Saturday night, my son and I went to the gym. Jaegar, son of Brodin god of Swole, is working with me on lifting weights. While we were there, a young, overweight woman came in. I thought, “Good for her!” She left after about five minutes and my thoughts became less kind. I said as much to my son and The Swole godling shared with me the gist of something he had read on Reddit. That something, frankly, shamed me.
An obese man wrote about going to the gym and confessed why he would go, stay five minutes, then leave. He was embarrassed. He believed that everyone there saw him as The Fat Guy At The Gym, a waste of equipment space and time. “Look at The Fat Guy trying to work out.” He hated the thought of the unspoken ridicule so much that he would flee. After a time of forcing himself to stay there and of making progress, he noticed others coming to workout – others who were larger than he. He saw them and noted that they were fat guys, not Fat Guys. He realized that, in all likelihood, no one had ever thought of him as The Fat Guy, either. He had just been a fat guy in the same way that I am a white woman. The adjective is a description, not a definition.
I had believed the same thing. I hated going to the gym, certain that the Toned Bodies were looking down on me, mocking me in their hearts, if not with their voices. The truth is that they probably noticed me only as a person in the room. There were probably no judgements at all. The Toned Bodies are likely to get truly annoyed only with those who stroll on the treadmill, talking on the phone, wasting equipment time while doing nothing. I let my own beliefs keep me away. I used them as an excuse, as a crutch to stay out of the gym. In my own heart, I believed that I would fail, that I was a fraud and I was certain that the Toned Bodies could see that with some kind of gym rat x-ray vision. (There’s not such thing, just so you know.) I created a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Now, I don’t know why that young lady left – maybe she felt intimidated by the runner near her (I sure did), maybe she left the oven on, maybe someone called her with an unexpected opportunity, I don’t know. I projected my own old motives onto her, which is neither fair nor logical. However, the event became a teaching experience from son to mother (funny how THAT little tidbit wasn’t in the parenting brochure!) He reminded me that the demons I have fought down to size are still enormous for others. I tend to think that I’m so far behind the power curve that surely everyone else is in front of me on stuff like this. But, the fact is, we are not all in the same place.
While my body is much smaller than it was, I still see the wide hips and all the junk in the trunk. In spite of my success to date, in my mind, I am still The Fat Girl at the Gym. The difference is that, now, I don’t let that keep me away. I hope that no one else does, either.