Understanding Weight Bias among Personal Trainers and Practical Strategies

by Robyn Whitehead, PhD, Whitney Moore, PhD, CSCS,*D, and Todd Whitehead
Personal Training Quarterly March 2022
Vol 8, Issue 4


This article seeks to explore weight bias and provide strategies to reduce weight bias behaviors.

Paywall block issue

This article is not configured properly for members or paid content.
isMemberOnly: {{isMemberOnly}} | isPaidContent: {{isPaidContent}}
spc: One or more parts of the product SPC is missing.

Read the full article

View the video

Login to view more

{{discountDesc}} Valid thru {{discountEnds}}

This {{ogType == 'video.other' ? 'video':'article'}} is available with a NSCA membership

This {{ogType == 'video.other' ? 'video':'article'}} can be purchased for {{prices}}
Price includes membership pricing and promotions

Purchase this {{ogType == 'video.other' ? 'video':'article'}}. Price range: {{prices}}
Price range includes membership pricing and promotions

Become a Member Add to Cart Login

This article originally appeared in Personal Training Quarterly (PTQ)—a quarterly publication for NSCA Members designed specifically for the personal trainer. Discover easy-to-read, research-based articles that take your training knowledge further with Nutrition, Programming, and Personal Business Development columns in each quarterly, electronic issue. Read more articles from PTQ »



1. Boeka, A, Prentice-Dunn, S, and Lokken, K. Psychosocial predictors of intentions to comply with bariatric surgery guidelines, Psychology, Health, and Medicine 15(2): 188-197, 2010.

2. Breckon, J. Motivational interviewing and exercise prescription. In: Lavellee, D, and Cockerill, I (Eds.), Counseling in Sport and Exercise Contexts. Leicester, England: British Psychological Society; 48-60, 2002.

3. Brown, T, and Fry, M. Helping members commit to exercise: Specific strategies to impact the climate at fitness centers. Journal of Sport Psychology in Action 2(2): 70-80, 2011.

4. Brown, T, Fry, M, and Moore, E. A motivational climate intervention and exercise-related outcomes: A longitudinal perspective. Motivation Science 3(4): 337, 2017.

5. Chambliss, H, Finley, C, and Blair, S. Attitudes toward obese individuals among exercise science students. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 36(3): 468-474, 2004.

6. Deci, E, and Ryan, R. Handbook of Self-Determination Research. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press; 2002.

7. Dimmock, J, Hallett, B, and Grove, J. Attitudes toward overweight individuals among fitness center employees: An examination of contextual effects. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport 80(1): 641-647, 2009.

8. Fry, M, and Moore, E. Motivation in sport: Theory and application. In: APA Handbook of Sport and Exercise Psychology, Volume 1: Sport Psychology. American Psychological Association; 273-299, 2019.

9. Glovsky, E (ed.). Wellness, not Weight: Health at Every Size and Motivational Interviewing. San Diego, CA: Cognella Academic Publishing; 2014.

10. Greenleaf, C, Martin, S, and Rhea, D. Fighting fat: How do fat stereotypes influence beliefs about physical education? Obesity 16(2): 2008.

11. Jay, M, Kalet, A, Ark, T, McMacken, M, Messito, M, Richter, R, and Gillespie, C. Physicians’ attitudes about obesity and their associations with competency and specialty: A cross-sectional study. BMC Health Services Research 9(106): 1-11, 2009.

12. Kyle, T, and Puhl, R. Putting people first in obesity. Obesity 22(5): 1211, 2014.

13. Langdon, J, Rukavina, P, and Greenleaf, C. Predictors of obesity bias among exercise science students. Advances in Physiology Education 40(2): 157-164, 2016.

14. Martins, R, and McNeil, D. Review of motivational interviewing in promoting health behaviors. Clinical Psychology Review, 29(4): 283-293, 2009.

15. Melton, D, Dail, T, Katula, J, and Mustian, K. Women’s perspectives of personal trainers: A qualitative study. The Sport Journal 14(1): 2011.

16. Miller, S, and Fry, M. Relationship between motivational climate to body esteem and social physique anxiety within college physical activity classes. Journal of Clinical Sport Psychology 12(4): 525-543, 2018.

17. Miller, W, and Rollnick, S. Ten things that motivational interviewing is not. Behavioral and Cognitive Psychotherapy 37: 129-140, 2019.

18. Mind Tools Content Team. Active listening: Hear qhat people are really saying. Mindtools.com. 2021. Retrieved August 2021 from https://www.mindtools.com/CommSkll/ActiveListening.htm.

19. Moore, E, and Fry, M. Psychometric support for the ownership in exercise and empowerment in exercise scales. Measurement in Physical Education and Exercise Science 18(2): 135-151, 2014.

20. Nuss, K, Moore, K, Nelson, T, and Li, K. Effects of motivational interviewing and wearable fitness trackers on motivation and physical activity: A systematic review. American Journal of Health Promotion 35(2): 226-235, 2021.

21. O’Brien, K, Hunter, J, and Banks, M. Implicit anti-fat bias in physical educators: Physical attributes, ideology and socialization, International Journal of Obesity 31(2): 308-314, 2007.

22. Palermo, M, Staples, C, and Rancourt, D. Examining the impact of weight bias on the association between exercise identity and maladaptive exercise behaviors. Eating Behaviors 41(1): 2021.

23. Panza, G, Armstrong, L, Taylor, B, Puhl, R, Livingston, J, and Pescatello, L. Weight bias among exercise and nutrition professionals: A systematic review. Obesity Reviews 19(11): 2018.

24. Pearl, R, and Puhl, R. The distinct effects of internalizing weight bias: An experimental study. Body Image 17(1) 38-42, 2016.

25. Pollak, K, Alexander, S, Tulsky, J, Lyna, P, Coffman, C, Dolor, R, et al. Physician empathy and listening: Associations with patient satisfaction and autonomy. The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine 24(6): 665-672, 2011.

26. Puhl, R, Phelan, S, Nadglowski, J, and Kyle, T. Overcoming weight bias in the management of patients with diabetes and obesity. Clinical Diabetes 34(1): 44-50, 2016.

27. Puhl, R, and Brownell, K. Confronting and coping with weight stigma: An investigation of overweight and obese adults. Obesity 14(1): 1802-1815, 2006.

28. Puhl, R, and Latner, J. Stigma, obesity, and the health of the nation’s children. Psychological Bulletin 133(1): 557-580, 2007.

29. Puhl, R, Schwartz, M, and Brownell, K. Impact of perceived consensus on stereotypes about obese people: A new approach for reducing bias. Health Psychology 24(5): 517-525, 2005.

30. Puhl, R, and Wharton, C. Weight bias: A primer for the fitness industry. ACSM’s Health and Fitness Journal 11(3): 7-11, 2007.

31. Puhl, R, Wharton, C, and Heuer, C. Weight bias among dietetics students: Implications for treatment practices. Journal of the American Dietetics Associations 109(3): 438-444, 2009.

32. Robertson, N, and Vohora, R. Fitness vs. fatness: Implicit bias towards obesity among fitness professionals and regular exercisers. Psychology of Sport and Exercise 9(4): 547-557, 2008.

33. Smith, C, Becnel, J, and Williams, A. Body image and selfesteem in female college students of healthy weight and excess weight: The mediating role of weight stigma. American Journal of Undergraduate Research 16(2): 53-61, 2019.

34. Swami, V, Pietschnig, J, Stieger, S, Tovée, M, and Voracek, M. An investigation of weight bias against women and its associations with individual difference factors. Body Image 7(3): 194-199, 2010.

35. Swift, J, Choi, E, Puhl, R, and Glazebrook, C. Talking about obesity with clients: Preferred terms and communication styales of UK pre-registered dieticians, doctors, and nurses. Patient Education and Counseling 91: 186-191, 2013.

36. Teixeira, P, Carraça, E, Markland, D, Silva, M, and Ryan, R. Exercise, physical activity, and self-determination theory: A systematic review. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 9(1): 78, 2012.

37. Wakefield, K, and Feo, R. Confronting obesity, stigma and weight bias in healthcare with a person centred care approach: A case study. Australian Nursing and Midwifery Journal 25(1): 28-31, 2017.

38. Washington, R. Childhood obesity: Issues of weight bias. Preventing Chronic Disease 8(5): 1-5, 2011.

39. Wijayatunga, N, Kim, Y, Butsch, W, and Dhurandhar, E. The effects of a teaching intervention on weight bias among kinesiology undergraduate students. International Journal of Obesity 43(11): 2273-2281, 2019.

40. Zaroubi, L, Samaan, T, and Alberga, A. Predictors of weight bias in exercise science students and fitness professionals: A scoping review. Journal of Obesity 2021.

41. Implicit Association Test (IAT). Hosted by Project Implicit. Retrieved 2021 from https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/ takeatest.html.

42. Implicit Associations Test: Weight bias. Hosted by Project Implicit. Retrieved 2021 from https://obesitycompetencies.gwu. edu/article/388.

43. Carlsson, R, and Agerstrom, J. A closer look at the discrimination outcomes in the IAT literature. Cognition and Neurosciences 57(4): 278-287, 2016.

44. Cameron, CD, Brown-Iannuzzi, JL, and Payne, K. Sequential priming measures of implicit social cognition: A meta-analysis of associations with behavior and explicit attitudes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology Review 16(4): 2012.

45. Greenwald, AG, Uhlmann, EL, Poehlman, TA, and Banaji, MR. Understanding and using implicit association test: Meta-alaysis of predictive validity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 97(1): 17-41, 2009.

46. Oswald, FL, Mitchell, G, Blanton, H, Jaccard, J, and Tetlock, PE. Predicting ethic and racial discrimination: A meta-analysis of IAT criterion studies. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 105(2): 171-192, 2013.

47. Gawronski, B, Morrison, M, Phills, CE, Galdi, S. Temporal stability of implicit and explicit measures: A longitudinal analysis. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 43(3): 300-312, 2017.

48. Forscher, PS, Lai, CK, Axt, JR, Ebersole, CR, Herman, M, Devine, PG, and Nosek, BA. A meta-analysis of procedures to change implicit measures. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 117: 522-559, 2019.

About the author

Robyn H Whitehead, PhD

Contact Robyn Whitehead

Contact Robyn Whitehead

Your first name is required.
Your last name is required.
Your email is required.
Your message is required.
Your reCaptcha is required.

Your email was successfully sent to Robyn Whitehead

Robyn Whitehead is an Assistant Professor at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, TX. Whitehead is currently the Undergraduate Program C ...

View full biography
About the author

Whitney Moore, PhD, CSCS,*D

Contact Whitney Moore

Contact Whitney Moore

Your first name is required.
Your last name is required.
Your email is required.
Your message is required.
Your reCaptcha is required.

Your email was successfully sent to Whitney Moore

Whitney Moore, CSCS*D is an Assistant Professor of Kinesiology at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC. She was the Chair of the National Streng ...

View full biography
#NSCAStrong #NSCAStrong

has been added to your shopping cart!

Continue Shopping Checkout Now