I had to stop the guy. He's young, sporting a perfect v-taper, and going on about needing to cycle his carbs and exercise this and that. "Dude," I said. "You look awesome. Chill out."
The woman talking with us--40, gorgeous and doesn't know it--kept grabbing at the fat that necessarily accumulates at the midsection when one sits (otherwise, there wouldn't be any give for standing up). "Meg, you look beautiful," I said. "Relax and keep on keepin' on."
That's my new thing: telling people they're beautiful. Because if I've learned anything from working in the fitness field, it's that the body isn't separate from the mind or spirit, and a little encouragement can go a long way--straight from the abs to the psyche.
Personal training has the P word in there for a reason. Get someone talking about how they treat their bodies, and the trainer becomes therapist. Have someone adjust their clothing for measurements, and the trainer is entrusted caretaker. Touch the muscle group to be worked and it's highly personal--your muscles are you, and you are a bundle of ideas, memories, worries and fears. It all comes out in the gym.
An important clarification: I don't walk around telling everyone they're awesome. In fact, I found the movement a while back to celebrate large figures somewhat disturbing. Celebrating all body types and self-confidence yes, but what I was hearing was an acceptance of unhealthy lifestyles. Keep telling yourself that it's okay to be a big girl, and you won't have too much trouble fulfilling your destiny by finishing off that bag of chips.
The two people I mentioned at the start were indeed beautiful in the basic sense of the word. But I could sense that they either didn't realize it, or couldn't rest in that fact; their bodies worried them, and my words were more reassurance than compliment, if you get me. Someone else might need to be reassured of other qualities--yes, you are smart, articulate, interesting. But at the gym, the body, on display, becomes the starting point.