The Time I Was Fat Shamed At The Gym

The Time I Was Fat Shamed At The Gym

Keep your comments to yourself, please and thank you.
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As a millennial, I am all too aware of the negative impact that the media has on the minds of young women. I was raised to try my best to ignore the media's false illusion of what a perfect body is, and instead love what I was given. Although I’ll admit that I sometimes do dream of a body that is different from mine, I have never really felt unhappy with my own. I think it’s normal, almost natural to be insecure. With our constant exposure to false realities via social media, it’s almost impossible not to compare ourselves to others.

With that said, I believe that it is essential that we support one another. That we compliment each other. That we don’t EVER intentionally make someone else feel like he/she is not perfect enough...because I really did not think that it would be the words of another woman that would make me feel uncomfortable with my own appearance.

A few weeks ago, my friend and I decided to start going to the gym a few times a week to get in shape. I had just finished my Freshman year of college and it was clear to me that the “Freshman 15” had done its job. However, my decision to start working out more often was based more on feeling unhealthy and inactive, rather than feeling “overweight” or “fat.”

Luckily, my membership came with one free lesson with a personal trainer. We figured that we would learn a few exercises with the trainer to be able to work out on our own for the rest of the summer. However, as soon as we sat down with her, it was evident that she would try to lure us into signing up for long term training.

Now, while I know that employees will do just about anything to sell their services, I was completely unaware that anyone would use “body shaming” as a tactic to get there. She began by creating a "health diary” for us and asking us questions about our diet and daily activity. She inquired about our weight and health goals and discussed how she would help us achieve them.

So far, fair game.

What came after made me want to slap this woman across the face. I’m still not really sure why I didn’t. She told us both to get on the scale. I voiced my undesirability to do so. I have never owned a scale, and have only ever weighed myself at annual checkups at the doctor’s office. My personal philosophy has always been that if I feel and look healthy, the numbers don't mean much. I knew that if I saw them, they would only consume me.

However, despite this, the trainer proceeded to tell me that it was mandatory that I do so. Even after I told her “no!” she continued to pressure me to get on the scale. I'm not sure why I felt like I had to. What would've happened if I hadn't listened? I was the paying customer, after all.

My friend got on the scale first. I then stepped on, dreading the number that would appear. “See?” the trainer said to my friend, pointing to the scale, “She weighs more than you!”

HOLD ON. What? Who even asked you, you amateur, unprofessional, idiotic woman? I don’t know what compelled the trainer to say this, but it frustrated me. Who was she to compare MY body to anyone else’s? If I had wanted to be compared, I would’ve asked to be compared.

She then had us hold up a technological device that (supposedly) measures the percentage of fat in your body. It came to be that my fat count was higher than that of my friend. I don’t think that I would’ve noticed this discrepancy, or really cared if the trainer would not have felt the need to then say, “Wow. Look at that- she has more fat than you!” This really caught me off guard. I kind of just shut my mouth, but I’m pretty certain that my face mirrored my thoughts.

Oh, but the fun didn’t stop there. This woman was having a great time roasting my a** and treating me like I was on an episode of “America’s Biggest Loser.”

The trainer matched my height and weight on a clearly outdated chart she had curated from Satan himself. According to the chart, not only was I not considered “lean,” or “ideal” but my body was ranked “average”.. closer to “obese” than not. She then told me that if I were to lose 20 pounds, I would be in the correct place for my height. I was mortified. I’m not delusional. I know I’ve never been the “super- model skinny” type, but not once in my life had I felt overweight prior to this experience. I just fail to understand how she felt so confident saying this to my face.

The “fat shaming” saga only ended after the trainer took us into the training room to “teach” us a few basic exercises. We had emphasized the fact that we had never worked with a trainer before, and that therefore our performance would probably be far from impressive. Nonetheless, we were essentially harassed for “being out of shape.”

The woman had a new hire watch us as well, so that he could learn how to harass people, too! Turns out he was even worse than her.

Throughout the session, the new hire said things like “see- their basic knowledge of exercise and form is completely lacking.” And, “wow, they’re way too young for their bodies to be shaking like that.”

I left the gym that day feeling really distressed and flustered. On the one hand I knew that these people would say just about anything to get us to pay them what they wanted. But it was also too hard for me to ignore and completely disregard all the comments they had just made about my body.

The next day I walked around feeling like an "oompa loompa." It was difficult not to stare at myself in the mirror every time I passed it, just to pick at another part of my body that was “too big.”

But I do think that there is a lesson to be learned from this experience. I often struggle to speak up. I’ve never been one for confrontation and usually shut my mouth when I feel attacked. I now realize from this story that not only should I have spoken up, but because I didn’t- I really hurt myself.

No one is allowed to comment on my body. No one is allowed to tell me that it’s not perfect enough. And no one is allowed to push me to do something I don’t want to do.

Although I really don’t think that their words will ever completely leave me, I refuse to allow them to take over my entire life. I will NOT only eat salad every day, or jog until I feel like I’ll faint. All I can do is my best. The body that I have is the one that I will have for the rest of my life- I might as well learn to love it.

And for all the trainers out there, please remember: you can motivate someone hundreds of ways…don’t let body shaming be one of them.

Cover Image Credit: google

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National Eating Disorder Awareness Week Should Matter To All Of Us

Secrets make you sick.
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Next week (2/26 - 3/4) is National Eating Disorder Awareness (NEDA) Week, a week where education, prevention, and treatment take the forefront.

In the United States alone, as many as 20 million women and 10 million men will struggle with an eating disorder at some point in their lives. This statistic becomes especially troubling considering eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. Despite these growing numbers, eating disorders are still incredibly stigmatized, and they are born and raised in silence.

This is exactly why National Eating Disorder Awareness Week is so important – to me, a survivor, to the millions of people struggling, and to a society that turns the other cheek to one of the deadliest, and most preventable, illnesses of our time.

This year's theme, sponsored by the National Eating Disorders Association, is Let's Get Real, a challenge and a promise to fight stigma and make it okay to talk about eating disorders, whether you're directly affected by them or not. The program encourages prevention through things like education and awareness, including the ability to recognize unhealthy thought and behavior patterns that may lead to the development of an eating disorder.

It also aims to educate the public on signs and symptoms of eating disorders to guide people in helping their loved ones who are struggling toward treatment and recovery. Along with prevention, the program encourages treatment and recovery through resources like their online screening tool and their 24/7 helpline. NEDA also works to fund treatment centers and counseling across the country, and the money raised during the week goes directly toward life-saving treatment for those who need it.

But arguably the most important aspect of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week is the opportunity it gives us to finally talk about these diseases – without shame and without stigma.

Eating disorders are constantly around us, whether we know it or not. They are born and raised in silence. Giving us the permission and the platform to finally talk about them gives us power, and even gives us the chance at possibly saving someone's life. It gives us the chance to say to someone, "You are not alone" and "Recovery is possible." And it is so, so possible.

This National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, I encourage you to head over to www.nationaleatingdisorders.org and take a look at the information and the resources made available. I encourage you to start a conversation in your own social circles, your dinner tables, your residence halls, etc.

I encourage you to help fight the stigma and save some lives. Let's Get Real – this week and every week.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, contact the NEDA helpline at (800) 931-2237, text "NEDA" to 741741, or visit the official NEDA website at www.nationaleatingdisorders.org.

For Stony Brook University students, contact CAPS at (631) 632-6720 or CAPS After Hours at (855) 509-5742.

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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I'm Done Explaining Myself And My Body

I'm a work in progress.
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When I started college as a freshman, I was small. Small in a lot of different ways, but small in body size, first and foremost. Small in the most important way, I told myself.

Today as a senior, I am larger. Larger in body size for sure, but larger in a lot of different ways that I’m starting to realize are much more important. I’m larger in areas such as spirit, mentality, and empathy.

But throughout sophomore and junior year, I was only concerned with the expansion of my body. Mostly, I was concerned with what others were thinking about it.

There are a host of reasons behind my expanding body during those years, and I spent a solid portion of those years trying to explain my reasons to everyone. Literally. Everyone. To my family, to friends past and present, to people I’d just met who hadn’t even known me when I was small. To Facebook, to Instagram, to Twitter.

I explained myself and my weight gain to anyone and everyone before they could make up their own assumptions before they could place their own narratives on my body.

In her powerful memoir, “Hunger,” Roxane Gay concurs with this particular anxiety of mine: “When you’re overweight, your body becomes a matter of public record in many respects. Your body is constantly and prominently on display. People project assumed narratives onto your body and are not at all interested in the truth of your body, whatever that truth may be.”

I was determined for people to understand my truth — even the darkest areas of that truth — because I couldn’t bear to have those typical narratives placed on me. I could not allow people to think I was simply lazy and overeating for no reason other than a lack of willpower.

First and foremost, when I was explaining my body, I’d make sure people knew that at one point not too long ago, my body was small. And by the end of my explanations, I’d still be large in size and feel even smaller in the aforementioned more important ways.

Explaining my body never left me feeling more confident and safe in how people saw me. It just reinforced that my own self-worth was equated to my body size.

Luckily, things have changed this year. Through education, experience, and consistent training of my thoughts, I’ve slowly begun redefining my self-worth and started practicing more love and acceptance towards my body. I don’t feel as great a desire to explain my body to people, although I’m certain people still have their own explanations when they see me.

I’m a work in progress. I know my truth. And that’s all that really matters.

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