Q: I want to join a gym, but I’m overweight and embarrassed about how I look when I exercise. Do you have any advice for me?
AFirst, congratulations on being ready to commit to yourself in this way. Exercising regularly is one of the best things you can do for your entire life. Not only will you lose weight and tone your body, but you’ll drastically boost your everyday mood, think more clearly, sleep better, look younger, age more slowly and handle stress better. And that’s just the short list! Here’s some advice for you, to get you past your anxieties and into a fabulous new you:
Do a reality check
Thanks to all the reality shows that help severely overweight people lose weight (cheered on by millions around the world), overweight people who exercise have become a new kind of hero. My husband is a personal trainer, and I’m obviously passionate about health and wellness; when we’re driving and pass an overweight person who is running, power-walking or cycling we almost always comment on how happy we are to see that and how impressed we are by their visible determination to change their body and their life. Imagine thinking that what you’re contemplating is actually something to be extremely proud of, rather than ashamed about—to me, that’s your true reality.
Ask yourself why you feel embarrassed
What is it about working out at a gym that makes you feel uncomfortable? If it’s the idea of men watching you, look for a gym that’s exclusively for women. If being surrounded by skinny spandex-clad women makes you feel bad, find a facility that deliberately caters to women of all body types. If you don’t like how you look in your workout wear, take yourself shopping and buy yourself the cutest, most flattering athletic outfit you can find.
If you’re absolutely sure at this point you can’t comfortable exercise in front of others, consider starting out by exercising at home. Just don’t forget the most important part of a home or gym exercise program—you have to actually make time to do it!
Remind yourself that you’ll be setting others free
How many people do you think are looking at themselves in a mirror, right now, desperately wanting to lose weight or get into shape? Just like you, they feel self-conscious about getting out there and exercising in public. What if someone who happens to be the same weight that you are is contemplating joining the same gym that you are? What if when she finally gathers the courage to join, she sees you working out when she walks in the door? What if that’s the very thing she needs to decide to go for it?
When you show courage and do what you dream of doing, you’ll set all kinds of other people free to do the same. Some might need to lose weight, while others will be inspired to make other life changes. Whenever one human being takes steps to improve their life, there’s a positive ripple effect in the community around them, and sometimes even the entire world. You could be the critical difference between one person or many people having the courage to finally make powerful changes in their lives.
Leaving your comfort zone liberates you and your life
Almost anything really worth doing in life that makes you grow and takes you towards your dreams will take you out of your comfort zone. There will be a point, usually at the beginning, where you’re really uncomfortable and want to run away.
I’ve learned to recognize anxiety, apprehension and fear of public failure as encouraging signs that I really must do this thing that I want to do that scares me. When you don’t let you fears stop you and just do what you need to do, the multiple payoffs are so very, very sweet.
Dr. Susan Biali, the Embrace Life expert for the Best Health Challenge, is a life coach, medical doctor, international speaker, professional flamenco dancer and the author of Live a Life You Love: 7 Steps to a Healthier, Happier, More Passionate You.
Web exclusive August 2011 Best Health magazine