“Wow, do you go to the gym to lose weight?” is a typical response I receive when I tell people I go to the gym.
The societal expectation amongst most people that women only go to the gym to lose weight is kind of sad. There are so many reasons to go to the gym. I go to the gym to be stronger, the health benefits, and in particular, how uplifting and clear my focus is afterwards. I go because it makes me feel great, and I love the challenge of pushing myself. Perhaps people are looking for a new hobby, to improve their stamina, to get fitter, or even release some endorphins to enhance their mental health — of which the effects of exercise are unrivalled.
But it does also highlight demonstrate society’s unhealthy obsession with weight.
“Aren’t you afraid if you lift weights, you’ll get even bigger?” is something I’m also asked often too.
Interestingly, weightlifting is actually proven to aid weight loss too, and particularly as a woman, it’s incredibly difficult to naturally get ‘big’ to the level most people think about. Nevertheless, this attention to size doesn’t quite sit right with me. Why are we trying to cause people to second guess an active, healthy lifestyle choice?
And then, there are the comments on dietary habits:
“Oh, I thought you’d be more of a salad person.”
“Oh, I thought you’d be on a diet!”
“Are you really going to eat all of that?”
“That’s a lot of food.”
“You don’t need to have breakfast. I don’t have breakfast.”
One of my favourites when I was discussing how I generally prefer the look of swimsuits over bikinis:
“Oh, is it because of how you look in a bikini?”
These comments are never deserved, regardless of weight or size.
People are quick to blame Instagram for causing generations of weight and body issues in women, and whilst it does have its own problems, it’s actually comments like these that can deeply affect people. None of those comments reflected thoughts of my own. If there were no previous doubts or negative self-image thoughts before that, those comments could certainly cause them.
The cruel irony is that these comments often aren’t malicious at all; rather, it’s reflective of a society so profoundly entrenched in body image that these things are just considered socially acceptable. People’s projections can cause that type of negative thinking in others. But for some people, these projections may cause similar negative thoughts in people who would otherwise not think them.
Eating disorders are so prolific, with 85-95% of sufferers being women. Instagram may not be great for mental health, but all it takes is one of those comments for somebody already suffering from those types of thoughts to suddenly not eat that day or engage with some self-destructive tendencies. Being criticised for ‘eating habits, body shape or weight’ is listed as one of the leading causes of eating disorders, yet, people are so quick to do so.
Perhaps instead of blaming social media, it would be beneficial to think twice before making the same type of comments above. It’s just not acceptable behaviour.
So yes, I will eat all of that.