Weighting and watching

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.

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18 Replies to “Weighting and watching”

  1. You didn’t even look chubby when we met, so I’ve no idea what you’re talking about having flab and all!
    But yay for you! It’s a great feeling to be able to lose weight, gain strength, fit into that dress you didn’t think you’d be able to fit into ever again! :)

    And with the way you bake and cook, it’s quite an achievement, that!

    I struggle cos I’m constantly traveling, so there is absolutely no routine in my life. So I hardly buy groceries, and I’m always eating out, so it’s difficult to exercise regularly. Yoga is the only respite, and even that I only do for about 20 mins or so.

    I need to change, I know. I’m waiting to stop and stand still for a bit before I do. :/

    1. Dude, i was at my unhealthiest best when we met in 2012. Not really fat, but super unhealthy. A good 8-9 kilos where I was before I got married, and came to Goa and started eating and drinking like theres no tomorrow. Oh and I had stopped exercising completely. 24 months of that did me in. Groan, I cant even begin to think about how far I had slipped.

      Getting fit had everything to do with havign the time and bandwidth to do it. I tried and failed many times, at being regular when I had a hectic job. Even when it wasnt hectic, I was mentally too fatigued to get on a treadmill or go to a class. I was only able to start and keep at it after I quit my job.

  2. oh man, I wish I can do that .. I seem to keep piling on inspite of all my best intentions.. I like to eat and EAT A LOT :) so I exercise also a lot but the Eating a lot is always winning over the exercising a lot ..

    although when i was young in college I was thin and i wished then to be a bit fat and now I wish I was thin again …

    congrats to you .. and very well done I will say .. I know how hard it is to do all that

  3. Well, if it works for you, then it works for you.. I can understand people expressing their concern about you being skinny if they’ve seen you after long.. However the grin and enjoyment on your face is very obvious to the fact that you’re ‘overdoing’ it..

    1. I hope the quotes around overdoing mean that you dont really mean it hahaha.. I personally don’t believe Im overdoing it. Its a question of balance, and I think for my current lifestyle, an hour at the gym everyday is essential. I also get 2 days off every week :)

      That said, when I started a year ago my goal was to touch pre-marriage weight. Im not there yet, but that goal has disappeared. I dont worry about how much I weigh, ever since I calculated my body-fat — which was alarmingly high for someone of my size and build. And that is something you can’t tell just by looking at someone. So everytime someone tells me Im overdoing it I want to wave my body fat test in their face and say I might have looked thin on the outside, but i was grossly unhealthy inside!

  4. Personally, I feel being thin (even reed thin) poses fewer health issues than being overweight. I wish I hadn’t listened to all those who said ” Put on some weight, so you’ll look good in sarees at your wedding” .I would not be struggling to lose the last few stubborn kilos. Like you said, it’s not the “fatness” but the lack of energy and lethargy that bothers me. Kudos to your efforts and keep up with the awesome health. It’s one of the moer important yet also the most overlooked things in life.

    1. I wouldnt attribute fewer health issues to being thin really. I know some super unhealthy reed thin people! I think being healthy/fit and being fat/thin are entirely different things.

      And yes, dont even get me started on listening to what others think your body ought to look like. In India, its ridiculous. we’re never happy! See a fat person, pass a rude remark. See a thin person, chide them for being obsessed with skinniness. Its no wonder so many of us have such a fucked up notion of the fat vs fit thing!

  5. I don’t want to comment. But comment I must. After having fallen off the bandwagon for the nth time this year, I miss the gym and my routine like a long lost lover…. I resolve that I will go back, hopefully sooner than I think it possible. It is an experience to really understand that fitness is not thinness, it is strength and a high that only some can understand. It means you stand taller, smile broader, eat an extra piece of cake and know the universe will not crash and burn. It also means you don’t need a guy to carry your bags after a jaunt :) more power to you!

    1. Yeah a few days ago I was carrying a bag in one hand and my hangbag over the other shoulder. We walked into a store and out with some stuff and VC immediately passed the bag on to me. Old school chivalry be damned!

  6. Wow…congratulations on sticking to something for this long! :)

    I have been always inspired by your posts..I have been having flab issues for a while now and exercising regularly has been among many other things that I have tried starting..I read your post or Robin Sharma’s quotes and I am inspired and I do something about it too….but it never lasts…at max for a week, that too with great difficulty!

    So tell me something…what keeps you on it? How did you stay motivated for so long? Any tips for a beginner? :)

    1. I usually have starting trouble, and getting through the first week-ten days is the hardest, once I am past that it becomes habit. I dont have advice to give because I think each one of us functions differently, but being regular had a lot to do with having the time to be regular. It was only when I quit my job and prioritised my health did I get serious. I can understand how hard it is to manage life, work and put in an hours workout every day.

  7. Gosh Revati! Can’t believe i found this post today, after all this while.
    It is so inspiring for people like me who are struggling at it to put on some muscle everyday. The 10kgs of post-shaadi fat is weighing me down, making my mornings grumpy and my steps painful. I’m down from confidently climbing a 16000 feet high peak last year at 58kgs to puffing and panting while I’m forced to climb ten flights of stairs at 70kgs, as the elevator wont work.

    My clothes don’t fit. And I punish myself by wearing only the few galti-se picked XL ones, and not buying anything new.

    I’m hell bent on going back to the old me…where my thighs don’t rub against each other. And this article only makes me feel good. :)

    Although may I ask…are you taking any sort of protein supplements after your strength workouts? I read a lot of its importance, to repair muscle damage.

    And how long should a day’s workout last according to you?

    1. I’m no expert/authority on the matter but I do know that it depends on your body type as well as the program you’ve chosen to do. I do an intense cardio session three times a week (min-wed-fri) and a weights class (body pump -google it) on tues-Thurs. all workouts at 1 hour, sometimes overshooting by 5-10 mins. I take NO protein supplements as I think we get enough proteins in a regular indian Khana type diet. Over loading your body with supplements only puts an unnecessary load on your kidneys and is frankly not required unless you’re aiming to be shwarzanegger :) also given I only lift weights twice a week, and it’s a full body circuit, I make do with a good hot shower and cardio workout the next day to flush out the lactic acid and keep muscles in shape. It has worked very well for me for the last year.

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