I got fat. Not like fat is a bad thing, but none of my jeans fit anymore and the buttons on my work pants were beginning to cut off my circulation.
I could think of a million excuses for why I was gaining weight. Perhaps it was a hypoactive thyroid, a gluten allergy, or possibly a combination of both intermingled with my stagnant 28-year-old metabolism.
These were clearly all viable theories according to my opinion and the symptoms I typed into Google. But after one doctor's visit and a rap sheet of negative blood test results, it seemed the only thing I suffered from was an addiction to Netflix and an allergy to exercise.
This body transformation had all taken place on the heels of a move to Portland. I was now living in what is referred to as the fit capital of the country. (I did not know this prior to moving.)
So the next thing I did was join a gym. Since most gyms offer a free personal training session when you sign up, I decided to check it out. The last experience I had with a personal trainer had been borderline magical.
In 2010, I participated in an article for Fitness Magazine that featured myself and a celebrity trainer, Tony Molina. We worked together through what he called "Multiple Planes of Resistance," a combination of weights and cardio to help me lose a whopping 15 pounds.
It wasn't just the workouts. My trainer was stern, but in a gentle, motivational way. For example, he didn't laugh or frown as my chubby limbs struggled to complete my first full push-up.
He was super proud of me for even the littlest progress that was made each session. I couldn't wait to get back to the gym after the end of each workout, and I actually started to believe my own hard work could lead to me having a physique I was happier with.
It was with those fond and fuzzy memories I walked into my complementary training session hoping to re-create that same kind of comradery and success had I experienced before with a trainer.
I met with Jeff.*
Jeff was short but huge. He had one of those invisible necks that a lot of body builders have as a result of mounting muscles on their shoulders. I was both impressed and intimidated by his size.
When he walked over, Jeff grunted some arbitrary greeting and asked me what my body goals were. The immediate response: "To have a body like Beyoncé." Duh.
With an eye roll and a smirk, he said he would see what he could do. In retrospect, the eye roll was a clear indicator of his attitude toward our workouts together. But I brushed my instincts off as feelings of paranoia and workout anxiety.
The first session went fine. I was keeping up with instructions as best as I could while Jeff piled on weights to gauge my strength. Through all of the sweat, I was thrilled to get acquainted with this trainer while slowly getting reacquainted with my body.
Maybe this was going to be New York City all over again, just like old times. "Flawless" here I come! But that bubble was burst when something between us went horribly wrong during the very last rep.
It was some tricep pully. I was to pull the wire cable then squat simultaneously. I did one rep.
I heard, "No. Do it again."
I wiped the sweat off my forehead. A little more nervous, but okay, it here goes.
"No. Gimme that. Move, no."
I chuckled uncomfortably as this guy grabbed the handle and attempted to show me a squat. He handed back the pulley handle and, as I tried one last time, he stopped me and declared our session done for the day with time to spare.
He seemed disgusted. Or maybe I felt disgusting. Either way, in that moment I felt like a fat failure.
Since the session wasn't really intended to be "free," immediately following the complimentary session we walked over to his cubicle to "recap" the workout and decide whether I would purchase more sessions.
In my mind, I began to rationalize what had just happened. Maybe I had imagined it. Maybe it was my fault. I probably wasn't lifting the weights right. I hadn't touched a dumbbell since 2010 and now I was fat. Besides, it was my fat lazy body that got me into this mess in the first place. I deserved every bit of degradation this trainer had for me.
And so it began; I paid a ridiculous amount for four sessions of mental anguish and physical torment.
They all began the same. Ten minutes on the treadmill then an hour of lifting on machines I had never heard of and was too intimidated to ask about.
Even when I did speak up about the weights being too heavy, I was told to suck it up and keep going.
The whole scenario was very Fifty Shades of Grey meets The Biggest Loser. Jeff seemed repulsed by my out-of-shape body.
On the multiple occasions where I physically could not lift anymore and stopped exercising in fear that I was actually going to die, Jeff stood parallel from me and glared silently. That was better than the consistent condescending comments and eye rolling. I began to realize this was not the motivation I had paid for. I could go anywhere and be fat shamed for free.
After my third session, I even called the gym anonymously to figure out if I could finish the sessions with another trainer.
They said I would have to speak with the manager. I asked the manager's name.
It was Jeff.
There was no way out. I dreaded going to these workouts, but they were non-refundable, so I continued to go back each week.
It was with one session left that I reached a breaking point.While throwing a 20-pound weighted leather ball full of sand at full speed back and forth between each other I could feel my arms crumbling after every throw. As I stopped to take a breath, Jeff threw the ball directly into my gut.
This man had just knocked the wind out of me. I looked up to catch my breath and there he was . . . laughing.
That was the last straw. I no longer cared what kind of a loser this stranger thought I was. It was clear that my consistent attendance wasn't enough to be taken seriously.
I still have one session left. I didn't lose a pound. But I certainly gained some self-respect when I walked away from that toxic relationship.
*Name has been changed