Have you ever avoided a gym because you lack confidence in your body? Do you sometimes feel—or have you ever felt—like you need to be fit to show up to a fitness class?
The health benefits of daily exercise are widespread nowadays, with more and more people opting for a healthier lifestyle. However, many women—mostly—avoid going to the gym even today because of gym shame.
Are you afraid of going to the gym because people will judge you?
From body shame to gym shame, the distance is very short. And although exercise could help many of us feel more confident and better about our bodies, the fear of criticism from others at the gym keeps us away from physical activity. Such a sad vicious circle.
Body shame and Gym shame
Body shame is mostly about the nervousness that most of us feel with our leggings and a t-shirt. But Gym shame is not only associated with anxiety about the unprotected body or any surplus pounds. Gym shame is also the stress of the rookie in an area where most people know each other well, and they also know the programs and how to use the exercise machines. When we talk about gym shame, we are referring to the stress of comparing ourselves to others in the room and feeling shame about our fitness level and our pounds.
What keeps you away from the gym?
Is it the fear of criticism, comparisons, and bad commentary keeping you away?
Studies show that children and adults avoid exercise because of the social stigma attached to the body. A research performed by the University of North Carolina in the US has shown that women who primarily focus on their body image are less likely to continue exercising. Those who put all the emphasis on their physique are unable to make exercise a part of their life, so they tend to exercise on and off, while exhibiting symptoms of depression and eating disorders.
Whatever your fitness goal, exercise is good for you, but it seems that other motives work better in the long-term. Try focusing on
- Improving your health
- Managing stress levels
- Improving your blood circulation and decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease
- Lowering your cholesterol, etc.
Focus on positive goals
If you would like to go to the gym to improve your physique, or your health or both, but you hesitate because you are not happy with your body image, try to change the way you see things.
Keep in mind why you want to join the gym:
- to get energized
- to be more positive
- to meet new people
- to be healthier, physically and mentally
Stay positive, and remember it is about choosing a healthy and positive lifestyle rather than focusing on the extra pounds and how to lose them.
How can you manage body shaming?
The secret is to simply move on with your life and your personal goals and ignore any instance of body shaming. But since this is easier said than done, here are some tips that can help you deal with it.
- Remember never to take such comments personally. Anyone making the comments is most likely reflecting themselves on you.
- Do not respond to anyone who criticizes your body.
- In case this happens on Social Media, block the sender.
- Express your feelings to your friends, family, or partner and ask for their support. No shame in that!
- Keep taking good care of your body.
- Make sure you feel good about yourself and work on your self-esteem. Consider asking an expert to help. Strong self-esteem is the best solution to any kind of bullying.
Remember your goals
Whenever you feel nervous, remember why you want to go to the gym:
You want to make your body stronger, to improve your health, to take care of yourself.
I am sure that when your goals are clear in your head, any negative criticism is diminished, or at least it will be easier to ignore it.
If you need some help getting started and incorporating healthy habits into your daily life, you can join an Extreme Fitness Camp on the exotic island of the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean. People there will be happy to support you and offer advice, plus there are lots of programs to choose from. Explore all the exciting options.
Time to start a new chapter in your life!
Campus Health, University of North Carolina, Body Image, https://campushealth.unc.edu/health-topics/body-image-eating-disorders/body-image
Bustle, Seven ways to get over feeling self-conscious at the gym, https://www.bustle.com/articles/144873-7-ways-to-get-over-feeling-self-conscious-at-the-gym
NetDoctor, 5 ways to combat negative gym thoughts, https://www.netdoctor.co.uk/healthy-living/fitness/a28838/not-confident-at-gym/
SHAPE, 11 Tips to Banish Gym-intimidation and Boost Confidence, https://www.shape.com/lifestyle/mind-and-body/11-tips-banish-gym-timidation-and-boost-confidence