As I sat on the mat, Lycra-ed legs, sports bra-wrapped boobs, I looked around and immediately noticed it: I’m the only overweight person here.
It’s funny how you can work yourself up for a great workout class, and immediately become deflated the moment you step in the room.
The culprit? Yourself. That inner voice that says, “they’re judging you.” The one that says you don’t belong.
It’s hard for most people to make themselves go to the gym. We all have things we need to do — laundry, grocery shopping, playing with our kids — or things we’d rather do — happy hour with friends, a movie with our S.O.
As a heavier person, that fear of the gym has always been in the back of the mind. Well, it’s in the back of my mind now, because after years of going to the gym, pretty consistently, I might add, I’ve gotten over it. A little. I’ve gotten over worrying about the public seeing my sweaty, red face. I’ve gotten over entering a new class where I don’t know the moves and I may look like a fool. I’ve learned to block out the other people and just do what I need to do.
But it’s still there. I still feel self-conscious at times. I still notice if I’m the only fat girl in the room. I still have to fight the urge to sequester myself in the “women’s only” area, where I won’t have to worry about bros checking out my thick thighs or lumpy belly. I have to build up the courage to attend classes where I know the people are more fit, thinner and stronger than I am.
I’ve written about this before because I wholeheartedly believe that there are very few people who notice me at the gym. I believe most people are more into their own workouts, or checking themselves out in the mirror, to care about me and my huffing and puffing.
And I’ve been blessed to work out at studios, or in classes and with people who could give a fuck that I’m overweight. They’re proud of me for being there, for getting my sweat on, and working to improve my health.
And that’s why you can’t be afraid to be the fat girl at the gym. There are more people out there than you realize who are rooting for you, even silently cheering you on as you plod away on the treadmill or elliptical. There are people who understand that the gym isn’t just for skinny minnies, flaunting their biceps and abs. It’s also for people who are at the beginning of their fitness journeys, or even well into their efforts, but who are still working at it, day after day.
Plenty of people understand and will be encouraging and welcoming to you, no matter your size.
It’s your inner voice that you have to change. It’s your inner voice that you have to fight and say: “Shut the fuck up. I belong here just as much as anyone else. I deserve to work on my fitness, to become a healthier person. I will fall, and I will get back up again, but I will be here, at this gym, just like everyone else.”
Every time you are at the gym and you look around to find that you’re the heaviest person in the class, take a deep breath. Remind yourself of the weights you just lifted. Remind yourself of the hour-long dance routine you’re about to do. Congratulate yourself for getting off the couch and into your workout gear and running or walking or doing whatever you’re choosing to do to improve your fitness.
Don’t listen to those negative thoughts. Replace them with high-fives.