It’s a special feeling when you pull out a skirt you from a forgotten corner you tucked it into aeons ago, convinced it would be ages before you fit into it again. You try it on, shaky hands, wondering what truths a blasted piece of fabric stitched a little too tight around the hips, holds for you. You slip it on gingerly.
It fits. You sit down, and see the little triangle of fabric around the waist hang low. And you realise it doesn’t just fit. It’s freaking loose.
The weather changes, the air is damp and musty, everybody around you is falling sick like 9 pins. The typical beginning-of-monsoon viral flu is doing the rounds. You enter the gym on Monday morning and begin your workout with a massive bout of sneezing. You power through. And this routine goes on for four whole days — you wake up every morning, your body feels like it needs to be in bed, swaddled in a blanket, but you drag it to the gym. You sweat it out, you drink a gallon of water.
And then you literally feel your body fight the bug. On day 5, you wake up feeling sunshiney. It’s a mighty good feeling.
You’re on the floor, your dumbells all lined up. You wonder if you should kick things up a notch and increase a few weights, try something new, push yourself. You’re partly dreading it, but you give it a go with a heave and ho. Only to realise 2.5 kgs higher is just a number. You lift if with ease, you swing it, you push it, you pull it, you press it. All a breeze. And you realise you are stronger than you have ever been.
The past year has been a good one in terms of fitness achievements. I have dropped a significant amount of body fat, which was my primary goal. I was bordering on an unhealthy ratio of body fat and that is well under control now. The discovery of strength training was a bonus. Weights have been a life-changing revelation, and body-strength training even more so. But the best part is this: a thumping affirmation of my belief in the fact that staying healthy and fit is a life-long commitment. An attitude to life, how you want to treat yourself and how much you respect your body for what it can do for you.
Flash diets never worked, sporadic exercise regiments even less. Consistent work, sustained over a long period is what works for me and the best part has been the organic discovery of new challenges and higher standards for oneself. Its been a year of busting my rear end off at the gym, and on the day that marked 12 months since I began working out at the studio, I told the hugsband that despite being a fitness freak for over a decade now, this is probably the first time that I have stayed with a single fitness-oriented activity for twelve whole months. I have not been so focused or persevered as much with too many other things in recent time. And this is the real achievement for a restless fitness maniac who has tried a dozen different programs, on an average of a new thing every 6 months, since age 16.
Growing up in a home that always encouraged an active lifestyle, it was impossible to sit back and watch what I ate, in the hope that it would somehow miraculously make a difference to my health, the way my clothes fit and how you feel about myself. I cannot remember a time post age 16 when I wasn’t engaged in some form of exercise. My mantra has always been to eat everything I love in moderation and burn calories and sweat it off through exercise. But this is the first time in my life that I have truly dedicated time and effort in a single-minded way. And this is the first time that the results have been so drastic. And visible.
Yes, the results are visible to me. Especially when I wear a forgotten skirt and realise it fits. But then I look at myself everyday, so this transition is not as apparent. What is more apparent is the little things, that I kicked the flu bug and sent it packing before it could get the better of me. That I could barely do 5 bicep curls without wincing 6 months ago, and on a good day these days, I can push it up to 5 kilos, 20 reps. That I can do the tricep hover for longer periods of time now without feeling like my arms will turn to mush.
I feel strong. And this, this is a first for me. But who is going to explain the delirious levels of satisfaction of that to every second person who meets me and greets me with the OMG-you’re–disappearing spiel? How do I explain that yes, I’ve “lost weight” but I’ve also gained strength? How does one politely tell well-meaning people to back the fuck off when they tell you to stop “overdoing it” because I look skinny. How do you get them to believe that fitness isn’t point at the end of the tunnel that you strive to reach, and once you’re there you can kick back and pretend its all over? Why is it so hard to understand that being skinny isn’t the only outcome of going to the gym? And most importantly, how does one explain that thin people can go to the gym and benefit from it too!
The fact is I have never been skinny. Even at my thinnest-best, I always prided myself in the little chub that always stayed on my tummy, around the sides of my waist and of course there’s no changing my genetics which give me wide hips. Growing up, appearances were never a focus, and how we looked wasn’t given too much importance. I attribute my slightly stunted sense of fashion (my staples in terms of clothes haven’t changed in twenty years) to this and even to this day I am not used to worrying about it too much. Quite naturally, my obsession with being fit was never about getting that flat tummy, fitting into a skinny pair of pants or getting rid of saddle bags. Yes, the years that I was at my unhealthiest best, I was very aware that these changes had crept into my body — a bloated belly, stalky waist etc — but beyond looking at myself in the mirror and thinking I was “fat”, it was the fact that I felt lethargic and unhealthy that made me want to kick myself back into action.
So, now when people stop me to say I’m looking excessively thin, I don’t know how to react. Somehow it seems okay to sheepishly blabber some nonsense, and deflect their comments. Anything to take the attention off the weight that has been lost, and focus on the satisfaction and happiness that hopefully shows. Someone at the gym called me sexy the other day, and for some reason it seemed okay to do something totally un-sexy in response. So I flailed my arms and legs about and ran back to my spot. It would be nice if the compliments made me tongue tied, because then I wouldn’t open my mouth and say some of the ridiculous things I have said in the past few weeks. Wholly unintended, totally misleading things that seem to flutter out of my mouth before I can say pilates-ball. Because somehow, that seems okay.