I’ve been going to the gym for a few months, and as of now I’m one month in to an intensive training-and-nutrition program that has me there every day, Monday to Friday. Every time I set foot inside the gym, I ask myself the same question: When did I become a gym rat?
I have always struggled with my weight and my body image. I’ve never been slender (just varying degrees of overweight) and I’ve never been willowy (because at five-foot-none that’s literally a tall order). Although my university years were full of grabbing meals of convenience as I went from one class to another or between work and campus, as well as eating my feelings everywhere in between, I was surprisingly at a plateau with my weight during that time.
But when my life slowed down after I took my office job, though, the numbers on the scale began to fluctuate. They’d go up for a couple of days, then they’d come back down. I continued to walk everywhere, regardless of the weather, and ran whenever I could, and even though my weight didn’t fully stabilize again at least it never yo-yo’d more than a couple of pounds up and down.
In 2014 I took a two-week holiday at the tail end of an Alberta winter, during which my only walking was pretty much from the front door to my boyfriend’s Jeep. I came back from it feeling rather proud of myself for having not fallen into bad eating habits that used to plague my holidays, but the moment I stepped on my scale I realised – pretty much for the first time – the connection between eating and exercising…because I ballooned.
I’ve ballooned before. After my first break-up as a teenager, a few midnight snacks of Ben & Jerry’s over a couple of months very nearly ruined my prom plans. (To this day, I refuse to have any Ben & Jerry’s anywhere in the house.) Two years of working in a pizza shop while studying full-time had undone pretty much all of what I’d accomplished during one summer of basic training in the Canadian Forces (and that’s a story for another day). But I hadn’t had a major ballooning for a few years, and when I saw the scale after that particular holiday I have to say that I cried.
The simple change to my routine – driving everywhere and hardly walking – had been enough to make me put on ten pounds. Ten pounds that I’ve been struggling to shed ever since April 2014. Ten pounds that discourage me beyond belief whenever I’ve gone clothes shopping in the last year. Ten pounds that have made me extremely self-conscious in my best dress at more than one wedding between then and now.
I’ve always known my relationship with food resembles one of co-dependency, and my relationship with exercise has always been fair-weather. I’ve tried a whole range of things to lose weight but nothing has ever really lasted.
Everyone who’s had a weight issue will tell you that it took a huge kick to spur them into action. I was no different. I was sitting in the examination room at the clinic, listening to my doctor tell me the results of the blood test she’d ordered two weeks before. The original problem had been a long, worrying bout of amenorrhea, which had started two months after packing on those ten pounds. Now, there were other problems – problems like the phrases “borderline pre-diabetic” and “at risk of high cholesterol.” She wasn’t throwing these out as warnings. She was telling me what my blood had just told her. Then she pulled out a chart and showed me where I fell in terms of BMI. I had never considered it before – had never classified myself as such before – but I was just over the “obesity” marker.
I’d heard those terms before, applied to various older relatives including my parents. There were other things in the family history that she said could come about if I wasn’t careful: hypertension, joint weakness and failure, blood clots, weak cardiovascular system. “You’re too sedentary,” she told me as she wrote on her Rx pad. “You have to change that right away.”
I walked out of there with two prescriptions: one for a medication that would end the amenorrhea, and another for supervised exercise. And that’s when I became a gym rat.
I’m not at the gym to train for mud marathons or colour runs. I’m not at the gym to look good naked. I’m not at the gym to fit into a single-digit size.
I’m at the gym because I have no desire to continue being a statistic for obesity and weight-related health issues. I’m at the gym because paying for membership, a trainer, and a nutritionist is way cheaper than paying for medications and equipment for the rest of my life. I’m at the gym because I want to be healthy enough not only to have children, but to raise them and see them grow up to have families of their own.
I’m at the gym because I know the kind of life I deserve. I owe it to myself to make sure I’m around to make it happen, and I won’t let my current weight weigh me down.