An Open Letter to the Woman Who Told Me I Intimidated Her at the Gym

 

To the woman who said my love of fitness made her feel bad about herself,

I understand your struggle. I have felt that way countless times as I looked in the mirror or talked to a gym representative. Check my Google search history over the past few years and you’ll see variations of the phrases “I want to get toned” or “I want to lose weight” all over the place. Even now, as someone who has finally fallen in love with fitness, is running a sports supplement company, and has achieved a look others love, hate, or envy, I can’t help but search for that one exercise that will really help with a troubled region (even though I wholeheartedly know spot reducing isn’t actually possible). So, I understand that we’ve been taught misguided rules as to what it means to be healthy, sexy, and in shape, but I want you to know that it doesn’t need to be that way.

Throughout high school and college I was never particularly large, but also not particularly in shape either. I was “skinny-fat” and then I was chubby and then I was “skinny-fat” again. At some point I was probably considered overweight based on the BMI scale and I spent years trying to tone different parts of my body to hide my flaws. I worked at many different gyms and was secretly jealous of the naturally skinny girls that ran on the treadmill for hours and seemed to sweat glitter, looking beautiful the whole time.

You see, I was you. I was intimidated and at times sad, beating myself up that I loved to eat snacks so much. The fact that I couldn’t (or wasn’t ready to) control my physical health to the point I truly desired gave my self-esteem a swift blow. The whole time this feeling came in waves, pounding me, often causing me to feel really lousy.

What I really needed to learn was that fitness is about more than looking hot. It’s about motivating yourself and others, teaching yourself how to control your will power, and being dedicated to something that will make you happier and healthier. It’s about making new friends, trying new things, and learning to be happy with yourself throughout the journey. You learn to inspire those around you, build up your confidence, and become the best version of you that you can be. Yet a lot of that gets mixed up in the shuffle of bad body talk.

Even at this point in my fitness journey, I am sometimes guilty of bad body talk. I’ll complain that I am fat even though I’m most definitely not. At times I compare myself to others and wish that I was skinnier, stronger, or more toned (i.e. muscular) than the women around me. This results in me feeling envious and impacts my own progress, much like it probably does to you. This used to be a much bigger issue for me during my very bad body image stage in college. Eventually, though, I learned the importance of choosing to build a body I loved, not just one that other people would love. However, these negative thoughts that are hammered into our mind can be detrimental to women and girls who haven’t gotten a strong handle on how body image impacts self-worth and confidence. At best it causes a few days where you feel particularly bad about yourself. At worst, it can lead to severe eating disorders, depression, or even suicide.

Now, I’m not saying all women need to go out there and lift tons of weights to be happy with themselves. Most of my friends wouldn’t enjoy what I do and that’s fine. What I am saying, though, is that you need to stop letting comparison and self-loathing impact you and your own goals. Don’t fall into the societal ideal that women are weak, should constantly look like models, or that you could never achieve what I’m achieving. Get out of your own head and start changing your life through action instead of limiting yourself through judgments.

You are beautiful. You are strong. You are smart. Now, prove it! Stop being afraid of what might happen and take the time to become who you really want to be. If that means learning to lift weights and become stronger, good for you. If that means you want to compete up on stage next to Dana Linn Bailey looking like a sexy beast, that’s great! Maybe you just want to run your first 5k, eat a little bit better, and improve your heart health. Go for it! I can guarantee that if you just asked someone for a little help and motivation, they’d push you in the right direction.

So, to the women who are intimidated by those “fit chicks” in the gym and on Instagram, you shouldn’t be. I promise you we’re actually quite friendly and would go out of our way to help you reach your goals. More importantly, don’t let societal ideals about body image interfere with the fact that you are amazing and doing the best that you can. Even just being at the gym is a huge step that many people don’t bother to take. I applaud every person who fits exercise into their schedule as it’s important for health, happiness, and stress relief. You should be patting yourself on the back too.

No matter what your goal is, though, don’t let yourself be overcome by the fear of “what ifs.” You’re much stronger than you think. As Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t—you’re right.” Now, brush yourself off and reach for your dreams because you can do whatever you truly put your mind to.

Sincerely,

Lindsay, The Fit Chick Who Was Once the Intimidated Chick

Lindsay 1

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