I like to move it, move it
Make no assumptions about what any body is talented at or capable of doing
Almost every year in high school, I would be convinced by my friends to be a part of a group dance for some or the other school event. It would be carefully choreographed by one or two of my super talented friends.
One such time, we were showing off our rehearsal to a bunch of classmates, when I saw one classmate lean over to another and mutter about me—
“She dances so gracefully even though you wouldn’t imagine her to.”
While I decided to take that as a compliment at my dance skills, it bothered me. Why does anyone need to imagine what any body is talented at or capable of doing?
Although I had not been aware of what others would view my dance as before then, that experience made me feel self-conscious, and as if my body were not meant for dancing.
Dancing can be such a liberating and uplifting experience—it is the only other experience apart from sex that involves full-body vulnerability. It should belong to all.
Similarly, walking into a gym as a fat woman also feels like a loaded act. Like I'm rebelling or make a statement. I'm doing nothing of the sort obviously, but I am often made to feel like that by how others react to my presence.
There is undue attention on me, to see if I know, if I can, if I can't.
Other gym-goers give me backhanded compliments all the time—
“It's great to see someone your size getting into fitness.”
“You are doing so well for someone your size.”
“You make us so proud.”
“You're doing so well, I'm ashamed of myself.”
It is also irksome when the people who run the gym want to use photos and videos of me exercising to promote their gym because they ‘want to show that anyone at any size can go to the gym and enjoy themselves’. Um, no. I'm not a poster girl for the gym. I'm there to work on myself, to be better.
I go to the gym in all states - energised, pissed, tired, because I have to, because I want to, because I enjoy it, because I'd rather do this than not, because I just want to get it done, because I want to eat my cake, because I don't want to die. It's a combination of some or all of these at any point in time.
Who would dare tell me that this isn't universal — every person who goes to the gym or a yoga class (or Zumba or hiphop etc.) can relate to this. I don't need any meaning attached to me walking into a gym. It's just the same as everyone else.
And then there are the floor trainers. They can range from helpful to maddening — it’s nice to have my questions about how to modify a given set to better target a set of muscles answered, but it’s infuriating when they say things like— “Why don’t you try X herbal shake? Why don’t you eat Z protein powder? These will help you lose weight. You need to push yourself more. Do you like being fat? Don’t you want to lose weight fast?”— to try and “motivate” me. And they all eventually do.
What these trainers fail to understand is that it’s not about weight loss. It’s about me not hating the hour that I spend at the gym because I have to field these questions from them.
It’s game over for me the day I start dreading going to the gym. It’s something that I want to build as a routine, to bake it into my lifestyle. It’s about consistency.
Exercise and physical activity are important, regardless of one’s size. This may be something I’ve taken 31 years to learn, but I’d like to think I’ve finally pegged it down in my brain. But for those of us who’ve learnt this the tough way, it needs to be something we can enjoy, something we can look forward to, something that we will continue to do even when it’s not easy because it’s now a part of what we do each day.
This has been a tough week for many of us in India.
We lost many people—some that we knew, many that we didn’t—but worked hard to find resources for as covid volunteers. We are exhausted and filled with grief.
Here are a few words a friend shared that captures what many of us have gone through—it may offer some comfort. Stay safe.