And we do not Move an Inch: Why I Hate the Gym
While rummaging through some old files recently, I unearthed this piece I wrote during my sophomore year of college, before I’d discovered intuitive eating, joyful movement, or the concept of body love. I already realized how ridiculous the idea of gyms and losing weight to be happy is, but I wasn’t quite on board with the alternative yet. I hope you enjoy it
The gym can be such a sad place.
I think of the young blonde girl on the elliptical trainer next to me. She can’t be more than sixteen. The paperback mystery and bottled grapefruit juice in front of her, both unopened; 185 strides per minute. I consider the tiny Asian woman on the treadmill to my left; with her cheap Hello Kitty CD player. What in the world is she listening to? The skinny, ruddy-faced teenager grunting on the bench press; the old woman in the SpongeBob tee shirt; the heavy, miserable looking man on the stationary bike. Why are we all here? What are we after? We gather here in this long, unattractive room to walk, climb, pedal, row, to perform movements that are designed to mobilize us; to get us somewhere, but we remain stationary. We exert Herculean efforts, but we do not move an inch.
Like the condemned before a firing squad, the machines are lined up facing the large windows that overlook the pool: the ultimate test, the gauntlet. We judge them; we scrutinize them in cruel, merciless ways that most of us would never admit ourselves to being capable of. We think to ourselves, “This is why I am here.” To look like the tan, slender woman in the black string bikini or to avoid looking like the heavy, balding man with the bad skin and the hairy back. We are here to rid ourselves of our spare flesh, to banish certain parts of our bodies, as if every problem we have ever faced is stored there; as if losing our saddlebags will rid us of our insecurities. Shedding our love handles will dissolve our grief and fear of failure. We will be different, happier people when those last fifteen pounds have disappeared. We will be beautiful and therefore powerful.
There is also the prospect of what is to be gained by losing. The harder your stomach, the more lovable you will be. The firmer your thighs, the more popular you will be. You will no longer feel helpless. Every harsh word, every classmate that ever called you “fatty” or “slowpoke” will not matter anymore. Every cruel word will be erased from your memory, and those that mocked you will be silenced. Everything depends on the state of the body.
So here we gather in this long, unattractive room to walk, climb, pedal, row, and remain completely stationary. Long sessions on metal machines, devices that may appear to be terrifying devices of torture to someone who had never seen them before, to someone who had never experienced thoughts like these.
To be accepted. To become someone you feel comfortable with. To redo, to reshape an identity, to understand yourself, to become someone worth understanding. Is this what is important?