I’m on a self-confessed health kick at the moment. Well, maybe not ‘health-kick’, as that implies a temporary burst of good intentions and I’m hoping that this is more of a long term change. I just completed the first week of the popular ‘Couch to 5k’ running programme and I’m enjoying the adrenaline high I get after 30 minutes of alternate walking and jogging. It’s less of a jog and more of a wobble/shuffle really, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that I’m doing it, and I’m enjoying it. I feel better. I feel fitter, and I can’t wait to feel my body become stronger. I want to hike without feeling out of breath, I want to keep up with my fitter friends and not feel like I’m the albatross around their neck, weighing them down and slowing them up. So yeah, I want to be fitter. But that doesn’t mean I’m trying to lose weight.
Let me get this straight: I’m not suddenly exercising because I’ve realised, goddamnit, I want to be thin. Fuck off. Have I ever been the type of girl whose only aspiration has been to fit into a certain size or weigh a certain number on the scale? No. Everyone who knows me even a little bit knows that it isn’t me. I run a plus size blog, for God’s sake. I wear what I want, not because it looks slimming or flattering, but because I love fashion, I love clothes and I love looking unusual or amazing (or both, heh). Being slim has never been on my agenda.
What is on my agenda now though, is health. I’ve realised how dangerously unfit I am, and how cloudy, unfocused and unhappy not being active makes me. For years I pooh-poohed exercise publically for one simple reason: I thought it was a thin person’s game. For years I thought that, because I was a fat girl, I was excluded from participating in and enjoying exercise. It’s only in the last few months that I’ve realized how ludicrous this is. It’s possible to be both overweight and fit, of course it is. It’s only because of society’s perceptions that fat must equal lazy and undisciplined that so many overweight people have avoided engaging in exercise for fear of being ridiculed- “Look at that fat girl wobbling about, JESUS”, or even worse, sincerely and patronizingly encouraged- “FINALLY you’ve decided to lose weight, good for you girl!”
Fuck off, fuck off, fuck off.
I am sick and tired of those assumptions that exercise = weight loss and it’s ABOUT TIME. Keep your observations to yourself and piss off. If I lose a few pounds, great. If I don’t, fabulous. I’ll FEEL better, and that’s my prime motivation. I’m not a hypocrite; I both practise and promote body love and acceptance, and if you love your body at 300+lbs, great. Same goes if you’re a 100lb fitness addict; good for you. Every body is beautiful, and none of us deserve to be at war with our bodies because we don’t look a certain way. That’s the bottom line.
So don’t congratulate me on trying to lose weight. I’m not trying to, and I’ll happily put you straight, at length. What I’m happy enough to rave about is how I feel after I’ve had a little jog wobble. My shins hurt sometimes and I’ve got a dodgy right ankle that needs strapping up and they say it’s bad, horribly horribly bad for the knees, but afterwards, when the twinges have subsided and I’m back to regular, non-heart attack breathing, all I want to do is put on my trainers and do it all over again.
The first time I plucked up enough courage to try the programme outside in Hong Kong I was raring to go: shoes and sports bra strapped tight, water in hand and Gaga blasting into my ears. But when it came to actually start jogging, I couldn’t. My phone vibrated and a voice in my ear told me to start running but I couldn’t make my feet do it. There was a mental block between what my body wanted to do and what my brain was saying. My brain was telling me not to run, that there were people around, people who’d see me looking silly and laugh at me and shake their heads. So I didn’t run at all.
Of course in reality, other people couldn’t give a flying fuck about you. You’re in their peripheral vision for what, two seconds? And then you’re gone, far ahead and they’re already thinking about what they’re going to have for dinner or that they need to pick up laundry or any one of the other trillion mundane thoughts we have on a daily basis. You don’t matter to them and they don’t matter to you.
So get out there, and don’t care what anyone else thinks. Granted this is easier in a big city like Hong Kong, where size and relative busyness offer you some anonymity. But no matter how small your town or how well you know your neighbours, it’s gonna be worth it in the long run (pun intended) when you reap the benefits of doing something that is truly for yourself.
To sum up: exercise. It used to be a dirty word to me; for years it dredged up sweaty, mortifying and long-buried memories of school P.E lessons, hopeless cross country runs and weight-related failure. What repulsed me as an anxious sixteen year old -sweating, adrenaline, feeling the blood pumping in my ears- is irresistible to me as I approach my mid twenties, and not just for the post-run high but for how my esteem has changed. To be confident enough now to pull on a pair of skintight pants and sweat in public and KNOW that I’m doing it for nobody but myself is, truly, one of the most empowering experiences I’ve ever had.
Fellow women: you are strong and I know you don’t take shit. Don’t feel confined to the sidelines. You’re the star here, and you don’t need to be fit or skinny to shine.