If you’re overweight, you have injuries. You’ve been so inactive that these injuries have been dormant. They don’t show up until you finally remove yourself from the couch and start to participate in exercise. So you go to the doctor. He tells you to rest and take painkillers and anti-inflammatories. A doctor is trained to minimize pain and preserve life. Unfortunately for the millions of obese Canadians, the medical community doesn’t consider a life spent in cubicles and couches as painful. For them, that’s safe. It’s hard to have a heart attack or break a leg while sitting in an ergonomic chair populating a spreadsheet, but I can’t imagine a more painful existence.

When you attempt to improve your health, the first step should be to restore proper movement patterns. What this means is that you must start moving like a human being again. Your body is an amazing machine. It will comply with any persistent demand you place on it. If the demand is to drive to work, sit at a desk, drive home, and sit in front of a television, it will start to shut down many movements in favor of being less metabolic and more inert. It does this to minimize the energy demands posed on it.


The body is exceptional at becoming efficient. For it to be efficient at not doing much of anything, it tightens muscles so they won’t get used. It weakens large, explosive muscles so that you don’t use them, favoring instead smaller, less powerful muscles that are more aptly suited to holding a posture for a long time. So when you begin to exercise, you’re literally incapable of healthy pain-free movement. This is quite simply why I’m able to pay my rent. If it was as simple as cutting calories and joining a gym, I’d be out of business.

Statistically, everyone who is overweight has joined a gym and/or experimented with a diet. They all fail. Why? Because they get to a point where they’re in pain, and they have no idea if they’re on the right track or not. It doesn’t make much sense to stop what you enjoy in favor of something you loath (like eating broccoli or going to a crowded gym on Monday evenings) if you’re in pain and starving.

Before my clients do anything else, we immediately start to deal with their injuries and lack of proper movement patterns. The bonus to this approach is that the dormant muscles are always the ones that burn a lot of calories. That’s why the body turned them off when it realized you didn’t need them. It’s more efficient. When you start actually feeling stronger and more energetic (a nice side effect of exercise is that endorphins initially released to mask pain are directly related to mood), you begin to enjoy exercise. Once a good trainer demonstrates how proper nutrition is positively influencing these feeling in the gym, we’re able to use a positive feedback system to motivate the clients to make healthier changes. (Like how I managed to call myself a good trainer in an indirect way there?)

But this all needs to start with healing the body. An unhealthy body can’t sustain a weight loss process. Through a complex system of feedback signals, it will at some point tell you to stop because you’re placing it in danger. To heal the body, we teach it how to squat, lunge, push, pull, twist, and bend. Any movement a human being can do is a combination of these. They’re like the primary colors of human function.

In the course of demonstrating and teaching these movements, weak and tight muscles and dysfunctional articulations and movements are identified. At this point, we introduce exercises to restore proper function, thus improving health. Once we see proper function, we revisit the primary movement and get the body capable of it as soon as possible.


It’s important to stress that while this sounds very holistic, it’s also challenging. A squat is harder than a leg curl, extension, or press, and it works more muscles than all three combined. Push-ups performed correctly can have you feeling it in your toes. Learning to run correctly will ensure that once the process is completed (I hesitate to say ‘completed’ because the beautiful thing about nature is that it’s never done until death), you’ll never have to worry about your weight again.

The job of a trainer is to teach proper technique, analyze his clients’ ability to comply, and prescribe any corrective movements necessary to restore function. In a good session, this probably happens a dozen times. Once the body is healthy and capable of pain-free movement, it’s only a matter of time before the weight is gone. The body is the original complex system. Everything influences everything else. Dietary changes have been shown to improve mood and motivation, and exercise (I stress correct exercise) will improve self-efficacy and lead to healthier relationships. Of course, it works the other way as well. Dysfunctional beliefs can inhibit physical progress and should be addressed using daily journaling and then reviewed with the trainer.

If you feel this approach is too complex and you’re truly healthy, I ask you to do the following. Squat down until your butt hits your ankles and stand back up thirty times. Then perform thirty push-ups with a one-second down/one-second pause/one-second up tempo. Then perform ten lunges for each leg with your back knee kissing the floor. Finally, run one mile. When you’re finished throwing up, call me.