“Oh, but you don’t need to lose weight”, “How much have you lost so far?”, “I need to start dieting too” – these are by far the most common responses I receive after telling someone I go to the gym. Well meaning as they are, all they ever do is make me wonder why it’s assumed that women only work out for one reason – to lose weight. Interestingly, the next thing that occurs to me is how no-one would say these things to a man in the same position; after all, there are a whole host of reasons why men go to the gym!
So why is this approach not extended to women? To me, the gym has never been about losing weight, or being on a diet. Actually, that’s not true; at one point it was totally about that, and I hated it. Going to the gym for me is first and foremost about mental resilience and stress-relief. Equally, I love feeling strong and capable – going to the gym makes me feel as though I can conquer the world. It’s not about what I can lose, it’s about what I can gain.
Let’s get this straight, if you exercise because you want to lose weight, that’s great; if that’s your goal then power to you. My issue is simply that there seems to be an assumption in society that women exercise for no other reason. Similarly, the amount of comments I’ve received about the type of workout I choose to do is unbelievable. It’s usually along the lines of “but lifting weights will only make you too muscly” or “why don’t you try *insert ‘feminine’ exercise here*, it’s doing weight training that’s making you bigger.” First of all, what if I actually want to be strong and muscly? Secondly, I’m bigger than I used to be because I love food and hate diets, not because I lift moderate weights 3 times a week. Thirdly, mind your own business!
As a society, we need to move away from this idea that if women go to the gym, they should be running on a treadmill for an hour because our goal is obviously to lose weight. And god forbid we pick up a dumbbell, because we’ll be massive in the blink of an eye and that is SO unfeminine! Let’s respect and motivate one another, rather than accidentally tearing people down with our ‘helpful hints’. Girls, whether your goal is to be strong, to lose weight, to gain mental clarity or anything else, you do you. As long as your chosen exercise (whatever it may be) is making you happy, there’s no reason to feel like you’re doing it wrong, no matter what anyone says.