100 lb. Club - How to tackle exercise embarrassment?

01-21-2011, 01:48 PM
Yesterday was my first day on the exercise plan (with today being my first day working on the diet). It went really well, and I was pleased with my effort. Today, not so much. That brings us to the meat of the post.

Does anyone else struggle with embarrassment about exercising? I know itís ridiculous, and I know the right response is to say ďForget themĒ and do what I need to do, but I canít seem to exercise when someone else is around. I am currently living with a roommate, and Iíve been lifting weights and exercising in my room. Iím okay with exercising when itís just my roommate around (even though I still find it really difficult), but if her boyfriend shows up, it becomes impossible.

Even when my husband (who is currently living in another country as we wait for a visa) was here over Christmas, I couldnít exercise because I didnít want to . . . draw attention to the fact that I need to lose weight? He already knew that. Iím not sure. I know that I need to get over this, and I know that ultimately the answer is going to be ďjust do itĒ, but I am really struggling with how other people might be perceiving me when Iím exercising. ďAhoy! Fat girl sweating!Ē

Exercising is bettering myself. Itís improving myself, and yet I donít want other people to know. Everyone who sees me knows that I need to lose weight. So, itís not like Iím disguising that Iím fat. Iím beginning to think that Iím trying to disguise from others that I know Iím fat. Itís almost as if no one will know that I dislike my body if they canít tell Iím trying to modify it.

Or maybe Iím worried that theyíll see me fail.

Anyway. Sorry to go off on a tangent, but I think I need to tackle the things that are stopping me if this is going to work. So, how do I get over it? While it was easier (for me) to exercise at a gym with total strangers who could think what they wanted, thatís not a financially feasible option at the moment. So, what do I do? How do I get myself to ďjust do itĒ?

Thanks in advance, all!

01-21-2011, 01:56 PM
My first thought was a gym, until I got to the end of your post. If you are able to financially swing it, I'd suggest Planet fitness, if you have one in your area. When I was much bigger, I started out there. Felt fine, as there are lots of different types of people there...they advertise a judgement free zone. Once I lost a lot, I switched to Golds so I could take the group classes. Anyways, if that's not an option, how about just starting slow by walking outside? Is there a local park with trails that you could use? I know my place is pretty small and I just wouldn't have the space to do what I need to do at home. Not to mention if I had a roommate in such a small space. Good luck!

01-21-2011, 02:11 PM
Your post really resonates with me. :hug: Aside from walking outside, around my neighborhood and at a local park with a track, I never let anyone, even my kids, see me exercise. It's not so much that I'm ashamed of my jiggles, red face, sweat, panting, etc. it's more emotional. Exactly like you said, if they don't see me working on my body, they won't know that I feel like I NEED to work on my body.

That's one of the reasons I never joined a gym. Number 1 I am incompetent, can't keep up in classes, have no rythm, and am clueless about form. Number 2 I am intimidated by all the other people there who are much more knowledgable about it than I am.

But, even thin people exercise. We all need to do it, no matter our size. So good for you for working out, even in private. Can't help you with what to do about it, I'm still working on just white knuckling through my discomfort and DOING IT! Good luck!

01-21-2011, 02:37 PM
I am right there with you on the need for privacy --- I really can't image going into a gym, even if we could afford it.

Could you and your roommate exchange some exclusive time in the room? I can imagine that she might want a little time each day for privacy with the BF and you could use your exclusive time for your exercising. I would be upfront about the reason --- "I know its doesn't make a lot of sense, but right now it would just be so much easier for me to get this done if you weren't here." And I would ask that your time be on a schedule, so you can plan your exercise in advance.

Good luck on this and congratulations on having the determination to find a way to make it work for you!

01-21-2011, 02:55 PM
I totally feel you on this one. I workout at a gym that gets very very busy. The other evening I was on the exercise bike pedaling away as fast as I could. I made the mistake of turning to look in the mirror and caught my reflection. This is what I saw: a head sitting on huge blob of mishapen skin-covered fat that sat on legs that were pedaling away at the bicycle. I instantly thought "OMG, that is what everyone else is seeing when I exercise!!!!!!" I almost got up and left the gym. I then realized that leaving the gym wasn't going to solve my problem so I just kept on biking.

Good Luck!

01-21-2011, 04:29 PM
I kinda felt the same way and still do at times but you have to just let it slide. You are doing this for yourself and not for the ppl who might see you. It doesnt matter what other ppl think in fact most ppl would think highly of you as you are making a change in your life and you are getting healthy.

01-21-2011, 04:57 PM
Thanks for all the responses.

Bry1638: I think I need to do something more than walk. I have a dog that I walk for 30 minutes twice a day, and that hasn't stopped me from gaining weight. I want to focus on weightlifting, I think.

goodforme: Thank you. I really appreciate knowing that someone else feels the same way that I do.

SparrowSings: I actually have my own room. I'm so insecure that I worry about people hearing me. Or just knowing. At the moment, I'm coming home on my lunchbreak to exercise. This is really something I have trouble with.

DukeGirl30: Thank you. We'll just have to persevere I suppose.

aasshhlleeyy The thing is that I don't really think it's about what others are thinking about me. These people love me, and I'm sure they're thinking "Good for her!" It's really about how I feel about myself. I'm not sure how to fight against this internal monologue of insecurity and self-hatred that I occasionally give other's voices.

01-21-2011, 05:00 PM
I'm ok with exercising in front of or with those closest to me... They know I'm obese and that I'm dieting. I am especially comfortable with my husband since he's dieting as well, and having him there can both motivate me because I want him to be proud and distract me somewhat from the fact I'm exercising.

The idea of exercising in front of strangers mortifies me though.

01-21-2011, 05:09 PM
I can totally relate to you... I have no self confidence at all but I know that I need to exercise and put my fears aside if I am going to have self confidence. I wish you the best of luck. Happy to help in any way I can.

01-21-2011, 05:22 PM
I have felt and endured this too, so I feel your pain. I'm gym-shy in a big way - still.

A year in and many pounds lighter, I am finally contemplating a gym as well as all my solo exercise. I already use the pool. On this one, I fear, there's really no way out but through.

Find the least painful way to start, stick with it for a while, and then find some way to expand your exercise horizon. Eventually you make progress.

01-21-2011, 07:02 PM
A long time ago (thankfully) I remember feeling embarassed even to exercise alone (even when I was living alone). I'd close the blinds, turn on the music or exercise video and be very self-conscious, wondering if the people in adjacent apartments (not only on either side, but above and below) could hear what I was doing, and would think me ridiculous.

I still have some public exercise-phobias, but I do now know the cure "do it anyway." It's not like it was a new tool, I have always loved the water (I'd live in it if I could). I've been obese nearly all of my life, and even at 5 I was embarassed to be seen in a swim suit (because isn't it practically socially mandatory. Has any fashion magazine ever told a fat girl - or any other girl
for that matter not to be concerned about their appearance in a swimming suit?).

But even though I was mortified, I loved the water too much to let it stop me, so I'd make my death march to the water. Oddly enough, even though water is transparent and I've always known that, once in the water I felt "safe." Don't ask me why, it doesn't make any sense even to me, but I let my love of the water speak louder than the other voices in my head (the ones telling me I should be ashamed).

A few years ago I persuaded my husband to buy bicycles. From a health standpoint it was an impractical purpose. With my health issues, it's rare for me to have the strength and balance to ride it, but on those rare days my fear of embarassment is overridden by the joy of doing something I loved as a kid, but felt unable to do (either physically or mentally).

I was extremely afraid of looking stupid. I've gotten over it, mostly be accepting that I really do look ridiculous, but so what? I can laugh about myself on so many topics (like my tendency to talk too much and too fast), that I had to make health and weight loss one of them. The first day I got my bike out this year, I felt like a seven year old learning to ride (my body apparently does forget how to ride a bike during the winter). My balance was so poor that I panicked and instead of braking, I smacked into the garage door. Luckily the part of me that was shamed and embarassed wasn't as strong as the part of me that laughed at myself. If I could laugh at myself, it didn't feel quite so bad to imagine other people laughing too. I could imagine friendly, not cruel laughter.

Often I think it's not the fear that stops us, it's all of the imagined outcomes (most of which will never happen). Or the idea that "something" terrible will happen, without imagining what that something is. Imagining the "what if" and practicing ways to deal with it can help remove the paralyzing part of the fear.

I'd rehearse what I was going to do, if something bad did happen. I stopped doing that when I realized that what I imagined almost never did happen. Instead, I decided that "whatever happened" I would deal with it, and most of all I wouldn't let someone else's problem become my problem.

I imagined myself (emotionally) strong and brave, and I became what I imagined. I imagined (and repeatedly told myself) that I had a right to do all of the fun things thinner people could do, and that I wouldn't let anything nonphysical stop me from trying to do those things. The fat and my health problems did physically prevent me from doing many things, but I vowed not to let mind games stop me.

I haven't fully lived up to my vow. I still do sometimes let fear and embarassment hold me back, but the more I practice and the more I find that I can do, the more I actually accomplish, and the more I notice how rarely other people even pay attention to what I'm doing.

I found the old saying really true, "You wouldn't worry so much about what other people think of you if you knew how rarely they do."

01-21-2011, 10:47 PM
yah, at the beginning i was mortified to walk outside! I dreaded the "awww look at the fat girl trying to exercise" thoughts LOL but they are other people's thoughts, not mine. The first 40 pounds or so was done ALL by exercising indoors to the 'Walk Away the Pounds" videos or a few others I loaned out from the library - I'd crank up the tunes and go. If anyone wondered what was happening, "I'm dancin' to the groove leave me alone" heheh After I got some stamina built up and wasn't quite so mortified, i stuck a toe outside and haven't looked back *

* of course, I live in Canada and the icy sidewalks are treacherous, so I STILL do stuff inside!!!

01-21-2011, 11:57 PM
I feel the same way!! The same way I refuse to tell anyone that I'm dieting, I feel like it calls attention to my weight. I also am a firm believer in you're as attractive as you feel you are - so I feel like openly exercising/dieting screams "I think I'm a fatty". I would suggest going for walks... do you have a dog? If so, that's a great reason to go for log walks or jogs, just doing it for the dog. I usually work out in my room. My boyfriend is the only one that knows I'm trying to lose weight, and I don't even like him to see me work out. He'll come in the room after I'm done and be like "why are you sweaty? did you work out? I couldn't here you!" I'm assuming you and your roommate have separate bedrooms, I would suggest just doing it in your room when her bf is there. One time I finished working out and came out of the room to find my bf and his friend in the kitchen. The friend asked why I was flushed and out of breath, I jokingly said I was testing out some new dance moves, we all laughed and it made it not embarrassing at all. Hope that helps!

01-22-2011, 04:02 AM
I identify so much with the OP and everyone else (especially mdchick88- could have written that post!). One of my most embarrassing moments is when an aunt saw me for the 1st time in a while and was like "wow you've lost sooooo much weight" and i was all like dismissively: "oh really?" (as if the weight just effortlessly dropped from my bones) and my mom piped up proudly like "yes she's soooo disciplined with diet and exercise!" I don't want it acknowledged in public that "I think I'm fat" because I think people will be like "well why did you let yourself get sooo big if you didn't like it" or since I've been fat all my life, maybe they'll think that I've always hated myself or been unhappy with myself or something... I dunno. I just know I hate talking about my weigh loss plan (diet AND exercise) with people in real life.

As far as what OP can do, I think you can just continue working out in your room with workout DVDs. I had a tiny room when I did Jillian Michael's 30DS and it was extremely effective AND didn't require much space and I guess I never had the volume high enough for anyone to know what I was doing. Hey I've had roommates who were extremely loud whilst um... being intimate with their partner, I think they can bear the occasional thump in my room from a jumping jack without wondering too much what I'm doing. Re: walking your dog, why not do it at a brisker pace and/or do a longer walk and/or try to incorporate hills or inclined roads if you don't live in a flat area. If you google exercise and dog-walking, you might get more suggestions of ways to make it more challenging for you. Look at it like the dog is making sure you're getting an extra workout in; it definitely counts.

01-22-2011, 09:24 AM
I still could not work out in front of someone else if I was the only one doing it. I would find that very uncomfortable. And last year when I ran outside, it took a lot of effort for me to mentally block out the world. I hated running past people and I hated it when cars went by. But, I did find that every time a car went by, I ran a little faster. Every time I had a person walking in front of me, that was the best! LOL! Usually I wanted to quit running at that point, but then that person would know I'd quit! :o So I HAD to keep going! It always took a while to catch up to the person and then I had to keep running a good while so if I quit the person wouldn't see me! By that point I'd run so far I might as well just keep going. ;) So my mortification ended up being a major motivator for me.

01-22-2011, 10:28 AM
Just recently have I had the courage to exercise in front of ayone and Ive been on this journey for 8 months. I completely understand. I just worked around everyone elses schedules until I just recently realized that Im AWESOME. :D

But seriously. :hug: I understand. Nothing can make it better, really. Just have to feel okay with it inside yourself. IMO.

01-22-2011, 10:48 AM
You can't control the feelings that come with starting up at the gym. People have many internal thoughts. If yours are negative, recognize them and either change them or ignore them. We all start someplace! Just know as a thinner & healthier person I dont judge people at the gym, they are there to get healthy!

01-22-2011, 12:37 PM
I so identify with this!!! I can't excercise in front of a window that reflects my body back at me or at a gym where there are mirrors everywhere. And I can't exercise in front of anyone except my son who actually works out with me. If my husband is in the room he thinks he's helping me by telling me what a great job I'm doing or how cute I look doing Zumba but it all sounds so patronizing especially when he's sitting on the couch with his laptop.

01-22-2011, 04:51 PM
I go to planet fitness, I love it because its 24 hrs and only 10 bucks a month. I understand not wanting to work out in front of everyone, but the reason I love it there so much is that there are all sorts of people who work out there, not just skinny minins. At my gym at least, the bulk of the people there are extremly overweight. And honestly, I never felt judged there, even when I was heavier. People are to busy working on themselves to care what I look like. One thing you could do it go to a 24 hr gym, and work out like at 1 or 2 in the morning, when there are less people around. Or join curves, which caters strictly to women.

01-23-2011, 10:49 AM
Thanks for all the comments.

The gym is currently out of the question, since I've been cut to part time at work, and I'm now trying to figure out how to make it on less than half my former income until I find something else (rough in this economy).

What's really been helpful is knowing that I'm not the only one who feels this way. It's not some great deficiency of my mind. It's a normal insecurity that I just have to tackle.

01-23-2011, 11:32 AM
I think this is all part of a learning curve, part of the mental aspect of it. No one starts off good at something at first. It takes time and practice. Of course all our issues like insecurity (they're all staring at me), self doubt (I'll never get this, keep this up, etc.), or any number of things.

If you look at things from an outside viewpoint it is likely that most people aren't even paying attention to you as they are focused on themselves and what they are doing or also freaking out about people watching. You may or may not keep it up. There are so many ways and places to exercise that you can switch it up until you find something that is more "stickable."

For me what has worked is finding an exercise that doesn't have aspects that the things I've not been successful have had. Secondly, the mental garbage is going to be there. Every time some self defeatist stuff pops in my head I tell it to shut up and continue with the exercise. Working through the discomfort has more than one meaning. There is the physical aspect of pushing yourself to do one more rep, etc. It's also about exercising despite the discomfort of the stuff in our head.