In Response To: How Do You Feel About This

I want to thank everyone for their comments and suggestions from my last post, even the ones that said, “I’m really shocked at your ego here and horribly offended by your reaction to this woman”, and “I’m just so livid at your reaction to this stranger and I know I’m not the only one.”

If I offended anyone I apologize.

Click the link to read original article->->->->

For those who know me, you know that I have a deep passion for helping people and when I see those I love (even if it is a total stranger) not living to their full health potential, it hurts me.  I shouldn’t have used the word “confront” but rather “approach” or “engage.”  I get up each day and live for the chance to help build up my clients and show them that they are special, that they deserve the best in their life.

Many of you are correct that it probably wouldn’t have helped to talk to her at that point.  There are 5 stages of behavior change:

1.  Precontemplation: They aren’t even thinking about changing their behavior.

2.  Contemplation: Giving up an enjoyed behavior causes them to feel a sense of loss despite the perceived gain.  They are weighing the benefits and losses.

3.  Preparation: They might start experimenting with small changes to test the waters out.

4.  Action Stage: They are full engaged in changing the behavior.

5.  Maintenance and Relapse Prevention: They have reached their goal, and find ways to create lasting habits that support the newly developed change.

From all my college studies in psychology, exercise psychology, and behavioral change, it is impossible to know where this woman was by just looking at her, but if she was still in the precontemplation stage, there isn’t really anything anybody could say to her to make her change.

From studying hundreds of case studies of those who have made dramatic healthy changes in their life, there is one thing that they all had in common: they decided that enough was enough.  The trigger is different for every person, but it must start within the person.

My goal with this blog is to write on enough topics that I can get someone to move down at least one level on the behavioral change model.  If I have done that, I feel successful!  I could easily just continue to show exercises and recipes, but those would only be helpful to those who are in the action and maintenance stages.  This is why I show transformations, write about struggles, talk about the environment we surround ourselves in, and the thoughts and feelings we have from the past and present.

There are many deep underlying issues in peoples lives, that I certainly don’t pretend to know, and don’t think any person can fully understand.   We are complex creatures with complex programming and emotional states.  Just because a person is or isn’t overweight, doesn’t mean they are “healthy.”  To me health means a balanced life between the physical, emotional, spiritual, and relational.  Of course as a personal trainer I am focusing more on the physical side, but all sides need to be in balance.

Thanks so much for listening and I am thankful for having all of you in my life!  I will continue to do my best to educate, motivate, and inspire you to be the best in all areas of your life.

-Dustin Maher

PS  Next time I see this type of situation again, I will do what a few of you suggested and just smile and say hi to the man or woman.


  1. Dustin,
    I think that you gave people alot to think about and you handled your response well. We all need each other in this crazy world and love and comfort are the most important in my book. Health is a biggy too and people underestimate how important that is sometimes. I get a great reality check at my job on a regular basis,being a nurse, and I am grateful for that—and I think that you got a huge reality check from all of the bloggers—And the beat goes on….

  2. I adore you for trying so hard. I do respect you.

  3. Dustin,
    I refrained from commenting on this, because the woman you saw could have just as well been me. I am glad for those who did post, and I am appreciative of the further explanation/ clarification of your post. I have been overweight for many years, but as mental health and medical issues have increased, so has my weight. Exercise is difficult due to severe arthritis in my knees and multiple sclerosis. Secondly, about 2 years ago, my anxiety made it impossible for me to continue going to the gym which I had very much enjoyed. (I thrive on exercise to keep tabs on my depression, so it has become a vicious cycle.) I do what I can, and am starting an MS exercise study in 2 weeks and am very excited about that.

    Thanks for reaffirming that every situation is different, and there are a lot of unknowns in folks you might just run across out in public.


  5. Thank you for your post – I know that you don’t mean any harm or malicious things towards anybody, but sometimes we just don’t realize the ways we can do things that may hurt people. I think it is great you are willing to take a look at yourself and take some honest criticism – you obviously have a lot of drive for self-improvement, and not just physically. That’s a good thing!

  6. Good response Dustin. I’m glad you responded to clarify your heart and intent as those who don’t know you well could easily have misconstrued your post. For most of us, we are so into our own selves and our own problems and issues in life that we forget to stop and think about others around us, and I’m not just referring to those we know and are close to. That’s too easy. There are very few of us who actually take the time to show any sort of care or concern to a complete stranger. Keep your passion bud.

  7. In response to Karen: I would caution you about just going off “willy-nilly” and “advising” obese people. You do not know the reasons they are obese, nor do you know their state of mind. In most situations, it would be difficult to know if a person is making those purchases for themselves alone, or for other people too. They may also be making purchases to use over several days. And no matter how obese a person is, it is possible they have already lost a good deal of weight. It could be extremely demoralizing to have a complete stranger approach them about their weight. As someone with many medical and mental health issues, I would encourage you to take Dustin’s approach. A smile and a friendly “hello” can go a long ways — in most situations farther than bringing attention to something the obese person already knows is a problem.

  8. Ditto Cindy on Karen’s post.

    Karen, don’t be so fast to judge those shoes that you have never walked in. You could very easily hurt more than help.

    Dustin this was a great topic/response. When I see overweight people…I can feel their pain. I have always been very comfortable with you while doing the bootcamps…your compassion shows in many ways. I’m very grateful to have you in my life.

  9. Thank you, Dustin, for clarifying your intentions. Your passion for health education really shows. I really appreciate you sharing the sad moment.

    You are one of the most honest and sensitive people that I’ve ever met. And it is because of your sensitivity that you did not approach the woman who is the subject of this discussion.

    You are a good teacher. Even though you could not help the woman at the gas station, you have planted a potent seed in most of us. I bet if you polled this blog, you will find that more than one of us has empowered someone else using the tips that we learn from you. So, you are helping hundreds of strangers.

    Than you for helping us reach the best life we deserve, and for encouraging an open and civil exchange of opinions and ideas on this blog.

  10. Tracey Van Emburgh says


    I have not known you for long…….and have only been in your class for a limited time, but in that short amount of time, you have demonstrated your incredible passion for what you do and most of all, your big heart shines through. You cannot “fix the world” but look at all the amazing people whose lives you have changed. Continue to focus on those that are ready for your guidance and motivation!! I will be back in class when my kids are back in school!! Won’t be long now :o)


  11. Dustin, You wrote this in your blog on eating disorders:
    “I am writing this not really because of the topic of eating disorders, but rather the example you are setting for your kids and friends. I too have been guilty of this, especially with past female college friends. I have made little comments here and there that have made them question their body image (even though I never realized it at the time).”

    So, if this is the response that can happen from small comments made to friends, think of the devastating effects on somebody if they hear a complete stranger comment on their weight. I hope Cindy’s (and the many other) comments are taken to heart by anybody who is thinking they should take it upon themselves to assume they know what’s best for somebody else’s life without knowing anything about them other than their physical appearance.

    I give you a lot of credit for being willing to post what your thoughts were about the situation and I think at age 25, it might be hard for you to always relate to the population you serve. But through this post and the amount of strong responses, I think you can consider yourself a bit more “seasoned” now :).


  12. When I first read this article, I definitely refrained from commenting, as I found myself upset. I appreciate your response, Dustin and never felt that you were intentionally being judgmental or hurtful. However, I do believe that this can be a huge problem. If it were a skinny person, who looked to be athletic, would you have had the same reaction about eating those unhealthy/unbalanced foods? You’re right about the 5 stages to change behavior, but I do think that it should be a word of caution to all of us, that “confronting” “approaching” or “engaging” someone in that type of manner, may make them take a step backward from potential progress. For example, I’ve lost 4 lbs this week and feel very good about myself, but if a stranger came up to me and asked about my food decisions in conjunction to my current weight, I would feel demoralized and derailed.

    Hopefully we can all make the decision to be supportive of everyone, no matter the size, welcome them without judgment and cheer on progress that we see, because the last thing that we want to do, is perpetuate the poor body image we have in this country. I can guarantee that woman already feels terrible about herself, but she’s the only one that can change her lifestyle. There’s nothing that can be said to her that will make her change, until she’s ready to change.


  13. Amen, Tanya. You said it better than I did, by far! (As did Dustin in his post.)

  14. It’s a tough road to ride. Great idea but my thoughts are it would be difficult to implement. People need to make a choice. Strangers, even well-intended ones, will not find success offering suggestions about food to folks who have yet to make a decision about changing bad eating habbits.

    A better path is the good people on this web site get the word out about Dustin and eating/living healthy. Walk the walk along with talking the talk.

    If you see me out jogging/walking and I look like I could use some encouragement….send me a a smile and shout out a way to go! This would go far and I’d be thankful.

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