Being fat in the gym

People are always telling us fatties that gyms aren’t that bad.

Well, they’re wrong. … Sort of.

Despite being infinitely more comfortable and familiar with the gym than I was a couple of years ago, I still don’t like the idea of going to the gym (in fact, I used the summer weather as an excuse to quit the gym, at least for a few months). Even when I was one of those people who went to the gym “all the time” (5 days a week, sometimes twice a day), I still kind of hated gyms and I still had days where I had to work hard to convince myself to step in the front door. Once there, I would often have to give myself a pep talk in the dressing room, reminding myself that I was already there and would look dumb if I left without at least hitting the treadmill for a little while.

Here’s the thing: lots of people think that shallow jerks and gym staff of making unfair judgements of fatties. They blame our hatred for gyms on people who sneer or snicker at us, and they make sure that the myth of the “gym judgement” perpetuates by reminding us again and again that we can’t walk into a gym without at least one person making fatty jokes or being condescending by telling us how proud they are of us for getting off our cake and chip covered sofas long enough to try to get in shape.

Bull shit.

Some people will judge other people, regardless of their size. For example, some of us fatties (cough::guilty::cough) quietly judge the bros with bad form and the chicks who use weights that are way too light. But, it’s not as if all heads turn and audible snickers are heard the minute a fatty walks in the gym.

People judge people no matter where you are. Yes, public shaming nonsense happens sometimes, but our discomfort with the gym is deeper than that. We hate the gym because it is an embodiment of all the negative and judgmental messages we suffer on a day-to-day basis. People don’t go to the gym to work out, they go to the gym to stop being fat. As one writer put it, “It’s entering a building where you know that every person inside is working toward the singular goal of not becoming you.

Do you know how hard it is to walk into a building devoted to not becoming you when you are you!? It’s the worst! I’m me every day. I can’t change that overnight and I shouldn’t have to change that at all (assuming reasonable health, etc.). The idea that fat is bad / thin is good is so seamlessly built into our culture that people don’t hesitate to lament their weight “problems” to me—not stopping to consider that what they’re saying is “becoming you is my worst nightmare and not becoming you is my top priority.” Walking into a gym is like walking into a room full of people who are lamenting to you about their “fat” thighs through the use of a weird interpretive dance called “working out.”

That’s sort of how this fat thing works. In our society, fat isn’t just a state of being, it’s a bad thing:

If you are fat, you want to lose fat. If you are less fat, you still want to lose the fat that’s left and maybe get bigger muscles or more definition. If you have stubborn fat, you are still trying to lose that. And then we have the skinny, squishy ones … who still want to lose fat. [Source]

No one wants to be us. It’s doesn’t matter that we might be really attractive, have a great personality, be really smart, have a great job, a beautiful family, etc. What society sees first is fat, and they don’t want to be you. Add to that the fact that you’re quite possibly in the gym to also work on not being you, and suddenly you have a pretty good reason to feel bad about yourself every time you set foot in a gym – everyone in the gym, including yourself, is trying to not be you.

This is the real reason fat people hate going to the gym.

Edit: I feel the need to make two things clear:

  • Exercise is not as big a factor in weight loss as the industry would have us believe. If you want to lose weight, you have to control your calories. If you want to be fit, you need to exercise. For more information about this, please refer to Yoni Freedhoff’s case for re-branding exercise (the embedded video is about 40 minutes long and worth watching). Cole’s note version: doing healthy stuff is still healthy and can have huge impacts or your quality (and length) or life, but it won’t make you thin.
  • With regards to people complaining to me about being fat: I used to be one of those thin-ish people who thought I was too fat, so I try to be patient and understand that they really mean “fat” compared to what they think they should be … though, this doesn’t really soften the blow when someone thin or even thinnish complains to me, as I’m clearly not thin at all. I can’t help thinking that, from their perspective, I must be as huge as a whale if their size 12 frame is “fat.”


  1. Oh man, such a complex issue. And I don’t think you need to be a ‘fatty’ to hate the gym, just being self conscious about your body in any way is enough. A life time ago a had a gym membership- it never made me feel good to be there. x


    • Yes, you’re right. Anyone who’s self conscious would have a hard time. I guess it should be expected from an industry that’s focused on perpetuating and preying on our insecurities. I love that some people are now trying to rebrand exercise and that some community gyms continue to focus mostly on fun and health.

      Liked by 1 person

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