We polled real women on the body shaming comments they've heard inside gym walls. Cut these statements from your vocab, stat
Fat or slim, muscled or scrawny, athletic or nerdy, augmented or all-natural: No matter what you look like, going to the gym can sometimes feel like open season on your body. Maybe it's all the tight clothing, the wall-to-wall mirrors, or just the sweat gone to people's heads—there's something about watching others work out that makes people feel like they can pass judgment.
And according to a recent survey, 75 percent of women say that they want to go to the gym—but the number one reason they don't is a fear of being judged by others. We might be able to write this one off as unfounded, except a quick survey of readers turned up a ton of stories about unsolicited advice, snarky comments, and even full-on shaming from strangers at the gym.
Even more: Ingrained thoughts about what bodies are "supposed to" look like can slip out in seemingly innocent comments. (Psst: Don't miss these Strong Women Changing the Face of Girl Power As We Know It.) One that's particularly easy to slip into is skinny shaming. For those of us who aren't naturally thin, it's easy to be jealous of women who don't struggle with their weight. But you can't build yourself up by tearing others down. The gym should be a safe space for every body.
Check out the list below of painful skinny shaming comments directed at thin women, submitted by real readers, and axe them from your small talk, stat.
1. "Don't hurt yourself." It's one thing to be genuinely concerned about someone doing something dangerous; it's entirely another to assume that just because a woman doesn't have bulging muscles, she can't handle the weights or class she selected. If she wants to do it, let her do it.
2. "You're probably skinny fat." Bodies of all ages, shapes, and sizes benefit from working out—in ways that have nothing to do with weight. Thin people don't get a pass on exercise, but just because you don't see muscle definition doesn't mean she's just on the treadmill to watch TV. This is especially painful for women who are trying hard to put on muscle but, due to their natural body type, aren't able to.
3. "Are you anorexic? Do you ever eat?" Bringing up eating disorders with a stranger is never cool. If she's naturally built very thin then your comment may make her feel self-conscious about something she can't change. If she is struggling with an eating disorder, your comment digs even deeper.
4. "I feel like a whale standing next to you!" Think about what you're really saying here: "Your very presence makes me uncomfortable and I don't want to be by you"? We all have parts of ourselves we're self-conscious about and pointing out how you're "worse" than someone else isn't a compliment to them—nor is it helpful to you. Comparisons are odious.
5. "Real women have curves." Sure, some women have hourglass curves. Some are apple- or pear-shaped. Some are flat. The thing is, they're all "real women." The only thing you need to be a card-carrying real woman is to be a lady in possession of a corporeal body.
6. "Men prefer a woman with a booty." Men like lots of things in women—or as my grandma used to say, there's a lid for every pot—so let's not restrict a guy's preference to one type. Besides, who cares what men prefer? Are we working out for them? Nope.
7. "How often do you work out? You must live at the gym!" It's totally fine to ask someone about their workout (although preferably not while they're in the middle of doing it). Implying that because they're thin they must spend their whole life on the treadmill? That's far from fine.
8. "Are you naturally thin?" As opposed to what, exactly? Some women have to work very hard to maintain a thin physique. Others seem to do it effortlessly. Neither one should feel ashamed or embarrassed about this. Asking someone this is like asking if they've had a boob job—if they want to tell you about it they will, othewise it's just none of your business.