As seen in I AM Magazine…

“Telling someone with obesity to eat less is like telling someone with depression to cheer up”. ~ Dr Arya Sharma.

The health and wellness industry, of which the fitness industry is a huge part, is a multi-million dollar industry world wide. And here in Australia, we have personal trainers and gyms popping up like mushrooms all over the country. There is literally one on every corner it seems.

So, one would think that Australians embracing the need to make their health a priority would begin to eat away at the large percentage of overweight and obese population – yet as a nation, we are getting fatter. Rates of overweight and obesity are continuing to rise in Australia.

Based on measured height and weight from the Australian Bureau of Statistics Australian Health Survey to calculate BMI (I know the BMI doesn’t take into account lots of variables, but bear with me) … Almost 2 in 3 adults are overweight or obese (63%); 1 in 4 Australian children (25%) are overweight or obese; 15% more people living in outer regional and remote areas are overweight or obese than people living in major cities and being overweight or obese is the second highest contributor to burden of disease, after dietary risks [with smoking being the third highest].

This means the cost to our national health care system is ENORMOUS!

So why is our health as a nation on the decline while the fitness industry is still in a booming bubble?

It’s complicated, and I certainly don’t have all the answers, however here are some points we may all need to take into consideration …

  • Simply training hard and eating well is not always the immediate solution. It is however a fabulous maintenance plan once all other aspects have been addressed and the individual is not deemed as being at risk of relapsing.
  • Psychology is an important part of weight loss and health. I send the majority of my weight loss clients to a psychologist as part of their long term treatment plan. Finding out how they ended up needing to lose weight in the first place is extremely important, or the roller coaster ride will continue.
  • GP’s can play an important role in referring their patients out to the appropriate support network (psychologists, highly qualified and experienced personal trainers or movement specialists, and nutritionists).
  • Nutritionists are the other key to successful long term weight loss – as personal trainers, many of us are not qualified to provide nutritional advice to high risk clients. We are able to provide general advice, but unless we have studied nutrition at a higher education level, what we find off the internet or “from our own experience” simply isn’t good enough.

That doesn’t mean your personal trainer, gym or exercise group doesn’t have an important role to play. We do! We just need to know what it is.

So from my end, here is what our role is as a PT:

  • Refer out to other professionals within our network where appropriate.
  • Provide outstanding movement coaching and training services appropriate to the physical needs of the client.
  • Support other service providers by encouraging the client to follow the nutritional plan, take medications where prescribed, and continue with follow up appointments in relation to mental health.
  • Ultimately we are the exercise cog in the wheel.

As a client here are some of the things you should be asking your PT for:

  • Safe exercise prescription under supervision plus a simple exercise plan that you can follow unsupervised between PT visits.
  • Referrals to other network providers.
  • Ongoing support through the highs and the lows.

Some people can certainly turn their health and well being around simply by exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy fresh food diet well balanced in proteins, complex carbohydrates, rich in vitamins and minerals. However, many can’t. Its about more than that and a great personal trainer will understand that. Next time you meet with your personal trainer, or if you are considering employing the services of one, consider it a great addition to your current health care plan. A good PT will pay for themselves a thousand times over when your health has improved and your risk of disease decreases. Being overweight or obese is a contributing factor to the majority of lifestyle (preventable) diseases. Top up your insurance premiums by using the services of a PT to their full capacity and you won’t be sorry you did.

 Here is my 3 month movement plan for anyone suffering from obesity that, in conjunction with other health professionals, would like to change that …

WEEKS 1-4 – I walk with my clients on a flat surface. Sometimes every single day. It might take hours, but as the days go by the distance stays the same and the time gets faster. The days that I am not with them I ask them to … walk!

WEEKS 5-8 – Continue walking 5-7 days a week plus add 2-3 30 minute bodyweight and primary movement pattern sessions. The aim is for the client not to experience major muscle soreness so they are able to continue exercising daily.

WEEKS 9-12 – Continue walking 5-7 days weekly, increase the supervised movement sessions to 45-60 minutes and introduce other training methods of slightly higher intensity.

In all this time we still haven’t lifted a weight (that comes soon), the client hasn’t experienced major muscle soreness and it is a pattern they are able to continue with long term for the rest of their life!


With his permission, I can share with you that using the above method, combined with a medically based nutritional plan and ongoing work on thought patterns, Brad [pictured above] managed to lose 22kg from September to December last year. He set the goal of losing enough weight to go skydiving for his 30th birthday – nailed it! It wasn’t complicated, but it wasn’t easy having to undo years and years of damage, negative thinking and the abuse of food. It doesn’t make me great, all I did was walk with him, talk with him, prescribe appropriate and safe exercise, and made sure he followed the nutritional plan in place that was right for him. I want to wish him all the very best for continued weight loss and a long and healthy future of daily exercise that he enjoys.

My theory when it comes to exercising for weight loss is, “begin with the end in mind”. If you can’t keep it up for a sustained period of time, it’s unlikely you will keep your weight at a healthy level for a sustained period of time either.

-Emma Pilcher-

emma pilcher


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