Body Ownership: On shame, humiliation, growth, and acceptance.

I started going to the gym again this week. It’s been a while. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror at work yesterday and did not like what I saw.

As much as I talk about how I want to lose weight to be healthy, I don’t know how true that really is. I am already healthy. I carry a little more weight around, but every time I go to the doctor, it’s all good news.

The fact is that I want to be thinner. I’m tired of my thighs rubbing together until they burn. I’m tired of the way I hate having my belly touched. I’m tired of my arms being thick and dangling. I’m really tired of not being able to wear button down shirts that fit me nicely around the middle because of my belly.

I want to wear clothes that make me feel good and sexy without feeling like a sausage in a casing.

And I want to be able to say that to people. But I feel like, in saying that, they will see me as saying that bigness is a bad thing. It’s not. It’s just not something that I am happy with. I love all my gorgeous, fabulous, loud and large friends. They’re great. And I’m glad that they are happy living in their bodies and admire the work that they have done to get there despite the bill of goods they are sold all the time.

Losing weight is a weird topic nowadays. I feel like I can’t be as excited or expressive about it as I want to be because I will be seen as fat shaming myself. I take great care when talking about this stuff to not say how badly I want to be thinner, because I’m aware that it’s a touchy topic for a lot of people.

If I’m being really honest with myself, what I want is to be thinner. To be able to see my back  muscles in a mirror. I am all about back muscles and I really want to see mine in ripples move across my back when I lift a heavy thing in the gym. I want to have legs and arms that are defined and strong, where you can see the muscles move as I run or climb a rope. I want to see my abs for the first time ever. I know they’re under there. I can feel them when I flex my stomach as I lift heavy things. But I want to see them.

I want to be more confident in my body. And the more time I spend at the gym, the more I feel myself become aware of what I can do. The less afraid I am of headstands and running with my dog and hiking and riding a bike. Because without physical activity, I withdraw from my body. I try not to notice it. It becomes an elephant in the room that I do not talk about and do not want anyone to acknowledge.

When I think about myself I don’t see myself the way that I look in the mirror. I see myself as powerful. And I want to look powerful. I want my muscles to show.

When I walk into the gym as I am now, I feel this powerful sense of humiliation. I feel like the unfit among the glorious. Even though not everyone around me is necessarily thin. I know that the people around me are somehow better than me. And I feel them looking at and judging me. It makes me flustered. Makes me wish I hadn’t come.

The hard part for me isn’t just getting the nerve up to go to the gym. The hard part is staying. The hard part is not fleeing the field in tears because I know that I don’t fit in with these other people who are so much more deserving and hard working than I am.

Afterwards, when I am at home and showering and enjoying the blooming ache of muscles, I feel awake and alert as my body chemically responds to my workout. Those moments are amazing. And the moments when, at the gym, I stop thinking about anyone but myself, about anything but the task at hand. About anything but my goals. Those moments are amazing too.

I live in those moments. I nurture them afterward. I dwell on them as I fantasize about what my body will look like down the line. And I try to feel pride in each little victory on the way.

I have to remind myself: This is something I can do. I am capable. I am enough. And let everything else fall away.

20 thoughts on “Body Ownership: On shame, humiliation, growth, and acceptance.

  1. Hey, of course, you can do it! I am doing it, although, unlike you, I have been thin. Don’t get me wrong, but I was always called a skeleton, an underfed, malnourished bag of bones. I tried and tried to gain some weight, but in vain. And, some taunts are mean and nasty. They hurt terribly. However, I began taking care of what went in my mouth, I also began Yoga, and now I think I have gained weight in the right places, and toned muscles in other places. And, if this skeleton of a woman can turn curvy after 40 years, well, then so can you, my dear! So, keep going and keep thinking all those amazing thoughts till the day you reach your goals. And, yes, keep smiling! 🙂


  2. Everyone wants to be fitter, thinner because somehow that translates to being healthy. I also understand the part of feeling like you are fat shaming yourself by admitting you want to be thinner. How did something so simple become so complicated?


    • I don’t think that being thinner necessarily means being healthier. I definitely want to be thinner, but I’m perfectly healthy at the weight that I’m at right now.


  3. Your essays always draw me in, and I always find something I can relate to. “Losing weight is a weird topic nowadays.” It seems sometimes in life things that shouldn’t be are made SO complicated. Your body is your own personal business, and it is the only one you have, so treat it kindly. If you want to make it healthier, fitter and thinner, than you go for it!


    • I really appreciate that.

      And thank you! I will. I’m going to work hard on this goal. The challenge is working hard on it while also being gentle with myself.


  4. I feel your pain. I feel so fat and feel at a loss to do anything about it. I am not very dedicated so that is probably why I have no success. I try to avoid mirrors and reflective surfaces and that seems to help. HA. Good luck with the acceptance. I am almost there, as long as I don’t encounter any mirrors. 🙂


    • The journey to self-acceptance and self-love is a long and difficult one. I’m glad that you are working on it. We all need to love ourselves more, I think. 🙂


    • Thank you so much, friend. I’m sorry that you have those feelings about yourself. I hope that that is something that you can get past. I think you are lovely. ❤


  5. I feel the same way! I want to be thinner too. I don’t want a tire around my waist. I want to be able to run after my kids and not feel winded. I “FEEL” so much better when I exercise and I get thinner when I exercise so I don’t see how it can be a bad thing to be thin. Necessary? No. Bad? Absolutely not!


  6. I have tried losing weight for many years.. and now I have given up. I only try to be healthy. A few rolls, some tyres, I can live with.


  7. Tell me about the abs…they just love to hide, don’t they? I could so relate to your words. To me this whole year has been about better and healthier lifestyle, and sure it feels great to see the change. Keep hitting the gym harder, dedication will definitely pay 😀


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