“I didn’t fit the image . . . I sure didn’t look like a bicyclist by any means.” My friend was pretty heavy back then. She told me that she knew she had to start exercising. “Biking to work sounded very pleasant to me. I drove for a living, lived near work, and would have loved the opportunity to slow down, see the scenery, get fresh air, get to work AND ‘accidentally’ get some exercise, too. It was perfect and I peddled happily along when I noticed a walker who noticed me at the same time—and he burst into laughter with an obvious opinion of how ridiculous I looked. I didn’t get back on the bike, didn’t find another ‘fun’ exercise, and gained weight to the point of having diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.”
Six months ago she joined a gym. She was very concerned that she didn’t “look” the part. She confided in me that she often tried to hide to change clothes or sneak into the shower. She draped her clothes so that they would hide her. And then there was the treadmill. She tired-out so quickly and felt embarrassed to leave the treadmill so soon after having arrived. “Others who were there before me were still there after I’d left—it was one embarrassment after another.”
But she kept at it and something began happening to my friend. She started getting stronger and steadier. She felt better and was able to do more and she discovered an important point: “. . . all those people out there on the floor are doing the same thing I’m doing—they’ve just been doing it longer and with more commitment. I pay the same dues, have access to the same equipment—it is just as much my home space as any other, so I’ll settle in and have fun.”
Two other things had happened to my friend. First, she had committed to herself. She pushed aside her initial embarrassment by believing in herself. She knew she needed to lose weight and get healthy.
Second, she found the motivation to continue because she felt better and was encouraged by seeing those around her who continued in their own commitment. She believed that her commitment plus time would lead to the fulfillment of her goals of a healthier weight and being more fit.
If you’ve ever been heavy and felt embarrassed in shorts or a bathing suit or “work-out” clothes, you probably know how hard it is to lose weight and to begin an exercise program. Being laughed at made it even harder for my friend. She needed to be smiled at, not laughed at; encouraged and supported. She got up, started over and kept going. She still is moving and she’s having fun doing it.
I want to encourage any of you who want to lose weight not to give up. And if you’re embarrassed at first, walk around your house, in your yard—in baggy pants if it makes you feel better—a little at a time, five minutes, then ten, and when you’re feeling stronger and more confident, walk with a friend, talk with a friend, join a gym— even ride a bike. And when you pass someone who is walking more slowly or looking a little bit wobbly on their wheels, give them a smile. It might make their day—we’ve all been there at one time or another.
Olivia C. Rossi, RN, MSN
Certified Clinical Exercise Specialist, ACSM
Certified Personal Trainer, ACSM