Years ago after I graduated, I had a good figure…the ideal 36-28-36 type. No…I wasn’t popular nor sexy as I was in my very boyish punk phase. So people hardly remember the good ‘ol body I used to have. Plus it was a very brief period of my life. Soon work happened…sitting for hours in front of a PC happened…coffee breaks with cream donuts and chocolate croissants happened, and soon again I needed to buy new work trousers and baggy jeans. The punk phase was soon replaced by hide-your-curves-with-your-jacket phase, and I thanked God for winters. It took me years to discover that I had a weakness for suppressing stress with food, which explained the big water balloon in between while I walked. Four years of work changed me into something overtly huge, that I remember the receptionist once asking me if I could see my toes. Somehow, I refused to admit that I needed help. For my 24th birthday, a colleague gifted me with a black cotton buttoned jacket, which she explained I should wear often, as black had this ‘hypnotizing’ effect of concealing curves in women. Within few months, the buttons wouldn’t catch up with a good five inch gap. My colleague finally gave me a warning tap, “Its time”.
Gym wasn’t so bad actually. Just that I could barely afford it, so I took a basic bronze plan, and since it was conveniently located opposite my residence, attendance was regular. My trainer was thankfully a cool and motivating muscled dude, and made sure I got my exercise and diet regime right. Six months forward, I lost enough weight to wear a belt with my jeans and to ditch the jacket. I still wasn’t my ideal weight though. I stopped the gym, and walked atleast 2 hours after work to replace the mechanical reps.
5 years on, walking did not seem to help, so my best friend gave me a rather surprising birthday present – a year’s membership at the newly opened Gold’s Gym at Al Wahdah Mall. I was to join immediately, and the package included 4 free trainer ‘sessions’. The gym is a mega outlet located in the extension of the mall on the second floor. The reception desk divides the area into male and female sectors on each end. What impressed me most was its sheer size, and insane number of treadmills, cycles, dumbells, machines, mirrors, washrooms and shower rooms, lockers, and for the first time I had unlimited access to all kinds of classes: zumba, body pump, body tone, yoga, etc. What depressed me was the intimidation I received which took effect as soon as I entered. The reception was quiet hostile, and kept me waiting for atleast 30 minutes for a trainer. No one showed me around the locker room so I had to figure the locking system myself. Finally when the plump trainer showed up, she hurriedly took down notes and poured out a list of commandments: You shall not eat after 6 p.m., you shall not eat rice, you shall not…etc etc. She squealed at the weighing scale and nodded that I needed to lose a good 15 kgs, it was more like she was accusing me of a ghastly crime and I was sentenced to the treadmill at once. For the past 5 years, I enjoyed the outdoor exercises- the fresh air, sights, sounds, sweat. The treadmill felt so artificial – so mechanical, and most of all no sweat. I definitely did not want to see the trainer’s face again.
Next my best friend suggested I join the classes. I did. It was a huge class with more than 50 participants, surprisingly and intimidatingly all in shape. The instructor was blaring rep numbers on the microphone against the backdrop of already blaring high pitched music while the monkeys just followed their leader. Gosh, how can one expect to unwind from a stressful day’s work in such a mind-disturbing environment? No wonder so many expats suffer from high blood pressure. The workouts definitely brought out the worst in me: lack of concentration at work, stress, temper tantrums, mood swings and irritation. Plus after 3 months of exercises there has been no change in my weight. The negativity of the place has affected me so bad, I hate to go to the mall anymore. This is the first time I’ve had such a bad bout of aversion to something, it surprises my best friend, who isn’t too pleased about my appreciation for his birthday present. I’m reminded of the kid who’s afraid of the monsters under his bed. What should I do? There have been times when I have simply sat in the locker room and wept for 2 hours and then walked back home. Should I quit? What would my best friend feel if I did? Should I play along? Should I slap the loud mouthed instructor? Should I break a machine? Should I starve? I’d do anything for my share of sanity right now.