I was browsing Instagram and came across accounts of some who are amazing with their asanas, project strength, and flexibility, have a great number of following, lovely supportive fans and a regular influx of hate comments body shamming them! This made me wonder, how are some people only fixated on someone’s body type and shape and ignore their hard work and practice which made these poses possible for them.

Instagram fitness models – this brings about a picture of a ripped muscular man or an extremely toned woman in leggings. Now they have worked hard to get there, but is this all that the fitness world limits too? Where every guy is bulked up and every girl has a tiny waist and thin legs with a pronounced booty. Many Instagram models have shared how lighting and angles and sucking in the gut has helped them achieve those envy-worthy pictures which get shared around as #goals.  Looking Fit is a job for cover models, it is best for us to not try to emulate such bodies without understanding our own first.

One such famous Instagram influencer is Stacey-lee of @psychandsquats whose account is filled with such posts comparing the reality vs perceived reality on Instagram through an image. She is a psychologist and indulges in various forms of fitness activities.

‘Smaller waist, bigger butt, no bruise’: Fitspo star Photoshops her own body and compares it to the real thing as she hits back at pictures of ‘perfect’ models.

WORLDS APART Reality vs insta You see what I show you. You see what other people show you. What you see is a snapshot. A second. Out of many minutes and hours. You don’t see the hard work, the sweat, the alarms for early workouts even when all I wanna do is stay in bed, the meal prep, the sacrifices necessary to stay in this shape. You don’t see the outtakes. The deleted pictures. The 78 other photos that didn’t ‘make the cut’, because I scrutinize them too much. You don’t see the part where I stand in my backyard thinking ‘it’s freezing out here…and I have no clue how to stand right now…shit is my neighbor looking over the fence?’ You don’t see my D.I.Y tripod consisting of a stool, some lanterns, and my phone propped against them to get that perfect angle. Which falls multiple times. Instagram is merely the depiction of a glamorous lifestyle through very un-glamorous means. I love insta. It’s an incredible tool that has connected me to so many incredible people. But it is not reality. It’s what I choose to show. ? wearing @Lilybod leggings #keepingitreal #dedicated #lilybod #bodytransformation #transformationtuesday #strongnotskinny #bbg #bodygoals #fitness #inspo #kaylaitsines #progressnotperfection #muscle #training #girlswholift #motivation #traininsane #girlswholift

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I experienced

People are okay with me doing yoga, but on the rare occasions when I walk into a gym, or attend a weight management workshop, “aunties” are quick to let me know how I DON’T need to lose weight.

Awkwardly smiling and letting them know I don’t workout for weight loss.

Picture this –

7 years and gaining 25 kgs later, daily weight training and building lean muscle with calisthenics, you are constantly told: “But it doesn’t show”. Until of course, they see you being a beast at the gym, where their big pectoral muscles do not help them lift. You find yourself always explaining people who ask you to eat more- about high metabolism and that your health is optimum as per the lab results.

You are recovering from a viral, looking thinner, and people come up to you and say oh you look better and “fitter”.  In reality, you feel week and tired, but such compliments make you believe this body that is desired.

You have your cardio in place, eat healthily, are toned but not the typical thin frame. To only then be called “still fat”. Until they find it hard to keep up with your run and count calories and do everything possible for a working professional to stay fit.

Fitness in India means losing weight, you gain and you lose it. That’s the start and end of it in the majority of India. Today, 6 pack abs, bulging biceps, thigh gaps and bronzed body is the definition of “Being Fit”. Losing weight is a compliment- whether u do it by working out or crash dieting. You can fool anyone with the aesthetics of fitness.

I read up

After much pondering on this I wanted to learn more on what exactly is being active, fit and healthy which we more often than not use interchangeably. My understanding has boiled down to the following.

An active person – such as the Indian mothers.(excuse my over generalisation which I am going to indulge in, it may not be true for your mother, but it is for the majority) If she is a homemaker, she does all the household chores and if she is a working woman, she is usually still the one taking care of the house to make sure it is a home. Now she is pretty active, with all the moving around she does, but since she is not partaking in any fitness activity per say that will help her own body and systems, she cannot be considered particularly fit.

An active person is basically a person who is not lazy and can move around easily and gets the job done.

A fit person – Challenging your body every day to perform tasks is being fit. One step fitter literally.

After practicing 2 min planks daily, consider it to be now an activity for you. Increase your time or make the pose more difficult by lifting one leg and see your body getting challenged again. Getting comfortable is easy and risky, pushing is hard and beneficial. However, the key is in finding the sweet spot – challenge your body physically but do not overwhelm it to the point of injury.

Goals should be to have your body move smoothly, without pain and without losing your breath, which will make daily activities like climbing stairs easier. An hour workout, however, does not give you the ticket to live sedentarily rest of the day, such as sleeping at odd hours and working on computers without breaks. The active life is important irrespective of your daily fitness activity, considering the negative effects of being idle.

A healthy person – The biggest epiphany I had while doing this section was, A fit person may not necessarily be healthy.  There are different levels of fitness, and each person should be the judge of their own goals after consulting their physician and alter their nutrition to reach best possible health. It isn’t that simple though, the health of a person depends on his physical, mental, emotional health and stability. Many fitness enthusiasts ignore taking care of themselves with proper rest and mental health isn’t something they even think about. Stress can have an adverse affect on your heart which cardio cannot reverse. I propose Yoga for a wholesome approach to health, and by Yoga, I do not mean just asanas.

I asked

Kailash Jadhav, an experienced and well-known fitness coach had some interesting insights on the topic of fitness and health. I have included excerpts from the chat we had in this section, to get the experts one on one view.

He believes that fitness is a constant process, evolving to do something, constantly and increasing the intensity as you pass by and that’s where people start failing.

He explained this by categorizing workouts in 3 categories, flexibility which works on your ligaments, muscles, and joints; an aerobic activity which works on your cardiovascular system; an anaerobic activity which is responsible for the hypertrophy.  He maintains that training is a big part of fitness, as you train to get better at the activity of your choice, such as running from 5km to 10 km.

You are fit to do Yoga, you are fit to do long distance running, “being fit” is a term used to do a particular activity. Being fit has nothing to do with being healthy. It is more of a holistic approach to your body.

Being healthy has two conditions it relies on

  1. Healthy is the amount of time you fall sick
  2. Other is how soon you die.

They might the most fit person in the face of the earth or even healthy, but their heart might not be evolved enough to take on the stress. With all these complications that come in, we should understand, that rushing into these activities may do more harm, instead, we should focus on evolving with small steps.

He stresses that instead of increasing our metabolic rate, we have stopped eating and instead of wholesome food we have fallen for the marketing gimmick by companies feeding on the fear psychosis of people based on their health.  The new FADs like gluten free wheat, lactose-free milk is not something he advocates.

Key Takeaway –

  1. Fitness cannot be judged by someone’s look.
  2. Active life and fitness activity are not exclusive to each other when it comes to the overall level of fitness in a person.
  3. Being healthy is a wholesome approach to the physical, mental and emotional well-being of a person, there are no substitutes to this.

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