I feel stupid asking for class schedules or where the water fountains are located. I fumble with the locks on the lockers. I can never seem to set my bag down anywhere but on a puddle of water.
I can only seem to make myself go every week or so, and I frequent three different locations depending on my schedule, so I get turned around in each separate location.
But it's something else that makes me feel so awkward.
I am ALWAYS the fattest person in the room.
I am not always the fattest person in my real life. Many of my friends are about my size. Some are smaller; some are larger.
In fact, I wear a size 18, only slightly above the average size in America. And, frankly, right at the average size in the Deep South.
But at the gym, especially the yoga and Pilates classes that I favor, I am still waiting for the day when someone bigger than me walks in the door.
It hasn't happened in the year that I've been a member of the Y. I have always been the fattest person in the room.
I even invited my own hashtag. #StillTheFattest
So why do I go back, week after week?
I blame the skinny ladies.
I work out more than once a week (just not at the gym). When I work out alone, I tend to walk for 30 minutes or do yoga at home for 20 minutes.
But at the classes, I stay for the full 60 minutes. The social factor works for me. All the other people, regardless of their shape and size, push me to stay the whole time.
I might stop to use my inhaler (yes, during yoga, which indicates how much I struggle) or might assume corpse pose for a full three minutes right in the middle of the hip stretches. All of my ab work needs to be modified by the instructor. All of it. The next day, I am sore and stronger. Each time, it gets easier.
And the key reason I keep going? No matter what happens, I have never gotten one glance of judgment from the skinny ladies in the classes!
No one seems to notice my belly peeking out as my yoga pants roll awkwardly down to the danger zone. (Why do they do that?!?) No one glances up when I walked across the room to get yoga blocks because my arms are too short for virtually every Pilates pose that involves bending down and touching the ground. (There is one exception. The teachers notice, and have started to either walk over and adjust my pose along with a few others or to make an announcement about modifications to the whole class.) No one ever smirks or glares or makes me feel uncomfortable.
If anything, the skinny ladies are more self-conscious. They look more nervous than me, and size does not seem to change that.
I think that, in my mind, I imagine that others notice my size more than they do.
The reality is that anyone in the class who thinks about my size at all seems to take a "good for her for being here" attitude.
If you are scared to try Zumba or spinning or whatever your exercise class of choice happens to be, consider that most people are focused on themselves. Then, do the same thing. Focus on yourself.
Remind yourself that it is easier to step into a class with a perfect butt and toned biceps than it is to bring a flabby belly, puffy cheeks, and thick thighs. When you step into class anyway, you are the one working harder. You are the fighter. You are the strong one.
Thank you, skinny ladies. You made it okay for me to get healthier.
(Side Note: Yes, my gym bag is a bit unusual. I got it a couple of years ago at Target and it's really just a zip-up tote bag, but it's easy to launder, big enough, and zips up.)
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