Pilates and Weight Loss Myths

When people find out I teach Pilates, I usually get two questions. The first question is usually "What is that? Is it like yoga?" The second question is "Will it help me lose weight?" While I am never surprised by the question, I am often dismayed at the idea that movement isn't as connected to the quality of life as it is to 'burning calories.' How can we shift the conversation from weight loss to the benefits of Pilates without discouraging people from trying it?

Weight loss is an extremely touchy subject and, unfortunately, seems to dominate the health and wellness conversation. In this time of what has been deemed 'quarantine pounds,' there seems to be a desperation to not only go back to 'normal' but to regain the bodies we once had or get to the body we've always wanted.

It is possible, however, that we will never get back to the same body because we are not the same people.

Several factors affect our weight loss efforts including:

  • Chronic stress (can we just say "2020?")
  • Anxiety
  • Grief
  • Depression
  • Hormonal Changes
  • Alcohol Intake
  • Medications
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Hypothyroidism

Add in things like sleep, genetics, diet/food sensitivities, and consistency in our workouts and there is suddenly a million-piece puzzle to solve. Even the best fitness protocol can't address all of these issues. That does not mean Pilates is not worth pursuing.

The benefits of Pilates are numerous and include:

Pilates teachers know that the benefits can also include:

This can be a hard sell when people are only focused on weight loss.

When clients have missed sessions for a while (usually after a holiday or a vacation), I am often greeted with the following phrase, "I need you to kill me today." That statement is usually followed by how much they ate and/or drank and how they did not exercise while away. How do we as teachers help guide clients back to a place of balance?

As Pilates teachers, our scope of practice (according to the Pilates Method Alliance) allows to do the following:

  • Design Pilates exercise programs according to an individual's need
  • Coach, provide general information, and direct clients to seek medical attention as necessary
  • Receive exercise guidelines and clearance from medical practitioners, when appropriate, to ensure client safety
  • Promote exercise to improve overall health
  • Document client progress and cooperate with referring medical practitioners
  • Recognize conditions that would preclude a client from safely participating in a Pilates exercise program.

It does not include:

  • "Prescribing" an exercise program
  • Continuing to train a client with a condition that is beyond your knowledge without appropriate medical clearance
  • "Diagnosing" a client with any medical, mental or physical condition
  • "Claiming to treat" or "rehabilitate" injury or disease
  • Offering counseling
  • Monitoring (measuring with implementation) the progress of clients referred by therapists or medical practitioners
  • Claiming to be competent to offer professional education beyond the limits your credentials
  • "Prescribing" diets or recommending supplements

What we can do is continue to offer a safe, welcoming environment in which our clients can grow in their practice. After all, strength, coordination, balance, and mobility will outlast any "quick fix" weight loss plan.

As leaders in this industry, what we say and do counts. We can continue to present Pilates with all of its benefits as well as a way to not only have fun while you sweat (because nobody said you wouldn't sweat) but also to celebrate the beauty of arriving at a place of body awareness and the beauty of the practice itself.

As we go into a new year of new access and new possibilities, may we always remember that Pilates is a system to help improve our lives over time. While it can be a tool in the quest for weight loss, it is so much more than that and we should never lose sight of that.

Tasha Edwards
About the Author

Tasha Edwards

Tasha is an integrative health coach, personal trainer and Pilates instructor who has been in the fitness industry for 16 years. She loves helping people find joy and ease through movement and is working hard to make all forms of movement accessible to all. When she’s not teaching or training, she enjoys reading, writing and dancing in the bathroom mirror.


Allison S
3 people like this.
Hey Tasha! Thank you so much for writing about this and your insights. 
Gal P
Thank you! so true and important topic and information  
I couldn’t agree more with this. My Pilates practice has helped me to get better at other forms of exercises, through attention to form and just the overall benefits of Pilates.  I am older and a little heavier and have some chronic health issues, but have found myself to be in better overall shape now than when I was younger and I definitely attribute it to the detail of my Pilates practice.

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