To The Gym Instructor who Changed my Life –
I’m writing this letter because, quite frankly, I am appalled at your behavior.
When I entered your class the other morning, not only was it my first day of your class, or any class at all for that matter, but it was also my first day at the gym. Yes, here I am at 28 years old going to the gym for the first time. I am a confident, overall fit person, but the gym is an intimidating place for me. I’ve always enjoyed a nice run outdoors or an at-home workout tape. I don’t know if I’m using the weights correctly, I don’t know how long to stay on certain equipment or how many reps I should be doing, I don’t know if my exercise combinations have any rhyme or reason with one another. Yes, I can ask these things, but like I said, this is one place I’ve continually felt out of place.
Anyway, your class went really well and I really enjoyed myself. I was also quite proud, if I’m being honest. I’d made myself go to the gym and I’d had a great time!
A few minutes after class you saw me leaving with my 9 month old daughter in tow. You and a few other ladies from the class, who you seemed pretty close with, approached us with smiles on your face. Oh, I felt so welcome and comfortable at last.
“How are you sooooooo skinny right after having a baby?” you asked. I kept a smiling face, but inside I groaned.
“I’m actually struggling with my weight right now and have a very high metabolism……” I started to quickly explain, not sure where my courage came from on this particular day, but thinking I’d have an ally in the gym instructor. I mean you’re a professional, right?
“She has a fast metabolism,” you, the instructor of all people, say to the other women, with a laugh.
I was crushed and I didn’t know what to respond with at that point and turned the attention to my smiling baby.
“Skinny” was one of the the words I always thought I’d want to hear one day as a new mom.
Not that’s it’s really any of your business, but since the birth of my daughter my weight has plummeted. My doctor is concerned about my high metabolism (which is apparently hilarious to you) and I’m 15 pounds less than before I even got pregnant. I am losing muscle mass. I have one pair of pants that comfortably fits me.
While others look at me and see that I’m so lean, I look at me and see a long road ahead. The week beforehand I had signed up to work with a trainer on the muscle mass problem. I am trying to eat tons to keep up with what I’m losing between the breastfeeding demands of nursing exclusively and for having a metabolism that’s off the charts. I am also being overly conscious of my intake because I don’t want my weight to sky rocket once the breastfeeding is done.
Aside from all this, I’m still getting used to my forever changed body from childbirth. My sagging breasts, my stretched out belly button, my thinned hair. And although I’ve lost a lot of weight it doesn’t mean I’m tone. Part of me looks skeletal, part of me looks deflated. I don’t like to look in the mirror. It’s a lot to take in. I wish I didn’t care but I’d be lying to say it didn’t matter.
And what a strange question, anyway – “why are you so skinny?”
Is it okay to go around and ask people why they’re “so short,” “so pale, ” “so fat?” You probably wouldn’t (hopefully wouldn’t!) do those things, yet you think it’s okay to ask someone why they’re “so skinny.”
And what’s sad is my trust is shaken now. You completely humiliated me! I took the leap of faith and pushed myself to attend to the gym. I immediately trusted you since you worked there, especially since you were a female instructor. I felt you were someone safe I could talk to. I’m the new girl. The one whose doctor wanted her here. Yet, now I feel like I have to answer differently. Giggle it off and get nowhere, like I’ve been doing.
As I sit here writing, however, I am learning a lesson myself.
I know there’s times I’ve said something about someone’s height, weight, hair, body size, or skin! Maybe even some sort of awkward question that I didn’t really think out before letting it leaving my lips. I’ve never been purposefully hateful, it’s all been out of love, but still! There’s probably been a time or two I’ve made someone uncomfortable.
And I am so, so sorry!
For some reason our society has it embedded in our brains that it’s okay to make remarks about the tall and thin but you wouldn’t want to say the words “short” or “fat.” They’ve said that tall and thin is the way to be but the fact is here I sit tall and thin and more insecure than ever before. Just because someone’s body looks how we think they’d be happiest with it, it doesn’t mean they are.
I am hurt by your mocking and laughter that followed my true answer when asked about my weight. I’d like to open my eyes and forget it, but unfortunately it still stings. I forgive you, however, because my hope is that you didn’t mean it to be as hurtful as it was.
I forgive you if for no other reason than the fact that society has trained us to not be gentle with one another. To zero in on a body type and assume everyone should look like that, and that those that do, are happy, and those that don’t, are not.
And honestly, looking back now, I’m thankful it happened. It hurt me, but it taught me more about myself. It taught me to love myself when I’m doing the best I can. It taught me to love the process, especially since this body is what brought my daughter into this world. And even more than that, I’m thankful because it taught me to love others more than ever before; to always be careful with my words and actions because we never truly know anyone’s inside battles.
And for that, I thank you.
A Changed Woman