The Scaremaster, the Dreadmill

In high school I was “the skinny girl” -the girl who could eat an entire bag of chips in one sitting while maintaining the look of someone lost and starving in the Himalayas. While some girls envied the carefree way I could consume a carton of ice cream, I often found myself wishing I could gain the weight they so despised. Guys thought I was too skinny. Girls thought I had an eating disorder. As high school came to a close and the college doors swung open, I decided I would end what I felt as constant judgment. It couldn’t hurt to put on a few pounds…right?

Unfortunately I underestimated my ability to put on weight. A few pounds soon turned into fifteen and fifteen turned into a number I would rather not mention. I knew I looked like I was having food’s love child, but when my friend uttered the words, “I like your new figure,” I felt my heart stop a little. “I don’t want you to take this the wrong way” she painfully continued, “but lately you’ve been complaining about putting on some extra weight, and I just want you to know-I like it.” Like it? I felt like someone had stabbed me in my less than flat stomach. I immediately wanted to hop on a treadmill, do five hundred crunches and starve myself for the next six weeks. Instead, I sat on the couch and ate an entire sleeve of cookies. I absolutely refused to go to the gym.

The gym and I had never had a very good relationship. Sure we’d seen each other once or twice over the years, but when it came down to it, I just didn’t have the time to be in such a committed relationship. There were papers to write, television shows to watch, friends to chat with and yes, bars to visit. Plus, the gym only seemed to attract people with impeccable thighs and killer abs. I couldn’t imagine why it would want to be seen with me, let alone spend every day together. It was for these reasons that I gave the gym the “it’s not you, it’s me speech” over two years ago. I felt awkward even thinking of crawling back.

After about two months of trying to avoid the growing protrusion over my once loose sweat pants however, I knew I had to get myself under control. I threw on what I could only hope looked like normal gym gear and headed over to Huntington. As soon as I entered the building I felt out of place, as if I was underage and sneaking in through the back door of a twenty-one and over bar (not that I’ve ever done that). I looked at the girls with their perfect figures and the guys with muscles spilling out of their tight shirts. It seemed that everyone knew I hadn’t been here in ages.

Despite this, I made it through the first day spending a half hour on the elliptical and then calling it quits. The second day I gained some confidence upping my level to on the elliptical to “two.” Apparently if you haven’t been to gym in four years, level two means nearly passing out, tripping over yourself and almost falling off the machine. I think the only thing that kept me from immediately leaving the gym was my need to pretend none of the above had just happened.

Thankfully, as the days progressed the tripping lessened and my preconceived notions of the gym melted away. I came to realize that when I entered the building I didn’t judge anyone more than I had outside of it; the only judgment I was really getting was from me. I guess I felt exposed there in a way I don’t normally do when walking around campus. At the gym there’s no makeup or cute clothes, no hiding from the fact that your body isn’t what it should be. Avoiding the gym had been less about how important it was to write a paper or meet up with a friend, and more about not admitting how unimportant I had made my own health. I didn’t want people to see how completely and utterly imperfect I was (and am), so I had stayed home hoping no one had noticed.

After a few weeks at the gym I’ve come to value the act of trying to get in shape much more than the act of trying to look perfect. I like knowing that I’ve finally found the time to make myself a priority even if that means cutting back on the couch time. In the end, committing to the gym means committing to a better me. And who wouldn’t look forward to that?