How to Make Your Gym Experience More Body Positive

By Ilse de Graaf

Are you struggling to feel body positive whilst working out? Yes, hello! Former professional couch potato calling! I never really exercised willingly. Actually, I did my best to avoid it. In my life, I’ve always been at odds with the gym, I mean, I know it’s a great place to go and get fit especially if you don’t have easy access to a park or a schedule that allows for outdoor sports but I’ve just never liked the big rooms full of strange equipment and lined with full length mirrors. The old me had a negative body image as it was so confronting my red faced, sweaty self whilst on a treadmill was definitely not on my agenda. But that all changed, I actually love going to the gym now – as you’ve probably seen if you follow me on Instagram! So, what gave me that mindset shift? I’ve explored some of the factors below.



Find your why
What is your motivation for going to the gym? What is your reason behind embarking on this journey? Is it to look like the fitness bunnies you’ve seen on social media? If so, let me stop you there. I challenge you to focus on your overall wellness rather than weight loss, so you aren’t headed to the gym with the idea that you are going to leave with rock hard abs but rather you are going to set yourself some achievable fitness goals that focus on feeling healthy and staying motivated.

Changing your mindset to have a more body-positive approach to the gym will enable you to have a more successful and enjoyable workout.

Group classes
From my experience, women generally gravitate towards group exercises classes but before you’ve even attended a class this can be a catalyst for negative thought patterns, especially ones of comparison.

“I’m much bigger than these women”
“I won’t be as flexible as they are”
“I bet they’ve been coming here for a long time”
“They’ll be able to do more moves than I can”

These thoughts can be enough to make you stop in you tracks, turn around and head home again. But what if I told you that it really doesn’t matter if women in the group have been coming longer than you have? We all start from the beginning and nobody will be judging you for coming along and making the effort. Group fitness is a great way to help motivate yourself and others to dig deeper and push harder in workouts. It doesn’t get much more empowering than a class full of supportive people all working hard together. If you’re still unsure, why not bring a friend along with you? You can both offer each other that added support and motivation to attend class.

Mirror mirror on the wall
When I’m running outdoors, my focus in on the buildings I pass, people I see, trees, ponds, beaches – whatever scenery happens to be around me. But at the gym, surrounded by mirrors, my focus is suddenly on me;

“Do my legs look funny from that angle?”
“I’m sweating SO much, nobody else seems to be sweating this much!”

Gyms are often designed to incorporate lots of mirrors so that you can check your form HOWEVER there are so many exercises or exercise machines where there is no need to check your form so you can avoid looking in the mirrors that are filling you with self doubt. You could even try positioning yourself as far away from the mirrors as possible if this makes you feel more confident. Remember, how your body is moving is far more important than how it looks!

Join a body positive gym
If you’re looking for to change your gym completely, why not take advantage of some free trials and visit a few different gyms. When doing this, it’s important to remember that when a gym or fitness studio uses sales tactics that promote a negative body image, it is a strategy to profit off of your insecurities. Try to find a more inclusive space that focuses on positive reinforcement. You can spot these from the kinds of messaging on their notice boards or the names of the classes they offer. Try to avoid anywhere that wants to get you ‘bikini ready’.

No matter what approach you take to working out, find what is right for you and do not feel shamed into doing anything that you are not comfortable with or that doesn’t leave you feeling good! A healthy mind is essential to a healthy body.

What are your favorite fitness routines? Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading you POWERful, strong and body positive ninja. I believe in you. Join the #bodypositive movement on Instagram and share this blog post with your friends!

xx Ilse

Founder & Coach
Weight Loss Ninja