After the recent post that went viral body shaming a woman at a gym, it’s hard not to be a little more sensitive walking into one-especially as a woman who’s a little heavier than she used to be and definitely not in great condition. It’s not easy to workout when you’re out of shape and it shows. It’s hard to stay committed and actually follow through with the plan of going to the gym, instead of jumping on the flimsiest excuse to avoid it. But then, to actually walk in and move past the other people working out, looking good in their firm bodies, pounding out a run on a treadmill when the best you can hope for is a brisk walk-that can take courage to a whole new level.
That was me not that long ago. Like last week. Huffing and puffing my way through a brisk walk on the treadmill when two skinny young things walked by laughing. I wondered if they were laughing at me. I don’t know if it was my own discomfort and self-consciousness, but when you’re dripping sweat, red-faced, and breathing like passing out is a real possibility at any moment, you really feel like they could be laughing at you.
It’s easy to see their point of view, the Playboy Bunny and the young girls in the gym. I was once young, skinny, in shape, and dumb. Because at that point in life I don’t think any of us have the respect for our bodies that comes with time. The respect that comes with living life and the experience that comes with it. The respect that comes with what our bodies go through over time, and how hard it is to change where you are and overcome to get somewhere better. It’s hard.
They look at this body and they see someone out of shape, breathing hard through a speed walk. They look at this body and they see the extra pounds, the muffin top, the thicker thighs, and arms with a little more jiggle. They look at this body and they judge where it’s at, the vision it presents to the world. You may not be able to “unsee” the jiggle. But there is so much more that you can’t see. You can’t see where this body has been, and the incredible things it’s done.
This body gave birth for the first time at 26. Naturally. Vaginally. Needing (a LOT of) stitches afterward.
This body got pregnant again 2 and half years later. Then miscarried 9 weeks later.
This body got pregnant again 6 months later. Then miscarried 10 weeks later.
This body lost the 40 pounds that those pregnancies put on.
This body got pregnant again, and with hormone supplements managed to stay pregnant. This body went 42 weeks before delivering in one of the hottest summers on record, with rolling blackouts and no air conditioning. Oh yeah, and more stitches…
After years of abnormal pap smears, this body was diagnosed with cervical cancer. So instead of having another baby, this body had surgery.
This body earned a black belt in judo. In it’s 30s, training with only much bigger men. This body separated it’s shoulder sparring, then every day for a month carried a thrashing, screaming 3 year old in to preschool (over the other shoulder of course).
This body broke a collar bone training a horse for competition, then drove to an emergency room on its own with a massive concussion (it doesn’t always make great healthcare decisions).
This body got pregnant again at 39. Developed gestational diabetes. Managed it through diet alone. Developed high blood pressure. Delivered baby number 3, all while Daddy was overseas.
This body takes care of 3 kids in 3 very different stages of development and meets everyone’s needs every day.
This body is fighting weight gain, high blood pressure and the stresses of everyday life with a soldier serving overseas.
So, you can look at this body and see just what’s on the surface-the extra pounds and the jiggle. You can go ahead and laugh and make judgments. But this body isn’t done. This body is fighting it’s way back to good health. And I’ve seen what it can accomplish, so as long as I don’t let my insecurity and discomfort get in the way. So you, with your judgement, laughter, and rolling eyes-you can shove it. I’ve got plans for this body. It’s going to dance at my grandchildren’s weddings. You can keep your judgement, you don’t matter. Which is what I tell myself when you start to get in my head, making me doubt whether or not I want to walk through those gym doors.
And to those of you who are working out right now, with a few more pounds than you’d like-I salute you. I know how hard it is to get through those gym doors. But you made it, and you’re giving it all you’ve got. Way to go, keep it up.
For those of you struggling with the discomfort of walking in to the gym and still feeling the absolute panic and the idea of walking past those skinny young things on your way to a treadmill: you are not alone. There’s a decent chance that at least one of those skinny things was once in your shoes. And if they give you crap for not being up to their standards, well, hey, that’s what they made middle fingers for. If only in your mind.