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  • Shane Kokas

Your body is not something to be poked at

A few weekends ago, my friend Anna and I attended a summer party where we found ourselves sitting at the bar enjoying a drink and laughing with one another. Eventually the two men next to us made some light conversation where they asked what we did for work. 


I told them I was a personal trainer. He then asked in a condescending tone, “You’re... a personal trainer?” while proceeding to poke me in my stomach. I am not kidding. The stranger blatantly judged me, and then preceded to touch me—As if my body wasn’t my body, but something that he could poke, prod and judge.


In the moment I actually laughed at him and said, “Why would I lie about such a thing and yeah, I have had a career in this space for almost a decade.” 


That was the end of it. This didn’t affect the rest of my evening—I still had a great time and shared genuine laughs with my friend. I didn’t really think anything of it beyond that because I don’t perceive myself as being “fat” and I now have more positive body image days than negative. But it hasn’t been my first experience having someone (a stranger) judge me based on my body. 


My thoughts the next two days were nothing about the man, but being proudness in myself. 


I am proud of myself because had that been 10 years ago, I would have hid myself. Questioned myself. Maybe even hated myself. I know this because I have done this. 


I am proud of myself because of the years of mindset work I have invested in myself.

In 2008, I had a classmate tell me I “wasn’t fit enough to be a personal trainer” when my friends and I were discussing career paths. 


In 2011, after my boss put out an advertisement saying I was accepting clients as a new trainer, I received an email from a stranger saying, “maybe I would have more clients if you lost weight.” 


There had been incidents between 2008 and 2011, and incidents after that led up to last weekend. The only difference today is my self-worth isn’t tied up in how other people think I should be or what they deem appropriate. 


I am writing to tell you that if you experience a negative comment or criticism about your body, to let you know your hurt, shock and frustration are totally valid. But I want to encourage you to loosen the grasps on that narrative—it isn’t yours to hold. 


You do not need to shift how you show up in the world, how much space you decide to take up because of someone else’s experiences of you and their insecurities. 


I want to remind you that your body is yours and it is not an invitation for anyone to poke, prod or assess. 

This kind of work will be messy. It will take time and it wont be easy. I am a decade into dissecting narratives that have been associated to me and determine what is mine.  

And to the stranger at the bar--any other questions?

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EDMONTON, ALBERTA

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