“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
I wonder if Eleanor Roosevelt was ever a size 24. Or if she ever tried to take a class full of women who were all friends and had been in those same spots for eight years and didn’t like to share equipment. I wonder if she ever took a fitness class from a size zero instructor who spent the entire hour looking at herself in the mirror, fixing her hair or fancy outfit, yelling how she was the hardest working person in the class.
Maybe no one can make you FEEL inferior without your consent. But they can sure push you. And the gym is a place where people can REALLY push you.
It feels like a double-edged sword. In December and January, you can’t breathe or walk two steps without being bombarded with images and offers from gyms who are inviting you in to try out their classes, equipment and state of the art facilities. They give you free enrollment. Maybe a t-shirt. They might offer you a one time deal to work with a gym employee to set up a basic weight training program with machines you’ve never seen before and you’re never going to remember how to use.
And then….then they feed you to the wolves.
Nobody told you that fitness classes can be like church. You do NOT stand in Ms. Ellen’s (fictional person but if you work out at any gym, you can fill in a name right here) spot the same way you can’t sit in “her” seat at church. You didn’t realize there was a “dress code” and that all of the “cool” people only wear certain brands. You didn’t know what equipment to use or how to set it up and people are so busy judging you that they wouldn’t help you set it up. And they are staring at you. You’re overweight. That’s why you are there in the FIRST place. The instructor didn’t give you modifications for a beginner. You got discouraged. You left class and went to Sonic for a hot fudge brownie cake. You never went back. You’ll try another gym. Next year.
It does to me. It’s exactly how I felt. And it’s breaking my heart to hear this conversation so much lately. I’ve taught at a lot of gyms and I’ve belong to quite a few as well. Every gym has its own culture. And it’s not hard to figure out or “feel” it. While everyone wants to “talk” about how obesity is such a problem and we need to really be a change agent, every gym doesn’t target overweight/obese people. Actually, they’d prefer to have people who weren’t. And when overweight/obese people wander in, thinking “a gym is a gym” they have a similar experience to mine and quit.
I know we are a society of “mental toughness” and believing people quit because they wanted to but I would like to suggest that we can be as damaging to them as we are helpful. We ride both sides of the fence. We want them to “go beast mode” and be awesome like us but we don’t want to share our space. We don’t want to really help with the process. We really just want them to do it on their own and then join us when they can keep up. And, as a trainer, fitness instructor and a woman who, by the body mass index is teeter tottering on being classified as overweight and has been MORE than obese,that bothers me. A lot.
And it’s not just for the overweight/obese. It’s for the unconditioned person. Or the seasoned person. Or just the person who realizes that they need to take better care of themselves. The woman who’s never been in the gym. The father who wants to be in better shape to keep up with his children. The coach who wants to be a better example for his/her team.
Stop being a bully. Believe it or not, if they are there next to you, they want a better life too.