I am working on a beauty feature for Weight Watchers Magazine with real women (magazine speak for “not models”) and the shoot was last week. When we sat down to talk, I ended up getting a little off topic with the ladies because I had my own questions for them. As a group, they were all beaming and positive: they had taken on the tough challenge of serious weight loss – almost all were over 200 pounds originally – and, with a lot of patience and perseverance, had changed their bodies and their lives. These were people who, previously, did not exercise, ate fried food by the bucket, smoked, were depressed and lethargic…and yet all of them turned that ocean liner of self destruction around and sailed on to health and accomplishment. YES!
But HOW did they do it? I understand that smaller portions and healthier food are central, but the other crucial piece is exercise, and exercise has barriers of entry. These women were NOT starting from an athletic place; their muscles were weak, they had no endurance. And there’s a dirty secret about fitness – sadly, cruelly, the beginning of a program sucks. The first days or weeks are going to be, almost by definition, really uncomfortable, both physically and psychologically. Think about when you put on your running shoes after not hitting the pavement all winter. For me, those first three miles in the park after an absence are, uch, BRUTAL, creepy and so wrong. And THAT is the exact moment when it’s so easy to say, “Yeah, thanks…this is not for me,” and just quit. Over and out.
So imagine what that feeling is like if you are obese. You’re probably feeling like your body is not your friend to begin with, and here you are asking it to move in unfamiliar, uncomfortable ways when all the while it is sending you clear signals to STOP. Pushing past all that takes grit, true grit and true strength.
So when I see heavy folks working out, I’ve got to tell you, I’m impressed. I think they are AWESOME. I think they are rock stars. They know have a long journey ahead of them but they are starting out anyway. Change ain’t easy, but change is good. And that’s how the Weight Watchers ladies succeeded – they took the long view and slowly, surely, steadily they pushed on past those queasy early days until working out finally became easier and fun. And that’s universal – fitness IS easier and fun once it becomes a regular part of your life. The barriers disappear and your body starts to WANT to workout (just trust me on this…)
Gyms are a kind of self-selecting social playground, generally filled with people who do what they can to look okay in a pair of Lululemon’s. Breaking into the culture of any gym is intimidating, even for folks who are perky little size-twos (ah, I’m guessing that…) When you first join a gym, it’s like walking into a cocktail party alone and not knowing anybody. And just like in other areas of life, 90% of success is simply showing up. Keep showing up and faces will look familiar, you’ll hear about the great classes and the teachers to avoid, and the guy at the front desk will know your name. In short, show up and your gym becomes your place, too. That’s how Equinox is for me.
And so, if you see someone at the gym who is just starting out, especially someone who is heavy, give ’em the thumbs’ up. Say hi. Watch them – who knows, they may become your inspiration. And if you’re a little shy and that friendly nod feels a little difficult, don’t worry, it only gets easier:) xxoo Steph