I was Fat Shamed by My Fitness Trainer (part 1)
When I was in elementary school and Jr. high, I was picked on. A lot. Because of my size. It got so bad at one point that I remember picking up the phone and calling my mom and told her I just couldn’t do it anymore.
“What do you mean?”
“I’m not sure. I just don’t have it in me to keep doing this. I’m tired. I’m hurt.”
There were two boys that were the absolute worst. They would taunt me on the bus and push me in the halls, reminding me constantly that I didn’t deserve to take up space like I did, space at all. Shortly after that conversation, I started counseling. Things got better. I became more assertive and found ways to express my feelings- mostly through journaling. When I look back at the journal entries, my heart grieves. Sure, it’s filled with the same stuff you’d expect from a 13-16 year old (like who I was going to marry and who would be my first kiss), but there were countless times I essentially begged the Universe to just make me skinny.
I started losing weight around the age of 16. When you start that process, it’s funny how people only notice that about you from then on out. I was no longer picked on- I was admired for my “courage,” for my “strength,” for my “dedication.” (As if I had none of those things for enduring the years of bullying before that?)
It’s exhausting to keep up the level of food and exercise manipulation that I was undergoing to keep my body “in check” over a decade after I started the process. I am now at a place in my life that I am not only aware, but I accept that I’m not meant to be in a small body. My genetics don’t allow it. My biology doesn’t feel comfortable with it. I’ve been at war over this truth for years.
Until I got tired. How I got to this place was a fluke more than anything.
I started with an online trainer over 3 years ago. She promised 20 minute workouts for success, and at the time I was doing workouts no less than 90 minutes. As you can imagine, once I had a child this was no easy task. My husband started traveling more for work and it became nearly impossible to continue.
Not only that, but she sold me in the fact that she basically somehow told my life story. She said she was an overweight child, suffered from disordered habits, overcame, and now worked to empower women to be badasses. She told stories of what others’ words had done to her- “thunder thighs” and “man arms.” Like I said, she was speaking my song (well, I guess I’ve never been told I have “man arms,” but I’ve been labeled according to the appearance of my body more times than I can count).
I did a month long challenge featuring her workouts and was hooked.
The “tribe” that I had bought into was my safe space. I met some of my best friends there and shared things there that were sacred to me. I felt like it was a place that had my back through thick and thin.
About 1.5 years after working with this trainer in fitness, I decided to also try the idea of starting my own business with her. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I wanted to help women. I wanted to use my “life story” to help others overcome challenges in theirs. This all turned me on to the idea of intuitive eating. I wanted women to be at peace with food and exercise, once and for all. I didn’t want them to put their lives on hold for 15+ years as I had.
As I started it all, I sort of had one foot in diet culture and one out. I wasn’t fully ready, but I was certain I could help others break free.
As time went on and I truly worked my way through the intuitive eating process (or rather, my own version of breaking up with diets), my life changed. My body changed. My mindset changed. I was no longer OK with hating my body into submission. I was no longer OK with counting macros and manipulating my body using the foods I was eating and the exercise I was doing.
I was on a journey to radically accept myself just as I was.
And boy was it a challenge!
People expressed their “concern” as my body grew- you know, concerned for my health and all of that crap. Suddenly I felt like I was in Jr. High all over again. I was somehow no longer a badass wife, mother, and young adult. I was assumed to be “going through some shit” because my body had changed. The reality is that I wasn’t going through any shit- I was escaping all of it. I was leaving it all behind- everything that told me I was only a good person, worthy of a compliment, if I remained at a certain size. Everything that told me I could only be successful if I fit in a certain box. If I spent my life trying to pursue and attain a certain “look.” I was done with all of it.
I was ready to draw my line in the sand.
I was still in my fitness tribe, and I was still doing the workouts religiously. I just didn’t engage in any of the talk about bodies or numbers- unless to remind a member that she need not beat herself up over body changes or lack of changes. I tried to keep the mood light with Friday Morning Dance-off challenges. I wanted to remind women everywhere that life is short and we need to keep having fun even if we didn’t see body change like we wanted to.
There was a shift.
I felt it. Suddenly it felt a bit more competitive and I felt a bit squeezed out by the leader. In one particular wall exchange, I had asked about bananas in protein pancakes. Simply wondering if it could be omitted. The leader piped in and said something along the lines of “we all know that bananas aren’t one of your big rocks here. I see a lot of pizza in your posts.”
My heart sank. I didn’t talk about pizza a lot in that club. On my business page? Yes. All the time. I was finally allowing myself to eat it and I was enjoying it. And I was sick of being afraid of it.
I cried a lot that night. The shreds of hope I had in her as a leader with my best interests in mind broke. I felt stuck. I thought that maybe she was having a bad day and lashed out or something. But I had also noticed by then that she didn’t act the same way towards me as she once had. I started to get the feeling that she was annoyed by me more than anything. I had known this feeling before. The worst part of all of it is that I tried to justify my pizza posts to her by telling her that I was still trying to keep my carbs together and using the pizza posts to make me more relatable. I tried to win her favor back with my lame response. I just wanted to feel like I still had her good graces. I was still a part of the group. *facepalm*
My mind was made up and I planned to gather up my dignity and leave the club knowing that I had given it my all, but it was made very clear that I no longer “fit in.” I had the date planned in my head.
And then my world came crashing down.
I was in my second year of this trainer’s business program and was chatting with someone in year 3 about the program. She told me that she felt like she needed to tell me something, but that it would probably hurt. I’m not one to shy away from those things because the hurt couldn’t possibly be worse than the not knowing, right? She said the trainer had sent a group text to all of the year 3 business girls making fun of me or my food. She couldn’t remember exactly. She told me that one of the other year 3 business girls shut the conversation down quickly saying that it wasn’t right to talk about me when I wasn’t there.
I called my friend in year 2 of the business group hyperventilating. Surely this couldn’t be true. Surely the woman who I had paid thousands of dollars to in both fitness and business couldn’t and wouldn’t be so cruel, right? My friend said she had heard the same thing but wasn’t sure if she should tell me since she didn’t know the exact context. I talked through it and decided if she was talking about my food (like the pizza/banana thing), I could get over that. If she’s that hyperfocused on what I put in my body, that’s her issue to deal with, not mine. I wasn’t asking her to help me with my food.
Shortly after regaining composure, I decided to reach out to the year 3 business person who had shut the conversation down to simply thank her for remembering I’m human and we aren’t in high school anymore. She said that she’d do it over and over again.
And then… because I just needed to know the truth before I jumped to any assumptions, I asked her if she remembers what the leader had said in the text. I didn’t want to freak out and feel destroyed by a story I made up in my own head. (I’m so good at that.) Again, I was trying to give this trainer a benefit of the doubt. She said she’d share the actual text with me.
And there it was:
“Her: (Husband) what are you doing?
Husband: Just looking at what slop Stacey is eating tonight to get fatter.
Husband: I feel like she needs to change her business name to fatter to happier lol. Isn’t that more on point with her message?
Her: DEAD 💀
Her: Hope that doesn’t offend anyone. It’s just funny from (husband) lol”
The year 3 business person apologized profusely for it all happening.
I could hardly type I was shaking so hard.
I couldn’t breathe.
I couldn’t think.
I could only cry. And tremble.
Could this be true? Could she really be this cruel? Could this all be happening again, this many years later? I waited for the business trolling to start happening because the way my body had changed/now looked- but, by my trainer?
Not only did she allow her husband to attack my body, encourage him to continue with her laughter, allow him to attack my business, encourage him to continue with her laughter, but then she typed it all up and sent it to a group of women. This woman. The one who I was paying for fitness and business. This woman who often weaves the message of being attacked by people because of her body into her public posts while people worship and adore her for her bravery and perseverance.
I mean… can you imagine the kind of conversations that I was a part of that she didn’t text to people?
I gathered what I had left in my body to compose a message for her “tribe.”