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.