Ah, the gym. That great irony of the ‘civilised’ world. That place where you realise the American standard of beauty is absolutely f&$king ridiculous and should be shot right between its Botoxed eyes.
Being on a military base doesn’t make much of a difference in the people that frequent the gym. Instead of business suits, they wear fatigues. That’s about as far as difference go. The same people are still there.
The body builder:
The skinny kid who very much wants to look like the bodybuilder.
The girl who you’re pretty sure is only there for the stares she gets.
There are others. First Sergeants getting in a workout while they can. Mothers with their less than willing toddlers in tow. The military veterans who are there because of high blood pressure. Teenagers who want to ‘bulk up’ no doubt because their idol is photoshopped to look incredible. The buff girls who are probably really serious about their workouts but wander around quite possibly making a show of being there. Maybe to show off their results in a subconscious need to impress or to help others become motivated. Or maybe because their pride swells with the envious looks they know they’re getting from people like me
The gym is great writing fodder. People’s expressions tell you a multitude about them, whether they know it or not, and it’s just up to you to fill in the blanks. I’ve written entire histories of women whose pursed lips and pissed off looks have made me wonder if they’re there because they want to be, or if their physical appearance is the only thing they have left to them. Also are the people who come from the gym and then go to the club and demand health food. Or changes to their food to make it healthy that we can’t oblige. The disbelieving looks are priceless and annoying. At once vindicating and sad, because although eating healthy is important, forcing your health demands on a restaurant that doesn’t have what you want on the menu–as an option or otherwise–is just a little bit stupid.
I’ve learned a lot since going to the gym regularly. I’ve learned that I like the gym, but I could never live in it. I’ve learned that just because you go to the gym doesn’t mean that you get to eat whatever you want. Because it’s not just about killing yourself on the machine. It’s about learning what food is right for your body and cutting out the bad crap. No matter how painful.
Bread is not good for the body.
Neither is sugar.
I’ve also learned that after 15 years of hating the body that I was given, I’m finally FINALLY happy with how I look. Am I ever going to have a perfectly flat stomach? F&$k you, no. But my pants are falling off of me. Am I ever going to have feminine shoulders? Hell no. But these man shoulders allow me to help friends move treadmills and landed me a 6:51:00 500 yard freestyle relay in high school. Am I going to get a waist? Nope. Big ribcage means big lung capacity. I’m a workhorse. Always have been. I enjoy physical labour, keeps my brain free to think and create.
Does it matter how I look? No. Does it matter that I’m healthy? Yes. Because both sides of my genetic structure are susceptible to all matters of nasty things when it comes to the fat around the tummy. Wrapping around the internal organs is the low end of the spectrum with cancer being the absolute worse. Dotting the middle is diabetes and high blood pressure and heart problems.
Do I still hate how I look in photos? Yes.
I’ve also learned that it doesn’t really matter how you look. If the look on those buff girl’s faces tell me anything it’s that they probably don’t like themselves just as much as their expression tells you they’re never going to NOT look down on you for looking the way you do. And they’re never not going to be a bitch. Or worried about what they’re eating. Or counting calories, or telling themselves that one piece of bread won’t kill them because they can work it off later.
That’s not to say that all of them are like that. But a good majority that I’ve seen have that look on their face.
Physical appearance doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if you look like Jessica Alba or Kim Kardashian. It doesn’t. Because, guess what? You’re not a millionaire, you don’t pay people to make you look good.
As long as you’re healthy and happy. And doing what you love in life. What you see in the magazines I can do for you in a matter of minutes. Gaussian blur is a beautiful tool. Physical attractiveness is not everything. I’m betting our ancestors (the hunter-gatherer types) had a body fat percentage of 35-40% because fat keeps you warm in the cold and that they were more worried about where the next meal was going to come from than how they looked in that piece of reflective surface that one guy found.
Bottom line: if you are happy with how you look, no one else is allowed to tell you that you are inferior.