I am a polite person.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t make mistakes, but I deeply value kindness and am as kind as I can be, as often as possible. I just wish everyone could embody this same code of ethics.

I’ve been going to my gym since the day it opened (just under twenty years), and I’m grateful that my recent experience had never happened to me previously. This experience is something that I feel, for a number of reasons, needs to be shared…

So let me tell you what happened.

On the morning in question, just like every Sunday morning, I was standing on the power plate – a machine that gives the body’s muscles a high-speed workout by using vibrations that stimulate them to contract and relax. After a few moments, I noticed this man standing there stretching. He was not saying anything to me, not even acknowledging me; he was just standing there, extremely close to the machine. I turned to him and asked, “Sir, are you waiting for the machine?”

Never in my wildest dreams did I expect the response I received.

In utter frustration and anger, he spat out “I have a yoga class in twenty-five minutes, how long are you going to be on that thing?”

I replied, “I’m probably going to be on about five or six more minutes,” because I had only just started.

He looked me right in the eyes and said, “Well, if you knew how to use it, you wouldn’t be so fat.” And then he continued with “…and you would look a lot better if you lost thirty, no, thirty-five pounds.”

Fortunately, I teach healthy body image for a living and have the tools to deal with this; not everyone is so lucky. My heart goes out to the women who receive such insults and hold on to them because they don’t know how to let them go. And I pity the man that is so out of touch that he has to call me fat and body-shame me in order to feel accomplished.

In reality, I’m in a healthy weight zone.

And that doesn’t even matter because no one should be calling anyone fat!

Bullying is not acceptable in my world. @laurafenamore (Click to Tweet!)

Believe it or not, he actually went on to get even nastier with me. When I got off the machine, he called me “Cupcake” and told me “go eat more cupcakes today.” The hostility coming from this man was off the charts, and it was apparent that this was his normal state of being.

Although I doubt he had any epiphanies that day, I sure did.

  1. No matter how much I know and teach about healthy body image, words like his can still hurt me. Even though I knew the truth, he still managed to take the wind out of my sails for a short while.
    2. In our current times, more and more people feel entitled, angry, and impatient. For example, the week before this happened, I was on a plane flying from New York to San Francisco and there was a horrible screaming match in my row. Since my very first flight at age sixteen (I’m fifty-three now, and have flown a lot) I’ve never witnessed this on a plane. Never. Anger is rampant as people are flying (no pun intended) off the handle, and it makes me very sad.
    3. What I weigh is no one’s business except my own, and the number on the scale matters little compared to how we feel in our skin. I came out of this situation on top because of my confidence and self-love…not because I’m in good shape.
    4. We absolutely must learn healthy coping mechanisms to stand up against bullies like the man at my gym.

I believe that when we judge and criticize ourselves or another, we’re dealing with an insecurity inside of us. Because I felt hurt by what he said to me, I realized that I had to clear and clean that up for myself.

Even though I knew he was just a bully, I still have an inner voice that tells me that I’m fat and ugly. In truth, it’s a very small voice…but it’s there, and I accept that, and fortunately, I was able to move through this experience very quickly.

So the question now is this: How do we deal with bullies?

Do we take the high road and let them be their miserable selves?

Do we offer an argument and throw the truth back in their faces?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this, because I may have to see this man again sometime soon, and I keep praying for an answer on how to handle it.

If I’m alone, I don’t think I will say anything, because arguing with bullies is a setup for failure. We cannot teach them anything by sinking to their level.

However, I will share my irreverent self with you.

It has been fun to drift into fantasy land about getting a group of women together to circle around him and cry out, “You are a fat-shaming, woman-hating man and we are here to point that out and offer you help if you are ready to receive it.” And then in my fantasy, he says, “Sure, I would really appreciate your support in getting my mindset shifted from bully to someone who really cares about the well-being of women.”

I feel that this must be possible, or the fantasy would not even exist. And I am grateful for all the men and women whose hearts are open to transformation and change.

I like to think there is a lesson to be found in everything.

Perhaps this happened because I needed to witness and remember how cruel people can be when it comes to fat-shaming. It has been a long time since someone has called me FAT.

How would YOU handle a bully like him?

How would his words have made you feel?

How quickly would you have bounced back from that?

This is why I do what I do.

My encounter with that man gives me more incentive to invite as many of you as I can to join me. Let’s have a conversation. I offer tools and instructions on how to heal more deeply around these painful issues, and I would love to help you on this journey.

Laura Fenamore, Body Image Expert, Coach and acclaimed Author is on a mission to help women around the world end the constant battle with their bodies and start adoring who they see in the mirror. Her approach walks students and readers through the heartfelt journey to self-love at any size or age by unlocking the secrets to a lifetime of emotional, physical and spiritual health. After overcoming a lifelong battle with addiction, obesity, and eating disorders, Laura released 100 pounds – keeping it off for more than 28 years. She chronicles this journey to self-love and health in her widely acclaimed book, Skinny, Fat, Perfect: Love Who You See in the Mirror. Learn more about Laura’s programs, or invite her to speak by visiting SkinnyFatPertect.com.

Image courtesy of kinkate.