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A Healthy Conundrum: Facing Scrutiny at the Gym and Beyond

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. No, not the actual elephant, although I would love to chat about how I came to love those majestic creatures, but the metaphorical one. The one that waddles alongside me, leaving invisible footprints of judgment and misunderstanding. Yes, I am talking about obesity.

Society has this peculiar way of assuming things. It assumes that if you are overweight, you must be lazy, undisciplined, and perpetually parked on the couch with a family-sized bag of chips and gallon of soda pop. Funny, they always show junk food and that amuses me because I got fat primarily on real food.

However, the reality is far more nuanced. As someone who carries many, many extra pounds, I have become adept at navigating the obstacle course that is trying to live a healthier lifestyle. And let me tell you, it’s not a walk in the park. It is more like a sweaty, uphill hike with a backpack full of rocks.

The stealthy scrutiny

Imagine stepping out for a leisurely walk. The sun kisses your cheeks, and the breeze tousles your braids. You are all set for a dose of long-awaited sunshine and a dash of endorphins. But wait! There they are: the invisible judges. They are the ones no one asked for or needed. They perch on park benches and sip their hot drinks or they hang by the weights in the gym and dissect your every jiggly step. "Look at her," they fake whisper. "I would not have a life if I was that fat. Can you believe she came out in public?"

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Obese individuals face a magnifying glass of scrutiny. Every salad we choose over fries, every step we take, and every yoga pose we attempt is under surveillance. It’s like being in a reality show where the prize is societal approval. But guess what? We’re not here for the ratings; we’re here for our well-being. We deserve the same amount of respect as anyone else, maybe even more.

The gym saga

Ah, the gym — the place where dreams of 6-pack abs collide with the harsh reality of real life without Photoshop or FaceTune. The reality is also that gyms can be intimidating. In my experience, some fail to meet the inclusivity matters that they promote. Some are like exclusive clubs one reads about where only the svelte and sculpted belong. If one can get past any mental obstacles that loom, there is the practical realities of the equipment itself.

Gym equipment is often manufactured to 1 or 2 standards. I can tell you as a short and fat person, I do not meet either one of those standards. Beyond the obvious difficulties that being short brings, weight makes a difference as well. Machines are not made for those who are proposed to need them the most. They are not necessarily as weight-bearing as they need to be for my personal safety. Treadmills need to have higher upper limits and bikes should have pedals that are wider in order to accommodate thicker thighs. These are just 2 examples.

The weight of judgement

Picture this: a serene yoga studio, mats neatly aligned, incense wafting through the air. You unroll your mat, ready to channel your inner zen master. But as you settle into your first downward dog, you feel it — the weight of judgment. The gazes from hopeful yogis, the raised eyebrows that scream, "What’s she doing here?" Suddenly, your chaturanga feels less like a flow and more like a battle.

The Reality: Healthy activities become minefields of shame. We tiptoe through Zumba classes, hoping our jiggles don’t offend anyone. We run, not just to burn calories, but to outrun the whispers. And yoga? Well, we’re warriors — warriors who fight not just gravity but also prejudice. But guess what? We’re still here, breathing, stretching, and daring to be seen.

This or That

Have you ever felt judged while working out at the gym?

Breaking the chains

So, how do we dismantle these barriers? It starts with empathy. Let’s recognize that obesity isn’t a character flaw; it’s a complex equation of genetics, environment, and life choices. Regardless, we should all have access to the things that keep us healthy. For starters:

Inclusive Spaces: Gyms, parks, and wellness centers, listen up! Let’s invest in equipment that accommodates all shapes and sizes. Let’s create spaces where everyone feels welcome, whether they’re marathon runners or marathon Netflix-watchers.

Don’t Shame: Instead of side-eyeing us, embrace us or leave us alone. We are not lacking in knowledge. We can talk nutrition, mental health, and the joy of movement. Replace judgment with decency. Trust me, we’ll appreciate it.

Visibility Matters: We need role models. Show us that health comes in all sizes. Celebrate our victories — the 5K completed, the yoga pose mastered. Let’s normalize our presence.

And to my fellow wellness aficionados, whether you’re carrying extra pounds, battling chronic illness, or simply trying to find your balance, I salute you. You have already broken barriers.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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