This is one of the articles I’ve come across lately that I can completely relate to. So I thought of sharing it with all of you. Read it and let me know your opinion on it.
Happy Reading !! 🙂
Last week I got a text from one of my clients: ‘Akash, I need to talk to you. I don’t think I can do this anymore.’
I call him up and ask what’s wrong, because up till now, this guy had been killing it. Almost 40 years old with 2 young kids, and in the best shape of his life. At a time when most Asians are pre-diabetic and a ticking time bomb from years of gluttony, he’s sporting a body that’d make most 25-year-olds jealous.
When he picked up the phone, this is what he told me: ‘Everyone thinks I’ve gone crazy. I’ve just come back from a family function. My grandma thinks I’m dying. My mother in law asked if I’m ill. I had three of my cousins ask if everything was ok. My aunt said enough is enough- you’ve shrunk and look unhealthy. What do I do? Is this normal? I’ve never had this before.’
‘Not again…’ I thought to myself. This wasn’t the first time and I know it wasn’t going to be the last. Most of my clients are Indian, and between the ages of 25 and 45, so it rarely goes a few weeks without having one of these conversations. If anything, it means I’m doing my job properly. These clients are getting stronger, leaner and more conditioned than they’ve ever been.
But These Conversations Are Quickly Getting Tiring
Why is it that if we try to push the physical limits of our bodies, we get criticised in a manner that forces us to think something is wrong with us?
It’s time for change.
The Problem Is Societal- Being ‘Chubby’ Is Seen As Being ‘Healthy’
The problem is these societal perceptions are so deeply rooted in our culture and way of living, that it leads the thought process. When speaking to older members of my family about why health and fitness is often looked down upon, their answers are interesting. They talk about how the sign of ‘good health’ is actually the opposite of being in shape. Being ‘chubby’ is seen as ‘healthy’. Being lean is associated with ill health and malnourishment. What’s interesting is that this is engrained into them from birth, and with blind ‘tradition’. Look at how we feed new-borns in the family. We try to fatten them as quickly as possible with as many trans-fat laden foods as we can fry up.
There’s no regard for their health, their brain development, their motor learning or coordination.
It’s feed, feed and just feed!
Even if the parents are somewhat health conscious, the elders will override and accuse them of bad parenting. They’ll place fear into the parents thinking their child will suffer from bad luck and won’t be ‘successful’ later in life. Sadly, this is considered the norm.
The Societal Norm That No One’s Willing To Break
Just like if you’re not a doctor, a banker or a lawyer, you’re subjected to a life of failure. Apparently those are the only ways to make a living, to ‘make your parents proud’, and to be a ‘success’.
I remember when I decided to scrap my plans of being a lawyer, and instead take the unconventional route of becoming a personal trainer. Guess what the first thing my parents said? ‘How will you pay the bills?’
Perhaps a legitimate question when you consider the attitude of your average personal trainer at the local gym. But why is that the first reaction? Why wasn’t it ‘amazing, I know how passionate you are about this, and I know you’ll do very well in this’.
The Relentless Social Stigma
Now we bring it back to my question to the elders about what being ‘healthy’ as an Indian means.
The second answer was money and a ‘well-respected’ job. Notice how they were answered together. Ultimately this all comes down to an identity crisis in our culture. We love associations. It happens all over the world, but I can only speak of the Indian culture. And I know from speaking with friends and families from different backgrounds that we’re amongst the worst when it comes to this.
Try Going Against The Norms
Why is it so rare to hear of anyone doing something radically different? It’s always so vanilla, repetitive and boring. This is exactly why I love it when people I know want to branch out and try new ventures. Life becomes exciting again. Just like my client who experienced the ‘shame’ of being in the shape of his life. If you go to a family occasion as a ‘personal trainer’, watch how the faces drop.
I’ve tested this at many different events. If I get asked ‘what do you do?’ and I reply ‘I’m a personal trainer’, I’ll get an ‘oh, nice’ with a look of confusion and subtle disappointment. If I respond with ‘I run my own business’, then it’s a completely different story. For my client who walked into the room as the leanest guy in there, instead of a ‘wow, you look incredible’, he got the opposite. This essentially comes down to the priorities we’ve been inundated with from a young age. Self-care and looking after your body has always been put at the end of the list. Instead, you’re taught that achieving the best grades, working yourself into the ground, and eventually making lots of money should be your number one priority.
Anything else is a distraction, and a waste of your time.
A Paradigm Shift
Here’s where we need a shift to be more open-minded. To be more health conscious and to celebrate the road less travelled. We need more education. This is critical and it’s why I’ve been urged to write a piece like this for a while; it may be the most important article I’ve written, and hopefully, a start of a paradigm shift.
What You Need To Understand
I don’t think the elders do this out of spite or jealousy. It comes from a place of good intentions but also from ignorance, and ingrained behaviour. When your grandma sees you and you’re in shape, it’s not that she’s jealous of you, or thinks bad of you. It’s that she doesn’t understand, or know any different. It’s so deep rooted and generational, that changing the way of thinking is going to take significant time and effort.
I’d love for my clients to ring me up one day and instead, say ‘Akash, I just got back from a family function and everyone was raving about how much leaner, healthier and sharper I look. I had people asking me how I manage to look 10-15 years younger!’
This might not happen just yet, but with every body we help transform, I hope we’re a little bit closer to making it happen.
Disclaimer: The original article is published by Akash Vaghela from MensXP.