Poll: Is Trainer's Weight Gain Empathetic or Extreme?


By: , SparkPeople Blogger

Have you seen this news story? An Australian underwear model turned personal trainer decided to put himself in his clients shoes and become obese.

Paul "PJ" James has gained 53 pounds in less than two months and plans to reach 265 pounds and stay there for a few months before shedding the weight.

His ripped six-pack has been replaced by an ever-expanding belly, and his arms are losing their tone. Once named Melbourne's Hottest Hunk, James says his deliberate journey toward obesity is an altruistic one.
"I decided I really didn't understand what they were feeling and their emotions," he said.

While most people become obese over years or even a lifetime, James is gaining weight at an alarming rate. He has stopped exercising, his blood pressure has risen slightly, and his clothes no longer fit.

(On a slightly related and bizarre note, find out what happens when a college sports editor tried Michael Phelps' diet for a day!)

What do you think about James' plan? Is this a good way for a superfit trainer to understand his overweight clients, or is this just a publicity stunt?Do you think that other people will be more compassionate about obesity as a result?

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  • 182
    I saw this on the news the other night. He said he just wanted to show his clients that weight loss and exercise do work. I just think it is a wierd way of showing them. I do well by having a role model which was what he was to begin with.

    Sunny - 3/5/2009   8:41:21 AM
  • 181
    Just plain stupid idea! - 3/5/2009   6:12:52 AM
  • WHOLY_FIT_48
    What stupidity! - 3/5/2009   5:49:29 AM
  • 179
    Lots of good points to read on here that really make you think. Without knowing his true intentions, it's hard to get on him too much. However, as a fitness trainer he MUST realize that his TRYING to become obese is completely different than than the problems his clients are facing. They are more than likely working on emotional or esteem problems as well as trying to learn and implement a lifestyle that may well be completely foreign to their current lifestyles. His heart might be in the right place, however, to deal with obesity you must deal with the root of the problem. But, who knows, if it in some way helps someone he knows, than maybe it will be worth it. I'll be interested to read his own client's comments. - 3/5/2009   3:26:29 AM
  • 178
    I think he's being foolish. To know how people feel about their being overweight all he has to do is take the time to talk to people in this situation and just read some of the blogs on SP. I just think he's being very foolish. - 3/5/2009   1:56:18 AM
  • 177
    I know he is trying to do something good, but it is a very dangerous thing for him to do. He is putting his health and life at risk, especially by putting on the weight so fast. - 3/5/2009   12:49:06 AM
  • 176
    How can you deliberately endanger your health and call that empathy? Empathy is something you feel with your heart and understand with your mind. How on earth is gaining all that weight artificially going to help him understand how people with long term problems with their weight feel ? His attitude is belittling. - 3/5/2009   12:36:23 AM
    I think that this is a stupid ,and very unhealthy thing to do. I feel like it might be more of a publicity stunt. - 3/4/2009   11:08:55 PM
    I think this is a very unhealthy way to find out or to relate to what it is like to be obese. I think he would have been better off putting on a "fat suit" for a week like they did on the Dr. Phil show. I don't know if I would ever put my health in harms way to see what something is like or to relate to someone. - 3/4/2009   10:43:23 PM
  • 173
    You have got to be kidding me. Does this guy really think that deliberately gaining a lot of weight in a short amount of time is anything like reality? Does he really think that a couple of months matches year after year after year of being obese? - 3/4/2009   10:13:00 PM
  • 172
    His heart may be in the right place, trying to understand how it feels to be so overweight, but he just doesn't get the concept that many overweight people have serious emotional issues, self-esteem issues, and all the other reasons some of us get fat. It's not just the body, it's a state of mind that has to be overcome. He is deliberately putting his health in jeopardy for publicity, and that's never a good idea. - 3/4/2009   10:09:48 PM
  • 171
    Did he ever think he could just shadow one of his clients for a month, live with that person, be with that person constantly? If he couldn't understand how an overweight person felt, how they are treated or the obstacles they have to overcome after that period of time he'd have to be blind. And stupid.
    sure hope his thyroid doesn't get wind of this, wouldn't that be a cruel trick if he couldn't loose it as easy as he thinks he'll be able to. - 3/4/2009   10:09:46 PM
  • 170
    Okay, this is my second comment today - I left one this morning and have read these other comments.
    Seems that a LOT of people are "blaming" being overweight not "emotional eating". Not everyone is overweight due to ee. Some are due to depression, some lack of motivation, but I think MOST are due to having learned bad habits growing up.
    I do have to say, EE is not a very good excuse - it is simply that - an excuse. Get to the underlying REASON. If you continue to use ee as a crutch you're either not going to succeed or you're going to have an AWFULLY hard time reaching your goal. Sometimes you've got to be honest with yourself and stare it straight in the face and admit that it's time to let go of the crutch and walk on your own two feet. - 3/4/2009   10:09:21 PM
  • 169
    Gaining weight at an alarming rate will not give him the insight that comes from being overweight since childhood. There is no way possible for him to accumulate the emotional baggage that some of us have to deal with in order to get to the point where we no longer want to be overweight. He is trying to understand his clients, and that is a good thing, but his methods may be flawed. - 3/4/2009   8:30:01 PM
    If all there was to being weight was overeating we would all be thin. The emotional baggage that an overweight person had to get to their overweightness is not joining along with this man. I also think it is quite dangerous for him to go from fit to flab so quickly. - 3/4/2009   8:12:53 PM
  • 167
    I think his heart is in the right place caring enough about his clients to wanna know what their feeling. He will certainly know the physical feeling of being over weight and out of shape. But I don't think it's truly gonna help him understand fully because he's in control of his weight. He can, and likely will, loose it afterward when he decides he would like to. At no point is he feeling trapped in the body with no hope of ever getting out like obese people do. At no point will he ever feel like a 'total looser' at life because 'I'm fat with no hope of ever getting out' like over weight people feel. He will never at any point feel a complete loss of hope. - 3/4/2009   8:07:13 PM
  • 166
    i think it is a fabulous idea!! and he will get a good idea of what it is like to be heavy, because speaking from experience, when you have been in excellent shape and only put on a few pounds . . . it is a very uncomfortable feeling for that person. - 3/4/2009   7:51:41 PM
  • 165
    I'm sorry, but---WHAT AN IDIOT!!!!! Does he think that people with overweight isssues can control when they gain and when they lose?? Or how much they gain and how much they lose?? And a timetable?? What a load of crap. This guy couldn't possibly be trying to understand what it feels like to be obese or how a person with weight issues deals with having those issues. It seems more like he's MOCKING having a weight issue. Which in my book, will only make his attempt at relating to it, somewhat insincere and calous. - 3/4/2009   7:50:45 PM
  • 164
    However miss guided he is at least trying to understand what being overweight feels like. Though he'll never understand what makes us over weight! I feel it has to do with our state of mind and that is something one cannot make some else feel . - 3/4/2009   7:49:23 PM
  • 163
    He is doing this intentionally ...so he can NOT understand although his intentions may be good. The habits that made him fit will surely make losing weight again easier than losing will be for people who are in different situations. Yet... I somehow think his efforts have a kindlness behind them...Just to think someone would even SAY they're trying to understand...is nice. - 3/4/2009   7:25:15 PM
  • LISALU910
    This is the stupidest idea I've heard of since "Supersize Me".

    Intentionally packing on the weight does NOT put him in his client's shoes. Think about it....he is still IN CONTROL, even as he's gaining weight, because he is doing it with purpose. His clients, on the other hand, have gotten obese because they are OUT OF CONTROL. That is something he cannot share with his clients just by putting weight on his body for experimental purposes. - 3/4/2009   7:08:44 PM
  • 161
    This is crazy. I've never heard of anyone wanting to gain that much weight. Did you see the before and after pictures? Making a point is one thing but this is going over board. - 3/4/2009   7:00:19 PM
    He's not going to magically understand what its like to be obese. He's still going to have his same mindset, his same genes, etc. After being fit for years and then fat for only a few months, its going to be a lot easier for him to lose the weight than for someone who's been obese for twenty years and hates exercise.

    I think its stupid.

    very,v ery stupid. - 3/4/2009   6:53:49 PM
  • 159
    Guess he got what he wanted, lots of attention, He just don't get it! If i could get skinny again and be 25 I would too, but that doesn't mean I would get it. He has to go thru the years of misery, stress, moods, looks,feeling like crap, ripping out seams, trying to suck it in,forgetting how it felt to feel great, forgetting how to take care of #1, He and the actors that put fat suits on do not understand by any way shape or form what it means to be unhealthy weight. What's next go anorexic to see what starving to death feels like get real and drop him from site. He just ain't worth the hype. Have you seen any fat person get that much attention? I doubt it Hollywood drops their butts or try's to make real fools out of them. SICK HUMAN - 3/4/2009   6:20:38 PM
  • 158
    to purposely put your body through that is not a good idea - 3/4/2009   6:17:51 PM
  • 157
    Dumb and dumber ... Just like actors and actresses who've deliberately gained weight for a particular role -- Elizabeth Taylor was one of the first to do this and ended up with a chronic weight problem the rest of her life. Most of us experience metabolic slowdowns as part of the normal aging process as it is, and fall victim to at least some modest "middle-age spread" -- why hasten the process and use oneself as a "guinea pig?"

    There is a sign that has been on a cemetery in this area for years ... it cautions drivers to "Slow down! We Can Wait!" I think the expression could apply to this and many other things in life as well! - 3/4/2009   5:56:23 PM
  • 156
    On the one hand I see where he's coming from, wanting to see what his overweight clients are going thru, on the other hand, he's already fit and knows what good habits are with both food and exercise. His metabolism is probably excellent and there is still muscle under the fat. Him losing weight won't be the same as someone who's been obese for years with a horrible metabolism and little strength and horrible hard to break habits. I don't think he'll have to work hard to lose weight... not in the same sense that a lifetime overweight person has to work at establishing habits and shedding the pounds and improving metabolism..etc. - 3/4/2009   5:32:45 PM
  • 155
    I saw the "Oversize Me" program a couple of years ago and it was interesting because this guy ate at McDonald's every day for 6 weeks(?) to see what fast food could do to your body. They kept track of his blood pressure, cholesterol, lipo-profile etc to draw a conclusion. This Australian trainer did something similar but in a very different nature. He put on all that weight just to see how his clients felt? I thought it was a bit strange. But hey, at least the idea was entertaining. - 3/4/2009   5:03:32 PM
  • 154
    Although his motives may have been pure, the understanding he seeks probably won't come. Most people who are obese spent quite a bit of their lives obese, and have struggled much of that time with healthy eating and weight loss.

    For me, it seems a bit like someone binge drinking to try to experience life as an alcoholic. The binge drinker may be able to experiment, and may experience some of the consequences of the alcoholic. But, the binge drinker may possibly return to normal drinking, whereas the alcoholic can't. - 3/4/2009   4:33:49 PM
    I don't think what he is doing is healthy but as a research project it will give him insight into how other people treat him as a 'bod' and as a larger person, and how his own body reacts to all that extra weight. - 3/4/2009   4:22:52 PM
  • 152
    I don't think one can gain more than empathy for overweight people this way. When you chose to gain weight it's not the same as feeling trapped in a heavy body all or most of your life. Also it won't help him understand the reasons why people become overweight. - 3/4/2009   3:57:19 PM
  • 151
    Like others have said, I just hope he can take it all back off. It isn't worth the risk. If he is really doing this for obese people, well that is nice, but not what "we" need or want. I wonder how many obese people he asked before he decided to do it. One can never truly know what it is like to live obese by becoming obese over a few months and only staying obese for a few months. People who have lived obese and have lost a lot of weight do inspire me, but this feels more of a poke at the situation. - 3/4/2009   3:55:26 PM
  • 150
    Me personally, I think it is a publicity stunt...
    I personally would not do something like this, just by training obese people he should be able to understand what they are feeling and how they are treated...this is carrying it to the extreme.
    I just pray that he does not do himself any damage, or end up in the hospital, with his BP on the rise already, I do hope he is doing something about that, you just never know, he may cause himself a stroke..

    It will be interesting to see how long it takes him to take it back off.... - 3/4/2009   3:29:22 PM
  • 149
    No Way would I ever encourage anyone to do this. It isn't healthy and it won't give him a true look into our shoes.
    To show empathy for someone with a broke leg - do I need to go brake my leg???? - 3/4/2009   3:17:58 PM
  • 148
    I want to add that I agree with someone else who posted here that it may not be that easy for him to take off the weight. He may be surprised by that. - 3/4/2009   3:11:40 PM
    I give him credit for wanting to understand his clients better. I could really use a little knowledge in what it feels to be model like in shape for a while as well. I fell that since he is putting weight on so fast he will still find it very easy to lose the weight. He will still have all that muscle he has had for so long. All he will have to do is cut his food intake and he will still have all that muscle for his metabolism. He will not find it hard to lose at all. I was like that when I was younger. I could pull it off and then say see look it was easy to loose all that weight. I like his desire but he should not endanger his health or use this as a way of making it seem easy to loose the excess weight.

    - 3/4/2009   3:10:58 PM
  • 146
    I think perhaps his heart is in the right place, but he is not going to "understand" what people are going through if he has never had a problem with compulsive overeating. He is eating so much to gain weight at such a fast rate that I cannot imagine the overeating is very fun for him (okay, maybe I can :-). He probably won't understand the allure over-eating has for a lot of us.
    If he hasn't spent his life using food for comfort, he will not understand the pull it has. If he has always been a natural athlete who is drawn to physical activity, he will not understand the plight of someone who has always struggled with athletics.
    I am very curious to see how he does in the losing stage of this experiment, though. - 3/4/2009   3:05:25 PM
  • 145
    that is one of the stupidest things, I've ever heard anyone do. It takes a terrible toll on the body, to do something like that. I can't believe anyone would do that. - 3/4/2009   3:02:45 PM
  • 144
    stupid! endangering your health for that? and all that stress on your body and organs! a big no no! plus you will never get the whole picture of what obese people feels mentally in that short amount of time. stupid. - 3/4/2009   2:53:11 PM
    I am going to have to go against the tide and say that I am impressed by what he is doing. Actors/actresses gain weight or lose weight to play parts, and in so doing are able to understand the characters better. I don't think what he is doing is healthy, but he has a better understanding of what people go through. As a thin person, if you dispense weight loss advice to people, they treat you as if you don't know what you're talking about. - 3/4/2009   2:45:29 PM
  • 142
    It looks like I'm going to agree with the majority of posts...I think it's ridiculous. While I understand the "motivation" of being able to truly understand what his clients experience - it's really unhealthy. Why in the world would a fitness profession CHOOSE to gain that much weight? It's seems as ridiculous as a doctor taking up smoking for a year just to see how hard it would be to quit. - 3/4/2009   2:38:33 PM
  • 141
    You would think that working with people to loose their weight - would be enough to see what they go through. I don't agree with what he is doing. People gain weight gradually, usually not like what he is doing. I still don't think he will get the full affect. - 3/4/2009   2:27:51 PM
  • 140
    I'm not sure what to think about this. I don't think that suddenly forcing yourself to gain weight by changing your habits is going to help him understand the feelings of people who struggled with weight and weight gain their entire lives, especially when he already has more knowledge and experience about about healthy habits, eating right and exercising than many of his clients might ever have.

    "Extreme" weight gains and losses like this one--where it is deliberate, like for a contest, a reality TV show or even an actor preparing for a movie role--always make me worry about the psyche of the person. I worry that what seems simple (gaining weight in a few months and taking it off) could result in serious mental health issues like eating disorders, body dysmorphia, etc. that--even if they reshape their bodies, they'll struggle with for the long-term. - 3/4/2009   2:05:28 PM
  • 139
    Stupid i have been struggling with my weight for most of my life and to have some one do this is plain stupid.. i would give anything to be able to loose weight like some people can.. i have to work hard for ever lbs.. not smart at all - 3/4/2009   1:19:51 PM
  • 138
    I can't help but wonder how easily he thinks it is going to be to actually take all this weight off? I mean if it was that easy we would all be thin right? I can only hope it goes the way he plans but I would be concerned about his health, presently and in the long run.. - 3/4/2009   1:06:42 PM
    Totally agree that this is stupid, unhealthy, and a stunt. He is not going to gain empathy by doing this!! - 3/4/2009   12:42:48 PM
    He is just plain stupid, he really doesn't understand the harm he's doing. - 3/4/2009   12:33:18 PM
  • ASINGH527
    This is obviously a publicity stunt. Renee Zellweger has done this same sort of thing twice now. He knows how to get fit again as it's his lifestyle to be fit and know what to eat. He would have to somehow wipe from his memory everything he knows and that's not possible. - 3/4/2009   12:33:05 PM
  • 134
    I saw a story about this guy, complete with before and after photos, on TV. I think he is doing something very unsound and very unhealthy. I can only guess he is doing this to draw attention to himself in hopes of recruiting new clients. I hope this stunt doesn't backfire on him; he may find losing the weight and getting back all his muscle tone isn't as easy as he seems to think it's going to be. - 3/4/2009   12:31:09 PM
  • 133
    I don't get it and I think it's stupid. It's quite unhealthy for him - is it worth his life? Then when he goes the other way what is the point? So he can say "oh look how easy it was for me?" Every person is invidual - and doing this makes no sense to me. I don't know what he's proving via this - just that he can? Big deal. - 3/4/2009   12:18:03 PM

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