I work out for a lot of reasons. I work out because I like to be strong. Because I like the challenge. Because it helps quiet the voices of the demons that kept me on a 600-800 calorie diet for most of high school. Because I like the people. Because I enjoy doing bizarre things like Spartan Races and mud runs. Because it gets me out of the house and separates me from my demanding toddler for at least six hours a week. Because it’s part of my routine. Because I like to eat and, yes, because it burns calories and helps me attain and maintain an appearance and level of fitness that makes it easier for me to negotiate life on a day-to-day basis.
One day, between mini vacations to Rhode Island and the Catskills, I scrolled across the Facebook image of a constipated, bug-eyed baby above the caption, “Uh oh! Don’t ruin your diet! You work so hard… Dont ruin it cause its [insert holiday here]. Stay strong!” It was posted by a fitness trainer and casual acquaintance, and, though it clearly wasn’t her intent, it seriously annoyed me. I’ve been thinking about it pretty frequently since then.
I find this problematic on many levels… The grammar to begin with, but I’ve often been told not to be the Facebook Grammar Police, so I’ll let that slide. It’s insulting. It’s misleading. It’s belittling. It is not inspirational. It’s just plain wrong.
The majority of the women whom I’ve come to know at the gym, and to whom this particular Facebook post was largely addressed, go to the gym the way the same way they go to work. The same way they pick their kids up from daycare. The same way they do laundry, cook meals, keep appointments, pay bills, cut the grass, or take the dog to the vet. They do it as part of their day, part of their routine, part of what they just do.
They have gone to the same classes or machines week after week, stood in practically the same spots evening after evening, and morning after morning. Through relationships, marriages, divorces, deaths, injuries, surgeries, pregnancies, miscarriages, births, high school, college, job changes, relocations and hardships that I’m sure I don’t even know about.
To tell people who are so committed to a part of their lives that it could be in jeopardy from a single hot dog (or an entire plate full of them) is ridiculous. And it’s part of what is wrong with the “diet culture” in our society. It’s not a fucking diet. It’s just life.
I’m coming off a span of nearly three months where I decided to kick up my exercise/weight loss efforts for a little while. I set a very attainable goal, took very careful-but-doable measures to reach it, battled a few demons along the way, patted myself on the back for gettin’ it done. Then settled immediately into a week (A WEEK!) that started with pizza and Nutella fudge brownies for my daughter’s third birthday, and segued into meatballs and baked ziti, potato chips, more pizza and cake at her official party on Sunday.
I guess, to the original poster of the image, it wouldn’t have just look like I ruined my “diet.” It would look like I blew it out of the water, gathered up the remaining bits, ground them into a fine paste, squeezed them into a sausage casing, grilled it over a fire and ate it on a hoagie roll with fried peppers and onions.
Luckily, I’m not on a diet.
Ten years from now — when my snuggly, cuddly, precocious and curious toddler is an angsty hormonal teenager, and I’m looking for reason NOT to seal her in her room with nothing but basic cable and a feed slot — I’m not going to look back on this past “birthday week” and think, “Damn. That was the week of my undoing. I shouldnt’a eaten that clam cake.” Because my life is going to have gone on from this week. It’s not even a matter of picking myself up, dusting myself off and slinking, shame-faced, back into the studio to hide the indiscretions…
I’m just gonna change into my gym clothes, drop my kid off in the nursery, and hope that no-one settled into my favorite spot while I was away. Because I’m not dieting, I’m living life.