Deborah Tan, Opinions

The Fitness Story I’ve Been Afraid To Write – Deborah Tan

Do you feel guilty for not embracing fitness like a super athlete? Deborah Tan wants you to know that you are definitely not alone.

Why do some of us find it so hard to embrace fitness?

Why do some of us find it so hard to embrace fitness?

It’s Monday. The beginning of the week is often identified as the best time to get started on a fitness programme or a diet goal. However, I would like to talk about something that have been plaguing me for months, something that’s been eating away at my self-esteem and, to a certain degree, my health. Before I begin, however, I would like to clarify that what I am about to write is a personal response to what I am seeing and feeling, and in no way is it an attempt to diminish anybody’s efforts to get healthier or fitter.

I feel like a rebellious child talking about this: whenever people talk about fitness, eating clean, cutting carbs, losing weight, gaining muscle mass, shedding a dress size, etc., the feeling that wells up inside of me is not, “Yes, I should get my act together.” Rather, it is, “I’m totally going to do the opposite.” I cannot explain why I have developed this repulsion towards fitness. I’m not sure when it began and what sparked it off.

I have been trying to write about this topic but have aborted a couple of attempts prior to this one because I didn’t want to sound like I’m trying to tell people what to do with their bodies. But I need to talk about this because I’m trying to explain why I feel the way I do. I don’t resent anyone for embracing fitness, for doing what they think is best for their bodies. I just want to know why I’m not inspired to do the same.

This Is Difficult To Write
First, this is a topic that I’ve been struggling to write about because whenever I got started, I would find myself backtracking or deleting bits that contradicted with other bits. On one hand, I believe that we all need to exercise and to eat as healthily as we can. On the other, I hate it whenever people talk about their weight. Whenever people go, “I am 60kg, I want to lose 10kg”, I just want to wrap my hands around their necks, shake them violently and scream, “I AM 70KG AND I THINK I’M FINE. WHY WOULD YOU THINK YOU ARE NOT?!?!?” Then a small voice in my head would chide me and go, “What’s it to you?”

I get it. It’s not my business to tell people what they should do with their health and bodies.

But why do I feel so oppressed, so bitter, so frustrated and so annoyed at anyone who is trying to achieve greatness with their bodies?

I want to hang up my trainers for good.

I want to hang up my trainers for good.

The Fitness Inspiration That Isn’t Inspiring Me At All
If fitspo is meant to inspire lazy bums like me to embrace fitness, then I must possess an inborn immunity against it. Whenever I see motivational messages superimposed on images of sweaty, toned, strong bodies on Instagram and Facebook, I just want to shout, “STOP!!” I can’t appreciate cheesy quotes like, “Sweat is fat crying”, “Pain is weakness leaving your body”, “1 hour is just 4% of your day” etc. When I see them, I just want to go, “Give me a McSpicy Extra Value Meal. UPSIZED!”

It used to be that we just need to exercise 30 minutes a day, try to eat 5 servings of fruit and veggies, and cut down on sugar and junk food. Now, when I go on Facebook, I’m confronted with status updates of people able to do the 300 Workout in under 6 minutes (whatever that means), with articles on how to eat clean, and selfies taken at the gym.

To me, fitness is starting to feel like the new “designer handbags”. Once, it was all about people flaunting their shopping. Today, it’s people flaunting their superhuman willpower and discipline. For those of us who just “do the bare minimal”, over-the-top fitness is the passport into an exclusive club where the members are all laughing at the rest of us for simply being … human.

I Do Want To Be In Good Shape But
I’m not rejecting good health. I appreciate the after-effects a good workout gives me. However, I constantly feel like I’m not doing enough. Yes, I know someone else can turn this around and say, “It’s just like how you’ve made your Work a priority, so I should be able to make my Health a priority.” But … why does Fitness feel so much more oppressive than say, Career, Family, Children, Education, etc? The only thing I can think of is that there is an element of competitiveness about it. “Hey! I can lift 15kg! Can you?” It’s not something I want to compete in but why do I feel like a lesser human being for not obsessing over it? I don’t know … I just don’t know what to say.

I don’t have a body image crisis. I do think I look good. But whenever I hear people bemoan how they are not losing enough weight, not pushing themselves hard enough, not eating clean enough, I feel I have no right to celebrate myself. I feel like I’m the one who’s in denial and that I should really lock myself up in a cell and not let myself be seen in public.

When is enough enough for these hardcore fitness bunnies? In a way, fitness-related posts on social media are doing the exact opposite of inspiring people to work out – to me, they feel more like fitness bullying. I don’t want to talk about fitness the way everyone is doing on social media where it’s all about going harder and becoming stronger. It’s like fitness is the new anorexia club, only instead of becoming thin through not eating, we are trying to be “strong and thin” through fitness and, like anorexics, we bask in the “control” and “discipline” we have over our bodies.

I don’t see why I have to strive to run a marathon when I can do 10km and not ache like an elephant has sat on me.

I don’t see why I have to go out of my comfort zone and be in pain when all I want is to work out and be able to string coherent sentences afterwards.

I don’t see why I have to eat clean when I just have to do everything in moderation.

I reject the notion that I have to ache. I reject the notion that I have to practice self-restraint when it comes to food and drinks. I reject the notion that I have to exhibit superhuman levels of discipline and willpower in order to see results.

I mean … is it really not possible for me to just do the bare minimal and look good?

Do you feel the same as I about this topic? What is it about fitness talk on social media that upsets you?

About The Author: Deborah Tan is a founder of Material World. After 10 years of working in magazines Cleo and Cosmopolitan Singapore, she is now a freelance writer/editor who works on this website full-time. Every time she tries to get back to fitness, her bronchitis acts up – she believes this is her body telling her that it is allergic to exercise. Follow her on Twitter @DebTanTweets.