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So I recently started going to the gym again. By “recently” I mean I went for the first time yesterday and by “again” I mean I haven’t gone regularly since I was about thirteen years old. There are a lot of weird body issues tied up in the whole gym experience for me, and I think this is probably an experience a lot of people deal with regardless of their size.

There’s this idea that you have to already look a certain way before you go to the gym. That you look too skinny, too fat, too flabby– you don’t have the right clothes, you look wrong somehow. New. You stand out. This is especially true if you’re fat.

Get on that treadmill, fatty! Just .. you know, not where I can see you.

You’d think it’d be a no-brainer. If fat people are constantly mocked for being fat, if we have to deal with being yelled at to diet and get off our asses and go to the gym you’d think that the gym would be a safe space. They couldn’t yell at you to get off your ass and go work out– you’re at the gym. You are working out. You’re doing what you’re “supposed” to be doing. You’d think this is the time people would, even through their sea of ignorance in assuming that you have to be thin/ripped to be healthy, would go “Hey, good for them.”

You would be incorrect.

A quick Google search will pull up tons of similar articles, but here are some choice bits from this one that are pretty prevalent in this sort of mindset.

Secondly, if you’re a mammoth plopper with a keg instead of a beer belly, you can nix the sit-ups altogether. No one wants to see it and you’re not doing anything for yourself save self-delusion.

Bear in mind you’re talking to people who are already ashamed of our bodies as a general rule. We already feel like our bodies are on constant display, to be mocked at any moment. So this entire attitude? Not fucking helpful.

For the ladies, cover it up, and not with form fitting clothing.  You have big tits because your fat, not because they’re nice.  No one wants to see them or that mass of flesh you call an ass.  Doing a week’s worth of Yoga, buying a Zumba DVD and going tanning doesn’t make you hot, that makes you Snookie without the hair.  Earn the right to wear those clothes you think you can wear now.

You hear that? Earn the right! Earn the right to be seen in public, ladies! Your tits and ass better be a specific size or shape so these menfolk can oogle them. Think of the menfolk!

We’re fucked if we do and fucked if we don’t. If we sit around on our asses and don’t constantly look like we’re fighting off the fat monsters threatening to consume our body and infest us with diabeetus, we get mercilessly mocked or condescendingly scolded on how we’re hideous blob monsters destined for an early grave. But if we do anything about it it best not be in public where our jiggling fat sacks can be subjected to the eyes of poor, innocent bystanders. Or poor, innocent gym equipment.

Ruiz joined Mademoiselle Fitness Center in south Oklahoma City. During one of her visits, Ruiz said a worker approached her while she was on a stationary bike and told her to get off.

“The lady said I couldn’t get on the machines because we are overweight,” Ruiz said. “Everybody was watching seeing what was going on, and I got very sad because I’m so emotional about my weight right now.”

She said the gym told her she could instead use their aerobics room to walk in, but Ruiz said if she wanted to just walk she would do that outside for free.

Ruiz said that’s what she is now doing and why she wants out of her contract and doesn’t feel she should have to pay their cancellation fee.

“If ya’ll didn’t want big people to get on your machine, ya’ll would have told us, and if we would have known, we wouldn’t have come here,” Ruiz said.

It’s a lose/lose situation. So we’re not supposed to be fat, but we’re not supposed to do anything to make ourselves not fat. We’re supposed to go into our homes and magically come out having shed our fat suits like snake skin. “Hello, world! Look at me, I am finally fit for viewing!” Since our bodies aren’t ours anyway– especially if you’re a woman. Our bodies are a constant display for others, naturally.

Then you have the group of people at the gym who are condescendingly interested in your first steps along what must naturally be your weight loss journey. “Oh, it’s so good to see you trying to change your life for the better!” “What’s your goal weight?” “Here honey, let me help you with that bar.”

The big difference here is the intentions are good. Unlike the above mentioned assholes, these people at least think they’re being nice and helpful. They likely genuinely wish me well and often offer helpful tips such as where to start out, what sort of exercises are good for beginners. As good as the intentions are, the method is insulting as hell. Assuming you know more about my body than me is insulting as hell. Assuming you can tell me a formula to follow and that I will end up skinny and ripped because all bodies function this way and the only reason yours isn’t is because you’ve been too fucking lazy your whole life to get there is insulting as hell. You’re like evangelical Christians come to save my soul. Fuck off, my soul is fine.

Because the only reason people go to the gym as fat people is to become thin people. It couldn’t possibly be because I enjoy things like weight lifting and swimming– and have since before I can remember. In fact, the only reason I stopped going is because of the two groups above. Knowing that going to a gym looking like how I did meant that I was very likely to get stared at, laughed at, and in fact did a couple of times. Especially if I dared wear a swimsuit.

I’m not at the gym to lose weight, I’m not at the gym so you’ll approve of my body. I’m there because I like it. I’m there because lifting weights makes me feel fucking powerful. I’m there because I love to swim and I give no actual fucks as to whether or not my thunder thighs offend you.

But not every fat person is there yet. A lot of us are afraid of the very realities that are not only common, but praised and rewarded. “Yeah, when fat people go to the gym and then eat bad stuff it really pisses me off.” Why? Why the hell do you care? It’s not your body. Focus on you, jackass. I’m over here doing my thing and I’m not judging you for your orange tan or hair plugs, so back off.

The next time you see a fat person at the gym, leave them the fuck alone. Don’t giggle to your friends. Don’t even go up and tell them how proud you are that they’re working so hard (because the implication there is, of course, that before they were a fat lazy hideous slob and also that you know what they should be doing with their bodies better than they do). Just leave them the hell alone, let them do their thing, and go about your business as if policing fat people isn’t actually your job. Because newsflash: it isn’t.