"It takes a lot of courage to come into a gym when you haven't been exercising," says Dr. Ann Kearney-Cooke, a counselor for people who overeat.
People think the worst, Cooke says, and tend to "catastrophize" the gym scenario in their mind, thinking that people will make fun of them.
"I like to remind people that most people who are in the gym are preoccupied with their own goals," Cooke says. "They're not really paying so much attention."
Cooke suggests that people trying to lose weight first develop a realistic, healthy body ideal as opposed to the ideal set by fashion magazines showing pencil-thin models. She says that only 3 percent of the population has that kind of body shape.
Instead, Cooke says people should develop their own ideal according to their body and "engage in body-positive behavior."
"We know from research that regardless of your body weight, when you exercise and when you eat right, you feel good about your body."
Your body is the "house you live in," Cooke says. Women should especially keep this in mind as their bodies carry babies, and later take women through the life change of menopause.
When you go to the gym, don't compare yourself to others. Set your own goals and pay attention to behaviors that help you reach your own personal fitness ideal.
After you exercise, give yourself "inner applause," Cooke advises.
Don't look at exercising as a chore. Instead, view it as a chance for renewal and self-care. While you're exercising, you can listen to your favorite music on headphones and work out the stress of the day.
The Great American Weight Loss Tip of the Day is: Try exercising with a friend.
If you go with a friend, you're more likely to feel comfortable exercising. Eventually, you will feel just as comfortable going alone.
Be deliberate about finding gyms that encourage people of all sizes and shapes to exercise.
Reported by Dr. Emily Senay