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A Positive Comment and Paying it Forward

The gym can be an intimidating place for a morbidly obese person like me. Most people working out when I do look like they have been working out forever. Then there is me, the large round peg trying to squeeze into the small triangular hole. You may appreciate how I feel out of place in this environment. You may even recognize how difficult it is for a person like me to not only join a gym but continue working towards a healthy life when they feel so out of place just by being there.

It was shortly after 6:00 this morning and I had just spent an hour on the elliptical going as hard as 382 pounds can go. I was soaked with sweat and trying to catch my breath in-between swigs of water before going into the locker room. It was then that a gym member, who judging by his build has been going for a quite a while, walked by and said “you are looking great man, keep it up.”

I stood there for a few more moments, partly because I was still trying to catch my breath, but mainly because I was enjoying the moment. That comment was like flipping a switch in me that changed my fears of being an obvious outsider to a certain assurance that I belonged.

I am sure that I don’t look any different today than I did 4 weeks ago when I showed up as a gym “newbie” but that single comment was much more powerful than the man who said it, which is saying a lot.

Did he say it just to be nice? Did he say it with the knowledge that it would make me feel like I belonged? While being new to the gym I am not new to the journey. I have been working on a healthier lifestyle for three months before joining a gym and I wasn’t going to be the guy who stopped showing up in February regardless of how uncomfortable it was to be there - but he did not know that.

I don’t know why he said what he did but I do know that I am still amazed at how good those simple words made me feel. I told this man thank you, with what little breath I had, but I don’t believe there is anything I can say that would make him feel as good as I did this morning.

Legendary college football coach Woody Hayes once said, “You can never pay back, but you can always pay forward.”

I made a promise to myself this morning that one day I will pay forward the good feeling I have now. When I am the guy who looks like he belongs, and one day I will be, then I promise to offer similar comments to people working hard to change. That simple comment may be the difference between that gym "newbie" continuing their path to a healthy lifestyle or them starting over again the next year.

If a simple comment can be that powerful then it is the least I can do.

203 votes + -

54 comments:

ricklperry wrote 15 months ago:
incredible. i doubt that guy will ever know how much it meant to you unless he was in your shoes one day. this story made my eyes get a little watery. I've been going to the gym a bit over 2 months and have barely started to say good morning to people there because I felt so out of place i just wanted to be left alone. I may make more of an effort to be friendly after reading this.
chickie11 wrote 15 months ago:
Ok Kev...I am now in tears..Happy tears! I was that woman...about a year ago...I had lost weight so I assumed I could just go rock it out! I felt sooo intimidated once I got there..I hit the treadmill and to my surprise I was gasping for air after just 6 short minutes..short now but that day felt like an hour! I was sooo mortified I didnt go back...A few months later I decided well I gotta do this..Went back and pushed 20 min out on the treadmill...this very fit woman about 65 yrs old came over to me and said great job! Tomorrow lets blow out 25 min..I felt empowered!
Funny thing is..I was in that HBC challenge last week and I had set a personal goal to burn 3000 cals in a day...So I hopped on the exact treadmill that broke me down that day of 6 min. And I walked my incline of 9 @ 3.2 mph for 45 min...That pushed my burn over 3000 and was the most bitter sweet moment of my life! Now I still dont look like I spend all the time there that I do...but damn it..it feels amazing to get there! I love your blog and you know I love you dearly...Keep up the great work..I am inspired by you... XO
chickie11 wrote 15 months ago:
Ok Kev...I am now in tears..Happy tears! I was that woman...about a year ago...I had lost weight so I assumed I could just go rock it out! I felt sooo intimidated once I got there..I hit the treadmill and to my surprise I was gasping for air after just 6 short minutes..short now but that day felt like an hour! I was sooo mortified I didnt go back...A few months later I decided well I gotta do this..Went back and pushed 20 min out on the treadmill...this very fit woman about 65 yrs old came over to me and said great job! Tomorrow lets blow out 25 min..I felt empowered!
Funny thing is..I was in that HBC challenge last week and I had set a personal goal to burn 3000 cals in a day...So I hopped on the exact treadmill that broke me down that day of 6 min. And I walked my incline of 9 @ 3.2 mph for 45 min...That pushed my burn over 3000 and was the most bitter sweet moment of my life! Now I still dont look like I spend all the time there that I do...but damn it..it feels amazing to get there! I love your blog and you know I love you dearly...Keep up the great work..I am inspired by you... XO
Cynclancurrie wrote 15 months ago:
When I first read your sensitive blogs, I was blown away by the depth of your understanding of all of us who feel like outsiders. Then I read that you attended a family get-together where no one noticed your very considerable weight loss. I was curious, and turned to your profile to see your pictures.

I was amazed by the transformation I saw in you. You are indeed much thinner and fitter than when you began this journey. Luckily, you have only lost weight--not your marvelous personality. Your wife is a lucky lady, and I'm sure she knows it. Keep believing in yourself, Kevin!
MommaKit79 wrote 15 months ago:
That is just AWESOME!!!!
Stac2004 wrote 15 months ago:
That's just awesome. I totally relate just one little act of kindness goes so far. Good for that nice guy and good for you!! And I agree with cynclancurrie, I see the difference too in the pics you post.
Lize11e wrote 15 months ago:
Oh, Kevin... I just love reading your blogs and insights! I don't go to the gym for this very reason. I feel SO out of place. I can walk in the park but I have no where to strength train. After reading this, I may reconsider my path. You are such an inspiration and it's a blessing to be your friend. =)
DOMTIA1012 wrote 15 months ago:
I am glad you are feeling great! All of us on MFP can see you are putting in hard work.... keep it up!
MinisterTom wrote 15 months ago:
Awesome man. This is a lesson we can all learn. We need to encourage one another to accomplish our goals.
dkaryna wrote 15 months ago:
funny how things are, I was talking to my daughter about how awkward i would feel if I ever joined a gym full of very thin, very athletic, very beautiful women. I didn't think I could do it, but now after reading this you have inspire me to do this. I'll be joining a gym soon now. Thank you!
my0WNinspiration wrote 15 months ago:
Damn dude....this brought tears to my eyes.
corduroybee wrote 15 months ago:
Awesome post. One of the biggest hang-ups I have about exercising and going to the gym have been my insecurity about being seen. I worry about what people think when they see an obese woman trudging down the road or dripping sweat on the elliptical.

I'd like to share something that helped me A LOT... Someone posted this blog post in a MFP group a few months ago- http://flintland.blogspot.com/2012/05/hey-fat-girl.html I think it's a similar sentiment, from the point of view of a fit person. And I think many other fit people feel the same way when they see a person working hard.
jwaters1006 wrote 15 months ago:
awesome post! totally hit home. Plus as a HUGE Ohio State fan I can't help but give extra points for the Woody Hayes quote :)
lisberthjohnny wrote 15 months ago:
This is awesome- Truly awesome!
hazymary wrote 15 months ago:
Thanks for the graet post..NEVER think that what was said wasn't sincere. I only wish I had said something at the gym last week. I was on the treadmill next to a women who was working to her MAX. She had headphones on, so I never said a word. But this women was incredible...grunting and graoning, sweating. I see so many "fit" people who barely break a sweat, more focused on thier cell phones and the mirror than really getting a workout. So, when I see a person giving it their all, I'm so impressed. So yes we all need to pay it forward and support each other.
fatyoga wrote 15 months ago:
Amazing and inspiring!
JamieSK wrote 15 months ago:
Happy to call you an MFP friend and you will be one telling someone to keep up the good work - it will be sooner than you realize!! Happy dance for Kev!!
gddrdld wrote 15 months ago:
Love the way you think and write...Inspiring, always.
saxmaniac wrote 15 months ago:
You know, it's intimidating for me too, even though my BF is ~19%. I've tried a few times to do get into free-weights (strong guys) or classes (too many women), but haven't made it that far. I just stick with the pool and track, if that.

I'm not sure I'd ever belong... but if I did, I'd want say something like that to someone like you who is clearly putting in the effort.
foxymama73 wrote 15 months ago:
I just read this part of your blog, and that is awesome...people don't always realize the impact that words have on whoever they are speaking to...the blessing is that the man said something positive and to lift your spirits...all of us in this weightloss crusade need kind words of encouragement every now and then. A lady at my church told me I was "skinny"...I rode that high for days!! I'm happy for you, and keep going, and don't let ANYONE discourage you in your journey. God Bless
UrsinaBear wrote 15 months ago:
That is awesome. Hey, you should check out The Anti-Jared on facebook if you use facebook. http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Anti-Jared/285102642711

I follow him, he lost over 200 pounds years ago and still posts inspirational stuff every day. That guy who said that to you could have been someone like him who knows what you're going through, and what it takes to do what we're doing.
jackflak wrote 15 months ago:
Excellent man! Keep it up!
jillsjourney wrote 15 months ago:
so awesome!
Lt_Starbuck wrote 15 months ago:
no one ever takes the time or effort to say something nice to a stranger unless we mean it. No one is callous enough to go out of their way to do something nice for someone just to make them THINK they are doing well.

Those people that have been going forever, all the triangles... they go even though they dont have to, they love to - they want to - they KNOW what it takes to keep coming back.

You see someone trying and giving an honest effort, sometimes youre just moved to say Good job. It feels like kindred spirits.
Anamdalta wrote 15 months ago:
So awesome. Both the gym guy, and you, for your desire to share that feeling with someone else. You both rock.
jeanywren wrote 15 months ago:
Amazing how such a little thing can make someone so happy for the rest of the day!!! A few years ago I was driving on Xmas day to visit my elderly mother. Feeling kind of down about leaving my family and the long drive, I passed a car. The lady in the passenger seat amiled, waved, and mouthed "Merry Christmas". She absolutely turned my mood around.

A good thing to remember as there are always others that need that boost! Thanks for the great post.
RobinvdM wrote 15 months ago:
I admire your dedication to yourself, your commitment to be better and not give up no matter how awkward you were feeling being "the odd guy." Kudos to your anonymous support buddy who gave you that "Attaboy" It is a terrific feeling to read your experience and be just as awed by you at this random guy who totally flipped your perspective. Good for you, good for him. Good for all who benefit from your positive experience now and in the future :)
Mickeyriv wrote 15 months ago:
This is AWESOME! Your story made my day.
Also, as someone who feels uncomfortable in the gym sometimes, even though I may not look out of place... When I see someone that is TRYING to better themselves, no matter how far they may still have to go, all I think is "GOOD FOR YOU!!!"
JanaCanada wrote 15 months ago:
Very well written and poignant in its truth. Well done!
dts1063 wrote 15 months ago:
Awesome post and great reminder that the little thing can mean so much!!! Thanks for sharing!
storms32 wrote 15 months ago:
I was there also. I weighted 285 founds and got down to 145 pounds in a year. I was a large woman and felt so out of place. Now I see other new members come in and always give them a smile and tell them they look great. It really does make a world of difference. One thing I did before exercising is I had the Eat This Not That Books on me at all times. I ate so much better and had no idea how many calories I was eating when I thought I was eating healthy all the time. I really recommend the Supermarket survival guide and the Restaurant Guide. It really helped me.

Nichole
greyoutside wrote 15 months ago:
This is really lovely. I've certainly felt out of place at gyms before, but I've always been able to look around and find someone who looks more out of place than I do (maybe because I use the college gym and a parks 'n' rec. gym). You've definitely inspired me to speak up when I see someone working really hard. I think everyone is impressed by the people who are clearly new to the gym or to working out and are giving it their all anyway. The rest of us aspire to work that hard every day at the gym and many of us don't make it very often.
made2wonder wrote 15 months ago:
Great message!
schnoomom wrote 15 months ago:
tears...wonderful testament to the power of words
Otter1422 wrote 15 months ago:
Made me cry a little, I am now in my office at work with tears running down my face. Great message!
slincoln2007 wrote 15 months ago:
whenever i see someone running on the side of the road when i am driving and they are overweight I always say "you go girl! (or man!)" The wonderful thing about life is that each day is a new opportunity to be a better "me" and anyone who is doing that..I will always encourage vocally! Keep up the great work!
tsmom1128 wrote 15 months ago:
It's so true. And sometimes, you may be able to encourage a "newbie" even farther by showing them some before and after pics. It's always nice to hear advice from someone who has been there, as opposed to someone who has been thin and struggling with 20 pounds. Keep up the good work, and one day, we will all be smoking hot!!!
XDiet_SlayerX wrote 15 months ago:
One day you will be that buff guy walking towards another hard training future muscle man as well. Keep up the glorious work and keep that will power going!
ceannesjourney wrote 15 months ago:
Oh man, you brought tears to my eyes! What a great inspirational story. Keep going, you ARE doing great!
sarahrbraun wrote 15 months ago:
I really feel like the people who make those comments are divinely sent. It seems that when I am at my lowest, and ready to quit, God puts someone in my path to show me that I am on the RIGHT path.

I about cry every single time this one lady at the gym tells me how awesome I am doing. She is 2 years into rehab for a stroke. She walks with a cane, and her hubby has to use sports wrap to fasten her hand to the seated elliptical. But she takes time out of HER day to tell ME how awesome I am :D

another time I was on the treadmill and slowed down to help a few older women program their treadmills...and they told me they had noticed how often I was in there, and how dedicated I was. Another time I was on my way out and 2 women told me they had seen how HARD I was working in the weights area--made my DAY.

can't wait until I can make a sincere comment to encourage someone.
kar328 wrote 15 months ago:
Great story, thanks for sharing it. I recently started going to my subdivision gym and using one of their personal trainers. It's been awkward but it's all on my part, it's not a really busy place and the few people there were just focused on doing their own thing.
mthreefingers wrote 15 months ago:
What a great guy, and what an awesome story!
carolstartingover wrote 15 months ago:
I see that as a positive acceptance and a cheering on to keep up the great work. Now what happened at my club I go to , a guy about 450 got on the treadmill and broke it and he turned red and was upset and walked out. I felt so badly for him. I even told the guy upfront, why don't these withstand more weight, his answer was people are getting bigger now. So, buy new machines, make money and help these folks that want to work to change.,
stefaniad17 wrote 15 months ago:
You are a fantastic writer and someone who speaks from a place that so many of us know all too well. Thank you for being open and honest and earnest.
KiwiKimblee wrote 15 months ago:
That nearly made me cry (sugar withdrawals making me emotional). What an awesome thing to be told. Thanks.
Jillian130 wrote 15 months ago:
Great story and I honestly believe you will pay it forward. Kind words go a long way. So glad to hear you kept going back to the gym!
Cindywill1 wrote 15 months ago:
You're an inspiration! Keep up the good work!
jomtois wrote 15 months ago:
Very well written and touching. You are an inspiration, hang in there and keep it up.
Shaeyd wrote 15 months ago:
Thanks for sharing your story which has touched many. Many of us have been where you were/are. You and your blogs are truly and inspiration and I look forward to following your progress. Well done!

akern1987 wrote 15 months ago:
Kindness...it's so simple, yet so many people just go through life not saying anything at all...I dont know anything about the man who offered this compliment, but I do know something about your struggle, and I understand how much something like that can really motivate, and ease self-doubt.

Congratulations on your personal progress, and kudos to the kind stranger who took the extra second to make such a huge difference in your life.

Great story! :)
RawTriGal wrote 14 months ago:
I loved this... thank you for sharing... very inspiring.
odditblue wrote 14 months ago:
:) I am so proud of you!! (((hug ya))) NO QUITTING. You GOT this! And what an awesome thought... the idea of encouraging others. Yes, it encourages me too when somebody gives a litte atta girl. I never thought of me giving that back to somebody else. :)
OnsetGirl wrote 14 months ago:
As I read your story, tears came to my eyes. I was at the gym yesterday and saw this very large woman on the treadmill. And the first thing I thought was wow, that takes courage, to come here in 'work out' clothes being so large (and not in a mean way). Then I noticed the skin hanging from her arms and thought , she must have already lost a lot of weight... so she must feel great, good for her! But I didn't say anything to her... today when I go, I hope she's there, I'm going to tell her she looks great and to keep up the good work! I can't wait to encourage her. Thanks for your story
Ania_o wrote 14 months ago:
And so I went back to this entry and read it. Wow, I have tears in my eyes! Thank you for sharing these thoughts with us! I always make a point at smiling at people who run pass me (I don't go to the gym much these days, but I run outdoors) and it's a great feeling when they smile back. Your post made me realise how much more sensitive obese people are! I will ensure my smiles are much more explicit to them ;-)

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