“My name is Matt and I’m a personal trainer…”

It’s hard to admit, to be completely honest, since most people associate the words “personal trainer” with “meathead who counts reps and yells Ronnie Coleman’s catch phrases.”

(I do yell Ronnie Coleman’s catch phrases, purely for their entertainment value, and I’ve been told I do a pretty good impression.)

“Yeah buddyyyyyy”

There are good trainers out there, and they’re worth what they’re paid to the people who need them. These trainers understand that most people don’t need to workout until they puke. What they do need is direction and support for changing the behaviors outside of the gym that lead them to better health, and a workout that keeps them entertained (hence the catch phrases). A trainer should be an educator, someone you learn from for a few months and then fly off on your own to apply what you’ve been taught.

Unfortunately, this isn’t why most trainers are hired. “I need someone to push me. I need someone to force me to do it.” These are the phrases we trainers hear in consults with new clients. Ugh…

Autonomy in Weight Loss

“Autonomous behavior is an expression of one’s self and is undertaken with a full sense of choice.” (Williams)

In 1996, a group of researchers hypothesized that feelings of autonomy could predict success in a weight loss program. They were good hypothesizers. Not only did the degree of the participants’ autonomous motivation predict how successful they would be during the weight loss and maintenance phases of the study, but the degree to which they found the weight loss facility’s staff members as autonomy supportive also was a strong predictor.

In short, the people who felt like they were doing the program because they wanted to showed up to more meetings, lost more weight, and maintained their new weight better over people who didn’t.

Hire a Trainer or a Coach

So, hire a trainer or a coach but don’t expect them to be your motivation. Expect them to help you find yours. Don’t expect them to push you or hold you accountable. Expect them to help you find your own accountability and your own drive to succeed.  Expect them to let you have a say in shaping your approach, and then expect to succeed.


Williams GC, Grow VM, Freedman ZR, Ryan RM, Deci EL. Motivational predictors of weight loss and weight-loss maintenance. J Pers Soc Psychol. 1996;70(1):115-126

Autonomy, Weight Loss, and Personal Trainers
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