This Wellness Professional Is Coming Out as a Big Fat Fraud

Kelly Coffey

Today I play the role of a business owner, a writer, a wife, and a mother. If you time-traveled into the past you’d see me playing a nerd, 1 a goth, 2 a butch, 3 a femme, 4 a poet, 5 a comedian, 6 a Christian, 7 an agnostic, 8, and a couple dozen other roles.

No matter who I was, or where I was, or what I was doing, it felt insincere. I felt like the fraud in a room full of genuine articles, whether they were rolling 10-sided dice or swapping verse or cracking jokes or begging forgiveness. I was a spy without a homeland. No matter how I was walking, I always felt like the shoes didn’t quite fit.

But I didn’t feel like a fraud when I was consuming. No sir. Food. Booze. Smokes. Romance. Drugs. TV. TJ Maxx. Taking things into my body or into my head helped me tune out the fraud thought, and the self-consciousness. So long as I was taking something – or someone – in, all was well.

That is, until it was gone. Until I woke up, or broke up, or got the bill, or had to show up for something.

I made sense of that in the only way I could: I decided that me was me consuming. At a young age I decided that not feeling was the real thing, and so I built my life around that.

And that’s how the rest of my life – work, commutes, errands, and obligations of any kind – became the stuff I went through – or had to get past – so I could have me time. I lived from snack to snack, and bottle to bottle. From ‘pleasure’ to ‘pleasure.’

The more I took in, the more uncomfortable it was to go without, until finally, one by one, my ‘pleasures’ broke. I couldn’t drink or smoke or eat my mind quiet anymore. I became more and more aware of the weird lengths I was willing to go to get a fix (of whatever), and that I didn’t stop consuming even when it became clear that it wasn’t bringing me nearly as much pleasure as pain.

Of course, me was never me consuming. Me consuming was just me distracted – distracted from my feelings of shame and of fraudulence and inadequacy, distracted from my disappointment with myself, and the life I wanted that I wasn’t creating. I had been mistaking the brief peace that cheap ‘pleasures’ brought me as my real life.

So if me consuming isn’t me, then what is? It’s not the clothes I wear or the games I play or the shows I watch. I’m not my sexuality or my political leanings or my hobbies. It’s not even my sense of humor or how I spend my time.

I’m a wellness-pushing personal trainer today, so you’re probably waiting for me to break out with “Me is me exercising!” or “Me is me eating well!”

Um, no.

I love exercising, specifically lifting weights. I love eating nourishing food. But here’s the kicker: I still feel like a fraud.

I’ve been exercising and eating well for years, and I’ve helped hundreds of people do the same, and still there’s a voice in my head, ready to remind me that I’m not the real thing; that me is a fat alcoholic smoker who’s not fooling anyone.

Making healthy, sustainable behavior change is a tall order for people like me. The tallest. Part of why it’s so easy for us to talk ourselves out of healthier behaviors is this fraud thought – this sense that no matter how hard we try, no matter how many times we go to Zumba, or how long we stay away from sugar, or fast food, or the bar, that the healthier behavior will never be us. We keep waiting to wake up feeling like the real thing, but when that doesn’t happen, we quit.

I’ve been a fit, healthy-living personal trainer for almost a decade, and I still don’t feel like the real thing. Maybe I never will. And that’s OK.

I’m a work in progress. How I look, what I think, what I believe in, and what I do with my body and my time – it’s all in flux. Because change is inevitable, I’ve concluded that me (and perhaps, you) is the one thing that remains constant: me breathing. Me is the breath I take while standing or sitting exactly where I am, no matter what I’m wearing, or where I’m working, or what brand of coffee I’m drinking. And because me is the breath I take – and my experience of that breath – I’ve dedicated my life to making choices so that that breath feels good.

I make choices so I can feel good in this breath, without needing to also be drinking or smoking or eating or whispering sweet nothings or Saving Big on Name Brand Styles.

Now that I know what me is, I have an easier time choosing healthier roles. I have a much easier time sticking to commitments 9 because I’ve made me – this breath and how it feels – my priority.

I imagine every other wellness professional out there is the genuine article. Me? I’m a fat alcoholic smoker, just playing a part.


  1. D&D!
  2. Because black is slimming. And The Cure.
  3. Because flannel’s cozy.
  4. Took me getting thin to embrace the lace.
  5. An edgy poet. Very edgy.
  6. Mostly in bars, and entirely unpaid.
  7. Because it’s nice to believe.
  8. Because science.
  9. Exercising, eating well, sleeping well, apologizing when I’m wrong, seeing that I’m wrong, being able to wrap my head around even the remotest possibility that I might ever be wrong…..
Showing 9 comments
  • Juanita

    Love the footnotes in your writing! Too funny. And of course, the honesty is raw and personal and touches my heart. Thank you for sharing.

    • Coffey

      Thanks, Jaunita! Glad you enjoyed it.

  • paul Huston

    Thank you for your rare and raw honesty.
    You’ve taught me I’m not the only one who feels unworthy of praise.
    I am a writer who believes to be just the typist. That someone/something else is feeding me the words.
    My first published book book has over 700 pages, so whomever feeds me has a lot to say…
    Thank you!

  • paul Huston

    BTW. I’m Juanita’s uncle. I’ve been trying to get her to write her thoughts down for years. I love her writing!

  • Calley

    Kelly, do you think everyone feels this way? Do you know what it’s called? Is it a lack of self esteem? I’m learning new ways to live with these feelings (thanks to you), but I really wish they would just go away already. I’ve always wondered if I’m cursed or blessed.

  • Renee Fisher

    I guess this feeling of fraudulence is plain old universal humanity. I wonder why that is. But your experiences of being all over the map during your lifetime help the rest of us (the 98%-ers?) who experience the same d*mn thing.
    I guess I’ll also feel like a fraud until Exercise Is My Default, Nourishing Food in Healthy Portions Is My Natural Default, etc. Which is not likely to happen, I’ll still have to make that choice every single gosh darn day. And I have a good…40 years left? Not enough time to change my defaults, but I use your tools to make the good choices, and so that is enough, eh? I’ll take it.

  • Ali

    Ok everything I have ever read in your blog has always struck a chord with me. Like many of your fans, we have similar stories. This entry especially. In fact, I was just shopping in TJ Maxx last night and the thrill is gone this morning. Seriously, I am a fraud. Praising healthy choices in eating and exercising then laying around the house putting awful combinations of foods together and calling it a meal. I am definitely off-track and this blog entry left me wanting more. Oh, and throw in a handful of “I love all that you’re saying but I don’t want to get duped”. Health concerns are very real and are not even scaring me enough to make an effective long term change. Why is it so difficult ?

  • Amanda

    Whelp, you hit the nail on the head right there. Simply swap the food addiction for attention/sex/wanting to be wanted addiction, and that’s me in a nutshell. It’s so hard to break away from these fake personas we try to make ourselves into.

  • Samantha jones

    This is the unexplainable feeling I have every time someone complements me. I’ve lost a hundred lbs but I feel like a fraud. I try to ease away these feelings by openly admitting to people that on really bad days I down entire bags of lays or any form of trader joes nuts available. But somehow I still have that nagging feeling. Which in reality is illogical …I am humanly imperfect and will fight the rest of my life to eat right. Where the fraud in that? Anyhoo thanks for helping me out a label on these emotions. Now I know I’m not alone. Maybe now I can accept me and move on.

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