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Bring Those Baked Goods Into My Gym at Your Peril


I’m a bit of a gym rat, I’ll admit it. I like the ritual of packing a gym bag, grabbing a water bottle, my iPod and heading to the gym. I look forward to breaking a good sweat (all sweat is good, btw) and the camaraderie of like-minded gym rats. I also love to see newbies who are obviously unaccustomed to the rhythms and routines of us more seasoned veterans. Almost nothing excites me as much as seeing someone break out of their comfort zone and try something new. Especially when that new thing is exercise.

So I consider my gym, which is my local YMCA, my happy place. Happy that is, until I walked in this morning and was confronted with a blasphemous scene: a bake sale in the lobby! WHAT?!

Staffing the goody-laden tables were scads of well-intentioned older ladies who were obviously raising money for a good cause. They could have been selling crack as far as I’m concerned. This stuff does not belong in my gym! I made my way to the gym manager’s office. I smiled sweetly at him and extended my hand in introduction.

Then I laid into him.

This is a place where we support people’s choices to live healthfully,” I said. “We invite people to change their lives here. We show them a path to becoming their best possible selves. We don’t kick those goals to the curb when somebody needs to raise some money, worthy cause or not.”

If you had been present to witness this conversation you’d probably advise me to relay the story using lots of exclamation marks. My passion for this cause is hard to miss.

That passion comes from a place of understanding and compassion for how difficult it is to eat healthfully in what I call our “toxic food environment.” It comes from my empathy for how tough it is even when you do everything right. Like go to the gym, where you assumed you were safe from the toxic food onslaught.

As I was transforming my diet and my body I realized that I really needed to transform every aspect of my life. What I have learned is that I need to create “safe havens” for myself. Places where the only choices to be made are healthful ones that support my commitment to wellness and healthy living. My primary safe haven is my home. I hope yours is too. My home is a place where I nourish myself and my family with healthy foods, loving relationships and pleasurable experiences. My home is a safe haven from the constant barrage of potentially unhealthy choices I have to face throughout the rest of my day.

When I go out into the world I’ve learned to extend that barrier around myself so that unhealthy things can’t cross it. (Think of it as a “force field” if you’re a Star Trek fan.) May sound silly, but this is exactly how I visualize it. When I venture into the mall I have to activate the special “anti-Cinnabon” smell blocker too! Yeah, you know the smell. Geez, it should be illegal! When I do this I become my own little portable “safe haven,” but there are refuges where I can let my guard down because the people and environment at these special places are safe for me. My gym is one of them.

Or at least it was. Until the demon blue-hairs showed up with their diabolical delights. I’m kidding. Seriously, I have no quarrel with these ladies. What I’m getting at is that we need to do a better job of supporting one another. No matter whether weight is an issue for you or not, making healthy choices is an issue for all of us. And each of us needs to take responsibility not just for ourselves and our families, but for others too.

People who are overweight or obese are often caretakers. I was one of them, and I observe this frequently in others. But here’s a paradigm shift for all of you caretakers out there who struggle with your weight: what if the best, most meaningful caretaking you can do is to take really good care of yourself? Offer that loving compassion that you feel for your family and friends to yourself. Allow for the possibility that the most important caretaking begins with you. Once you can see that, you’re going to want to share that joy with others. And what I’ve found is that offering up calorie / fat / sugar bombs, even when they’re wrapped in festive wrapping, does not answer that call.

So pity the poor gym manager who had to listen to me rant about the bake sale going on in the lobby this morning. But sometimes we need to be vocal advocates for ourselves and our health. Here’s hoping next time they organize a car wash instead!

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