I’m not a Fatist. If anything I empathise with the more lardy amongst us, as I was once a bit of a chubber myself. But since the predictable New Year membership drive in my local Lewisham gym, there has been an influx of the rotund. Like the invasion of the Triffids, they have been creeping in across the gym floor and sliding on the treadmills, shuffling up to the free weights and slithering into the studio.
It may not sound like it but I am in full support of their quest for fitness, but I would like to see a bit more effort. Over the last couple of weeks it appears that the good will has seeped away like the grease in the bottom of a KFC family bucket – the fatties have been no-where to be seen. Losing weight and fitness doesn’t happen overnight. It takes commitment and hard-work. Take it from someone who knows. It’s a constant battle and life-long lifestyle change. Over the last ten years I have stuck with it – the running, the aerobics classes, the muay thai boxing and the cycling. My weight has fluctuated but I am getting close to where I have always wanted to be. Sure, I sometimes get a kebab on the way home after necking five pints, but I ensure I run off the guilt the following day or take on a double session back-to-back. If I’ve sinned, then I make sure I take the pain. This is not a form of self-harm, but simply talking responsibility for my mis-actions.
But the real issue that must be addressed is the fattitude in the gyms themselves. For a fleshy newbie to the fitness world, the gym space is both frightening and intimidating. For some it takes more courage to walk through those lyrca-clad gates than it would to go to war. All those who’ve watched the inspired My Mad Fat Diary, or who’ve been overweight, will understand. Being fat in public spaces is like being in a war-zone, the fear of being under attack requiring an impenetrable emotional armour.
Those who brave it and challenge the fitness space should be respected and encouraged. And this is where I have seen the industry’s service fail. Within one week, in two separate classes – Body Pump and Spin – two women of impressive cuddly size were ill-prepared and ignored by the instructors when they needed an extra helping hand. They needed assurance that their backs were covered. One woman, clearly distressed, left Body Pump after a few minutes as she was struggling with the weights set-up, and the other pulled a calf muscle in Spin due to not having warmed up. In both cases it was me who alerted the instructors, insisting that they adhere to their responsibilities. Not only could these situations be avoided but more focussed TLC for people attempting to make big life changes will make considerable impact.
So take note, trainers, instructors and fellow fitness-lovers alike. Your empathy and support could make all the difference.