Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Us Versus Them

At my Weight Watchers meeting this week, we discussed ways to incorporate activity into our daily lives. A topic that always comes up is gym alternatives.

Whether it’s an excuse people use to shy away or an honest fear, the gym can be an intimidating place. There are daunting machines, unclear etiquette, and the scariest pressure of all: Hot Bods. The Skinnies in Spandex stretching in front of the mirror and the Muscle Heads working it on the weight floor. THEY can be menacing and unapproachable to US, the average people, just looking to burn more calories than we take in.

A woman in my Sunday meeting told us how she stayed away from the gym because she was concerned about how she looked compared to THEM. The sub-Leader (Leader Pam was out pounding 5k of pavement!) asked her how she thought THEY got to look that way. The woman muttered, almost under her breath, “They were probably BORN that way.”

“But maybe they weren’t.” I hadn’t planned on saying anything. I didn’t know the woman and I was nursing Little Brother and I didn’t really want to draw attention to myself, but suddenly, everyone was looking at me. The sub-Leader asked me what I meant. I pointed out that you can’t know what someone has always looked like based on what they look like now. It’s not fair to assume that THEY don’t have to work just as hard as everyone else to look the way THEY do.

It’s an assumption many people make though. We see someone who’s slim and fit and we assume it’s always been easy for them. We figure they can eat whatever they want. We think they don’t need to exercise because…they were probably born that way.

Deep down, I know it’s not true. Last year, Turbo Jennie launched a “Before and After” campaign and challenged her followers (yes, it really is like a cult) to share pictures of the changes they’ve made with exercising and healthy living. She asked me to combine the photos for quick comparison, so I got first look at lots of them. She handed me photos at class one night and asked me to work my magic on them. I looked at them for a few minutes and then asked her who they were. When she told me, I was shocked. I had only known the girls in the picture for a few months, and to me, they were thin and strong and beautiful—and as far as I knew, they always had been. There was no way the round faces starting back from the photograph belonged to the women I knew. But they did.

Prior to my pregnancy, I was exercising 8 or more hours a week. It happened unexpectedly…I never considered myself a gym rat, but one class a week turned into three, and then six. I looked forward to each and every class, excited to see my friends, excited to sweat, excited to work out. I cried the day Turbo Jennie called me an athlete. That wasn’t me—I was the quiet one. The bookworm. The fat girl.

I am still one of US, but one day, I’ll be one of THEM. One day, someone I just met won’t believe how heavy I used to be and when I pull out a picture, they’ll be shocked and tell me they always just assumed I had it easy.

But I’ll know the truth.


BEK said...

Keep it up!

Charlotte said...

What's funny to me is that "they", the concept, pretty much only exists in the minds of other people. Being a gym rat for a long time, I imagine that I probably fit in the "them" group that you are describing but I never see it that way. I'm still in awe of the hard bodies there and, yes, I still think that even though it is really hard for me it must be easey peasey for them. I'm not making much sense. I guess what I'm trying to say is that the delineation is arbitrary. There really is no "us" and "them" - which is what I think you discovered when you joined our cult, er, group;)