Open Letter to the Lady in the Pink Shirt

Kelly Coffey

Wherein I take issue with the latest fat-shaming wave, and offer the names of health professionals who leverage the healing power of respect and empathy.

Dear Lady in the Pink Shirt,

On Saturday, a fitness personality named Charles “Strength Sensei” Poliquin posted this photo of you to his professional Facebook page:

The reactions from the fitness pros who follow Mr. Poliquin were mixed. While some let him have it for his lack of professionalism, a terrifying number of them laughed and high-fived him for “calling [you] out,” “telling it like it is,” and “not being a politically-correct pansy.” 1

Poliquin and his fans who jumped at the chance to mock you revealed very clearly that they’re in the wrong line of business. How wrong? I would compare them to a domestic abuse counselor who would greet a freshly-beaten client with, “Oh come on, you let him hit you again?!?! WTF is wrong with you?”

At best, these folks are ignorant dolts in the wrong line of work. 2

At worst, they’re assholes who take pleasure in insulting and humiliating the very people they were trained to help (unless they got into their respective fields only to work with people who didn’t actually need their help).

But, back to you, dear Lady in Pink. Thanks to Poliquin’s post, if you weren’t hesitant to work with a fitness professional before this weekend, I bet you are now.

Thanks to him, it would be easy for you to write off folks in the fitness industry as a bunch of bullies. Though that’s clearly true for some (and those two threads on Poliquin’s page read like a ‘Who’s Who’ for whom it’s true of), it’s not true for all.

Kelly Strong Coffey Before and DuringI’m a personal trainer who was once over 300 pounds. I became a trainer, in part, because I believed that fitness pros were all a bunch of meat-head assholes.

I’m happy to report that I was wrong.

There are tons of fitness pros in the world who would do back flips for the privilege of working with you.

They’d be thrilled to sit down with you, to get to know you.

They’d be abso-fucking-lutely on fire to help you feel better, and to get healthier, inside and out. And not just you – they’d be on fire to help anyone do that. Because that’s exactly what most honest-to-god fitness pros got into fitness to do.

Not to judge you.
Not to mock you.
Not to assume anything about you.

But just to support you in whatever way you wanted to be supported.

I’ve had the privilege of meeting and spending time with many of these folks. Most of them have never been obese, and don’t have my story, but many of them have a highly-developed sense of empathy and get it that we all need attention and respect to be able to heal and improve our health.

It’s not my – or anyone else’s – place to tell you what you should or should not do, or what you should or should not want. That said, IF you ever feel like connecting with a new-to-you health-based professional, I want you to be able to find caring, respectful, terrific folks. Not just personal trainers, but dietitians, doctors, mid-level professionals, RDs, therapists, you name it. So I’m compiling a list of them at the bottom of this piece. Names and contact info will be added to the list all this week.

If you decide you want to connect with a new-to-you fitness pro (or any other kind of health-based professional), someone who’d show you the care, respect, and empathy you (and every one of us) deserve, my hope is that you’ll be able to use this resource directory to find someone close to you.

Please remember, dear Lady: For every mall-walking Neanderfuck with a camera that takes your picture without your consent, there are twenty people like us who know how it feels – and how discouraging and paralyzing it can be – to be on the receiving end of shame, humiliation, and abuse.

We all see you, too, and we’re in awe of your bravery.

We also see two little girls in that photo with you. Tell those beautiful girls of yours that the world will be better by the time they get to be our age. There are legions of us who won’t rest until the ignorant are educated and the bullies are bested.

Meanwhile, Lady in Pink, Poliquin took down your photo, and “apologized” the next day:

Though the lion’s share of comments on that thread read like the transcript of an authoritarian political rally, the final comment to make it on Poliquin’s #sorrynotsorry “apology” post was a fun, telling-it-like-it-is little jibe: 3

Three minutes later the entire 250-comment thread was gone. Deleted.

Like a stereotypical bully, it appears that Mr. Poliquin can dish it out, but he can’t take it.

All good things,

Are you a fitness pro who’d be excited to work with the Lady in Pink and other folks like us? THIS WEEK ONLY, Comment below with your Name, City, State, and Facebook OR Website URL, and, after I check you out, I’ll add your name to the resource list so the folks who want to work with respectful, supportive health pros can find you.

Click here to “Like” Strong Coffey on Facebook, then hover over “Liked” and click “See First” under “In Your News Feed”

Fitness and other health professionals I know & trust
(favorite this post and check back for updates):


Dr. Spencer Nadolsky

Eat, Train, Progress

James Fell – Body for Wife


  1. Yes, this was a Facebook thread, not a political rally.
  2. And, just in case one of said-ignoramuses is reading this: No, publicly shaming fat people doesn’t inspire them to get healthier. In fact, it has the exact opposite effect. Piling shame on top of shame motivates no one. Judging from the quality of some of your comments to Poliquin’s posts, though, I imagine many of you think climate change is a work of fiction. You I cannot help. ( http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2866597/ )
  3. Yes, by me.
Showing 55 comments
  • Sue

    Like you, I got in to this because I couldn’t find a fit pro that I felt understood me. I focus on those who don’t want to kill it in the gym, but want to learn how to get fit and off the couch.

  • Sheila

    No fat shaming..not even by me!


  • Jessica Mauk

    My website is currently under construction. You can find me right now at “Healthy for 100” on Facebook

    I’d be honored to work with the lady in pink

  • Carolyn Fisher

    I’m not American based but I just wanted to show my support. Xx

  • Kim

    You know that clown thinks that’s an apology too. Moron.

    Keep on being you Kelly. You are the best.


  • Patrick McDonagh

    Well written.
    Thank you.

  • Leslie Hooper

    Thank you so much for writing this on behalf of all of the PT/Coaches who find this type of behavior abhorrent and embarrassing.

    I would love to give these folks who feel alone, scared, judged, and ridiculed – ALL of the love, patience, and compassion they need to be successful.

  • Diane

    “Neanderfucks” is my new favorite word. Go get em, Coffey!

  • Laurie

    Love you Kelly! Thanks for calling him out and telling it like it really is. You don’t just talk it, you walk the walk and you’ve been there. #truth

  • Alicia

    While the majority of this post made me sad for the woman who was shamed, I did have to smile at one thing. The people who congratulated Charles Strength Sensei etc on not being a “politically correct pansy” have clearly never met you. If they think compassion, empathy, and care are associated with being a PC pansy, I’d love to invite them to read this blog, and they’d soon see otherwise. Love the way you write. You tell it like it is, too. I continue to wish that you were in Iowa, or that I could find someone like you who was.

  • Sue

    Thank you — I hate when people assume that everyone that is obese are just lazy. How do we know her story? Having been mocked, laughed at, pointed at and the like I understand why many obese people stay that way and lock themselves in their world and their homes. We are a very mean society. If we’re not “perfect” then we’re ugly. Well wake up everyone – no one is perfect, everyone has a story, a problem, an addiction. I have found over the years that most of the “bullies” have very low self worth. He needs to look at his own life and find out whats wrong. Thank you Coffey for being there! And to the other Trainers and Nutrionists that don’t judge but help.

  • Peaches

    See, the thing is, he attempted to clean up the mess he’d made (most likely because he was afraid of losing his clientele and the money that comes with them), but anyone who saw that post now knows that he spews hate (just an outer manifestation of what’s going on inside him). What would be a better action for him to take is true rehabilitation of his belief system.

    It would be a difficult job, given where we all live: planet Earth.

    One could say that he’s just as much a victim of pop culture, Madison Avenue, and the healthcare and diet industries as we all are. And while it used to be just the US that was obsessed, now the creeping crud of this has spread to every society on earth — even those where fatness was once prized.

    The victims? Those of us who struggle with what to eat when to eat how much to eat what to weigh what not to weigh what to eat when to eat how much to eat what to weigh what not to weigh what to eat when to eat how much to eat what to weigh what not to weigh…. those of us, like the Kardashians, who get injections in their lips and all manner of cutting and shaping and re-shaping, in order to conform to what has now become the acceptable way to look… little girls putting themselves on diets at 7… little boys catcalling fat people… insurance companies who won’t insure those whose have an A1 C higher than their formulary allows… trainers who feel it is their prerogative and “calling” to abuse their trainees into what they believe is the right size and shape and weight… It’s all of us.

    All of us.

    We on this blog are the mouthpiece for one kind of victim. Our insulting trainer is the mouthpiece for the other kind of victim.

    We all created this. Now we have to un-create it.

    Thank you for what you do and who you are.

    • Dianne Davis

      Yes – – you said what is in my head!

  • Karen Baird Tinner

    You, Kelly, are perceptive, courageous, beautiful, articulate — an inspired and welcome voice amidst the din of imbeciles. Bravo on a simply amazing post!

  • Clare

    You inspire me, Kelly, Keep telling the Truth!

  • Laurie

    I am standing here applauding (in my mind, anyway) your spot-on, passionate response to that ignorant jerkoff. You’ve expressed, far more eloquently than I ever could, my feelings for ‘Lady in Pink Shirt’ and society’s mass ‘Game of Shaming’. I salute your efforts to set the record straight on behalf of all the dedicated trainers/coaches. Thank you for seeing & acknowledging my pain and uplifting all of us ‘Ladies in Pink Shirts’.
    Nobody does it better, Kelly!

  • Heather

    As far as his #notsosorry PR apology, I would have had more respect for him if he had simply said “I’d like to apologize for my shameful post. Truth is sometimes I can be an asshole and that was clearly one of those moments. I’m human and I’m working on it. I’m sorry for my thoughtlessness.”

    As for the lady in pink, I understand. Truly, totally. Praying for you and myself. It’s a long journey my friend.

  • Steph

    When will the entire health industry get it through their thick skulls that weight is never about the willpower of a person???? THE most common reason people put on weight is because they have experienced some type of trauma or they are extremely energetically sensitive and the weight is a way for their body to protect itself. That is why people gain the weight back most of the time after dieting. It is typically not a body issue, it is a spiritual and/or emotional issue. So many people in this world and hurting so deeply and feel unloved, rejected, cut off, and outcast and can feel with their whole being that something is just “off” with our world right now. That creates a deep void that people try to fill with food. It creates an internal hunger that can never be filled and food temporarily alleviates that deep inner pain. Plus, everything in their body is putting out hormonal signals that it wants to keep that weight on and it will cause hunger, lack of sleep, and lack of energy to keep it at the weight it wants to be or cause you to gain more weight until it feels safe. Creating shame does more to harm people and causes nothing but more inner wounding. The best way to help someone lose weight is to help them feel safe, and especially feel safe in their own bodies. Until we can see everyone with love and see that their body is using its utmost wisdom to do what it thinks is best for the spirit who resides within, things won’t change. Once a person can recognize the void and learn ways they can feel safe, loved, connected with others and with source (which our society does NOT encourage, by the way), their body will naturally begin to shed the weight because it doesn’t need it anymore. We are all connected and when you sling hate…hate comes back to you. Let’s stop seeing more division in fat vs. healthy (which our society encourages) and start seeing everyone as also a part of ourselves. What would love and compassion do????

    • Elizabeth Wilcox

      Neither I nor anyone else could have stated this truth more clearly. You described what a friend (who formerly weighed 300-plus pounds) described recently when she told me of her 100-pound weight loss and I asked how she had lost it: “I just haven’t wanted [been compelled] to eat. I guess I just feel … safe.” Both the book “The Body Keeps the Score” (Bessel van der Kolk, M.D.) and Dr. Vincent Felitti’s history of how the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study came about should be required reading for medical and fitness professionals! Most people would benefit from reading these; they explain the science behind what you have so eloquently described. Many thanks.

  • Jeb Stuart Johnston

    And to think, I was starting to soften my view on Charles P. I spent a good few years in awe of some of the dumb shit he promoted but recently I have tried to be more open minded (I still don’t follow him on social media). Guess that was a mistake.

  • Deb

    This was shocking to me because I know this guy – his books – his affiliation with certain sites. There is a certain attitude in the heavy weight lifting community about fat – no doubt about it – but he mingles with PTs who get that not everyone is a he-man macho lifter. I guess his inner douchebag came running right out as he snapped the pic and posted. I see plenty of interesting things in public but I never pull out the cell phone because you can’t know a person’s “story” from a photo – and it’s an invasion of privacy. Great blog Coffey.

  • Scott Helmer

    Bravo for you Kelly! I have stopped following Charles and T-Nation a while ago. They do this on a regular basis. If they only understood the mindset that is involved with people who struggle. They would know that it is very seldom what we need to know to move forward, but what we need to know about what is stopping us! We all have a story we bring to the equation, and the fitness industry as a whole, has contributed to the negative results that people are getting. They are part of the problem because they haven’t figured out that the “rah, rah” cheering and even worse, the shaming doesn’t work! Like you pointed out, it actually creates dissonance and won’t help create sustainability. Thank you for posting this! Mindset matters most! Made my day.

  • Dianne Davis

    Eagerly awaiting this list to see if there is someone in Tulsa OK! I would love to work with someone like YOU! Anyone who calls themselves the “Strength Sensei” has more issues that you can shake a marshmallow at. So mean-spirited. Our overweight people the last group that it’s OK to hate!? He’s a joke.

    I’m not crazy overweight. Just a mom who could stand to lose 40 lbs. But my heart goes out to the lady in pink. I get her more than I do the “Hatespeek Sensei!!”

    Thank you for all you do! I found you on Thrill List and read you voraciously!

  • Dave

    Hi Kelly,
    A fantastic article, that shouldn’t need to have been written. Unfortunately, while most of us get into this line of business to help, motivate and encourage those with little or no experience and know how, there are those who are all too quick to mock those in the most need of our help.

  • Jeanne

    Hi Kelly,
    Very well written! Big hugs to you for calling this guy out 🙂
    His comments were inexcusable and the “apology” was seriously lacking.

  • Rosemary Kinkade

    So… Insulting someone behind their back and posting their photo without their knowledge is NOT being a pansy? Let’s see him walk up to her and tell her the same thing to her face.

    And that attempt at an apology is pathetic.
    Thank you for this post, great blog, Kelly!

  • Bee

    Thank you from the heart for taking a stand for this lovely lady & her children!!! As an Aboriginal person who has experienced a ton of racism and still do today (of the subtlest nature) and as a social worker, this means a lot to me to know that there are kind, compassionate, strong individuals like you that will stand up, even if you must stand alone, for others!!! GoD BleSS you and the Lady in Pink, her children/family and all other individuals, living breathing beings in the world that endure this ugliness.

  • Apple

    I am a clinical naturopathic nutritionist based in Perth, AU – my practice is called Food Medicine. (The website is incomplete, but social media is active for contact)
    I also own an organic Wholefoods store in Fremantle Markets called Clara’s Wholefoods. (Www.claraswholefoods.com)

    Combired – I offer holistic nutritional consultations with integrated wholefood (as medicine) prescriptions.
    I do not pass judgement & ridicule; but I do offer my sincerity & support
    To your health xx

  • Katalina

    Do coaches like him understand it begins with self love? How do you self love when you have “a coach” that brings that same unworthiness you already feel to you!!!
    A person in a true spiritual help healing yourself would never post that!! He needs to find another profession!!

  • Donnie Oliver

    I too came to this from the personal experience end. From 285 to 170 to a healthier 205-210.
    In addition I now oversee a national network of amazing empathetic and compassionate fitness professionals, not fly by night wanna be “celebrity trainers”!

    Keep fighting the good fight!

  • Miriam A.

    Thank you so much for this article! It made me cry that a trainer was so heartless. I am very blessed with a Planet Fitness personal trainer who has worked with me for about a year and I am 50 pounds down and still working. He has never made me feel bad about my body and never speaks badly of any of his clients, only about how he wants to help them succeed. I’m so glad there are people like you and like Tres out there helping us make our goals!!!

  • Megan Marlow

    It can be a challenge living healthy and comfortable in your own skin in (what can be) a very intimidating world of health and fitness. Changing a routine you’ve grown so accustomed to and habits that you find comfort in is like trying to reprogram an unresponsive brain. It’s hard. Extremely hard. But it’s much easier when it’s done with people who understand, empathize, and support someone who is struggling. I’ve been there. It sucks and it take an army of people to get you to the new you. Even if it’s just an army of cheerleaders. I’d be more than happy to help anyone, especially Lady in Pink.

    Megan Marlow
    Los Angeles, CA
    Plant-Based Private Chef – giving people the tools to succeed at food.

  • Gail

    Fat shaming has never worked properly. People resort to hermit like conditions and even more comfort eating. The support circle may be ineffective or non-existent. The learnt behaviour may be next to impossible to overcome. Non-judgmental help is totally essential. Don’t you think obese people do enough bad self talk to last many lifetimes? You can’t judge what you haven’t experienced first hand. Not everyone’s journey is the same.

  • Joy Grove

    Thanks for the article! Sad to think there are fitness professionals out there like that. They are most definitely in the industry for the wrong reasons.

  • Janine Partridge

    As a Zumba and Silver Sneakers instructor who regularly gets asked, “you’re the instructor??” before proceeding to make said questioner sweat buckets, I would welcome any and all comers to my classes. I openly promote such an attitude because group exercise classes can be so intimidating as well. If it ain’t fun, I ain’t doing it – especially with exercise. As a person working on her own weight loss goals, we’re all in this together and group support is where it’s at. Thanks for the article, and send any body in Sierra Vista, Arizona my way for happy, sweaty, inclusive fun

  • Robin Mungall

    Good post. I don’t understand why this keeps happening. Our industry needs to fly under the same banner that says this is an environment in which everyone can feel safe to come and make positive changes… No judgments just support.

  • Debbie

    Thank you so much for writing this! I would LOVE the opportunity to show her how to be a healthier version of herself. I give anyone mad respect for reaching out and getting help when they know they can’t do it on their own. As a personal trainer I feel so honored for someone to pick me to lead them on a new journey in their life. I am so glad that there are trainers that care about their clients, I will always give my all to any client that steps foot though my door. The biggest step, and sometimes the most hardest, is just asking for help.

  • Sean Keenagahan

    Wow. What Charles “Strength Sensei” Poliquin did was absolutely appalling. Its basically cowardly, schoolboy bullying on social media.

    I am based in the USA, but happy to help and support anyone here in Australia

  • Chad Dawson

    My name is Chad Dawson, owner of Levels Fitness and training. I am a compassionate PT who is here to help all my clients to be who they want to be inside and out, I don’t care about your money, I care about your wellbeing and am ashamed by the actions of minority of the fitness industry that has got on board to mock you lady in pink! We are not all insensitive, judging wankas and are here to help so please don’t be put off by the ignorance shown. Reach out of you need any advice.
    Cheers Chad

  • Ben

    Thank you for sharing. I agree with you on the negative effects of shame in probably most cases – including besides “fat-shaming.” I think it’s important, though, to address the issue of obesity. I’ve been referred to as a good listener and “a bull in a china shop” at different times and situations in my life, so I don’t claim to have the correct way to approach this issue, but it does need to be addressed. America has become tolerant of eating “food” that not even food! I’ve been a victim of the sales and marketing schemes of the food companies myself. Coupled with the failure to exercise daily we are seeing obesity cause unprecedened health issues in physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual and other areas. This is not good for the individual or society as a whole. The individual – as you point out – feels/receives painful shame, and society pays for it monetarily in medical, insurance and other resultant costs – but most importantly in seeing someone in our society be unhealthy and unhappy, and potentially die earlier than they could have had then been healthy.

    My point in this, although it took a while to get here, is I believe addressing the issues and educating the – who I call in most cases – victims on nutrition and exercise is the key here. I think many food companies – including those who claim to be health foods – make millions off the innocent ignorance or misunderstanding of those buying into their marketing schemes and sales tactics. I’ve gone significantly up and down in weight at different times in my life – despite buying what I thought was “healthier foods.” I would love to see much more simple-phrased, pointing-out-the-obvious, bite-sized information printed on billboards, in candy sections at markets, at the entrance to fast food drive-thrus and more. I think the victims of obesity are often just uneducated on what their body really needs for fuel – and how much of it – and could benefit from bite-sized, easily-applied drops of knowledge. This might be too simple – and some may think too blunt – but what about a simple sign in the candy isle that says: Sugar Makes You Fat. Here’s how: and then a short explanation on what sugar does to the human body. Another idea would be to include how many minutes/miles a person would need to jog for to burn the calories consumed in a fast food combo meal. I know for me I’m much more cognizant of my food consumption when I think of in terms of having to run an extra 5 miles to burn off those calories! I guess we’ll likely never see these signs since I’m asking the people selling these products to shoot themselves in the foot 🙁

    Anyway, I guess just education has helped me bit by bit and I feel/am healthier with each little nugget I consume and implement. And because I’ve been on both sides of the coin I love to see people enjoy the same health I have created for myself. I absolutely LOVE to see the “fat guy” out jogging, walking, at a 5k or other race. Dead last or not, he’s got so much respect and encouragement from me. I’ve been there. Keep it up!

  • Jane

    You are terrific Ms. Coffey!
    Thank you.

  • Jocelyn Shaw

    I absolutely hate the elitist attitude some fitness “professionals” display day after day. If you cannot empathize with people and do not have a true passion for helping them, you’re in the wrong field.
    I’ve met far too many “coaches” who only want to work with competitors and high-level athletes, and while there is a niche for that, they aren’t the ones who really need our help, support, and understanding.

  • Kara Snyder

    Yo Kelly!
    I’m a Health + Lifestyle Strategist who specializes in helping frazzled, Type-A women get their shit together.
    Kara Martin Snyder, Northampton, MA, http://vitalcorpswellness.com

  • Ben

    Would love to work with the lady in pink.

  • Stephanie Gillam

    As a former obese woman, I like Kelly went into fitness to help other woman become strong minded,, Heath mindedand fitness minded! I’m privileged to be a part of changing people lives!! Love you Kelly!!!!

  • Cecile Senaux

    I am a french fitness coach. I just want to show my support. I am glad to work with people who want help to change for the best. Lady in pink, you have an ally in Paris. 🙂

  • Deborah Hann

    Thank you SO MUCH for this post. There are so many people who feel intimidated to join gyms, fitness classes or hire trainers. Everyone, no matter the size, shape or fitness ability deserves the opportunity to develop a love of health and fitness….and to be treated with the respect you deserve. Sending love from Nova Scotia, Canada.

  • Christopher Warden

    Beautifully written article, Kelly. Much love and support for you, and for the ‘Lady in Pink’ from a US-born coach living in Morocco. All the best to you.

  • Bo Rose

    My website is also under construction but you can find my Facebook fitness page
    Bo-Tarah rose fitness xxxx

    Sign me up!! Xxx

  • Sidra Zion

    I agree that there are some bad trainers out there, but there are a lot of amazing ones also! I’ve been blessed to work with 5 terrific trainers during my weight loss journey. They were accessible, knowledge, kind, compassionate. They inspired and motivated me! I hope the victim of that post finds someone as great or even better (if that’s possible) than my trainer!

  • Kenneth Lim

    Hi Kelly. Thank you for YOU. I am obese. I’ve been laughed at at my current gym at a different location, so I moved to another branch of theirs.

    I am hesitant about engaging a PT simply because of situations like these. So I view videos on YouTube and Men’s Health but still don’t know what I’m doing or if I’m doing right.

    If you do share names of PTs, I am based in Glen Waverley, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

    Thank you again for your article. It means a lot.

  • Reply


    This was one of the best blog posts I have read by a personal trainer brave enough to call out fitness professionals (and others) who embrace the dogma of personal responsibility and have no compassion. I have 15 years of experience as a dietitian working with athletes, people recovering from eating disorders, and people of all walks of life doing their best to cope and stay well in this environment. I am an avid promoter of HAES and health behaviors for health sake, not for weight.
    I’d be thrilled to be connected with you and your network of professionals who provide high quality care in a compassionate and supportive manner. My website will go live in a month or two, but you can search me out on LinkedIn or by doing a google search using Victoria Rosenfeld, RD, CSSD. I am in the middle of going back to private practice as well as a name change. You can also find me on Twitter @VLSportsRD

    Keep up the good work,

    Victoria Lambert (Rosenfeld)

  • Robin Adams

    You nailed it on the head with your comments about the Pink Lady – that jerk is typical egotistical male asshole. I loved your comments and I love your blog ! Keep it up ! You are so inspiring to so many people out here !

    Kudos to you !

  • Shari

    Kelly, I love you so much! That is all.

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