Question: I would like to exercise as part of an overall holistic approach to my health, but I am embarrassed by my weight and appearance and don’t want to be seen in public. Suggestions?
Answer: You’ve committed to a new exercise program, the weather’s beautiful and a pair of athletic shoes sits waiting by the door. You tell yourself, “I’m ready to get out and move!” Yet, day after day, your motivation to exercise gets overshadowed by an even greater fear of being judged; for your size, for your shape, for your public struggle with weight.
In a society where size 4 is “acceptable” yet a size 14 is typical, it’s a painful irony that fear of being seen exercising in public is a primary barrier to engaging in the physical activity you need to get healthy.
Whether driven by personal insecurities related to body image, or created through past experiences with weight-related judgment or bullying, feelings of embarrassment or “body shame” can be isolating, and can undermine well-intended movement goals.
The good news is, with the right approach and the right support, vulnerabilities related to body image can be successfully overcome. Here’s how!
1. Share your struggle honestly with a friend
Feelings of shame grow stronger when kept secret. While sharing body image insecurities can be vulnerable, it helps open the door to receiving caring support and can help you realize you are loved just the way you are.
2. Ask a trusted friend for movement support
Once you let others know how you feel, ask them for support by engaging in movement activities together. This facilitates accountability, helps you feel emotionally safe, and makes movement more fun!
3. Stay away from typical gyms
Find emotionally safe, “non-judgmental” places to engage in movement. Take a walk around the neighborhood with a trusted friend or hike in the beautiful Arizona mountains.
4. Make movement fun
Find activities that get your heart rate up, AND make you laugh and smile.
5. Stay off the scale!
Body shame is fueled by the scale. Notice how your clothes fit, how strong your body feels, or if exercise has gotten easier as a less-triggering measure of your progress.