My heart was pounding; the butterflies in my stomach were almost too much for me to bear. Was this a panic attack? No, it was just extreme nerves… I always got like this when the parking lot was “too full.” Inside those four walls, there would be a hundred eyes staring back at me.
What am I talking about? Going to the gym.
At 234 pounds, everything was scary. I mean, when you are used to blending in, you definitely do not want to stand out. I felt like this for the upper part of 2 years.
The gym was a terrifying place for me – full of machines I didn’t know how to use and people who (I thought) would judge me. I was obese, out of shape, and ashamed.
Three months into my weight loss journey, I got a gym pass. Upon signing up, I was promptly made fun of. Apparently, my “skinnier” drivers license was a joke to the employee who was putting my information into the system. Brutal.
After almost one year in the gym, I finally mustered up enough courage to run on the treadmill. Foolishly, I thought people would get annoyed of the loud thumps my overweight feet made. My insecurities were large (no pun intended), and it was quite some time before I overcame a lot of them.
It took me about a year and a half of facing my fears every day to lose the weight. I decided I was not going to let my fears control me; so, I controlled them. I did this by facing my fears head on. When I didn’t want to do something, I made myself do it anyway. This is how I built up my self-confidence, along with losing the weight.
If I thought I was being judged back then for being overweight, I had no idea how I would be judged now for being fit.
Facial expressions tell a lot. Many faces use to look at me with sadness or pity – “oh, you could be so pretty if you only lost some weight” or “you have such a beautiful face.” Backhanded compliments were the epitome of my every day life.
Now that I am fit, I get a lot of new comments such as: “Do you have a job, it’s like you are in the gym all day,” “I liked your before body a lot better” or (my personal favorite) “you look like a man.” Many people tend to think I am just “that girl” who has always been fit or thin and hasn’t ever had to work for it.
People who see me now don’t always know my story – I can’t blame them for that. But, the idea that I would be judged for being in shape never even crossed my mind when I was heavy.
When I go to the gym, people (especially other women) watch me lift, complete my circuits and do my cardio. Some are really nice and ask questions regarding their own workouts or what I am training for. These are the conversations that I love; I love talking about fitness, goals, workouts, food and everything in between.
There are the times, though, when I get the stares, the looks and the comments that aren’t necessarily positive. I have been asked if I take steroids, used to be a man, and why I would ever want to look the way I look now. Fat shaming has turned into fit shaming.
People who don’t know my story tend to think I have always been fit – that the body I have now, I was born with. On social media, followers who do know my story comment all the time asking how I got rid of my cellulite, loose skin and stretch marks. The answer to that is: I haven’t. I have a “weight loss body”; I have stretch marks everywhere and loose skin on my arms, stomach and thighs. I might hide it well in a photo or video, but the repercussions of being 100lbs overweight are still there.
What people can’t see from my appearance now is that I used to be where a lot of people currently are, overweight, unhappy and wishing for better. Empathy and extreme joy fills my heart when I get to help others. I am definitely not a stuck up gym rat that some people tend to think I am. When asked, I always try to give advice or cheer others on. That is what I love doing and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else!
Personally, I always used to see “that girl” in the gym; I would judge her too. I was unhappy and self-conscious in my own appearance so I would think, “Oh she has always been fit,” “she doesn’t really have to work for it,” etc. How incredibly wrong I was to judge her! I don’t know her story; I don’t know what she has been through, struggled with, accomplished. Maybe she is just like me – maybe we are more alike than I could ever imagine.
In a world that has become so obsessed with outward appearance, it is hard to go anywhere and not judge someone for what they look like. When I notice people staring at me (in the gym or wherever else), I can’t help but wonder if they know me from social media, or if they are assuming certain things. Some days I can’t help but think to myself, if you only knew my story, would you have really said that to me, thought whatever it is you were thinking, or judged me in the same way? If you knew my story, could we have connected in some way that my appearance now doesn’t allow us to? Maybe if you just knew who I was and what I have been through, I could help you to reach your goals.
It is human nature for people to automatically assume the worst in every situation or to make poor judgments on a person’s character. We all seem to forget that people have actual feelings. Whether on social media or in person, we are a world that is constantly judging.
Today, I challenge you to talk to someone new. Talk to someone who has intimidated you or someone you have previously judged. Maybe they aren’t as scary as they seem. Maybe they have a story they want to share with the world. And maybe, just maybe, they could help to change your life for the better.
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