Monday, May 11, 2009

Facing Fears

Even after all the 'mental processing' I've done regarding weight, self image, and self consciousness, I still struggle with exercising in front of people. I mean, I would have no problem going to a gym to workout, even if I felt a little funny the first couple of times. I don't mind when people look at me when I am out walking or biking or playing basketball with my kids. And breaking all fat-girl tradition, I do not mind going swimming at a public pool or beach in (gasp) *just* a swimsuit... no t-shirt, shorts, or coverup over it. I do feel like I have atrocious legs (a fright to behold, even though I do appreciate them carrying me around) but I just don't care that much what strangers think. I'm probably never going to see them again anyway. The 'people' I have trouble exercising in front of are the people in my own home: my family.

When my husband was gone all the time, I'd easily bike or strength train or try a workout video with my 3-year-old daughter, because she was fun to do it with. She didn't judge or laugh or make snide comments; she just thought it was fun to do what Mommy was doing, so I gave her a 1-pound weight and away we went. The older kids were in school, but even when they were home I occasionally would bike or strength train in front of them. They were raised well enough not to comment, so I just sucked it up and did it.

But doing aerobics or a yoga DVD in front of my kids, or even a vigorous strength training session, makes me feel *very* self conscious. I know my body is not the most beautiful thing to look at, and I guess in the back of my head I am afraid my kids will notice I am fat. See, kids are sort of oblivious. I gained all this weight when they were younger and they never really *noticed.* I was just their Mom, and they didn't care about my size... they just saw "Mom." Once when I was commenting on needing to lose weight, my little son piped up and told me I was NOT FAT (when indeed I was). Maybe he was being nice, but his honest little face told me he just didn't see me that way.

Now they're teenagers, and I am sure they *know* I am fat, but I want to keep on pretending I am their normal sized, thin, fit mother and hope they have never actually noticed the amount of flab hanging off my upper arms and legs. I have this fear the if I exercise in front of them, they will stop and look long enough to see that stuff, and then suddenly go, "oh gross, look how fat Mom is." Ridiculous, I know. But those fat fears still lurk.

I am pretty sure I could get over exercising in front of the kids completely just by doing it a few times. They're probably just glance my way and go do something else. I mean, what teenager wants to watch his mother do yoga anyway, no matter what she looks like? So what's the problem? Well, I think the big problem is that I am very nervous about exercising in front of my husband.

He's here pretty much all the time now, and he is in the living room 90% of the time, which is where the TV/DVD player is. I've wanted to try my new yoga DVD, but the thing that's stopping me is, what will he do or say? Will he make comments that embarrass me, maybe even in front of my children? Will he joke about how I look? I just do not want to deal with it from the person who *should* be the most supportive of me, but isn't. I have this fear he will draw attention to my fat and then my kids will look at me differently. Or he might turn it into some kind of weird competition. When I was riding my bike daily, suddenly I had to work around *him* wanting to ride it daily, too. Some days he would go ride while I watched the daughter and then I wouldn't get to ride. And now that I am *not* biking, guess what? He never bikes either. Will he suddenly be jumping up to do yoga? Other times, when I have been losing weight, suddenly big chocolate muffins and cases of candy bars have started to appear. I don't want to wake the sleeping monster by showing a weight loss effort... but how lame is that? How lame is my reasoning, really?

I wish I could depend on him to be supportive but since I can't, and no amount of heart-to-heart talks has changed this, I have really GOT to suck it up and ignore my worries and just DO it. What's the worst that could happen? A couple of comments? I have to walk outside instead of bike? I have to throw some stupid chocolate muffins in the trash? It is not worth delaying my life of these ridiculous fears!

I know that once I just DO it the first time, the worst will be over. Every time I exercise in front of the family will get easier. They'll get used to it and I will be fine. I'll be more than fine... I'll be fit! So here goes nothing. This mama is going to do yoga in the living room this week. I'll report back on any interesting reactions I get, and I know I will feel 100% better once I do this.

What fears are you facing this week?


VeeGettingHealthy said...

My fears? Geez... so huge. But as to what you wrote about: I too can't exercise in front of hubby, unless I exercycle while he's on the total gym. I finally confided to him the reason: I once worked out in front of a live-in-boyfriend who made fun of me, and I haven't been able to do it since. My 12 year old knows I'm fat but tells me he loves me and that I'm beautiful.

I hate to tell you, but I'm sure your children know you're fat and love you anyway. Most kids are funny that way - they grow up with a fat parent, and they're ok with it.

My advice? If you really feel he's sabotaging your exercise program and diet, sneak it like you used to sneak food. Do butt clinches while you're watching TV (he won't notice). Do yoga at 5 a.m. before Hubby gets up. Enlist your kids to bike with you - telling them that you just want company, not competition.

Sorry for the rambling. I hope this helps. Vee at

L1z4 said...

I took belly dancing lessons back in January, and faced my fears of being self conscious in front of others. The fear never went away, it mutated, grew to planetary proportions, and made me physically ill, and my mind raced for weeks. All because the group insisted I perform in their group dance for the public performance they were putting on, even tho I insisted that I was no way going to perform before signing up for more classes. I got pushed into it, saying they'll put me in the back and no one will notice me. I felt like a fool the whole time, an old fat fool with body image issues. They arranged it so all the "skinny girls are in the front." The last class I took the skinniest girl got a little huffy at me and roped me into doing extra cirrcular work for the class, by singling me out in front of the others. Ugh. I didn't even want to put on the show in the first place!

I dropped the class feeling like heel and I was disappointing new friends. I was fine with that because they were turning into frenemies anyway. *sigh* I'm just getting over it now. I fell for all that balony about belly dancing being healing for your self esteem. Big Belly Dance FAIL. Now I just do bellydancing at home, with DVDs and I feel a thousand times better. I like the way the belly dancing feels in my body. I will never put myself through the pressure of performing (dance) ever again. BTW, I was the second fattest one in the class, and the other lady fatter than me was playing the "I'm too busy to be in this show" card, making me the fattest one in the group dance.

Tina said...

I hate exercising in front of my husband even though he is the sweetest most supportive thing on the planet. Especially yoga. There are just some positions of my butt he doesn't need to see!! I do all my workouts in our our bedroom with the door closed but I'm not sure if you have that option. I even bought a small, flat screen TV with the DVD built in so I always have my privacy :)

Drina said...

Lyn, I commend you on facing your exercise fears. I also hope you go one further --by asserting yourself and your right to a home that facilitates (rather than hinders) your healthy lifestyle. Take the bike and go. Toss those muffins when they're left lying around. Do that yoga video. Above all, take care of yourself. If you don't, you won't be able to take care of anyone else.

Best to you, Lyn!!

Ceres said...

I have to go back to regular exercising after a three-week-break, and I am feeling quite self-conscious about it, so I know what you mean!
About your situation: if your laptop has a dvd player in it, you could just take it and exercise in the bedroom. It's just an idea, although in the long-run your whole family will need to come to terms with your new, healthier lifestyle.
And, by the way, I think you're awesome for just having the patience to put up with your husband bringing home all this junkfood. I would have picked up some major fights over it!

NewMe said...

Hi Lyn,

I feel pretty confident in saying that your kids don't give a hoot. They just love you. Kids don't like looking stupid in front of their friends so don't prance around in yoga pants when their guests are there. But you know, I'm sure that applies to thin moms who think they look as young as their daughters. They are just as good at embarrassing their kids as moms who weigh more.

As for hubby...sigh...Throw out the damn muffins when he's not looking or give them to your local food bank.

Keep up the good work!

antgirl said...

I consider my workouts, *MY TIME* so prefer to do it alone.

Husband sometimes watches. He says he's exhausted watching.

Invite him to try it with you. I'm sure he'll keep anything snide to himself then. :) It's never as easy as it looks.

I don't think his comments will change how your kids see you. I bet your kids are proud of you and you're setting a great example.

Make Husband go run errands or something.

Anonymous said...

I may be off base, but we only know so much about your relationship with your husband (the bits and pieces you post), but are there any upsides to your husband being around? Maybe you only post about the negative, but it sounds like he makes your home a sort of tense, touch and go, unpredictable mind game type of place to be.
I do hope you find a way to change the dynamic at home. I think at this point why don't you just go ahead and live your life, if he is rude, or disrespects you, especially in the presence of your children, he needs to be told where to go and for you to just keep on keepin on.

jilli10582 said...

Hi Lyn,

I don't have any comments regarding your husband, but, as for your kids -

Either they've noticed that you're overweight or they haven't. If they haven't, then they won't figure it out just by watching you exercise.

If they have, though, then they have. And, from experience, I can say that I pretty much guarantee that they don't think you are "gross." You're just Mom!! However, as they get older, if they've noticed that you're overweight, then they probably worry about you, as health issues due to obesity are all over the news all the time.

My parents are both overweight, and I worry about their health a lot! If I were to ever see them exercising, I'd feel relieved!! Not grossed out! Just knowing that my parents were trying to take care of themselves and their health would make me really happy!!!

So, don't hide from your kids! Let them see you taking care of yourself! Invite them to join if they want, and they can take care of themselves as well!!! But at the very least, if they see you exercising, they won't worry about you as much!! So either way, you're helping them!

Jenn said...

I wish I didn't care about strangers the way you do. I am SO self conscious when I go to the gym, but I know I have to go. So, I suck it up, pull at the bottom of my shirt like a 1000 times, and get on with it.

Lyn said...


thank you for realizing that what you read here about my marriage is only the briefest snapshot of the picture. In fact, I pretty much *only* comment on my husband as it relates to the topic of weight loss, and in that case he has not been helpful. I don't feel comfortable posting about my marriage in detail on this blog, except what I've shared about us spending most of the past 2 years apart and his returning just a few weeks ago to try and make things better. There are definitely positives. I'll leave it there for now.

And thank you to other commenters who share thoughts and insights without trying to critique my marriage from afar :)

I do appreciate all you share!

Rebekah said...

You can do it girlie, like you said once you start it will get eaiser <3

T-rex said...

My fears are that, despite logic, I am getting fatter the healthier I try to become. This past week I exercised almost every day, cut out a lot of empty calorie diet food and replaced it with fruits and veggies, and ate at or under my points each day. But the scale showed a slight gain, despite my efforts.

I know in my heart that this is nothing but some water retention and maybe some muscle mass, and in the long run this is more sustainable for my health than any hardcore diet that I won't continue long term, but even though my goals are more health-related than strictly weight related it is so hard not to feel down when I do everything right, feel great, but the scale doesn't show it.

Mama Bear June said...

Send hubby on errands or ask him to do some chore outside. I've found that my kids (21 and 19 now) tend to make themselves scare when I'm exercising in the living room. If I'm in the basement on the treadmill, my son sometimes is playing his video games and pays no attention to me. My husband and I also like to go on walks together. Any chance you can get another bike? Hope something works out for you, but yeah, take care of yourself. Do the workouts you want to do and if anyone makes smarty comments, ban them from the room when you are doing your thing. ;-D

gill said...

I think you ought to just do it anyway. If he says anythng to you, turn around and give him the 'look'. He should be supporting you making these choices, and if he doesn't, well tough poo!

I struggle with people judging my exercise habits too. I don't have a solid hour in the day where I can get to the gym, so I go twice a day - 1/2 an hour pre work and 45 mins at lunch. I get sick of people saying "TWICE a day? Ooh youll be ill" or " Don't you think thats excessive?" I still need to lose 15-20 pounds, so erm no.

Do it for you and don't let other people's standards be yours.


mythreemonthokinawadiet said...

I don't fear not reaching my 3 month diet goal - I fear not trying hard enough. At the end I want to beable to say - I gave it my best shot and here we are.

I think you are a great writer.

crabby said...

Last month I saw some silly magazine at the supermarket ... there was an article advertised on the cover, 'Become Beautiful'.
It made me realize something about myself: when I see the word 'beautiful' in that context, it is my mother who comes to mind, NOT some empty standard pushed by the media.
My beautiful mother was a size 22 when she passed away. She was only 70 y.o.
Of course it is important for our health to not be obese, and we must beat this thing for that reason.
Thank you, thank you, for this wonderful, helpful blog. I was up 'way past my bedtime yesterday, going back to read from the beginning. I can't wait to try your recipes!!
What fears am I facing this week? The usual...job-related. I keep thinking I'll have a better chance of getting a better job when I'm a smaller size...but that will be a fringe benefit of losing the weight, not the main reason for doing so.

Vickie said...

does the man work - leave the house???

I find that it Totally Disrupts My Concentration to have someone/anyone watching passively - and/or talking - so if they are in the room - they have to do it too and they have to be SILENT - or out they go.

I am wondering if you can find another TV with DVD at a garage sale or something - a smallish portable one that you can move room to room.

Vickie said...

another bike at a garage sale is a good idea -

and I totally support the concept of if they bug you - find lots of work for them to do - the dirtier the better. They will truly make themselves scarce.

Deb said...

Left you something on my blog. Check it out. :-)

Karyn said...

I thought I was the only person afraid to exercise in front of family members!

I don't even like to walk on the treadmill when Hubby is home (although I have managed to get past that) and I absolutely do not want to actually do a workout DVD! I don't want him to see how uncoordinated I am, I guess.

Go for it, Lyn! Let us know how it works out.

Greg at Live Fit said...

Fear of rejection and failure is what holds most of us back. It's amazing the pressure we feel from peers, and even strangers. And the truth is that most of the time, it is more about what we believe they think than what's actually going through their minds.

If we let fear rule our actions, we'll never be able to implement change. Step out and create change. It won't happen without action.

Fat[free]Me said...

It is so hard to look attractive while huffing and puffing to an exercise DVD isn't it? I too am OK at the gym or outside (despite my recent unpleasant experience) - usually everyone is encouraging and supportive.

But no way would I exercise in front of my family or honey (or work colleagues come to think of it), in case they think less of me.

Aren't we daft? Of course no-one would think any less of us - in fact, we are showing how much we care about ourselves and that is a great example to set them.

No idea what to say about your hubby - can you banish him (lovingly, of course) from the TV room for an hour while you workout?

Love your attitude - do it anyway and bleddy well enjoy it!

Anonymous said...

Lyn, I am a regular commentator but have to leave this one anonymously because it is just too embarassing. I was getting over my fear of excersizing in front of my bf and decided to show off a new pilates move I had just mastered, where you put your legs up over your head and roll from sitting to lying down with your ankles in the air. I said, hey honey, watch this and then promptly with his FULL and undivided attention let out a It was potentially one of the more embarassing moments I've ever had, but became one of the biggest laughs we have ever had and now no amount of embarassing exercise can top that. The moral of the story: Do your thing. Whatever it is :) He'll get used to it

fatfighter said...

Is there any way for you to exercise in a different room? Or maybe just tell him to go somewhere else while you do your thing? I wish he was supportive of you - I'm sorry he's not.

Helen said...

Your kids ADORE you. I just know they do, teenagers and all. I was also really self conscious about doing yoga or aerobic dvds in front of my teens, but when at last I got up the courage to say "this is what I'm doing right now...suck it up or leave the room" I actually found that they were so amazingly proud of me: proud that I was exercising, and proud that I stood up for myself. In fact, Em just said in this puzzled voice, " why on earth would we laugh at you for doing something that you are doing for yourself" Now, we clear a big space, they do it with me, and we have a ball and laugh our socks off together. Our kids, who love us, are very accepting and encouraging, and I know that yours are too. In fact, it is GOOD for them to see you working out. Really good for them.

My husband, who is incredibly supportive but isn't up for sitting around watching me, just says 'you go girl' and goes off to do something else.

You go girl. We (all of us who read your blog) KNOW you can do this.

Lisa B said...

I totally understand your fear of exercising in front of people. ME TOO! We are fortunate to have a basement where I can "hide" and exercise.I was interested to find out that some of my thin friends have the same fear.

BUT maybe you can reframe the situation a little - by having your kids see that you exercise, they will see that moving is important. They will see you taking care of yourself and setting a good example. . . Does that help at all?

Keep goin'!


Lynne said...

I think exercising in front of your children is a great way to emphasize that you love your kids and you care about taking care of them by taking care of yourself. It's a great example. As for your husband.... I also live with a passive/aggressive saboteur. Put your foot down. Throw out the junk (use the garbage or BE the garbage)and set up your NON-NEGOTIABLE exercise schedule.Put your blinders on and just do it... FOR YOU and your sake!!!

Chad said...

Take it on as a challenge to really focus on the exercise you are doing. If you can really focus in on what you are doing you'll be unconscious of what's going on around you.

I'm a personal trainer and even I get a little fearful when I try new exercises at the gym. Once I focus in on what I'm doing, nothing else matters.

Esther said...

This is my first time reading your blog and this post could have been ME writing it - I feel EXACTLY the same way! I have two kids (14 and 13) and a husband who's schedule has changed and is now HOME at every possible exercise moment and I'm so self-conscious about the when/how of it all...girl I feel your anxiety...honestly

~TMcGee~ said...

Lyn, I grew up with a "fat" parent (my dad) and the ONLY time I was ever bothered by it was when other kids made fun of him. It hurt me to hear their snide remarks. I never once had a "what a disgusting fat man he is" thought go through my head.
Your kids don't see fat when they see you. They see the woman who takes care of all of their needs, loves them unconditionally and strives to make their lives good.

As far as the hubby goes I totally get not wanting to do an exercise DVD in front of him. Mine won't make fun of me but I concentrate so much on the perfect person on the screen doing the perfect moves that it takes all the joy out of doing it.
If I were there, I'd hop on that bike, plug in some earphones, crank up the music and if he talks in your general and nod. Oh and if he leaves muffins and candy bars on the counter, pour vinegar, mustard...anything "gross" on them and get rid of it pronto.
Best of luck to you. :-)

Juice said...

Lyn, can't wait to hear how you overcome this challenge. I know you can do it! Sending positive thoughts your way.