When you’re overweight, it’s harder going to the gym – but it’s essential
If you’re one of the two-thirds of people in the US who are overweight or obese, you’re probably familiar with the feelings of dread and embarrassment at the thought of going to the gym.
Even though you are well aware that going to the gym is good for your heart, your fitness, your joints and your weight loss – you hesitate. “I’m too fat! Everyone will laugh!”
As a formerly morbidly-obese woman who is now on her way to a normal BMI, I can tell you that you CAN join the gym, and you can even learn to love it. Yes, seriously!
This time last year, I was dieting well and losing weight at about 1lb per week, but I was more or less permanently sedentary. I worked at a desk job and drove my car to and from work (and everywhere else, pretty much.)
I’d been making excuses to myself for years about why I couldn’t join a gym. I have chronic back pain, so paying a monthly fee when I can probably only do a very little without hurting myself just doesn’t make sense… The fees are outrageous, I have a moral objection to paying so much!.. Exercising in a gym is so boring, I would rather just go out for walks more often (Three guesses how many more walks I ever took?!)… I don’t have any workout clothes and I can’t afford to buy any…
I’m sure that if you’ve been there, you’ve come up with objections just as ridiculous and transparent. The real reason behind all of my objections was simple FEAR.
The fear of…?
Fear of failure. Fear of hurting myself. Fear of being stared at or laughed at. Fear of getting trapped in one of the machines or falling off the treadmill. Fear of splitting my pants in front of a gym-full of people… who of course would all be perfect size 8 blondes. It all boils down to the same fear: terror of looking stupid.
The funny fat person has become such a comedy staple in our culture that we automatically assume that people are primed to laugh at us. We even turn the jokes on ourselves, in self-defense. (If I’m making the joke then they’re laughing with me, not at me!)
So finally in August 2010 I decided that joke wasn’t funny any more, and I joined the gym. I overcame my objections about price by shopping around and finding the best price possible. Newsflash: gyms like 24 hour fitness, LA Fitness etc may look lovely and glossy, but you can lose weight just as well at a smaller gym for a quarter of the price. Check your local schools and colleges – our local high school has a special program where you can use the school gym for just $20/month, 5pm-10pm every day and on the mornings at weekends. Also check our your local municipal sports center – they often have very reasonable rates and many offer creche facilities too.
I’d been a member at a gym many years before, but I wasn’t confident using any of the equipment (especially since I was now about 50% heavier.) So I asked the staff for a full induction, where they took an hour to go around all the machines with me, making sure I was comfortable to use each one, and working out a personal program to meet my goals.
The big advantage to using the gym at the same time as dieting is that you’ll experience faster weight loss compared to just dieting. We all know that we need to create a calorie deficit, but by working out regularly you can double that deficit – and double your weight loss.
Additionally, if you include strength training then you will be targeting your fat rather than just dropping weight randomly from both fat and muscle tissue. By building muscle you actually encourage your metabolism to burn more calories. It’s win-win!
I’ve found that working out at least three times per week, and taking some weight loss supplements I’ve been able to maintain an excellent safe weight loss rate of 2lbs per week on average.
So in all this time, have any of my fears come true?
I haven’t hurt myself, although I’ve had some sore muscles. I have sometimes failed to manage an exercise, but I’ve set it as a goal for myself to come back to at a later time. I have often been the fattest person in the gym, but I’ve never been laughed at or caught people staring at me. Although there was one guy who asked me out for a coffee! I’ve tripped over a couple of things, but haven’t face-planted, or fallen off anything, nor have I had to be rescued by the fire brigade. Do I look as good as the size 8 beauties? No – but I’m getting there.
The thing I really didn’t expect was that I would come to LOVE going to the gym. I now look forward to it every day. As my fitness levels increase, my body’s ability also improves and I can manage to lift heavier weights and increase my pace on the treadmill and bike. My heart rate is better and I can now run for a bus or down the office at work without feeling like I’m going to pass out. If I haven’t worked out for a couple of days, I can feel my muscles wanting to move. My sleep quality is massively improved because I’m physically tired at the end of the day instead of just mentally weary. And best of all, I’ve increased my weight loss rate and can see the changes on the scale – and in the mirror.