We live in a world where if you’re fat and accept and love your body the way it is, it is not socially acceptable. You are expected to “better yourself.” So, if you then decide to change your body, the next logical step is to go to the place that will assist you in doing so (dun, dun dunnnnnnn), “The Gym.” Unfortunately, the gym is not the safest space for health-conscious heavies. The culture of body shaming hangs in the air. Even if the judgment is not blatant, there is enough newsworthy evidence in the world of fat shaming at the gym to make a chubby reasonably paranoid. Ahem, Dani Mathers, we’re looking at you.
To sit with that reality and still decide to go to the gym regularly, well, we think you deserve a medal.
But before committing to a membership, make sure it is the gym for you. Have a real sit down with a sales rep, tell them your fears and ask the tough questions. This is a vulnerable conversation to have, but you are worth it. See if they have a no-tolerance fat-shaming policy and ask how they enforce it. Ask if you can rely on a point person to bring concerns to while maintaining confidentiality. If the representative does not make you feel adequately secure, that is not the place for you. Keep searching!
So now that you’ve found the gym you want to join, and you’ve scrounged up the courage to go, now what? We’ve got five tips on how to combat the fear of being fat-shamed. It all comes down to some self-love and self-care.
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1. Invest in some kick-ass warrior clothes
At the beginning of your journey, you deserve to have some cute workout clothes. It doesn’t mean you have to look like a Nike advertisement. Find what makes you feel strong and loved. If that’s an oversized t-shirt that has an inspirational message, or a “f*ck you” message, get it! Girl, it’s your life. LIVE it to the fullest!
2. Find the right workout for you
That may mean taking a fun hip-hop or Zumba class. Or perhaps, popping in your earbuds and rockin’ that elliptical. Try a bunch of different exercises to find a method that helps you reach your goals and makes your heart sing or at least, hum a little. There are going to be particular types of activities that you love more than others — do what works for you! Don’t waste your time doing something you hate. You may want to start off with low-impact exercises like yoga, pilates, or swimming. Whatever it is, just getting started is key.
3. Let the music take you
Make a kick-ass playlist so when you are in your workout groove, you can literally groove to some tunes that inspire and motivate. There’s even a website that finds music that matches the tempo you want to run, cycle or step to.
4. Create a workout tribe
If you can afford it, hire a trainer to help walk you through workouts, or ask a friend to meet up with you and spot you while training. Adding a partner to the mix or taking exercise classes with friends will provide accountability and get you to push through those uncomfortable feelings of “not belonging.” It’s nice to have someone to focus your attention on instead of the haters that might be lurking about.
5. Find inspiration on social
Go on Instagram and find people to follow that are crushing it and look like you. There are yoga masters, hip-hop dancers, long-distance trail runners, and weightlifters who are plus-size athletes at the top of their game just waiting to inspire you!
While the above tips are helpful to battle body bias as an individual, the gym culture can only change when we each actively work to stop looking at bodies as “good” or “bad” and rather accept and respect them for the beautifully diverse creations they are.
Actor/influencers Kathy Deitch and Eva Tingley spearheaded PlusThis!, the multimedia brand which features pop-culture, fashion, debates regarding food and health and the societal negativity and stereotypes that surround women who dare to take up a little bit of space. The duo broadcasts live every Thursday at 6 pm PT from Universal Broadcasting Network and simultaneously across several platforms including Facebook Live and YouTube Live.
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