On A&E’s Fit to Fat to Fit reality show, Steve was commissioned to help a client lose weight – but first, he had to gain what she needed to lose. Then, they would lose the weight together. Steve would soon learn the power of empathy and how people needed to see Steve struggle. One of viewer’s favorite scenes was Steve huffing, puffing and wheezing through his first workout. Personally, I was amazed at the resounding response, “now he knows how it feels”.
On the night the show initially aired,
“for the love of god & humanity, plz someone gif him on his knees saying, “I did that to you?! What a jerk!”
So, I made it my mission to capture that moment for her (and post it on youtube) – and for others like her. The moment when Steve realized just how hard his own workouts were.
The Need For More Empathy
The truth is, empathy was the very reason why the creator of Fit to Fat to Fit, Drew Manning, did the initial experiment to begin with. He knew he didn’t know how it felt to be overweight and out of shape. However, many trainers do indeed know how it feels. Some of the best trainers once used to be out of shape.
Sure, there are some freaks of nature who seem be just be born fit (we aren’t one of those!). There are also some people who grew up in sports all their lives and just love a good beating in the gym (that’s not me either). Then there are people who have fought long and hard to be fit and healthy. And, no one would ever know.
The Book Behind the “Pfit” Cover
Everyone judges everyone to a certain degree. They may not act on it, or let it affect how they treat a person, but everyone makes a deduction based on how someone looks. Overweight people often feel judged but, surprisingly, fit people are also judged.
It has always surprises me how people respond when we talk about our own struggles with food or exercise. People are either completely shocked or they don’t believe us at all. Either way, we realized just how many people felt we couldn’t relate until Steve’s experience on Fit to Fat to Fit.
After the show aired, the most common response to the show was, “NOW you understand”. People actually enjoyed seeing Steve struggle. Even though Steve has always struggled with his weight before and felt like he understood his clients, now people actually believed him.
At first this really frustrated him and made him realize how many people tuned him out before, simply because they didn’t feel like he could relate. Then, he realized the experience was going to take his training, and ability to impact more lives, to another level.
This is also why I asked his permission to share something most people do not know about Steve.
Struggle from Birth
Steve was on a diet at a very early age. Being a “husky” kid (that is what his mom used to call him), he remembers being insecure and wearing a shirt at the beach. But, moreover, he struggled with something much bigger than body fat. He was born with a congenital chest wall deformity, called pectus excavatum (pictured left).
While I’ve encouraged him to talk about this more, he’s always resisted because he didn’t want to use it as an excuse. It’s not fun to talk about having a birth “defect” either. Nobody likes being “defective”, which was always how he felt. He was defected baby that his mom rejected (he was given up for adoption). Of course we know better now and he has an amazing relationship now with his biological mom, those feelings were very real. However, like obesity or any other struggle, it is was still something that had to be overcomed.
My desire is to give people hope and encouragement. Having this condition was more than just having a physical birth defect. The sunken chest makes it difficult to breath during exercise, and even during normal activity. With less room for the heart to pump and the lungs to expand, exercise was extremely hard. This is very similar to how an obese person would feel during exercise, because their body fat also crowds their heart and lunges.
Against the Odds
Most doctors say that sports may not be an option for someone born with this condition. But, that didn’t stop Steve from playing baseball growing up and trying his best. Even though he still wore a shirt at the beach, he eventually braved the traditional wrestling singlet uniform to follow in his dad’s footsteps. He joined the wrestling team in high school and started waking up before school to workout in the garage on an old Weider weight set he bought at yard sale. Not only did he quickly discover that weight training would help disguise his pectus, it would begin to strengthen his heart and lungs – as well as his self esteem.
Although Steve was never morbidly obese, he has experienced similar struggles all his life. He had his own set of obstacles to overcome. Physical limitations made fitness more challenging and his physical appearance affected his self-esteem. He learned to push through the heart-pounding pain and it paid off. In many ways, it’s helped make him become a great trainer. The Fit To Fat To Fit experience made us both understand how much people need to feel understood.
The Cover Never Tells The Full Story
Everyone has their own battle. Many times you never see it because it’s buried in the pages of each person’s own private story book. Steve’s story includes childhood diets, insecurities, feelings of abandonment, not fitting in and feeling like defected merchandise. For others, it may be excess body fat, abuse or a health issue, but the lesson is the same: One, never judge a person by how they look. And, two, make the most of what you have in order to be the best version of the you God made.
We’re not all dealt the perfect hand (or body), but we can most definitely do the best we can with what we have.
Good Leaders Go First
Even though Steve had always felt like he understood clients, we are thrilled people now believe he understands. He just needed to go first, and live out his struggle more publicly. It makes me think of why Jesus came to this earth. He didn’t come to empathize with us, he came so we would accept him, listen to him and trust him more.
This is also why I believe God sent us Jesus. Jesus felt the pain of broken skin, hurtful words, rejection, hunger, poverty and every temptation a man could have. Somehow that makes trusting Him easier – and maybe that is the most powerful response of this show.
Steve went through a year of weight gain, health issues, muscle loss, fatigue, and feeling like a complete failure. If he had to go through that so he could help more people, it’s all been SO worth it!