A body shamer strikes again.
Social media influencer Julie Ana Kim revealed to her more than 58,000 followers on Instagram that a recent exchange with a fellow gym member left her feeling “hurt, embarrassed, and mortified.”
Kim, who’s lost 75 pounds over the last two years and has been documenting her transformation on both Instagram and YouTube, began the April 16 post by stating how far she has come in her wellness journey, both physically and emotionally. However, a fellow gym goer recently tested her strength.
“He proceeded to tell me how brave I was for being my size and still coming to the gym,” she wrote. “And kept talking and had to stop himself from calling me fat. He did however use his hands to motion how big I was while saying he himself couldn’t imagine coming to the gym while being that big.”
Kim tells Yahoo Beauty that she purposely worked out either at home or at a small gym during the first six months after her lifestyle change in order to avoid potential negative onlookers.
“When I was extremely overweight, I would have anxiety over going to the gym because I felt that most people at the gym were already fit and were judging me when I would just walk on the treadmill,” she shares with Yahoo Beauty. “It was intimidating, but after a while, I realized most people were focused on their own workouts. Everyone was there to better themselves.”
In fact, the gym eventually turned into her “safe place.”
“Nobody ever bothered me or said anything offensive to me — until this recent experience,” admits Kim.
And yes, words matter. Researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania stated that body shaming — whether online or in public — may take a toll on a victim’s health and increase their risk of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.
After the encounter, Kim went to the gym bathroom and cried. She credits her online social community, along with her friend who witnessed the interaction and a complete stranger also at the gym for helping her wipe away the tears. “I realized that this is my own journey and there will always be people that try to put others down, maybe because they have their own insecurities or problems,” she explains to Yahoo Beauty. “I am at the gym to better myself and become healthier, and I should never be ashamed of that.”
Science proves there’s power in an online forum. According to a 2017 study published in The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, investigators concluded that weight loss sites and virtual communities can provide useful and motivational advice, which has been shown to help keep “spirits up.”
While Kim wants to believe the gym member was attempting to offer her words of encouragement, she adds that this man’s remarks were out of line, regardless of his intentions.
“I think if he came up to me and said that he’s seen me coming to the gym every day and that he was inspired or ‘proud’ of that, then it would’ve been a different story,” she says. “Instead, he kept mentioning my size and how big I was repeatedly and belittled me in front of others.”
Since her goal is to continuously inspire other people on their weight loss journey, Kim has this message to share with those who’ve dealt with body shaming while working out:
“Remember that you are doing this for yourself, for your health, and for your well-being,” she shares with Yahoo Beauty. “Do not let people’s insensitive comments deter you from living your best life. Focus on your goals and keep moving forward. And remember — there are always people who will support you along the way!”
As for outspoken gym goers, think twice before speaking up. “Everyone is at the gym to better themselves and become healthier, so please refrain from going up to someone and belittling them,” Kim posted.
Read more from Yahoo Style + Beauty:
Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest for nonstop inspiration delivered fresh to your feed, every day. For Twitter updates, please follow @YahooStyle and @YahooBeauty.