I was convinced I was too fat to exercise.
When I talk with people facing mega-weight loss this topic always emerges as one of their core frustrations, embarrassments and concerns. It was one of my core concerns, for more than a decade.
I will tackle the physical barriers in another blog. But, in my opinion, the MENTAL hurdles are just as fearsome.
So how do you get your mind to quiet down enough so that you can get your butt to the gym to get started??!
It seems to be a radically different tipping point for everyone.
My tipping point?! When I finally understood that food alone was not going to get me where I was trying to go. If I was going to control T2 diabetes, exercise had to be added.
I had to get moving.
From the point where I knew I HAD to add exercise to where I set foot in the gym? Six months. I spent six months battling the demons in my head. (List below.)
When you are obese and totally out of shape and you finally take the big, brave step to join the world of the physically active you feel VULNERABLE beyond belief.
I felt ragged and mentally exhausted before I even set foot in the ‘gym’.
(Gym?! I use the word generically to mean any place where you are going to make an effort and will BE SEEN. Walking down your street, classes at a community center, hitting your city pool.)
So what kind of thoughts were zinging around in my head for 10+ years? Here are my “I am too fat to be seen trying to exercise” thoughts:
- Fat people don’t belong in the world of fit and thin people. We are not welcome and do not belong.
- I am desperately afraid someone is going to mock me, laugh at me or be mean.
- It will be UGLY. I am not a pretty crier. I am not a pretty ‘sweat’er.
- I am beyond help. I don’t know where to start. Why bother at this point?
- Thin people are disgusted by fat people. I do NOT want to see the look of pity or disgust when I wind up next to them on a treadmill at the gym.
- I will have to shower after working out. Which means I have to be naked. The likelihood of having the locker room all to myself is about ZERO. Which means… Kill me now.
- Did I mention I was afraid people were going to laugh at me?
Having just shared my fears… I must confess that one of my fears did play out early in my gym-going career.
Humiliating story, but I share it because the experience wound up providing me with clarity and motivation.
I had been going to the gym about a month. I was probably 325+ pounds. There were two guys on the mats near me. One guy stage-whispered to his friend; “Dude, why is she even trying? It’s not like it’s going to make a difference.”
I froze. I was the only other person around. They were talking about me. I was wounded. Mortified. Humiliated. I tried hard NOT to cry… Failed. I laid on the mats and cried once they walked away. It stung deeply for at least a week.
I had been worried people were thinking that EXACT thing about me. Someone had just proven me right.
But eventually it made me mad.
It ultimately made me more determined.
Why?! When I stopped to really think about it, I had already seen progress in the four short weeks I had been going to the gym. Almost every other person had been nice to me. My blood sugars were better than they had ever been. My pants were fitting looser. I could walk more laps on the track.
I belonged there as much as he did.
As much as anyone did.
I may have been fat, but he was a jackass.
I’m now healthy, but I bet he’s still a mean jerk.
The rest of my experiences with going to the gym? Routine.
Don’t get me wrong; The work was (still is!) hard. LOTS of sweat. Learning was scary. I had some physical challenges. I still felt totally intimidated. But really… The fears I kept rattling around in my head; were all just that. In my head.
No one cared that I was there. Really.
No one laughed, mocked or made fun of me. OK. One guy, one incident. The rest of the time?People kindly asked me if I needed help if I stood staring at a machine.
No one cared that I was fat and in ‘their space’. Seriously NO ONE was even looking at me or anyone else for that matter.
Do you want to know what happened the very FIRST time I went to the gym?
I walked into the locker room with my gym bag, looking like I was either going to cry or bolt. I am sure it was both. A woman saw my distress, waved at me and said ‘Hey – do you need help finding your locker? I did when I started here…”
She assumed I belonged. She offered to help and was friendly. Not a hint of judgement. She instantly smashed some of my long held fears to smithereens.
It cost her nothing to be kind. I valued it deeply.
Have I had bad moments, met mean people, had pointed comments made to me? YES. But the life-truth is that there are mean, ignorant people in the world, well beyond the walls of a gym. Are you going to let them stop you?!
Have I felt dumb and ill-equipped and out of my league? I have fallen off of a stationary bike. Twice. 🙂 This is where having a sense of humor and being able to laugh at yourself is KEY.
Have I wanted to quit? More times than I can count. BUT I was determined to win the war against T2 diabetes. I made friends who held me accountable and expected me to show up. FRIENDS and staying focused on your goal are key in the ‘not quitting’ process.
I thought I was too fat to exercise, but I started anyway.
(What was your tipping point? I would love to hear your success story!)