How to Survive the Gym When You're on the Heavier Side

Overweight? Manage your gym anxieties with this advice.

By + More

Ah, January: the scent of newbies gently wafting in the air of your favorite fitness center, the rattling off of New Year's resolutions and the silent tension between everyone waiting in line for his or her favorite exercise class.

As if the environment wasn't charged enough, there's also the fear that can come with going to the gym as ... the big girl.

It's challenging. You feel like everyone is looking at you, picking apart what you wear, mocking the moves you make and laughing about goodness knows what. There are the insecurities that we carry deep down inside, and they're completely normal - it's human to feel insecure sometimes. But there's something about body insecurity that can be absolutely paralyzing between the gym walls.

I should know. I've been there.

I remember joining a 24-hour gym when I has about 330 pounds. I showed up at 11 a.m. - thinking most people would be at work - only to find the gym was full of 20-somethings eager to fit in their quick workouts between classes. So instead, I showed up at 4 a.m. - expecting everyone to be in bed - only to find myself shoulder to shoulder in the weight room with a third of the police department.

No matter what, I couldn't avoid exercising around other gym-goers, and I had to get over it if I was ever going to achieve my goals.

So what did I do? I continued braving the gym and logged these lessons:

No one's judging you. And, even if they are, they're still "no one." Throughout my life, you can rest assured people have judged the choices I've made - be it in fashion, choice of laptops or whatever. And somehow, I managed to survive these judgements. In the gym, I eventually realized I'd get through the feeling of not belonging there. Of course I belonged there - I paid for the membership!

Be approachable. Believe it or not, the gym is actually a great place to make friends. Everyone has similar goals, and people who are consistently present will notice you and want to feed off the positive and focused energy. And what better way to overcome gym fear than by making friends there?

Not confident? Get confident. Sure, confidence is a feeling, but it's a feeling rooted in something deeper. Make sure you know your stuff. You won't feel self-conscious for veering away from the treadmills if you have a plan that works for you and your goals. Worried about being bullied? Familiarize yourself with your gym's rules, and get to know the employees. If you feel confident in their ability to keep a safe and civil environment, then you'll feel more confident walking - and working - comfortably.

Don't feel like you have to put on a show for everyone. They're watching; they're not watching - don't let these thoughts consume you. Making faces, wearing makeup, overextending yourself on the gym floor - remember that this time isn't about them. It's about you, focusing on your goals.

Never forget why you're there. You're there for you. This is your time to tap into your needs - not time to waste by worrying about what other people think. Before you know it, you'll find yourself going to the gym regularly without fear, trepidation or apprehension. And you'll be hitting your goals left and right! Ignore the negativity, and - like I always say - your body will thank you for it!