Picture it, you’re walking out of the YMCA with someone. While you are a member of a gym, you weren’t even there to work out. You were there to support an event. Yet as you walk to your vehicle, a car drives by. A passenger yells out their window, “I think you need to work out a lot more!” This person has just judged you on what they saw in a brief few seconds. But let me share what they didn’t see.
- You have already lost 40 lbs. (give or take).
- You are more active than you have been in as long as you can remember.
- Your muscles are growing.
- Your body is shrinking.
- The other night you ran for the first time in years. You didn’t even realize you could until you tried.
- You’re over halfway through meeting a challenge of working out 100 times in 6 months.
- You are able to consistently up your weight used when working out surprising yourself on how strong you really are.
- You are not lazy as you used to be. You now want to be doing things instead of lounging around.
- You are eating healthier than you have in years.
- You are starting to realize you really are worth it.
There are many more truths this person does not see. When it comes down to it, what this person said doesn’t matter. This person passed through your life in approximately 5 seconds. Is that a person worth listening to? Is that a person worth believing? Is it worth putting everything you know aside to believe what this one person said? No! The only person you have to answer to 24 hours a day is yourself. So stand tall, stand firm, and hold tight to what you know is true. Listen to yourself (those positive voices, not the negative ones), not the strangers who know nothing about you.
That dreaded 4-letter word. (No, not that one!) Fear. We have all heard the word. We all know what it means. But do we realize how crippling it is? This word can either rule you or motivate you. What role do you let it play in your life?
Starting on this new journey was scary. Opening myself up to everyone was difficult. Letting go of habits I’ve had for years to embrace new ones is not easy. I’m not that far in and I have already wanted to give up several times. And that is where the road splits.
When the going gets tough, the tough get going. How many times have you heard that? Too many to count I would imagine. Easy to say, hard to do. I’m not just making a small change here, I am doing a 180 – or at least trying to. After all the journey starts w/ the first step, right? (Yes, I know – we’ve all heard that a few times as well!) If I am going to succeed in my journey, I have to change eating habits. I have had the same eating habits for as long as I can remember. Oh sure, I have had those momentary diets – and some actually worked – but as soon as you fall back into your old habits, you end up right back where you started. I have had to change my activity level. This is hard to admit out loud (or in writing as the case may be) but I am not exactly an active person. I realize some of you are not shocked by this realization but its something I had to face. Therefore, another change I have to make. This whole journey is almost nothing but change. And with that, at least in my case, comes fear. And with that fear are two main areas.
- Fear of Failing Others – There is a lot on the line here. Have you ever watched a professional sporting event, or one of those reality competitions, etc. and you see someone competing and they state how they can’t fail because there are so many people out there counting on them? I never understood that until now. In previous attempts at losing weight I never really shared it with too many people. I may have told some of my immediate family. I may have told a best friend or two. I may have shared with a close co-worker. But I never announced it to all who know me and many who don’t. By sharing this blog I am basically telling the world my intentions. And that is to lose weight, get fit, change my eating habits, and improve my health. That’s quite a bit to take on. And I have everyone reading this and everyone who knows me and knows of my intentions to hold me accountable. If I fail…if I fall back into my old habits…if I give up…I fail everyone who knows I am trying to lose weight and improve myself and my health. If that happens I will feel like I let everyone down. Most who know me will tell me no I didn’t let them down. Most will say I tried and that alone is great. Most will say they still love and care about me anyway no matter what size I am. And while that is likely true, I will still carry the burden of letting everyone down. I will still feel responsible for not holding myself to it. And that brings us to the 2nd point….
- Fear of Failing Myself – In the end if I lose this battle the only one I fail is myself. Am I proud of the attempt? Yes. Am I proud of myself for dedicating myself fully this time instead of trying the latest passing fad? Yes. Am I constantly encouraging myself trying to keep myself going? Yes. Are there days I feel I have failed? Too often. I can let the fear grip me and overtake me until I give in. I can let the voice of fear penetrate my thoughts until it takes over. I can let the wave of fear wash over me until I feel there is no hope as I suffocate beneath its weight. But what do I gain by giving in and giving up? How do I help myself if like every other time I decide it is too hard and I don’t want to try anymore? What changes will I see if I cave and quit? Nothing of course! If I am going to succeed, I have to let the fear motivate me. I have to face it, confront it, and guide it instead of letting it guide me.
The bottom line is this – you either conquer fear, or it conquers you. Each day I am faced with some type of fear. It may be fear of being the “fat” one at the gym. It may be the fear of looking stupid if I don’t have a plan on what I will be doing at the gym. It may be the fear of eating too much or eating the wrong thing. It may be the fear of going too far and becoming obsessed with trying to eat right and workout. It may be the fear of letting others down or failing myself. But each day I choose to rise above it. Each day I choose to face and confront it. Each day I make the choice to rise, not run!
For those of you that don’t know, the gym is not the friend of someone who is overweight. Shocking, I know! There is a very important reason for this. And it all leads back to comfort! But we can break it down further than that.
- The Stares. When you are overweight it can be scary going to the gym. Being large, rounded, pleasantly plumb, horizontally challenged (however you like to put it) when you walk into a gym you expect all eyes to be on you. Even if they aren’t you can still feel them on you. It is all in your head but it sure seems real. The irony of it is my eyes usually end up on everyone else expecting their eyes to be looking at me. So I guess that completely flips things, doesn’t it? By feeling like I’m the one being gawked at, I in turn end up being the gawker. Well…..that’s not entirely accurate. It’s more like scanning. I am just scanning the area to see if anyone is looking at me. I expect them to be looking at me in disgust, in judgement, in pity, in disbelief. Yet honestly, the looks aren’t there. The funny thing about gyms is if people are there it is usually for a purpose. Everyone is there for a reason and they are focused on what they are doing. Not on you. Whew! One challenge down.
- Fear of Looking Stupid! Overweight and regular gym attendance just don’t seem to go together. Generally speaking many people who are overweight don’t have much gym experience. Gyms have a lot of equipment. If you’re not familiar with it, then you can be overwhelmed! Worse yet, you already feel like everyone is staring at you and now you’re about to attempt to use gym equipment and you have no clue what you are doing. Sure – that sounds like a party waiting to happen! Well, entertainment anyway for everyone else there. The good news? Let’s refer back to what we found out in point #1 – everyone is involved in what they are doing. They likely won’t even notice your first attempt. In addition, thankfully, gyms have personal trainers and staff who know the equipment and are there to help you. I know, I know….refer back to point #1. You think they are staring and judging as well. This is their job though. They are there to help. They help people of all shapes and sizes. Why would you be any different? Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
- Fear of How You Look Exercising! We’ve all heard the “fat” people cliches….it felt like an earthquake when they ran; the fat was rippling like waves on the ocean; etc. So when you want to put in a little more effort the fear can grip you like you gripped that last doughnut you ate! If you run on the treadmill it will sound like a herd of elephants and those around you will have to hold on for dear life to keep from being bounced off of theirs. Your fat is going to flap around like a flag blowing in the wind. Guess what folks – refer back to point #1….everyone is too busy w/ what they are doing to notice you.
The truth of it is going to the gym can be very frightening for someone like me! Take today for instance. I went to the gym during my lunch. I saw several familiar faces that are usually there around the same time. Most there were women (and they were kicking butt might I add!). I knew those that were there would not pass judgement upon me. I felt safe. Then I went back after work and everything changed. This time there was only 1 other female (not overweight by the way – very toned) and several men with large muscles and well built (not the usual familiar faces). They were in the free weight area and I was on the treadmill. And I was intimidated. I felt unworthy to be there. I felt like I didn’t belong. I felt out of place. I was ready to be done and leave as quickly as possible. But if I gave up and left the only person I hurt is me. If I give in to my fear, I am the one who loses. I had to hush the voices in my head – the ones who have been with me most of my life – and realize I was the one making myself feel that way. It wasn’t them that was looking down on me and insulting me. No, I was doing that to myself! That can be hard to face. The bullies aren’t always on the outside. They are often on the inside as well.
Yes, going to the gym can be very frightening. But it can also be worth it. You see, every step I take on the treadmill, every weight I lift, every moment of my effort at the gym is worth it because I am making progress. Progress I have never made before. Progress I could be missing out on. Is it scary? Yes! Is it worth it? Yes! I leave feeling better, more energized, and accomplished. When I complete a workout and I leave for once the bullies in my head are silenced. They are silenced by the pride I feel for having done this. To gym, or not to gym. That is the question. And for me the answer is simple – hi ho, hi ho, it’s to the gym I go…..