Do Tell, Michelle: I'm Fat And I Love The Gym. Big Fucking Deal.

Do Tell, Michelle: I'm Fat And I Love The Gym. Big Fucking Deal.

I am a fat woman whose favourite past time is the gym.

Shocked? Well you shouldn't be.

But I don't work out for weight loss. I never have.

Why do I work out? I'll tell you: I work out, out of respect for the times in my life when I couldn't walk. I work out because I enjoy it. I work out for my mental health. I work out because it helps me to have gratitude for my body. I work out because I want to.

But for weight loss? No.

I have worked out consistently for the last five years, and my experiences in a gym are the reason I completely understand why fat people feel uncomfortable there. It's the place I have been body shamed the most; if I were any less stubborn or less body confident, that would be a big enough reason to stop me from ever stepping foot in one again. As a result, I'm particularly careful about the places where I choose to work out. It's because of this that this morning, when I saw this new sign hanging outside my gym, I couldn't help but be angry - and honestly - just disheartened.

 Credit: Michelle Elman, Scarred Not Scared

Credit: Michelle Elman, Scarred Not Scared

It was unnecessary and didn't motivate me to work out in the slightest. In fact, it made me want to turn around and never come back. Clearly bodies like mine are not welcome there, and if my body is not welcome, then nor is my money.

Forgetting the fatphobic message for a second, this poster claims that with a ONE DAY pass and changing how you eat, you can get a six pack. No one in the history of the world has got a six pack from only changing what they eat, and no one has EVER got a six pack from one workout. Yet this is what they want you to believe! They're selling you an idea that such an extreme body transformation is possible by making one simple choice.

Actually, it's not a possibility for many people in the world. This just highlights how ableist the language in the gym is, because God forbid someone who wasn't able bodied, like me, would want to go to the gym. That's not even mentioning the lack of accessibility!

This is what these gyms do. They claim they are promoting health but instead they promote weight loss. Not for health, but for appearance. Not in a healthy, moderate way, but as a quick fix. The this can be yours in a day way. Health is not the same as weight loss, so can we stop equating the two?

These kinds of fitness people are the same people who think fat people working out is inspiring, and will tell you so in the most patronising way possible. That's because they see you as a before picture, someone they can market at a later date and promote you to demonstrate their 'results'. What they don't seem to understand is that my body gets the health benefits of working out whether it shows in my appearance or not.

Then there are the even worse fitness people. The people who will come and correct my technique because there's no way a fat woman could know what she's doing because it MUST be her first time. It’s usually when I’m doing modified exercises to work around my physical limitations but never mind, you know my body better than me. These people don't care to know about chronic pain or chronic illness - especially if you're fat - because the automatic assumption is that you did something to cause that pain or illness.

Then there are the people who assume that even when you're in the gym, you're being lazy. One time, a person came up to me while I was walking on a treadmill, just to ask me why I 'bother going to the gym if I'm just going to walk". Actually, I had just run for the first time continuously for 20 minutes and was cooling down, because did you know it's really bad for you to not cool down after you exercise? More importantly, I was 6 months out of an invasive abdominal surgery and walking was a part of my rehabilitation. For those who don't know, you have to be able to walk before you can run.

Then there are the people who laugh at me when I'm paddleboarding in the middle of Paddington, because a fat girl on a paddleboard might as well be a comedy scene out of your favourite movie.

There are the people who see me as a failure for working out for five years consistently three to five times a week, and having not lost any weight yet.

There are the people who assume that I don't work out "properly" or "hard" enough when I mention how often I work out.

And yet, these are the same people who will continue to claim that all they care about is health. Please, give me a break. This is about ego and wanting to feel better by comparing yourself to the fat person working out next to you. It’s about you wanting an ego boost by thinking you have some moral high ground by existing in a more society-approved body. If you actually care about health, how about you make your gym more inclusive?

Fitness, working out and exercising do not need to come with body shaming behaviour and fatphobic language, because it's not necessary. So please, can you stop making it a complimentary addition to my gym membership?

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