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His ripped six-pack has been replaced by an ever-expanding belly, and his arms are losing their tone.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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I think this is a stupid idea. He will not "know" how it feels, because he is gaining the weight because he wants to, and for publicity. Most poeple can weight for variety of reasons, and keep the weight on for years. This is what affects them. Also, I hope he knows that weight acquired quickly can stretch out your skin. Once you lose the weight, your skin may not bounce back and will be saggy. We pregnant women know this. Report
I think it sounds very self obsessed. "I" want to know how "THEY" feel. Whatever. I agree with the drug/ alcohol counselor... you don't do drugs to become a better counselor. I taught special ed for a few years.... does my lack of being a child born with fetal alcohol syndrome (as just 1 example) mean that I was a bad special ed teacher? Get real. Report
I am a drug and alcohol counselor, but I have never had a problem with drugs or alcohol. While I applaud people in recovery who become D & A counselors, I am not planning to become an alcoholic or addict just to develop more empathy. I can be empathetic without actually living the lifestyle! Same thing for this! Report
I don't think that is a smart move. Risking your health is not wise, no matter what your intention is - good or bad. Report
Idiot. Maybe, MAYBE, his heart's in the right place. But he's a trainer. He KNOWS that gaining that much weigh in such a short period of time could kill him. We've all had this issue for years. Our bodies are surviving with what we've piled on. The guy who did the McDondald's diet almost killed himself doing for a month. This can't be any healthier! Report
Notice the little jab at the end of the article? About how is girlfriend was supposedly staying overseas longer because of his weight gain? I don't know if that's a joke or if that's what happened to him, but he might find that he got more than he bargained for. I think we all got more than we bargained for when we realized that we needed to lose some weight.

I'm on the fence about whether or not this is a good thing. The empathy piece of it is interesting, and since it is short term, his health may not be overly affected long term. But it does seem like a publicity stunt/way for him to get more clients. If it makes him a better trainer and doesn't have long term negative effects on his life, then I say good for him. Report
Wow, that's pretty extreme. Why didn't he just go out and get a body suit and wear that around for a while? I don't agree with doing harm to one's self for empathy's sake. I would lose respect for someone like that; in his position, he should be setting the example and strive to stay healthy. It sounds more like a publicity stunt to me than a real effort to develop empathy, which he should have developed in studying what unhealthy weight does to the body's internal organs and joints. Report
You couldn't pay me to regain the 55 lbs I lost five years ago! To each his own but I believe he's seriously misguided and looking for a "gimmick" for who knows what reason... Why are we giving him more publicity? Report
I wish he had written a blog I would love to learn his journey Report
It's nice that he wants to know the physical struggles of his clients and I think it will give him a little insight on what his clients limitations can be and that *sometimes* when they say they can't do something, they really can't and isn't just an excuse.

However, he gained weight as an experiment. I don't think any of us here have gained weight for that reason. There are many emotions, events and mental blocks that have gotten us in a struggle with weight and honestly 90% of this journey is mental not physical. So in the end, I think he still won't fully get it. Report
I agree that his heart is definitely in the right place ~ he's giving a physical and partly mental sacrifice just to experience what it's like in someone else's shoes! He's also bringing to light the struggles of weight loss and showing that people are just people - no matter the exterior. However, even if he won't ever be able to feel the full extent of mental obstacles that come with being overweight, I think it's much worse that he's putting so much toil on his own body. It's definitely not healthy, and he'll have a long recovery, and hopefully no lasting effects. Report
Personally, I think it's awesome. How many trainers [or anyone else for that matter] would honestly do this just so they would know how it feels to be overweight? It's been 6 months since this was written so I'm sure he's on his way to skinny again, but how cool is this?!? Report
Oh who cares? I felt a bit sorry for him when I saw that. But what difference does that make to US? Report
Wow, I never thought gaining weight could be so easy! Report
His heart may be in the right place but the brain is definately turned off. I've been skinny, used to weigh about 100 lbs give or take 5 and ate like a hog, anything and everything. Used to haul my lunch to work in one of those big paper grocery bags. Now I'm at 156 and it's horrible hard to loose it. Being old and much more sedintary doesn't help but there ya' go. Report
I don't believe his experiences will be of a benefit to him or his clients. He is obviously a well-known individual, so right there he will be treated differently than a normal fat person. He will not have experienced the discrimination that fat people endure, so he won't truly understand. And, I'll bet he drops the weight fast when he's done with his "experiment". Report
It's probably a little of both- but I can say that unless you've "walked in those FAT shoes"? U have no clue how difficult the obstacles can be. I was recently 're-clued' this yr. (I've grown used to being smaller now). When my DH started his fitness plan- there are just so many maneuver's we take for granted that are just almost un-doable for the Obese! It gives more understanding as to how to 'direct' them so that it isn't so uncomfortable & discouraged. Report
That sounds like a nice thing to have done... but is it safe??? Report
If this guy is truly a good trainer (in the sense that he understands his clients issues with weight and exercise) than he wouldn't have to go to such extremes to "understand" them in the first place. He would be able to do that without gaining weight at such an alarming rate and staying true to himself. This is just so ridiculous! Report
Although his heart is in the right place, as has been said before, being obese is more than the weight. I have never expereinced the "skinny" me to add to a visual goal. He lived the healthy lifestyle for years and is now just slacking. I am not slacking in my daily life. This is a tough road physically and emotionally! That is something he will never understand. Report
I'm interested to see how easy he finds taking off the weight to be... Report
This is as bad at 30 days on Mc D's. I feel this is more for attention then anything. I've never heard of this man before. Now that everyone has seen this article a lot of people know him. Just like 30 days even after losing the weight, I still felt like it was careless and silly. Not only that, harmful. Report
It is a ridiculous idea because like some have already said a couple of months does not match years of unhealthy habbits. He is still used to his healthy habbits more than the new unhealthy ones he is using to "become obese". So even if he is becoming obese he will never live inside the mind of a person who slowly became that way or someone who has been pretty much been obese their whole life. This is idiotic not empathetic..... Report
crazy. What is he trying to prove Report
He still has the attitude that he can get back to where he was before at any time he wants. Many have to fight the battle of getting into that attitude. Report
I understand what he hopes to accomplish - one can only hope he is successful! Not something I would be willing to "chance." Report
Crazy. Bad idea. Report
OMG all he will learn is how hard it is to be a part of society. This is like doing something stupid to show someone else how stupid they are! All of us that are dealing with weight issues everyday & he is playing at it. maybe I am over reacting. I work so hard & it is taking so long. Oh well one of those Whatever!!! Report
He obviously doesn't get it. He will no more understand being obese by intentionally putting on the weight than a white person painting their face with shoe polish will understand being black. Insensitive and stupid! Report
There's more to weight issues than just eating too much although he might understand the uncomfortable side of weight gain he still can't understand all the other issues that contribute to weight gain. I don't think I would put my body through that it's too risky Report
This is just plan crazy, what is guy thinking Report
The gene pool has just gotten a little thicker. Should make the annual Darwin Awards this year. He should just get the fat suit. Report
That is just so silly. It is so unhealthy and does not give him insight: he will retain the knowledge and mental and emotional mindset he had before, so will not understand the internal reasons behind obesity. I applaud his effort but I think he is misguided. And I also think there is a risk of it backfiring "See, you CAN take it off in four months if you REALLY wanted to" because his was an artificial situation. This wouldn't be helpful at all. Report
gaining weight on purpose will not let anyone know what an obese person goes through. Its an emotional issue with 99% of us, therefore its alot more than just eating. If thats all the problem was, it would be so easy to lose weight , keep it off and not have the down falls that we experiance Report
This guy is seriously impaired. Putting on weight to empithize??? More like putting on weight just to prove (if all goes well) that he can take it off quickly... and that any one who is over weight should be able to do the same.

If he truly were a good personal trainer, he would ACTUALLY LISTEN to his clients and not try this risky stunt. Someone get this man a fat suit. Report
PJ should just have bought a fat suit. He is damaging his body trying to gain so much wait so fast. It took us years to put all this weight on. Someone should stop in and suggest a fat suit Report
Here is a good way to understand his clients: LISTEN to them! Report
What a horrible plan. I sure hope he doesn't have a heart attack gaining weight on purpose so quickly Report
I can't believe someone would want to gain weight for any reason. It is difficult to lose weight and he will not get the true effect due to that fast way he's put it on. You can not truly understand the mental aspect of the obese and have to go through the struggle trying to lose weight. Big mistake in my opinion. You should just listen to your obese clients. Report
I understand where he's coming from in his thinking. I believe he is doing it to gain the experience of walking a mile in someone else's shoes. Unfortunately I feel his thinking is misguided. A) He is doing this in such an unhealthy manner that it's too risky to just him. And B) I'd venture to say that most of us have carried this weight around for a WHILE and we haven't just walked one mile in our own shoes. He's not really going to experience what it's like to be obese for your whole adult life/formative years/post baby or whatever may be plaguing us.

I appreciate his effort, but in reality he's not going to have a problem taking it off, he'll go right back to his 6 pack abs because he's been healthy most of his life. Report
I think it's a REALLY bad idea. I hope it doesn't backfire on him. I actually kinda feel bad for him. Report
What he is doing is unhealthy and he knows it. i just hope he remains as motivated as he is now to lose it and get into a rut and stay at the high levels because it is easy to gain 50+ in 2 months but not that easy to lose it. And again... gaining deliberately is different from gaining over time due to stress, emotional eating, etc... I think he cannot get into the minds of others by doing what he is doing. Report
why would anyone want to do that? i do not think he will get the full effect, and may instead downplay the real issues people have with weight loss and healthy lifestyles. he already has a big advantage over the ordinary person. he has CHOSEN to gain the weight. he may actually become harsher when his clients are struggling. but i guess only time will tell how he feels about it.... Report
I think he should stop at the 53lbs. He is at a point in his weight gain where he can empathize with obesity because he needs to purchase new clothes to accommodate his new size. He needs to remember that being obese is a different weight for each and determined by age and height. I do think its extreme and very unhealthy for him to continue this quest. Report
I find what he's doing to be insulting. I don't really get his motivation at all. It's a stunt. Report
I think it was a really bad idea. I can't imagine how much stress gaining 53 pounds in two months placed on his body. That's just so unhealthy.

Is it empathetic ? It's a stunt, a very stupid and dangerous stunt to focus attention on him, not the obesity issues the world. What was he trying to prove ? We saw what happened to Morgan Spurlock in Supersize Me.

Not safe, not safe at all.

This is a stupid stunt. Report
I hope you can take the weight off as quickly as he plans. I am sure his weight swings are terrible for his health. Report
Purposely putting on weight is a lot different from being an emotional eater who feels powerless to stop putting on weight. I don't think he's going to gain empathy or anything else except weight and health problems. Report
Well, I saw someone else on here post twice, so I'm back. I kind of liked what she said about not blaming all extra weight on emotional eating. Maaaybe this guy can show that with good healthy habits it IS possible to lose weight & to stop making excuses. (Unless they have physical disease of some sort or glandular problems) I would know - I have a real problem with emotional eating. But I'm getting tired of the merry-go-round about now. What we put in our mouths is still a choice. Ok - I'm getting off track aren't I? (sorry....really) I just refuse to be a victom to my weight by saying..."but nobody knows how I feeeel". I have plenty of emotional issues & do not have an easy time with weight loss. But I don't blame it (too much) on my emotions but rather on my choices.
Jenn Report
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