Like any usual Monday for me, it’s leg day at the gym. I’ll start off with some light cardio and a few warm up stretches before diving into my grueling lower body workout.
It’s been like that for awhile, probably about three years. I love to strength train and push my body. I love seeing the benefits that come from training, specifically the functionality it provides in my day-to-day activities.
I don’t consider myself a bodybuilder or bikini competitor or power lifter. I’m simply in this iron-filled, sweaty room because I like it.
Unfortunately, what comes along with most gyms are the clientele: the cardio bunnies, the spin enthusiasts, the massively muscular men, the average joes, and even the elderly. For someone like me who ideally would like the gym to myself, it is a tiny bit unfortunate.
I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with the people in those categories, in fact, I quite admire them. I wish I could jump on a Peloton and not feel like my legs are submerged in the fiery realms of hell or lift 300 pounds while simultaneously balancing on a balance beam (wouldn’t that be a site to see). No, it’s mostly the fact that I enjoy working out alone, whether it’s in the farthest corner at the gym or in the basement of my apartment building. Solitary exercising is my favorite form of therapy.
At this point, I’m sure you’ve gathered that I like to be left alone so this next statement shouldn’t come as a surprise: I hate when people try to talk to me at the gym.
Most trainers that I’ve come into contact with are extroverts. They love to talk, talk, talk. Without fail, they always interrupt me in the middle of one of my sets to chat for a solid 10 minutes. I’ve now learned to shut the conversation down or avoid eye contact with anyone to ensure I’m not interrupted.
That doesn’t mean I’m ignoring anyone. I come to the gym to workout, not to socialize. Of course I maintain an appropriate level of politeness by waving hello or smiling politely, but truth be told, I’m here for a reason (and I’m trying to leave as soon as possible so I can go home and eat dinner because food).
And, similar to life, it’s sometimes impossible to avoid the things you don’t want to happen…which is exactly what happened the other day. Let’s replay the scene:
On my way to return the dumbbells to the shelf, I spot one of the chatty trainers that always stops me. He’s with a client, so I should be safe walking past. I think.
I set the weights down and turn to walk away when I hear, “Hey Amanda!”
Internally sighing, I turn and say a quick hello. He asks me what I’m working on today and I respond appropriately, subtly hinting that I need to get back to it by slowly inching away.
Luckily, I think he catches on and I begin to take a step when he says, “It looks like you’ve lost a lot of weight. You’ve really trimmed down.”
Immediately I stop in my tracks and sputter, “W-what?”
He’s already picked the weights back up when I turn back towards him and my face must’ve given me away because he says, “No, no really. You look great. You look really good. Keep it up.” Then continues to train his client, putting an end to the conversation.
I numbly walk away thinking of the preposterous “compliment” I just received.
“A lot?” I whisper.
Why yes, chatty trainer, you did just put your foot in your mouth.
Objectively speaking, I live a fit lifestyle and have been lifting regularly for over three years. 99% of the time, I wear baggy clothes to the gym because I don’t like being constricted during certain movements, and this day happened to be one of the rare occasions I was wearing a more form-fitting outfit. Apparently, chatty trainer noticed and thought to comment.
Which did not sit well with me since the so called weight I “lost” was a few extra layers of fabric.
Not only did this comment make me feel worse about my body image, it also left me feeling like I should be doing something different to “look good.”
This type of behavior is what’s furthering harmful cultural norms and values. My worth does not rely on anyone’s personal preference. By complimenting another person on losing weight, we are making a statement that being skinny is the only way anyone will look “good.” The internet already has a graveyard full of these unhealthy habits, publications, comments, and trolls that were once promoted and praised, but have now been killed off. So, why do we still do it?
From where I’m standing, there’s never a good enough reason to comment on weight. Compliment others when it’s coming from a genuine place. Weight-loss compliments seem to fall short in a lot of aspects, which unfortunately is usually at the expense of the other person’s feelings.
There are certain boundaries that we as humans should not cross, and I’m labeling weight-loss compliments as one of them. Even if you’re speaking from your heart, you just never know if what you’re saying could backfire. Many of us suffer from food disorders or illnesses that have caused the drop in weight loss and reminding them of these traumatic experiences will most likely trigger negative thoughts instead of positive ones.
The main point: it’s not your place. You are not the judge of what looks good and what doesn’t, so the best option is to keep quiet when it comes to weight and size.
Looking back now, I wish I wouldn’t have walked away. I wish I would have politely told the chatty trainer that it’s rather distasteful to comment on size. Not just because of how I felt, but for everyone else out there who has felt empty after receiving a weight-loss comment.
It’s the end of 2019. I think we all know that body positivity is where our minds should be. I mean we cancelled the Victoria Secret Show as a a step toward a brighter future. Let’s do one more and taboo these compliments on weight. What do you say?