field of study was philosophy so he was limited in the Trig/Stats arena and he sucked as a teacher because it was not something he specialized in...this is just something you assume from a teacher.

Something that like you said you can tell from listening and doing but some people have a hard time looking past the box they labeled you in as was the case with the rude student....

9/08/2006 10:21:00 PM  
Blogger HuneeB said...

Sorry I just really rambled on here...will shut up now.

9/08/2006 10:22:00 PM  
Blogger Pyrhonik said...

Geez HuneeB, you've been hittin aces all day! I can't agree more. I firmly despise labels and do all that I can to not use them, but they are intricately bound with life. We don't function well without parameters and definition. I guess it's the pre-conceived labels that are the toughest. And the judgements that come from them.

Brilliant post!

9/08/2006 11:24:00 PM  
Anonymous gabriella said...

pfffffffffffffffftt.........he's medicated these days. my guess: effexor. chilled out but not impotent. it wasn't just towards you that he was different. he was just plain old different.

i ain't wanna have your body. i like my thin thighs. yes yes, abdominal fat, yada yada. but i love my legs and my feet rock. so you asked and i've done my homework. ;P

there's something else but if i minimize this i lose it. so i'll post it and check your blog again.

9/09/2006 12:43:00 AM  
Anonymous gabriella said...

oh yeah, the Greek goddess reference:

have you ever studied the marble statues of 'greek goddesses'? they look remarkably like men with tits attached.

do not aspire to that. please.

9/09/2006 12:45:00 AM  
Blogger --spared-- said...

If one's intent when losing weight is to get thin, then you figure you need someone who actually knows how to get to that weight is the best party to lead you. However, such as in my case, if you take an exercise class to have fun, get healthy and blow off steam, it doesn't matter who is leading the class as long as their bodies are flexible and able to keep up with the pace that helps you reach your target goal.

I know plenty of thin women who can't climb a flight a stairs, and overweight women who can do full splits, benchpress their husbands and run circles around their thin counterparts in class.

I am tall for a female, and am well proportioned thanks to latin roots and feeding so though I've never been thin, I've also never wanted to be. Nor have I ever been obese. Everything in moderation, from exercise to food. In my family and community, being thin is not beautiful... it's not even feminine. In addition, I have anglo features, fair skin, hazel-green eyes, dark ash blonde hair - all features which regardless of where I was tipping the scales helped my ego. But, was I always healthy? Certainly not...

So, I guess what I have to say nice about myself is that I have finally learned I will never be Twiggy and I don't want to be. I love my Spanish heritage, wide hips and narrow waist. Strong shoulders and strong arms, delicate fingers and soft skin. I love my breasts being "just right" for all blouses. I love me. Even at 6 months pregnant. :)

9/09/2006 07:48:00 AM  
Blogger Madame X said...

Sass, Sass, Sassafras this is a post that hits so close to home!!!

#1 the BEST dance teachers I have EVER had and the best CHOREOGRAPHERS I've ever worked with did not look like what most people would expect dancers to look like. I Never saw their bodies I saw their knowledge and their spirit and their creativity!

#2 I've been denied access to certain dance schools because of my height and denied jobs as a dancer because of my boob size, ass shape and hair color.
Unfortunately I've chosen a profession that judges my body.

#3 At the gym where I teach I've had people NOT take my class because I am TOO fit, too defined, too skinny in their minds. (I don't consider myself "skinny" I'm FIT!) My boss makes me wear big baggy clothes when I am on the gym floor because he doesn't want the members to be intimidated and he thinks that I dress too sexy when I teach.
I try to tell the dullard that I dress for function. I need to see my body to make sure I am moving correctly. I need my students to see my body so that they can imitate my movements. It has nothing to do with trying to look sexy.

I've got more to say but I'll have to come back I've got a class in an hour and I have to make sure I don't show my belly button or I'll get a memo!!

9/09/2006 08:52:00 AM  
Blogger debambam said...

Oh that just sucks. It's so sad that people STILL stereotype, although to be honest I am still guilty of it too, as i'm sure we all are if we are completely honest with ourselves. The difference between 'us' -those that can get past is and be open minded - and 'them' - those that will never change the way they perceive people and the world is that we can SEE that at times we judge a book by it's cover just to use one example and try not to let it get in the way of us seeing things how they really are.
Oh I've been meaning to ask for the longest time....why can't I be COFFEE instead of WEED?? Not that I mind being weed, but seeing as how if you cut my veins open i'm sure coffee would pour out, if I have the choice, i'd prefer that...just how do you categorise your reads into those little areas anyway? Sorry I not been round much, life is kinda getting in the way :)
Cheers, Kelly

9/09/2006 10:43:00 AM  
Blogger Casually Me said...

Something nice about myself...hmmm...I am mostly still alive...does that count?

9/09/2006 12:24:00 PM  
Blogger terry, queen dork said...

*sigh. sometimes reality sucks, you know? sometimes, when i'm just bopping along in life, i get hit with someone else's perception of me because of how i look, and it's like a big old slap in the face.

as i get older, i find myself less concerned with those perceptions, but there seems to be no way to completely ignore them.

and i guess that's even harder in a profession like yours, so i am in awe that you're able to see straight.

9/10/2006 05:45:00 PM  
Blogger da buttah said...

i somehow think that if i walked into a muy thai studio and someone with my physical properties was there telling me what i need to do, i'd be a little less open to listening. it's a shitty double standard, but it's the way it goes. you don't think "fitness instructor" and think of someone who is average weight...you think of someone with a good body etc.

nice thing about my body...uhm, well my tits are awesome. duh :D

9/10/2006 10:03:00 PM  
Blogger JMai said...

Wow. What Terry said. Word. I mean, WORD. It is so insulting and painful to watch people watching you and know that they're only interested because they've made a snap judgment about you based on your appearance.

That said though, I cannot complete my homework assignment because I have never been as unhappy with my body as I am these days. It's tough to enjoy sex, even.

But your post is so spot-on. I've seen and heard people at the gym comment about this or that trainer or instructor because they don't fit the expected mould of a trainer or instructor. Even though they were perfectly competent and in perfect health.

Ugh. People.

Sorry... I know I'm not normally so negative but just UGH.

9/10/2006 10:19:00 PM  
Blogger DZER said...

my body ... is tall ... ;)

9/10/2006 11:37:00 PM  
Blogger Hemant Kumar said...

There was a quote from someone to that effect and it sadly holds true in most cases..

"Three things determine the impact of a speech: the speaker, the style of delivery, and the content, and out of these three the content is the least important."

Casting people into boxes and labels is pretty widespread. I guess it is a byproduct of the pace of life that we live: nobody has the time to figure out how things are, they need to approximate, bucketize and take corresponding action. There is so much happening around you and you need to take action. A related thing i find perplexing is if an event A happened and you tried ur best to do something about it,and could not. Then you "learn" from it that maybe you should have let go. If something like event A happens again, you would probably try out something different than your previous response, since you have "learned" that your approach doesn't(or more precisely didn't) work. More precisely you would form a model of the situation that would atleast be a bit biased with the result of the situation, which might be coincidental. Apart from the conscious decision that you would take, there would be emotions that operate on a higher level of granularity than the conscious mind, such as if i don't succeed in something, then i don't like it. That also skews the picture a bit.

I don't know whatz the moral of the story. I will be glad if somebody could figure that out for me.

Btw would life have been boring had it not been so complex;-)


9/11/2006 03:45:00 AM  
Blogger kathi said...

Wow, that's a pretty heavy duty assignment, I think we're programmed to do the reverse...to find the flaws.

Okay, I've got great feet!

9/11/2006 11:03:00 AM  
Blogger Natalia said...

You know how I feel about the whole skinny thing. Some of the people that I have seen at the gym were not at all healthy. And mostly, they were not even happy. They were so consumed with looking a specific way that they just didn't have time to live. And no matter what they did to achieve the look they wanted, it always seemed to be out of reach. I mean, I am all about loving myself. But I am also about getting to a healthy weight. But not in an obsessive type of way. That is just bad news. But younger girls also have the added pressure of living in world were they are bombarded with images far more than we were while growing up. They don't just have Barbie, they have Brat dolls and cartoons with skinny slutty-looking, over-sexed girls. It's sad and I often wonder what can be done to stop these images from rotting little girls' minds. Ugh. But I digress. I think it's great that someone in the fitness industry has it straight. And I think it's good for clients to see different body types and identify them as healthy whether they match their ideal of beauty and perfection or not.


9/11/2006 11:07:00 AM  
Blogger Kristen said...

I'm with Buttah on this.......not that it's right or fair, it's just how it is.....

yeah, the nice thing.....my hair smells good today.

That's all I got

9/11/2006 11:59:00 AM  
Blogger sassinak said...

hunee: i think my original fatness is why the 'little old lady' crowd liked me so much... and now that i'm not fat they trust me anyway.

i am so in love with your yoga teacher, way to be in the right headspace and actually do something USEFUL for a client's self image.

and you know? i prefer the people who look real myself... even though they're hard to find :)

hunee redux: oh absolutely i'm going to have to hear about this bull shit for the rest of my career, do i like it? nope. do i need to suck it up and deal with it? yup. do i need to find ways to address it with my clients? oh god yes. i still don't know how to talk to the anorexics.

i wish they let teachers teach their specialties. it does no one any good when they're forced to do something else.

ramble on babe!

pyr: she does that a lot... which is great until she makes some comment about rambling :)


gabi: oh man, i was trying a little not to let him be identifiable you know :)

but hrm, medication would make some kind of sense...

and i know you don't want to have my body, but you're a long term client right, i am noticing that the young hard bodies are showing up more and more and i could be wrong but i thought that might have to do with my own emerging muscles...

you have stellar legs actually, i would love them were i you also (and prefer them to mine frankly) but i like my own feet. i like people who like their feet i guess.

and no, no interest in greek goddessing, just making a point...

9/11/2006 12:26:00 PM  
Blogger sassinak said...

spared: i'm with you babe. and what's funny is that often it's the slightly chubby trainer who actually knows more about nutrition because she's the one with weight to fight!

and i know plenty of both of those examples myself...

i'm you only italian, strong arms and shoulders, wide pelvis, strong legs with pretty feet and ankles that are nice and stable and a small waist with boobs to go with it. i like that i'm voluptuous but just once i'd like to be built like a boy for a day, just to wear a tunic or something ridiculously unflattering on my current figure... you knwo what i mean i think, i love my curly and thick italian hair but it would be nice to have 'the rachel' for one day *grin*

just to see what it's like.

in my family thin is beautiful but so is not thin... but i'm not IN my ethnic community here. i've never wanted to be magazine thin, just the right weight for my own body, so we match there...

i'm glad you don't want to be twiggy, i don't find her attractive at all! :)

and i love even more that at six months pregnant you still love you. i'm so sad for women who feel 'fat' when they're actually pregnant..

madame: course it does, we're in the same business.

1. marie jose isn't skinny but she is incredibly beautiful and has the most amazing posture i've ever seen.
2. i can see that, they want the lineup to be the same height... still feels like rejection though right?
3. really? wow i think you're fit also, if you were skinny you wouldn't have such great gams. and how else are you supposed to dress? dancewear clings so you can see bones, yeesh.

you get memos for your belly button?

*laughs her head off*

deb: me too, but we all know that's the last thing humans will give up!

and i think you're right on that one. i do tend to make snap judgements and then i catch myself doing it and figure out what i really think... but i don't always catch it.

oh sure you can be coffee, i'll do that right after i do all these comments... and you're right, it is where you fit.

chocolate is the originals who have been around for like a year at least... the other two don't mean shit :)

cas: nope. but you have great shoulders?

terry: your new identity cracks me up!

yeah that happens to me too. hardest to take is the one where they assumed i was a dyke... and that happened for a long time. and by dyke they meant ugly, masculine, overweight, butchy, barely female and not 'gay'

i don't care much what people think of my looks but i relaly do hate when *i* feel fat. that said, i KNOW that my perception is fucked because of all of my years of swimming. i'm a fat swimmer... and a skinny regular human.

and i know it rationally but i swam for a long time... and then i got this crazy job... it's hard work to fight the perceptions but worth it.

9/11/2006 12:39:00 PM  
Blogger sassinak said...

elle: thank you for being honest. i think a lot of us feel that way and you're one of the few that's admitting it.

now after one class would you still care what they looked like?

jmai: yes, it really really is. and it doesn't even seem to matter if the perception is positive or negative, it's still hard to take and insulting.

why are you so unhappy with your body these days? you've always seemed really well adjusted toward it and stuff...

and yes, people suck.

and dude, why are you so negative? seems so unlike you...

dzer: heh, mine too.

hemant: yeah, that quote is tragically true.

i hadn't thought of it as a product of speed in our culture but that may be it, it really does seem to be something that's getting worse and worse as opposed to better... and we are speeding up.

and that model you find perplexing? that's my dating life.

kathi: feet are important and not enough people pay attention to them.

(and that's WHY i make sure homework assignments, i'm trying to break that programming)

nat: i do know how you feel because we feel the same way. and often the 'hottest' gym rats really are the least happy or healthy.

it's all about the healthy weight for me, who cares about skinny, get HEALTHY god dammit :)

i'm afraid for the girls of today i really am. at least for me 'jem and the holograms' was about the worst i had... and i had the smurfs to make up for it *grin*

thanks babe, but it's hard to do...

9/11/2006 12:52:00 PM  
Blogger Madame X said...

Oh, I get memoes for belly buttons and tattoos which is REAL interesting because 4 instructors have tattoos on their hands or arms and those tattoos are OK to be seen, because my tattoos are on my back and belly those are not OK to be seen.

People(ladies) just remember the greatest gifts we can give our children, especially female children is the acceptance of our own bodies which will hopefully lead to acceptance of their bodies.

9/11/2006 02:01:00 PM  
Blogger john said...

I have two young daughters (ages 7 & 4 1/2) who are in swimming lessons and they rotate instructors about every 6 weeks or so. Sometimes those instructors would be what society considers to be "overweight." I have to admit that I am guilty of questioning the ability to teach physical fitness by someone who does not have the appearance of being physically fit. However, after watching these instructors teach my children for the past couple of years, I realize what a fallacy this perception is. Plus, even though I know how to swim, I am pretty sure that any of these instructors could easily leave me in their wake should we ever compete.

As far as the "saying something nice" thing goes, I don't really have much of a predilection for self-conceit. I guess I've been told on several occasions that I have a well-defined back, but I cannot verify this personally. I tried, but after a half hour or so of trying to see for myself I got dizzy and passed out...

9/11/2006 03:07:00 PM  
Blogger da buttah said...

i'm not saying i would care per se, it would just take more to convince me that they do know what they're talking about, i guess. it seems more harsh than it does in reality. i guess the best example was my swim coach...he had a beer belly, he waddled when he walked etc, but after a week of practice with him my times got better etc, so though initially i was like "who the fuck does he think he is?" it quickly changed to "he's amazing."

9/11/2006 05:10:00 PM  
Blogger sassinak said...

kj: least you're honest about it. at what point would you see past their body to the brain and eye behind? or would you?

you have gorgeous hair, if it smells good that just makes it better...

madame: that's ridiculous. that's like if i got a memo for my navel piercing but you don't get them for the one in your eyebrow. so silly.

you are totally right, that is by FAR the nicest gift to give a daughter... (or a son these days)

john: interesting that you noticed that over time. od you notice any tendencies? like do the overweight ones tend to be better or...?

it's funny isn't it that our job in the fitness industry is to TEACH but people think that it's to be fit.

we're human too :)

well, um... you could send me a pic and i could see if i agree? there's a pic of you walking with a child and your butt looked good in it?

elle: ah i see. you would stay for the class and make your own decisions from that. fair enough

i've taken some shitty assed classes in my time!

and props for being willing to fight your first inmpressions babe :)

9/11/2006 05:40:00 PM  
Blogger john said...

I guess I should clarify that with the luxury of being able to compare instructors over time, I have noticed that some have been better than others at leading the class and teaching the children but physical appearance has had nothing to do with the ability to do either. It matters far more to me that the girls are having fun, learning to swim, and progressing in their classes. As long as they are doing that, then I couldn't care less about the appearance of the instructor.

Regarding your pic request, I honestly don't know if I have one that isn't at least 10 years old. Once you hit that over a decade mark, I think it is probably a bit dishonest to try to pass it off as your current self. I'd take a new one, but the Mrs. might question why I am taking shirtless pictures of myself and sending them to other women on the internet... ;-)

9/12/2006 09:39:00 AM  

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