Category Archives: Body Image

Body Shame and the Gym

I recently went to the gym and was having a productive time until I saw this posted on the message wall.


I doubt the person who wrote this knew how negative it is. Body shame is ingrained in us from birth by society.

I doubt the person who wrote this knew how negative it is. Body shame is ingrained in us from birth by society.

My good feeling from working out quickly left. I felt agitated and certainly didn’t care to continue leg presses. (Good thing I already did cardio!) I took a picture so I would remember the quote, but chose not to name the location or show the actual picture because it isn’t fair to do so without speaking with the staff at the gym. Besides, I have been to plenty of gyms that have similar “affirmations” or “morale boosts”. The problem is not just one gym or one person’s mindset. The problem is deeply imbedded into our culture. Modern day North Americans tend to hold high those with large chests and thin waists. We look down on cellulite even though skinny folks may have it. We are expected to conform to this idea of beauty at any and all costs.

Who cares about your self-esteem? CONFORM!

Who cares if you have children to raise or a job to do? CONFORM!

I considered letting my children join a gym, if they asked to, once they were old enough. After all, I prefer the gym to the heat of Florida in the summer. I am now rethinking this idea. Gyms have a variety of machines and trainers who help, but some of the members (and perhaps staff) may post body shaming statements. They may not realize what these statements indicate, but the undertone is there.

I am not against healthy choices and exercise. I am round and happy with my body, but would like to feel stronger so I go to the gym and try to stay active with my family. I eat chocolate, but also veggies. It’s okay to be me and it is okay to be you.

It is okay to urge healthy choices.

It is not okay to suggest that you must cover up if you are large. That is body shaming.

If we want less bullying, less suicide, and a healthier population we need to back away from the body shaming. We need to accept everyone as is and encourage without placing a negative possibility to an affirmation or motivating statement. Posting statements like the one I shared above can discourage those who are already feeling inadequate or unhappy.

Try these instead.

Let’s take a walk together.

Teach me how to make your favorite healthy meal, then let’s have dinner together.

What is your goal? You can do it. Here is how.

Show me your favorite exercise, then I will show you my favorite one.

By using teamwork and not sharing judgments, you can create an encouraging environment for exercise and good health without body shaming.