Fitness instructors on the image issues depicted in “I Feel Pretty”

Writer and Pilates instructor Laura Scholz. Photo: Heidi Geldhauser

Don’t come into Desiree Nathanson’s fitness class seeking a “No pain, no gain” experience.

“Start small,” advised Nathanson, co-owner of Interfusion Fitness in Brookhaven. “People make a huge mistake with trying to jump in the deep end. Instead of saying, ‘I’m going to the gym every day this week!,’ maybe just try one or two.”

The fitness industry can be complicit, she observed.

“Lose 20 pounds in two weeks! Come get this booty by doing squats!” she said, reciting hypothetical come-ons. “No. Everybody has a different ideal. Our ideal should be our bodies at their most healthy.”

The troubling trend of tying physical appearance to feelings of self-worth propels the largely lighthearted plot of “I Feel Pretty,” the new movie starring Amy Schumer. While it’s a comedy, the film delves into some serious topics.

MORE: “I Feel Pretty” star Amy Schumer recalls losing her confidence. At age 10.

Photo credit: Melody Smith

The 2016 Dove Global Beauty and Confidence Report interviewed 10,500 women in 13 countries and found “low body esteem becoming a unifying challenge shared by women and girls around the world — regardless of age or geography.” The study found that 7 in 10 girls with low body-esteem say “they won’t be assertive in their opinion” and that “9 out of 10 women will stop themselves from eating or will otherwise put their health at risk.”

Dr. Nancy Etcoff, assistant clinical professor at Harvard Medical School, called low body confidence a global issue as a result.”

“We need to help empower women and girls in many ways, including increasing body-confidence education, driving meaningful conversations around the pressures women and girls face, and advocating for change in how females and their appearance are talked about and portrayed in the media,” she said in a statement issued in conjunction with the study results.

Nathanson, who also sits on the board of the Eating Disorders Information Network (which holds its annual Dance Challenge fundraiser on Thursday night), adds to the list “social media,” with its endless array of image-perfecting filters.

“People are trying to achieve these bodies that might not even be real,” she said, adding that while nutrition and exercise are key, genetics can contribute to beauty and fitness perfection. “People are trying to get J. Lo’s butt? You have to go back in time and get J. Lo’s parents.”

Writer Laura Scholz teaches at the Daily Pilates Studio, which has locations in Inman Park and West Midtown. She has battled her own image issues, the opposite of which Schumer’s character, Renee Bennett, experiences in “I Feel Pretty.” Renee hits her head and for a time sees herself as a stunning beauty when in fact her appearance has not changed (a scientifically suspect conceit, but that’s beside the point).

Scholz, on the other hand, viewed herself as being less fit than she is, despite a physique that reflects her love of running and Pilates. Therapy helped her, and she enjoys helping clients with their fitness journeys.

“Women put a lot of pressure on ourselves. We put more pressure on ourselves than we do others,” she said. “I hear a lot of negative talk from people when I’m training people or teaching classes, such as ‘I can’t keep up.’ My job is helping people see the things they can do versus the can’ts.”

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