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1 year ago
6 Things Plus-Sized Women Are Tired of Hearing When They Work Out

Despite what Internet trolls might have you believe, plenty of plus-size women (and men!) love working out at the gym and at group fitness classes. I know because I’m one of them. And I can tell you first-hand that, although you can’t judge someone’s health by their appearance alone, trainers and even exercise buddies with good intentions often do just that. Here are some of the most common—and most frustrating remarks—that I’ve heard as a plus-size woman who also happens to work out.

1. “You’re Doing Such a Great Job!”
This happens to me almost every time I try a new group fitness class. Even if instructors mean well, it’s frustrating when they tell you that you “worked so hard” when you feel—accurately—like you were the worst person in the class (after all, you are new!). While I realize these kinds of comments are meant to be reassuring, they come off as patronizing at best and mocking at worst. When an instructor overemphasizes how “great” I did in a workout, I usually feel like they’re worried I’ll run home and eat a box of donuts if the class made me feel insecure. Oh, yeah, and if I’m red-faced and covered in sweat, I already know how great that workout was.

2. “You Okay? Are You Sure?”
And here we are at the other end of the spectrum. During one boutique indoor-cycling class, the instructor gave me an inquiring thumbs-up at least five times in the 45-minute session. At first, I was happy for his concern. But as the class went on, I felt like it was unwarranted—particularly since I was keeping up with everyone else. His exaggerated attention was embarrassing, and I haven’t been back to that studio location since.

3. “When We're Doing Burpees, Why Don't You Try This Instead.”
This is a tricky one — if you’re in an HIIT class with a lot of variation in people’s ages and sizes, modifications that reduce the amount of stress on your knees, for example, can be incredibly useful. But when you’re the biggest person in a class of thin twenty- and thirty-somethings, it’s hard not to feel judged since the instructor has no idea what you’re capable of before the class starts. Plus-size people can do burpees, too! And if we know that we might not be able to do everything the class requires, we’ll usually mention it to the instructor beforehand.

4. “You're Such an Inspiration!”
Though positive on their face, comments like these encourage a divide between the thin, “healthy” people at the gym and the larger people exercising—who are obviously only showing up to the gym to lose weight. Let me remind you that plenty of plus-size women and men aren’t on weight loss journeys at all! Remarks like these have led to gyms and fitness studios where plus-size people can take classes with instructors who aren’t condescending and only focused on weight loss. Body-positive classes like these are great, but it’d be even better if everyone could, you know, not be condescending and only focused on weight loss.

5. “Wow—I Didn't Expect to See You Here!”
Oh, you’re surprised that I’m going to a treadmill studio this evening? You have no idea what my habits are outside the office, but because I’m not a size four, I must be a lazy slob who goes home and watches Netflix every evening, right?

RELATED: Why I'll Never Use Words Like 'Muffin Top'

If you’re not on a close personal level with someone, it’s probably best to avoid making judgments about how they spend their free time, especially if those judgments are based on their appearance.

This is still better than the ultimate fat-shaming move, though: your size-two coworker mentioning at happy hour that she “doesn’t need to exercise” after you mention taking a fitness class (yup, it happens). Or when you overhear extremely skinny people at the gym complaining about how “fat” they are. Yeah, no.

6. “You Really Shouldn't Be Following Your Workout with That Protein Bar”
For people who are actually concerned about America’s “obesity epidemic,” here’s a tip: You don’t have to share your opinion with every person you assume is obese. Concern trolls are often found making comments about your shopping cart at the grocery store—as if it’s any of your business what food I’m buying—but they definitely show up at the gym, too. (Even their food-shaming can show up at the gym—have you ever had someone in the locker room tell you that a protein bar isn’t really healthy or suggest you get a certain milk in your smoothie? I have.)

Concern trolls at the gym range from people who try to tell you how to use the machines (or suggesting lifting heavier weights to see better results) to the people who make comments about you to their friends when they assume you’re out of earshot. Newsflash: Everyone has to start his or her fitness journey somewhere.

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Meghan DeMaria is a freelance lifestyle writer based in New York City. Her work has previously appeared in Mic, TheWeek.com, and MarieClaire.com, among other places. When she's not hunched over her laptop, Meghan can probably be found in search of the city's best barbecue.

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