I have a rather embarrassing confession to make, and I am looking to you for advice.
I recently committed myself to getting healthy and fit this year, and recently joined an awesome gym. I love this gym, and could not be happier. (Thank you, by the way, for the wonderfully encouraging article you wrote “What Skinny People REALLY Think About Fat People At The Gym“.)
However, I find myself growing very self-conscious in the locker room. I am exceptionally out of shape, and am very embarrassed to change clothes in front of other people. It’s really intimidating being obese and going to the gym, especially in situations where you find yourself getting undressed and dressed in front of people who are much more fit than I am.
I need some advice on how to conquer my fears and anxieties until the time when I am comfortable with my body image.
Thank you for your honest question. As I’ve mentioned before, I grew up as an overweight child. And even though your situation is quite different from my own, your question immediately conjured up the same nervousness and anxiety that I felt when changing in public.
Of course, the are plenty of strategies to minimize your nudity. You could change in a bathroom or shower stall. Or you could wrap a towel around yourself. Or even wear your gym clothes under your street clothes. But all of these strategies merely treat the symptoms of a deeper issue.
Though I’m a big fan of building stronger, healthier and more loving relationships with our bodies, the reality is that it’s a journey for all of us. And each of us is at a different stage of comfortabilty. Nothing changes overnight, and there’s no reason to beat yourself up over feelings of shame or embarrassment.
Your time at the gym is a step in healing this relationship with your body. Your body craves movement and exercise, and to spend time at the gym is to give your body what it wants and deserves. In this sense, you’re not exercising because you hate your body. On the contrary, your exercising because you love your body.
I could remind you that changing in the locker room really is nothing more than changing clothes. Or that many of the other people in the locker room – even those that outwardly appear fit – are secretly struggling with their own insecurities. Or that your feelings of discomfort come from you and you alone. Or that humans come in different shapes and sizes – and that most people are too caught up in their own world to pay much attention to other people in the locker room. But the reality is that our body image issues can’t be solved in a soundbite or a single column of advice.
At the end of the day, all of us are at the gym because we have a goal. Goals, by their very definition, are the object of our ambition. They’re something to which we reach, work and strive. It’s not always easy and often times it means pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zone. It’s all part of the ride. Just don’t give any of the challenges you face the power to prevent you from creating the life you’ve always wanted. And the life that you deserve.
P.S. In the comments below, share how you’ve dealt with locker room embarrassment.