That one time I was fat shamed
No wait that was thrice.
Hi guys. Welcome to my most vulnerable post yet. This one wasn't easy for me to write as I still feel some type of way about the experiences.
Fat shaming: The action or practice of humiliating someone judged to be fat or overweight by making mocking or critical comments about their size.
So when I say that I was fat shamed thrice, I don't mean in my whole life (if I had a penny for every time I was fat shamed smh), but I mean in a gym. Yes guys, in the bloody gym! This so-called safe haven that people go to, to make positive changes to their bodies. We've all seen it, that overweight person, who people stare or point at in the gym. Fat shaming in gyms sadly quite is commonplace.
The first time that I was fat shamed, I was about 19. I was at a gym run by this intense, pseudo-crazy fitness trainer. This guy used to yell at his at employees, and I mean vein popping out on his temples shouting. But damn wasn't he a great trainer! He gave an hour-long, high-intensity interval training class that had us all sweating within just 5 minutes. I loved that class and I took it with Chinju and Aria, who had become my workout buddies at NYU. Here we were working hard in our semi-private training session, and this trainer went on to tell me how I still had baby-fat, but not to worry. If you keep training like this, by 21 or 22 I'll be good. Now squat girls! Funnily enough, I quite liked my body at the time, and I didn't think I had weight to lose. But baby-fat, really? At 19??? Shortly after that, I stopped going to that gym. I felt ashamed.
The second time it happened was in late 2016. I had put on some weight because I was going through some transitions in my life. New job, new apartment, long working hours, takeout dinners, not too much gym time. Life happened. I got myself back to the gym and started eating healthily again, once I had established a routine. This one trainer approached me to ask if I had had my complimentary free training session. We arranged to have it together and I showed up the next day ready to sweat. Part of the session involved body fat percentage analysis. He weighed me and took my body measurements to perform the calculations. Once he arrived at the number, he snickered a little, and when I asked what it is that he was laughing at, he said rather passively, Oh, it's up there alright! For the duration of that training session, I couldn't focus on whatever exercises he asked me to do. Actually, I remember nothing from that training session aside from his snide comment. I felt shame. I wanted to leave that gym and find a new one ASAP.
The third time, I was working out on my own. Leg-day. Two girls were exercising opposite me. I was in between deadlift sets and was taking a sip of water. One girl made a comment that I assume was positive about my body because the other girl responded rather aggressively oh- no girl! it's waaaaay too much, motioning to her chest and bum area. We made eye contact and they stopped talking wide-eyed. So I was sure it was about me. I smiled at them, finished my set, and left the gym. Ashamed.
This may seem like a 'woe is me' that I was fat shamed post, but it is not. The purpose of sharing these experiences is to highlight that fat shaming does more harm to people than it does good, if it does any good at all. Wanting to make positive changes to your body is a result of feeling good about yourself. When you feel bad or ashamed of yourself, the natural thing is to want to shut yourself away from the world, grab a tub of ice-cream and binge-watch some soapy shows. You probably don't want to go back to the gym because you don't feel good enough about yourself to want to instill positive habits.
I confronted that trainer who fat shamed me in 2016 (who I still see almost daily by the way because I didn't switch gyms), and I told him how hurtful his comment and tone were. Oh, it's up there alright! He said that he did it to let me know how serious he was about helping me with my health. Still, I told him that such comments are extremely insensitive and highly unprofessional. That even if I wanted to get the help of a trainer, it wouldn't be from one who made me feel so terrible about myself. I still look away whenever he tries to say hi to me lol!
Fat shaming does the opposite of what the shamer thinks it will do. If I let her know that she's fat, then she'll probably do something about it. Firstly, she probably knows that she's overweight. Secondly, she probably wants to change that and is figuring what to do about it. And moreover, why is somebody else's weight your concern? Why do you feel the right to comment on their physical being? What if she's happy, eats healthily, stays active and is more than comfortable with her own body? Who are you to tell her that she is unattractive/unhealthy/unfit or whatever negative association that you have with her size, because of her size?
What would be more productive is focusing on the solutions, and encouraging positive habits. So you want to get fit- why don't you take up running? So you want to tone up your belly- this diet can help you with that. So you want a nice round butt, these exercises are perfect! Just be consistent, I know that you can do it, keep going! If you frame the conversation in that way, the how can I help you on your fitness journey (rather than you're fat and you should do something about it) way, you leave people wanting to keep making positive changes for themselves.
I have met wonderful people at the gym. People who ask me if I need help with my squat form. Trainers who have commended my efforts and told me to keep up the good work. People who have shared their success stories with me and inspired me. People who share their diet regimens with me. People who have invited me to take fitness classes with them. Those are the people who have made me want to continue working out and to create healthy habits for myself.
The gym should be a safe space. Let us maintain its sanctity.