"Judging anyone based on their looks or a picture is just sad ... and yes it is a form of bullying," Taryn Sisco and Megan Ellis wrote in a blog post
Credit: Barre East

Taryn Sisco and Megan Ellis opened a barre studio in Frederick, Maryland, to provide a safe haven for women to work out without fear of judgment.

Ironically, the two women would find themselves being judged when they received an angry piece of body shaming hate mail after an article about their studio appeared in the local paper.

“Now I realize you can’t please everyone, and I know barre isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but this was different,” Sisco, 40, and Ellis, 35, wrote in a blog entry posted to the Barre East website. “A woman cut our article out of the Frederick News Post and proceeded to write insults all over it saying we have no place in the business of health and fitness. But it wasn’t about our business or our training – she was picking apart our bodies and the way we look.”

The letter’s author – who Sisco and Ellis did not name – drew arrows pointing to the women’s heads with the words, “You are overweight” and “You are fat” written by them.

“The woman had never met us in person, she’d never seen us in person, she’d never come to a class,” Sisco tells PEOPLE. “Her entire rant is based on a picture of us. It would be one thing if she was critiquing our business model or our studio, but it was only based on the way we looked.”

The words were very hurtful, because both women have struggled with body image.

“Early in my 20s, I did have an eating disorder, but I actually learned from that how to accept my body and be proud of who I am,” says Sisco. “Megan is still in the middle of her fitness journey. She’s lost a lot of weight. She’s doing amazing, and she is really healthy, but it really kicks her down.”

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Sisco and Ellis had two options – to either throw the note away, or put it out there. They decided to respond to it to let their clients and women everywhere know that this kind of body shaming is not okay.

“Judging anyone based on their looks or a picture is just sad…and yes it is a form of bullying,” they wrote in the blog post. “It sends the wrong message to women everywhere. Women should lift each other up, not tear each other down. So nice try lady…but mission not accomplished. Barre East welcomes all ages, all levels and ALL BODYTYPES. Always.”

Sisco says they decided to post the response because they felt a responsibility as members of the fitness industry.

“Part of being in the fitness industry is to stand up against body shaming, and to advocate for the person who would have just thrown it away and cried,” she says.

The response they’ve gotten has been overwhelmingly positive.

“What we have found is everyone is so supportive,” says Sisco. “It’s making people want to work out, whether it’s in our studio, or go take a walk outside, to just be a better person for themselves. It’s putting a positive twist on something that was really negative.”