I Don’t Know What to Say to This: “Hello, fellow gym-goers, look at my fat butt”

by Charlotte on November 26, 2012 · 73 comments

We’ve all got our issues…

I’m actually scared to write about this. Seriously. I’ve started and stopped this post like ten times today. Re-wrote the intro at least three times (none of which made it on here clearly since this one sucks). Trashed it. Undeleted it. Stuck it in a future blog fodder folder. And then yanked it right back out again. Why all the dramz? Two conflicting emotions: I really really don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings or invalidate their experience and I really really want to know the answer to this. This. This, as in, how do we help “fat” people feel comfortable in the gym? (“Fat” is in quotes because it seems like a descriptor in this case that is subjective more than objective and I don’t want anyone to think I’m applying it to anyone else.)

Lindy West wrote a powerful essay entitled Hello, fellow gym-goers, look at my fat butt” about the struggles she and other overweight people face when working out (and eating out) in a public setting. She says,

“I used to go to the gym every day. I worked out with a personal trainer. I went to classes. I showered in public. And it was really, really f***ing difficult—but not for the reasons you might think.

The more I exercised, the more I loved it. I felt strong and lean, I had tons of energy, I slept like a brick. But my body didn’t look much different. You’d still see me on the street and read “fat person.” And as a fat person, going to the gym is doubly challenging. There’s the basic challenge we all face—of getting the f**k out of bed, finding a clean sports bra, physically moving your body toward a place where a man will yell at you until you do enough lunges (IT DEFIES ALL EVOLUTIONARY LOGIC)—but for fat people, there’s an even more intimidating challenge on top of that.

It’s entering a building where you know that every person inside is working toward the singular goal of not becoming you.

Do you know how hard it is to walk into a building devoted to not becoming you when you are you!? It’s the worst! I’m me literally every day! “Fat=bad/thin=good” is so seamlessly built into our culture that people I consider close friends don’t hesitate to lament their weight “problems” to me—not stopping to consider that what they’re saying, to my face, is “becoming you is my worst nightmare, and not becoming you is my top priority.” [Emphasis mine]

SO MANY FEELINGS about this. First, enforced lunging defying evolutionary logic made me laugh out loud. I’ve often thought the same about treadmill running. Our ancestors would think we are certifiably insane. Second, I like how she points out that she worked out hard, felt awesome and still looked the same. I’ve been saying for years that the black box weight-loss theory of calories-in-calories-out doesn’t work. Too many variables. We’re not robots. Metabolisms are fickle fine-tuned things. And I also think people can be wonderfully healthy through a wide range of weights. But it was this – “becoming you is my worst nightmare, and not becoming you is my top priority” – that made me write this post. Because I want every person, no matter their weight (or age, race, mental health status or even deodorant-wearing propensity), to feel like they belong in the gym, especially in my gym.

But as all of us probably already know this isn’t often the case.

Lindy adds,

“I can’t tell you how many times women—strangers!—have come up to me at the gym and said some variation of, “I see you here all the time, and you just work so hard. It’s so inspiring for me! If you can do it, anyone can!” Maybe they cluelessly think they mean well, but it’s code for, “Hey, fatty! Congratulations on doing your public duty to become not-you! It really makes me feel good about my membership in the Not-Being-You Club!” “

The thing is, I’ve done this. I’ve screwed up and it had awful results. Way back in 2008 (whoa, I know) I blogged about this episode: 

“During a class a while ago I noticed a girl in the very back [of my kickboxing class]. She was new and hugging the door like it was the last escape hatch on the Red October. Nothing came easy to her. The choreography threw her, the music jarred her and the workout winded her. I tried unsuccessfully to catch her eye in the mirror so I could smile at her. She was so obviously uncomfortable that I expected her to dart out the door after five minutes and never come back. But at the end of class she was still there. I made a beeline for her.

“Hey, are you new?” I panted, dripping sweat. “You did really great today! It’s a tough class – that’s awesome you stuck it out!”

In an instant her look changed from dazed and tired to bald Britney with an umbrella. “Look bitch, I don’t need your pity. Fat girls can work out too.”

Did I mention she was obese?

She was slamming the door behind her before I could recover myself enough to apologize. It occurred to me then that perhaps what I meant to be encouraging actually sounded patronizing. In a society as weight-charged as ours, it amazes me that this hasn’t come into my consciousness before.”

Since then it’s been on my conscience a lot. Sadly I never saw that girl again, never got the chance to apologize, never got to explain that I say that kind of thing to all the new people, no matter what they weigh. As a gym newbie, I felt awful when I’d go to the gym and no one ever talked to me. When I finally made my first gym friend (gym buddy!) she made all the difference to me so since then I’ve tried to be that person for other people. But perhaps my apology and explanation would have been useless because to her, it hurt. My intention didn’t matter. My words mattered. And those words… well, they sucked. (To that girl, if you ever read this: Please know I am so so sorry.)

That experience taught me a lot (never speak when a high five will suffice) but it has also made me think a lot about what in our society in general and our gym culture in particular prompted her to react that way. I’m not going to speculate – the last time I wrote something in that vein I got blasted on another website for vaunting my “thin privilege” (from which I also learned a lot and was grateful that I at least got the opportunity to apologize in the comments there; it’s never my intention to hurt people) – but I think that there are some obvious reasons why heavier people feel uncomfortable in the gym. And the most obvious one is the weight stigma endemic in the health and fitness industry.

So my question is this: What is the right way to encourage people in the gym? Is there even a right way? Or should I err on the side of keeping my mouth shut? My problem with the mouth-shut option (besides the fact that I’m naturally chatty and have a hard time not talking to people in general) is that we can’t just pretend this issue doesn’t exist. Every time I read an essay like Lindy’s (and there are a lot of them – this business of feeling mocked in the gym is sadly a nearly universal experience), I want to exclaim, “Okay, so how can I help? How can we change this so this doesn’t happen to the next girl walking in the gym doors for the first time? What should I do differently??” I get what I’m not supposed to do. But I’m still not sure what I ought to do.

Here are a few options I came up with:

1. Don’t assume people are in the gym to lose weight.

2. Whether someone is “too fat” or “too thin”, don’t assume they have an eating disorder.

3. Make friends with people by chatting about neutral subjects (my fave friendly-yet-not-offensive question is the ever-popular “So where are you from?”).

4. Don’t comment on anyone’s weight. At all. Not even your own.

5. Smile a lot.

Um, yeah, that’s all I’ve got. And technically only two of those are “what to do”s.  Perhaps the right answer is to just butt out, to mind my own business, to respect the sanctity of the earbuds-in-I’m-just-here-to-workout-not-make-friends look. But that makes me sad. Thanks to the (wonderful) advent of technology, there are very few public places left where we are forced to interact on a daily basis with a wide variety of strangers. And while the gym can be weird, awkward, loud, stinky and hopelessly unhygienic there’s a rawness and an openness that people don’t see anywhere else. The gym forces us to show the sides of us (literally and figuratively) we generally hide from public scrutiny. And the more we isolate ourselves, the more I’m convinced we miss out on what is best about this life: people’s stories.  I would rather have someone say something well-intended but dumb to me than say nothing at all. But perhaps that’s just me?

A neat academic discussion about health and willpower and whatever research, this is not. This is all about people’s feelings. And people’s feelings are messy. My feelings on this subject are messy and poignant and confused and perhaps wrong-headed. I want to know your feelings, even if they’re messy too. Or angry. Or sad. All of them. Lay it on me:

What do you say to “Hello, fellow gym-goers, look at my fat butt”? Have you ever been on either end of a weighty (sorry, couldn’t resist!) convo like these?  Is this just one more example of society’s imperial march to make sure that none of us feel good about our bodies, ever? Is even blogging about this patronizing and disrespectful? Hellllpppp me, before I stick my foot in my mouth again!

 

{ 73 comments… read them below or add one }

Bek @ Crave November 26, 2012 at 11:42 pm

I always chat to people if they’re new regardless of weight and I’ve never thought about insulting them :S I wonder if I do. As an instructor I talk to them after also but I think that’s a different thing in itself. I think it’s better to talk and chat- they will feel more at ease and hopefully continue coming if they see others are friendly also- rather than just a bunch of regular judgemental gym goers.

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Charlotte November 27, 2012 at 3:23 pm

I think it’s definitely perceived differently when you’re an instructor – I love that you are chatter too:))

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Leth November 28, 2012 at 11:41 am

Yeah, I hope people don’t take offense after class when I tell them they did really well. But I try to do this with all new people in my class since it’s step aerobics and not necessarily the easiest thing to pick up on. Hopefully they take it as good intentions and encouraging since I’m the instructor.

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Amber November 26, 2012 at 11:50 pm

Everything in this life is so relative! We’re so caught up in ourselves that we make comments that other caught-up-in-herself people say, about us! Have I captured the futility of it yet?
It would seem that trying to compare weight loss and fitness struggles is a lot like trying to compare grief. We’re all entitled to our feelings (it is, after all, often more about our mental health than our actual physical health!) and we just have to try to have enough perspective to be tactful and considerate.

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Charlotte November 27, 2012 at 3:24 pm

Hahah- yes, you captured the futility of it perfectly! You’re right, I need to find the balance between between caring enough and caring too much what others are thinking!

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M. Lindsay November 27, 2012 at 1:01 am

Aww, Charlotte, I’ve stopped commenting as much on your blog just because you get so many comments these days (you’re just tooooo popular!), but I just have to say that you are unfailingly kind- and I love that you, as a blogger, can apologize and ask how to make it better when a reader is offended:)

I don’t really have an answer to your question, because I am the person that will always give someone the benefit of the doubt. I always love the thumbs ups on a run, the yoga teacher saying “you had a beautiful practice today”, etc. I think that maybe sticking to “man, that class always kicks my butt”, or something else acknowledging that exercising is “work” for everyone, regardless of size, might be safer than “good for you for sticking out the class”.

So…comments that are more commenting on how you personally find the class…or how you hate using that treadmill because it always skips, though I bet it would be tough to formulate a bunch of non-offensive small talk. I usually go with “do you work in the building?” (because my gym is really for the office building that I’m in, and that opens up the “what do you do?”, “where did you go to school”, etc.

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Charlotte November 27, 2012 at 3:27 pm

Meghan!!!! I’m SO happy to hear from you! I was seriously just thinking about you the other day and wondering how you are doing. From what I remember, you were just embarking on a new job in a new city? No worries on commenting on my stuff (although I do always appreciate your perspective – the world needs more people who will always give others the benefit of the doubt!) but I do hope you’ll update me on how my fave lawyer is doing:)

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shayna November 27, 2012 at 1:09 am

I’m really bothered by the article itself. Why is it ok to assume that because someone is at a “normal” weight, he/she is judging you for being “fat”? Or if you tell someone that they did a great job in class, they automatically assume you meant to add, “for a fat chick.” Because I’m not “fat”, I’m automatically judgmental? After reading the whole article, I felt skewered for something I’ve never done.
When I feel fat, are my feelings not as justifiable because I’m not a certain weight? Am I not allowed a crummy body image because someone bigger than me thinks I’m thin? Ridiculous.

Also? It made me appreciate you even more for not making broad, sweeping assumptions.

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Diana November 27, 2012 at 4:15 am

Thanks for this comment. It takes an insecure person to think that everyone is judging them. It’s great to know many people (most, possibly?) do not do that.

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Melissa November 27, 2012 at 5:48 am

She didn’t say that all thin people in the gym were judging her, though. She said that the majority are just in their own worlds, focused on their own workouts. Her complaint is with a vocal minority.

As for the “people going there to be not-me” thing…of course she knows that that isn’t true of everyone, either. She doesn’t work out in order to become thinner, so she knows it isn’t a universal goal. But I do think it’s a fair assertion to say that MOST people in the gym want to become (or stay) thin.

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Shayna November 27, 2012 at 9:53 am

Good point, Melissa. I took her essay a little personally, as I tend to do :)

I’ll be totally honest with you, though. I DO go to the gym to stay thin…because when I was pushing 200lbs, my back and knees hurt. And I was warm all the time. I didn’t fit into my clothes and didn’t feel physically attractive.
It’s not because I think that obese people are gross and ugly and don’t want to be them. It’s because, when I was obese, I was uncomfortable and unhappy.I think it’s important for the author to not make snap decisions based on appearance, just like she doesn’t want the vocal minority to do to her; it’s hurtful for the person being judged in ANY scenario.

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Charlotte November 27, 2012 at 3:38 pm

This: “It’s not because I think that obese people are gross and ugly and don’t want to be them. It’s because, when I was obese, I was uncomfortable and unhappy.” is an important distinction. Thank you Shayna!!

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Gingerzingi November 29, 2012 at 7:41 am

I get your point, Shayna, and agree that it’s terrible to be pre-judged for anything. People don’t know what’s in our minds and hearts. But on this issue, I think it’s just not “what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.” A fat person is likely to have experienced MUCH more criticism, insults, and patronizing than a normal-weight person—you have to walk a mile in their shoes (boy I am full of tried old sayings today…). I see parallels to when men are offended because a woman alone crossed the street to avoid them. They are hurt, offended, or angered by being assumed a rapist. But that’s the reality of life: the woman is justified in suspecting them, because she doesn’t know them or what their intentions are, and most women’s experience of life is that [some] men are potentially dangerous, you just don’t know which ones. You can’t blame her for acting within her reality. I see the same situation here; the author is suspicious of normal-weight people patronizing her because it HAS happened so often. The thing I would like to say to those insulted men is, “Then work for a world where women don’t have to fear you.” Maybe even though you are offended or hurt by her assumptions, you can turn that into a positive force for making everyone—including the normal weight people ;) — feel comfortable and welcome in the gym. What can I say, it’s not a perfect world, and it’s hard to put aside one’s own hurt and see the other side, whether one is on the fat or thin side.

I loved your statement: “Am I not allowed a crummy body image because someone bigger than me thinks I’m thin?” LOL! I mean, it’s a very good point, but it cracks me up too :)

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Charlotte November 27, 2012 at 3:36 pm

Thanks for pointing this out Melissa – Lindy also says in the piece that she’s being hyperbolic to make a point. As for this: “I do think it’s a fair assertion to say that MOST people in the gym want to become (or stay) thin.” I’d agree to a point. I think that may be the reason that gets a lot of people in the doors but I think lots of people start for that reason and then end up continuing with it once they experience the other benefits.

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Charlotte November 27, 2012 at 3:31 pm

I too wished that she’d be a little kinder in her assessment of others/us. Like Melissa pointed out, she wasn’t indicting every gym goer but it seemed to me the only ones that she was okay with were the ones who didn’t say anything at all. Clearly she has a painful history with this and I respect her experience but I do also get where you’re coming from too. I don’t like it either when people automatically assume I’m going to be a jerk…

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Sue November 27, 2012 at 1:15 am

Your gym’s community sounds awesome, I’d love to workout there! My old gym (I recently quit) is the total opposite, most people don’t talk to or even look at eachother.
Thankfully, I’m not overweight anymore, but still a little chubby, so I can totally relate to Lindy’s article. Unfortunatelly, I don’t have any tips for you. I think this is a very personal thing, and the same sentence might encourage one person while offending the next one. But making no assumptions and talking about your own experiences is a good start., I guess.

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Diana November 27, 2012 at 1:32 am

This post is so good, I’m very happy you decided to go for it and publish it. I love all sorts of exercise, even though I suck at them all, but I am terrified of gyms because I am fat (really fat, 96 kilos, I don’t know, some 212 pounds?) and living in a culture where the absolute majority is slim (Northern Europe). I am so afraid to be among slim people trying to be perfect, and now after reading this post I know why. Because I’m me and something “they” desperately wish to avoid becoming. The nearest gym is some 10 miles from my home. I can run, drive or ride a bike to get there (I’m sure most of the clients there just have to cross the street), and I routinely check out their home page to try to muster up courage, but all the pictures from the workouts show very fit people… I would so not fit in. Vicious cycle? Cowardice? Just stop being silly and go? Any advice?

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Kevin Grant November 27, 2012 at 9:19 am

Yes, go. Don’t let the pictures bother you–they’re just advertising. Hold your head up and go knowing that you’re taking control.

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Alyssa (azusmom) November 27, 2012 at 11:51 am

All gyms use photos of thin, young, smiling people in order to “inspire” the rest of us to join. Often, when you walk in, you find rounder, older, definitely-not-smiling people actually working out. I’m with Kevin: Go, apologize to no one (unless you, y’know, accidentally drop a kettlebell on their foot or something), and get your sweat on!

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Charlotte November 27, 2012 at 3:40 pm

I agree with Kevin and Alyssa! Don’t let the advertising intimidate you! I think when you go you’ll find that there are a much wider variety of body types and skills levels than are in the pictures:) I vote you go and at least check it out. If it turns out it’s a place full of snobs then perhaps try another one. Not all gym cultures are the same and I hope you can find one where you feel like you fit in – keep us posted!

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pensive pumpkin November 27, 2012 at 2:06 am

I’ve been the thin person feeling awkward and the fat person feeling awkward, and I love this post. Currently I am the fat version of me- and I get the gym weirdness all the time. The trainers at my gym are so unfailingly demeaning every time they speak to me (which is odd in and of itself, as they are the only people who speak to me and obviously do so for economic reasons) that I actually mentioned it to the owner. Who looked at me like I’d grown an extra head.

Personally, I’d love it if someone spoke to me at the gym who did not have a vested interest in making me feel bad about myself so I will hire them. No one speaks to me at all, and it makes me feel terrible. Yes, I can feel my emotions filling in the “for a fat girl” when people compliment me, so I totally get that. But that’s in my head, and you cannot fix that. My demons are not your responsibility. Just today my own mother joked about me walking the Half Marathon I proudly PR’d yesterday. I run/walk. And her comment hurt, because I already feel like I’m not a real runner. She didn’t intend to hurt me. It was my insecurity that was exposed.

These things happen. Please keep talking to the fat girls. A lot of us were thin once, and still feel thin on the inside. I hope to join the ranks of people who can look good in spandex again. Some day.

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Jenny C. November 27, 2012 at 9:25 am

I run/walked a 10k recently, and had PR’d also. Afterwards, though, my friend joked that he walks faster than my running pace. Even though he was joking and didn’t mean to hurt me, I was so insulted and upset because I had actually been really proud of myself, but am also very self-conscious about what a terrible runner I am. With one snarky text, he was able to completely deflate my self-esteem. So thank you for sharing that, so I know that I’m not alone in that respect.

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Charlotte November 27, 2012 at 3:55 pm

No, you’re def not alone – either one of you! There’s something about an athletic accomplishment (or any accomplishment really) that inspires the worst in some people. Whether it’s just carelessness, misplaced humor or jealousy, it still hurts. And a huge congrats to you Jenny on your PR! Like I said to Pumpkin, finishing a race at all is an accomplishement, and even more so a PR. Wear it with pride:)

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Charlotte November 27, 2012 at 3:46 pm

Your mom’s comment about your PR would have stung me too! I think you handled it very charitably. I’m grateful that you said this: “but that’s in my head, and you cannot fix that. My demons are not your responsibility.” It certainly takes effort on both sides to meet in the middle. And your point about personal trainers only talking to people they see as potential money bags is well taken. I’ve had the opportunity to work with some that are exactly like you describe and it was awful. There are some good ones out there though:) And hey: CONGRATS on the PR!! A half marathon is an accomplishment no matter how you look at it and to do it your fastest yet only shows you’re getting better:)

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Lois November 28, 2012 at 10:07 am

WTG on your 1/2 marathon! I’ve done 2 recently and I always walk them. Running is not my thing. Be very proud of your accomplishment!

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Tessa November 29, 2012 at 9:06 am

Dear Pumpkin,
You ARE a real runner. It doesn’t matter how you got to the finish line. All that matters is that you did. And getting to the finish line of a half marathon is HUGE. So BIG kudos and congratulations! Remember, you are lapping all those peope on the couch LOL.

Ps: run/walking is excellent training to become a faster runner.
Pps: ever felt the need to feel part of a warm supportive running community? Try joining up with UpAndRunning. I love it. Those girls will make sure you feel like the real runner you are ;)
Ppps: I promise I’m not a marketeer!

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Claire November 27, 2012 at 3:30 am

I think it depends on the person and gym. The first gym I joined I was made to feel like a piece of meat. .. a second rate piece of meat that would be up to scratch if I kept working hard. Not fun. The atmosphere was completely uncomfortable and made me hugely self conscious. My current gym is awesome! Everyone is friendly, smiles all round, polite conversation and help whenever its needed. I think the only thing you can do is be nice to everyone (which I’m pretty sure you already are) and don’t go near the topic of weight. Assuming everyone is exercising for health seems pretty safe, or you could let them do the talking and smile and nod lots!
Also my trainer has been known to rip articles out of the gym mags that he thinks give the place a bad atmosphere, I think the attitudes and actions of staff have a lot to do with it…
Good luck not sticking your foot in it!

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Charlotte November 27, 2012 at 11:30 pm

I totally agree – every gym has its own unique culture. My Y, for instance, has a large contingent of elderly people, adults with special needs, small kids and other subgroups that are often overlooked in a gym environment. I think diversity in general leads to better understanding, even in individual circumstances like this. Thanks for the tips!!

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Tracy November 28, 2012 at 5:09 am

Yes – it totally matters! I’ve worked for two and unfortunately, with huge managerial/staff changes, the 2nd gym went from being a ‘we’re all family here’ atmosphere to a meat market. Very quickly. If you feel the atmosphere in your gym is going downhill and you don’t feel management is responding properly, leave. Check your contract; you might even have an ‘out’ on this matter to get you out of any money issues. Most gym employees I’ve been around are NOT making the big bucks and treat their members as extended family. That’s the place you want! I haven’t heard of a truly yucky YMCA yet. :)

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Nina November 27, 2012 at 5:12 am

To me the whole idea that you have to talk to an overweight person (I am one) differently then to a slim one shows just how f***ed up this whole thing is. Being overweight between mostly slim people is never easy in what ever setting because – even if some might not – you feel people are juding you just by their weight.
So why can’t you just talk to an overweight person the same you would to any other person in the gym? They are people who are there working out, trying to be fitter just like you. Talking to them any other way just shows how you judge them for being overweight and in the gym.

I would also like to state that most people make the assumption that slim=fit – which just isn’t true. I know this is slightly different in a gym setting as you can actually tell something about their fitness. What keeps me going when I run or used to go to the gym (I work out at home now) and feel insecure about my looks is know that I am strong and doing something for myself. And I do feel insecure running outside where (slim) people look and you and you invorentarily feel judged (if they do actually judge you is another thing) – but I tell myself they might be slimmer then me, but that doesn’t mean they could run for 40 minutes like I can or lift the weights that I can.

Looks can be deceiving and while we all judge people by their looks (if we are being honest) try to second guess that judgment and judge them instead on what they say or do and not just by their weight (sex, age, race etc).

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Truc November 27, 2012 at 9:02 am

“To me the whole idea that you have to talk to an overweight person (I am one) differently then to a slim one shows just how f***ed up this whole thing is.”

Precisely. I’m overweight, but I stand in the front row of my strength training class, use the same size weights as the men in the class, and get a perverse glee from seeing my spare tire in the mirror as I do the harder modifications to moves. I often chat with other regulars as we gasp during the water break, but we all talk about *ourselves* – like “good god I can’t feel my legs,” not “WOW GOOD JOB THERE NOT KEELING OVER YOU GET A COOKIE…WELL, ACTUALLY YOU SHOULD SKIP THE COOKIE.”

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Charlotte November 27, 2012 at 11:35 pm

Good call about slim not equating with fit. It doesn’t equal healthy either and I think this is a lesson we all need to pay more attention to. And I agree with this wholeheartedly: “To me the whole idea that you have to talk to an overweight person (I am one) differently then to a slim one shows just how f***ed up this whole thing is.” My point – which was admittedly poorly executed – was that I make a point of talking to all the newbies at my gym and weight is not a factor. I’m glad that this type of thing hasn’t driven you away from the gym – it sounds like you’ve made great friends and strength gains. Thanks for being patient as we all try to figure this out together:)

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Redhead November 27, 2012 at 6:08 am

I’m not sure what to think. While our attitude about fat and weight in society tends to be unhealthy, and most people wouldn’t mind losing some or even a lot of weight… I don’t (want to) think that most non-eating disordered people see weight as a “worst nightmare” or “biggest priority.” it seems like black and white thinking, and it also bothers me honestly that the writer puts all her identity in her weight, though I’d hope that’s just hyperbole for the sake of the essay. I’m staying away from too-thin-too-fat but black and white thinking and putting all your identity in your weight/appearance are hallmarks of eating disorders. Society is screwed up about weight… But if I were this girl’s friend, her attitude would worry me.
Charlotte-maybe just say something like “I haven’t seem you here before-are you new to this gym or did I just miss something again?” you’re not implying they’re new to working out unless they want to say that, just new to that location…?

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Charlotte November 27, 2012 at 11:36 pm

This: ” it also bothers me honestly that the writer puts all her identity in her weight” is a great point. So many of us, no matter what we weigh, have been taught that that is who we are rather than just a descriptor of our bodies. Thanks for point that out! And thanks for the tip.

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Naomi/Dragonmamma November 27, 2012 at 6:38 am

People who are so self-conscious that they take offense this easily really have a mental problem that goes beyond weight issues, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Any innocuous, well-meant comment or gesture can be twisted into an insult.

I’ve been fat. It’s nine years in the past, but I still remember the experience. Beyond a few snotty young women who were at the gym to show off their cute fitness clothes, it was (ironically) only the other people with weight issues who seemed judgmental. The “meathead” weight lifters had nothing but encouragement and respect when they saw that I was serious about pumping iron. (Actually, it was being a female that was a bigger barrier to break through.)

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Charlotte November 27, 2012 at 11:39 pm

Yes I wonder how much of the perceived fat-hating is really something else. Of course, without being a mind reader it’s impossible to tell.Which I guess is the whole point, right? We never know what anyone is thinking unless they tell us so we should do a lot less assuming. Thanks for sharing your experience! (And I agree about the female thing!)

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irene November 27, 2012 at 7:05 am

I like your rule to never talk about weight – yours or anyone else’s. My mother spent my teenage years fretting about her weight to me though I weighed about the same and am 5 inches shorter. And I wasn’t overweight; she was just extremely thin and had her own issues. But when you hear people judging themselves, you can’t help wonder what they’re thinking about you.

I think having a positive attitude and being friendly to everyone is generally safe. You’re going to mess up sometimes, and that’s life, but I don’t think you should live in fear of hurting people’s feeling. Next time you do, you’ll be ready and you’ll find a way to apologize or you’ll chase her out the door and then apologize.

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Emily November 27, 2012 at 7:26 am

As a lover of all things Lindy West, this article was even better than her other stuff. She is amazing. But honestly, my thoughts on the matter go to why I hate gyms in the first place. All that awkwardness, all the assumptions, the patronizing comments: they’re all from the weird social place the gym occupies. You’re not with people who know you, or will ever get to know you. You’re among strangers doing something essentially private. I VASTLY prefer to work out either by myself at home, in dark spin room where no one can see anyone else, or with a group of friends that knows me, knows my reasons for working out, and won’t have to make those assumptions that create this problem in the first place.

Summary: gyms are weird. I have had people I don’t know comment to me at the gym about how ‘great’ I’m doing losing weight when that is not my goal in any way, shape, or form (it’s also impossible). That has driven me out of them never to return.

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Kate November 27, 2012 at 7:45 am

What’s sad is that she seems to equate herself with being fat. This whole thing of thinking that everyone is trying to avoid “becoming her” means that she thinks she=fat, and I think that’s a product of this weight-obsessed society. Part of the change has to happen with society, of course, but we can’t really control that as individuals. What can she do to stop equating herself with her body type? I don’t have the answer, but I think at attitude like yours is one way to get there.

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Shelly November 27, 2012 at 8:05 am

This is so tough. And I think that this article is great.
In general I don’t really socialize at the gym and I don’t think that going out of my way to make anyone feel better would be a genuine act for me because I don’t like to talk to strangers. I’m always very free with a big smile and my please and thank you’s when I need to interact with people.
I socialize more at yoga since it’s a more personal environment and I know the women better there. Some of them are significantly heavier than I am, but they are also really good at yoga so I don’t worry about insulting them when I compliment their warrior poses, given that I’ve probably recently fallen out some pose with a resounding and embarrassing thud. :)
I honestly will say though that part of my motivation for working out and eating well is not to get fat. But it has nothing to do with with random strangers and their bodies at the gym. My entire immediate family is obese and while I truly believe that you can be fit and fat, they are not fit and they have been suffering from significant health consequences for most of my life. I don’t want to be ill and exhausted starting in my 40′s like my parents or suffering from chronic back pain in my 20′s like my brother.
I guess the better way to think about it would be to say that I am at the gym to avoid premature ill health and that my family members are unhealthy people who also happen to be fat, but I admit that in the reality of my brain, it’s easy to connect their size with their problems whether or not that is valid.
But for me at least, I’m generally not noticing fat people at the gym because I’m wrapped up in my own issues and I don’t think I’m alone in that.

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kdice November 27, 2012 at 8:20 am

I know there are so many people who stay away from gyms because they feel like they aren’t in shape enough to go and everyone will be judging them. I wish there was some way to communicate that mostly I am so wrapped up in surviving my own workout that I don’t even notice. Any thought about them I do have is positive, but then I run into the same problem you had here, which is that it comes across as patronizing to acknowledge that. All I’m saying is that I acknowledge it is probably harder for them to overcome the psychological obstacles to get to the gym, so good for them for getting there, but somehow that comes across as presumptuous. Ugh!

Also, this is a little off track, but I went to group classes this Fri, Sat and Sun and I can’t tell you how many comments the instructors made about “working off that pumpkin pie”, etc. Really, I’m in class to get strong and build my endurance and heart conditioning. I wish instructors would emphasize that more!

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Cort the Sport November 27, 2012 at 8:36 am

That kickboxing story is something. Probably five different people would have reacted to you in five different ways, some positive. I stick with the “smile alot” and talk about neutral subjects approach. Our gym seems to be really diverse and accepting and I’m so thankful for that. I think it lets us all relax about how we look and perform, you know?

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Annie November 27, 2012 at 8:51 am

Here’s the thing – I think people have a lot of stuff they are dealing with when they go to the gym that have everything to do with them and not much to do with the people around them…but I can understand the reaction of the woman you spoke to.

When I did yoga teacher training, I was clearly bigger than everyone else. Most of the time it wasn’t too much of an issue beyond my own ego and self-critique. My fellow trainees treated me with respect and love and I felt like just one of the crowd most of the time – we were all dealing with our own hangups. However, during the last week, a woman came up to me and said, “Wow – you are so brave for doing this! It must be so hard for you…” or some such nonsense, clearly referring to the fact that I was larger than everyone else. Luckily some other trainees were in earshot and came and rescued me (or her depending on your perspective).

I’m sure she meant to be complimentary, but all she did was make me feel “other”. Like it was weird or “special” that I was there and doing what she could do. She was trying to define my experience for me based on her own – which is a big no no as far as I’m concerned.

The truth is that people DO often judge those of us who are larger in gym/yoga/physical activity situations. And even if your intentions are good, it’s likely that you are just going to be part of the “noise” of the hundreds of thousands of negative messages we get about living in large bodies. I’ve written a bit about teaching yoga to students of size and I also suggest looking up Ragen Chastain at Dances with Fat – she writes a lot about this too.

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Aine November 27, 2012 at 8:52 am

Timely post for me. I just gained a lot of weight (fertility treatments are a nightmare) and worked out through the whole thing. I could feel all these (imaginary) people looking at me in the gym and thinking “She works out and still gains all that weight? Ugh!” Reality check: it’s just my own insecurities speaking to me. But it feels real, when you look around and catch the eye of some guy across the room more than once in your weightlifting regime– of course you think he’s looking at you instead of spacing out the same way you are. And then you think he’s judging you, because he certainly couldn’t be ADMIRING you, oh no, not the way your biggest workout gear is getting so tight it’s starting to create bulges that could be seen from space. Oh, they way our insecurities about ourselves get magnified when we are sweating it out in thin workout clothes surrounded by strangers and mirrors…
I have to say that I don’t look sideways at overweight people in the gym at all, other than as just people who are getting their healthy fix. Maybe it’s because I know that working out has almost nothing to do with how much a person weighs, who knows. If anything, I’m happy to see that people of all sizes come to my gym and don’t feel intimidated.
But I will admit, and only here where I’m anonymous and can’t be pointed out as a total creeper, that I ogle the skinny folks. I stare at the skinny lady that walks around in hot pants and a sports bra and I feel like I must be turning green with envy as I run on the treadclimber, instead of my usual mottled sweaty red. I look at the lady with the cut arms and finely formed delts and get jealous that she lifts less weight than I do but looks so much better. Maybe I’m just screwed up, but it’s the people who look best that get the most stares from me. I certainly try to keep my hyperawareness of other people’s bodies to myself, and I hope I don’t make the skinny/fit-looking folks just as uncomfortable as someone who is overweight might feel, if they’re self-conscious in the gym. In the end I think all the looking and judging of others is probably a reflection of our own insecurities.

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Geosomin November 27, 2012 at 8:55 am

I feel crazy saying this, but I don’t think what was said at the end of that kickboxing class was wrong or needed to be apologized for. If it was someone’s first class, then what was said is not insulting and out of line. I know what it’s like to feel fat and out of place at the gym, and I was always encouraged when someone saw how hard I was working and offered me a sentence or comment of encouragement. Yes, I was more sensitive about that stuff, and it’s hard when people give you “the look” when you’re bigger and at the gym, but I would try and take things as a compliment or as advise. I try to not offer advice and only tell people a comment if I can see they are using bad form and might hurt themselves, or they look really confused about how to do something and are scared to ask (I’ve been there). I just talk to people, like they’re people. I don’t care what size they are. You shouldn’t talk to a fat or a thin person differently. They’re just people. Acknowledging that someone worked hard in a class and complimenting them shouldn’t be an insult if they’re not in perfect shape. That’s just…well..dumb and oversensitive if they take it that way.
I don’t socialize much at the gym since I’m sort of sucky at small talk, and it’s not like the people there are my friends. Yes there are faces I know and smile at because we’ve taken the same classes together forever, but I crawled out of bed to workout, and so I do.

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Kevin Grant November 27, 2012 at 9:14 am

Most people react positively to positive comments. The folks who will twist the statement into a negative are the exception, not the rule. We should spend more time encouraging one another rather than retreating into our own little worlds. We have enough isolation as it is—let’s use any excuse we can to interact.

Yeah, I certainly try to avoid saying something that might be construed as patronizing, but simply saying, “You’re killing it!” seems safe to me.

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Aurora November 27, 2012 at 9:39 am

I…sadly enough, the answer I have to “Hey Gym-Goers…” is, “Uh, well….yes. Yes, I am there so I don’t look like you.” Which is awkward, and part of the reason I just don’t do group stuff at the gym.

I mean, what can I say otherwise? I don’t like pain and discomfort, but I exercise anyway, because I know what I, personally, want to look like. I’m actually a picture of medical health even without the level of exercise I do — I have no shame now in saying, “I am here just for vanity.” As for endorphins, the amount of “Ugh, not again,” in working out far outweighs any “high” I ever got from it. It’s just not fun.

If someone else is fine with being fat, that doesn’t affect my life! I am fine if someone else is okay being fat. Everyone should come to terms with who they are, whether they’re “too skinny” or “too fat” or “too average” or whatever they think they are. If they don’t like it, more power to them to change it. (I know people who are trying to gain weight because of how skinny they feel. It’s not just fat people trying to change, or non-fat folk who think they look fat.)

But I, personally, do not find “fat” an attractive body type. This trips me up so badly when I read the fat-acceptance blogs on the Internet. Some of them seem like they’re basically instructing society to find them more attractive, to quit with the “Your face is pretty,” and all that…but I can’t, unless they want me to lie, so I keep quiet. It’s like how I find guys with long hair sexier than guys with short hair on average; I just find lithe bodies sexier than fat bodies. And there’s really nothing I can do about it.

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Happier Heather November 27, 2012 at 9:41 am

Thanks for linking to the article. I found it an interesting read and so much of why I hate the gym atmosphere. In my head, people are making judgements about me, even though I KNOW most people barely notice I’m there. I think part of the reason is that the gyms I’ve belonged to are the type where no one speaks to each other and they look at you like you’re an alien if you try to strike up a conversation.

There was one short period of time when I belonged to an all-women’s gym similar to Curves, where everyone was SO friendly! Unfortunately, I moved and their hours and location were no longer convenient for me, so I quit.

I recently gave up my most recent gym membership because it basically caused me anxiety to do anything other than the classes (which never seem to fit my schedule), so I’m strictly workout out at home, other than running outside. Maybe someday I’ll give the gyms another try…*sigh*

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Carolyn November 27, 2012 at 9:57 am

In my opinion, the gym is not a social club, coffee shop or really the appropriate place to make friends. Most people are there to improve their health for one reason or another. Its a sweaty environment where no one is looking their best. My opinion, get in, get out, get on with your life. Its the equivalent of chatting someone up in the doctor’s office waiting room. We’re all there for a reason, but mind your own business, right? If you want a social experience, join a sports team or something.

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Amy H. November 27, 2012 at 10:15 am

So I’m a bigger girl who works out regularly (around size 14 most of the time, but fluctuate between 10 and 16). I’ve actually fallen off the wagon since this summer, but I was doing really well – exceeding even my own lofty expectations of fitness about a year ago. I was doing super hard free weight circuits I found online. I had a very thin gal who worked out with the free weights come up to me and tell me “I think you work out harder than anyone else here,” meaning the really buff, big guys. I took it as a HUGE compliment, because I was busting my butt off and it meant a lot that someone took notice. There were also a few regular guys who I noticed would comment when I was doing some of the really hard stuff (comment to themselves, of course, never to me personally, lol).

However, I had some personal issues occur and fell off the gym wagon. I’ve gained 15 pounds back and can’t even do half of what I could a year ago. Now, I’m ashamed to go back much, because I feel like a “letdown” and a “failure” to those who formerly appreciated what I could do, despite my size.

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Kim November 27, 2012 at 10:50 am

Great article and lots of really interesting opinions and conversation in the comments.
I think that a lot of the problem comes down to self-esteem not just size. In today’s society people are obsessed with body image – both their own and others. I truly wish that gyms, instructors, even all the fitness infomercials, etc. focused on more on over-all health and well-being and less on size. I know some do but so many times the initial impression is that size matters when in reality it doesn’t. Some of the “softest” people I’ve ever met are thin and some of the most fit people I know are anything but thin – it’s all relative!!

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Mary November 27, 2012 at 11:02 am

I love your blog, and I really appreciate the level-headed, balanced, self-reflective way in which you wrote about this topic.

I’ve been on two sides of this issue: the 300-lb. size-26 19-year-old college freshman trying to lose weight in the university gym and now, a size-14 not-thin-but-not-obese 20- and 30something who has been playing with my last 30 pounds for a decade. Sure enough, even after 100 lbs. of weight loss, I’m still fat at the gym. Yes, its demoralizing, but not working out was no longer an option (Yes, I accomplished most of my weight loss never stepping foot in a gym).

For me, the gym made all the difference. I’ve worked out at ritzy YMCAs and health clubs where I felt like other gym-goers and trainers saw my size-16 frame and equated it to leprosy (and I also acknowledge that this feeling was largely of my own making…we’re all way more obsessed with ourselves than anyone else). Obviously, I didn’t last long in those environments. Now, I workout at a boxing/powerlifting gym where most of the members are dudes, and practically everyone there is focused on their goals. There are about a million different body types represented amongst the powerlifters, boxers, Strongmen, bodybuilders, etc. The common denominator? Everyone’s working really hard. The social dimension is very minimal. We don’t really chat with one another, but that makes the specific, meaningful feedback I get from other regulars even more valuable.

I mostly agree with the gym-is-not-a-particularly-social-space philosophy, and I’ve found a gym and a workout program that matches that belief. I guess there’s no simple answer, but I encourage folks to seek out a space/program/facility that fits their exercise/social style and remember that one bad experience does not translate to all experiences.

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Abby November 27, 2012 at 11:42 am

I think what you have outlined is just perfect. I wouldn’t be offended by any of that and I’ve been both really thin and really fat. It’s too bad someone took your friendly gesture the wrong way, I wish people at my gym were friendlier! Don’t stop. I bet most everyone appreciates it! I know I would.

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Alyssa (azusmom) November 27, 2012 at 12:01 pm

First off, I just want to say that part of the reason I (and, I’m sure) many others) read your blog, Charlotte, is because you show, time and again, what empathy, enthusiasm, kindness, and humor are.
As a pudgy Pialtes purveyor, I’ve had numerous clients tell me they like my classes because they don’t feel intimidated. My style is more relaxed, I give modifications (as well as add-ons for more advanced students), and my lack of pencil-thinness makes them feel more comfortable. Granted, I’m still trying to lose the weight, as it’s still fairly recent, but I like knowing that people feel comfortable in my classes.
Going to trainings can be another matter, entirely. I often get dirty looks, as if people wonder why a Fat Girl is allowed to teach fitness classes. And sometimes some not-so-nice comments, as well. The fitness world, while promoting beauty, can sometimes be a very ugly place.

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Wendy Shaffer November 27, 2012 at 12:21 pm

I think that the most important thing is to avoid making assumptions: As you say, don’t assume that people are in the gym to lose weight. And don’t assume that because someone is fat that they’re new to exercise or not fit.

But in a lot of ways it’s a problem that can’t really be easily fixed by individual actions – the real issue is the social stigma attached to fat and the body image problems it produces. What really helped me feel comfortable in the gym was developing a healthier body image. Now that I no longer negatively compare my body to other people’s, I no longer care as much about whether they’re thinking negative thoughts about my body.

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Margot November 27, 2012 at 1:19 pm

I have to add something even worse, as I am now 8 months pregnant and 18 kilos up, I will go back to the gym and everybody that knew me looking thin and in shape I will see me at my new size, whatever that will be. I am even considering going to another gym, at least until I will be close to my original size

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malevolent andrea November 27, 2012 at 1:54 pm

I think that in the incident related in the original article if the comment had stopped at “I see you here all the time and you work really hard,” then there’s no way it could be construed as offensive. Could it? I mean, whenever anyone says that to me, it makes my day. And for the record, I’m a smaller person.

I’ll admit I almost complimented someone I see at the gym all the time but don’t know on her apparent weight loss a few months ago. What stopped me was my own shyness, not the realization in that moment that her weight loss might not be intentional–she might be having health problems or something–and that the fact she’s in the gym 6 or 7 days a week could be totally separate from that. In retrospect I was really glad I minded my own business. Never commenting on anyone else’s loss or gain of weight unless you absolutely know for sure they’re trying to lose or gain weight is the best policy.

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Katie November 27, 2012 at 5:35 pm

Yet another great post Charlotte! I have nothing new to add to the conversation, really. I have been on the receiving end of comments that, well-intentioned or not, stung. I’m one of those skinny girls who goes to the gym to pump iron and when people see me in the weight room….well let’s just say I’ve gotten a lot of meathead comments, and most aren’t from the males.

Why are we ladies so hard on each other?

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Susan November 27, 2012 at 7:29 pm

I like your suggestion to never comment about weight. Seriously, don’t we have more important things to talk about…like, um, I don’t know maybe health and happiness :) Really great post! Keep ‘em coming!

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Laura is Undeterrable November 27, 2012 at 7:57 pm

A ton of great comments, so I’ll just add one thing –

An insecure person will read into anything however they want to. I know because I am one. If you smile at me, it’s because you feel bad for me. If you ignore me, its because you are embarassed for me. If you talk to me, you are patronizing me. If you offer advice, you want to prove you are better than me. If you let me do it wrong, you just want to watch me screw up.

Sometimes there is absolutely no way to win. Thankfully I don’t act like a complete brat anymore, but I still go there sometimes (i.e. when someone doesn’t say hi to me in the hall OMGTHEYHATEMENOW!). I think it’s better to be friendly and welcoming than not. Smile, say hi, and if the target of your niceties doesn’t react well then it’s on them.

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Ame' November 28, 2012 at 12:39 am

I read Lindy’s article, and I was actually kinda offended for my normal sized gym friends. I’ve had gym experiences from encouraging, mundane, to very offensive. We can’t just lump everyone together. The majority of my experiences have been great, and I’ve learned that most people don’t mean to offend when trying to be encouraging. I just let things slide off my back. It’s my own insecurities that upset me most of the time.

Although my kick boxing trainer here in China (yes it’s everywhere around the world) needs to stop telling the other students if I can kick that high or run that far then they can too. I just need to figure out how to tell him in Chinese . . . hmmmm

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Katje Sabin November 28, 2012 at 8:22 am

I’ve had plenty of people approach me at the gym or in a dance class, and there is a big difference between people who want to talk to you in general (“Cool necklace!”, “That new choreography made me crazy!”, “How do you turn on this fan?”) and people who want to make your size an issue. The worst was an extremely kind woman who kept gushing at me after classes, “Oh, you’re SO inspiring! I love how you are so brave and uninhibited!” I know she meant well, but… it made me uncomfortable and singled out. Difficult waters to navigate, indeed… still, the basics apply: making eye contact, and then reading the other person’s body language to decide whether conversation is welcome or not; don’t comment on anyone’s specific performance unless asked for an opinion (and when you ARE asked for an opinion, don’t lie by saying someone did great when they obviously didn’t); don’t stare at anyone during class, even if you’re just trying to give an encouraging smile… it’s still staring, and it’s against gym etiquette (at least in the gyms I’ve been in), and don’t say anything that makes it clear you HAVE been staring at someone.

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Jody - Fit at 54 November 28, 2012 at 8:27 am

I just have learned not to say much in general unless someone asks me… ;)

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Lyn November 28, 2012 at 9:04 am
Matt November 28, 2012 at 10:47 am

I can so relate to this when I was studying abroad in Japan. It seems like every stranger I met wanted to congratulate me on the fact that I was an American who knew how to use chopsticks or even speak a few lines of basic Japanese.

I grew to hate that type of treatment.

It meant that people were patronizing me for stupid little things that were really no big deal. I knew they were saying to be nice and to try and make me feel good as if for some stupid reason I had a reason to feel bad.

When I first started working as a personal trainer I used to do the very same thing myself But I felt guilty because it always felt like my compliments were empty and hollow.

I eventually grew to understand that complements should be paid when people achieve something that I admire rather than giving them a complement to try and boost up what I think is a flaw in them.

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Sylvie @ StruggleswithaFatA November 28, 2012 at 12:04 pm

One of the most important things I’ve learned from my gorgeous and super skinny friends, is that they have weight issues too. Like that they don’t like being called skinny. “WHA???” was my initial reaction, but some people share the same feelings with their weight as I do, only from the opposite end. That doesn’t mean that their feelings are invalid because I envy their body and wish I could be them. I have also had someone say in front of me “OMG, if I were EVER a size 14, I would commit suicide.” At the time I was a size 16, so yeah, that made me feel pretty not great. But I know people aren’t always out to make snarky indirect comments about me, so I have to keep that in mind. My other thought is this makes me reflect on how I feel at the gym. I wonder if I come off as stand off-ish. I’m not on the weight machines because I don’t know how to use them and am afraid that the people that do know how to use them will think “pfft that girl has no clue what she’s doing.” I feel like I need someone constantly helping me to know that I’m doing it right. (I suppose that would be a personal trainer, but I can’t afford one.) But that ties into my own insecurities, not just gym insecurities. I also kind of assume other people don’t want to talk to me, even though I like being talked to. Kind of like hugs. I love giving and getting hugs. But I often don’t go for a hug with a “new” friend because I’m not sure if they have an anti-hug bubble I’m supposed to be aware of, so I just don’t breach it. But once the hug bubble is burst, I’m totally comfortable with hugs all around! Hugs all the time! Then I start feeling self conscious and wonder if I’m being too touchy, like I would wonder if I’m talking too much to someone. So there’s that too, which again, ties into my own insecurities. Anyway, I’m just spilling my thoughts, but I really don’t think it’s disrespectful to blog about it. I think you’re delicate and aware of how you come across and I think people here know that you’re a wonderful person and would never mean to say something that someone else would find hurtful! So, I don’t think there is an answer to your question. People go to a gym for many reasons, and they may or may not want to be talked to for many reasons. You simply can’t predict how someone will react or interpret what you say, and you can’t have a scenario for every potential situation. Just be your wonderful self!

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jen November 28, 2012 at 4:00 pm

I was talking to my gym buddy about this article yesterday. Our thoughts were almost the same – yes, we watched other people at the gym but it was one of two reactions: “HOLY CRAP – do not let our trainer see that move, it looks hard as hell!!!” or “Wow. Buddy if you can’t lift that up / put it down / proper form (you get the picture) then maybe you should lower the weight.” It’s entirely possible that others were staring at us / talking behind our back, but if so, we never got that feeling.

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Caitlin November 30, 2012 at 1:17 pm

I would love to talk to people – especially women, especially women who are lifting! – more in the gym, but I am hyper-aware of what a conversational minefield all of this can be, and so I just keep my headphones in my ears and my mouth shut. I don’t even like to look at other people because I’ve heard and read so many women saying that they feel like they are heavily scrutinized by fit people when they come in the gym. I’m a tall thin blonde woman who knows what she’s doing in the gym, and so I feel like anything I say or do would be even more loaded with the ability to unintentionally hurt someone or scare them away from working out, because what seems like friendliness to me might be taken as something sinister and mean-spirited by someone else. It’s sad but this is the world we live in, and I’d rather just avoid it all together.

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Sally Lynn MacDonald December 6, 2012 at 11:02 am

I’ve recently lost a lot of weight having gotten medical help through a VSG and having an “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” experience of going to the gym, almost daily to work out. I do cardio on the elliptical and a weight routine developed by the trainers there. I haven’t always been overweight, but I don’t think I was EVER as fit as many of the women I see there. But I try to stay focused on me and what I’m trying to achieve instead of the more negative thoughts. It would be easy for me to shrug of the 88 lbs. I’ve lost and admit that most of the people there would by besides themeselves if they were at my current weight — but I’m not going to do that. I just keep plugging away. It’s too easy to stop going for external reasons. I’ve got enough internal reasons I have to keep at bay, right? As for comments, I’ve gotten some very positive comments from people who know me well enough to see the changes I’ve made — that I’ve stopped and thanked them for taking the time to notice and compliment. Others have made comments like, “we should take your picture for the gym wall”, which I would NEVER take them up on and I just shrug it off. I don’t want to be any more on display than I am at the gym! LOL! So thanks for writing about this difficult topic. It is very enlightening to see it from another perspective.

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Jen December 10, 2012 at 9:37 am

To play devil’s advocate, you did talk to her because she was obese and seemed to be struggling. I would never have been so rude to someone like you whose intentions were good, but I wouldn’t feel encouraged by a comment like that, I’d feel singled out for being fat and out of shape. I actually have gotten comments like this and they feel terrible.

What do I do? I smile, I am nice. I know the intentions are good so I react to the intention. But I’d rather that someone just smiled and said hi, or left me alone. I have been much fitter than I am now and know that it’s going to take a lot of work before I don’t look like a newbie, but I can’t wait to just blend into the crowd.

Like others have said, treat overweight people at the gym just like any other gym-goer, because they are just like any other gym-goer, they just have a little more stored energy to work off.

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robin January 8, 2013 at 2:12 pm

I weigh 240 lbs and exercise at the gym 3x week. If you had said that to me at the end of the kickboxing class i would have felt so good. And I would have looked for you at the next class and hoped that you would reach out to me again.

Life is so much easier if you always assume best intentions. :)

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