Back in College, I had a personal, more accurately labeled as “shared”, trainer that would come coach my friends and I three times a week. We were four in the group, doing some variation of what’s now known as circuit training. At the time, I viewed exercise as an activity that’s supposed to be enjoyable, and for the sessions when it wasn’t, at least it was healthy, with the perk of keeping me in “good shape” - whatever that meant. Like PE in High School, I didn’t like the sweat as much as I loved bonding with friends when submerged in assorted activities.
It is smack dab what exercising with this trainer felt like. Dragging my ass to my building’s 14th floor, where the gym was, didn’t come without laziness. But in between the sets when I’m breaking a sweat, I’m laughing with friends, usually conspiring on how to cheat the “x reps” system.
During training, we’d often talk about the yummy food we treated ourselves to the day before. Our culture can’t seem to separate the two: the gym and kitchen table that is. As I share details of the chocolate fudge I enjoyed the previous day, in a half serious - half “it’s her job” way, my trainer would say, “AK, you’ve been so bad!” I’d laugh, replying that had she tried it, she’d have no regrets either. I couldn’t have cared less about what I ate before the gym, or what I was going to eat after. I may have pretended I did, the same way I play-act in front of my doctor agreeing to have plenty of fluids, or in front of my parents claiming I won’t stay up late: consenting out of habit, but without it registering in my brain.
My friends A. and P. wanted to loose weight, while E was desperately trying to put on muscle, fat, just something! He was what the French call “une crevette”: the teenage boy who lives off pizza, burgers, nutella crepes, you name it, and still looks pre-pubescent. I, myself, worked out for all the aforementioned reasons – Mens sana in corpore sano or, a healthy mind in a healthy body.
A couple of years down the road, E. finally grew some facial hair, which coincidentally came with a gut, achieving that sought out “manly” look. Under the supervision of qualified doctors and a change in lifestyle, P. went from being overweight to healthy, and comfortable in his skin. If you ask me, the transformation came from within. His sudden illness over one summer, led him, in his search for answers, to finding belief in a higher power, which brought to his life a deeper meaning. As for A., she got engaged and married her big love, finding the fulfillment no amount of thinness would ever bring. And I, well I developed an eating disorder, lost 50 pounds, and missed A’s wedding to my illness.
But I’m fighting to gain every single ounce of my life back, so that I can be that girl again. The girl who rocks up at the gym, pretending she’s been bad for overindulging, but her brain not ever registering the thought. And what a freeing thought that is!