After 28 years on this earth, the first time I set foot in a gym was earlier this week. I have always managed to maintain my weight by watching what I ate and abstaining after a binge. The idea of going to gym was difficult for me. The gym can be an intimidating place. The sight of death-looking weights and hulk-like men, always made me feel weak. Living in a world of constant optics, the unknown combined with visuals created unwanted anxiety.

Although I know that exercise is vital to maintaining a healthy and holistic life, the Guyanese way of greeting people always made me feel good. I was often told that I was healthy since I was slim and trim, even despite my acne prone skin. Acne has trolled my life since birth. Yes, this is a bit of an exaggeration, but I have had it for as long as I could remember.

For the most part, being healthy for me was always associated with having a certain look. For 2018, I have dedicated myself to trying to keep my acne at bay. I started by switching up my diet to include less meat, sugars and oily foods. I try to drink about two to three litres of water a day and to secure a full eight-hour sleep routine at night and finally make the effort to go to a gym.

I have come to learn that exercise reduces stress and allows increased blood circulation, thus sending more oxygen to skin cells and aiding in the removal of cell waste. However, all these things, despite how easy and idealistic they may sound, take time. Maybe it’s just me, but the idea of this type of self-care is a luxury. It requires time and time is a luxury in the modern world, especially for women and men who juggle a household, a job and child.

I have managed to find myself doing it because I am now relieved of household chores and the commute to a gym. For most this is not the reality, when there are no arrangements for childcare and there are other pressing priorities like earning money to survive this expensive world.

But know this, your weight or appearance should not be the concern of anyone but you. I have always found that lifestyle/fitness enthusiasts tend to repeatedly shame those who live differently or take long to get on the bandwagon. While it may come from a place of genuine interest, I don’t think there is anyone who actually wants to be unhealthy. However, changing your lifestyle can be a scary thing and sometimes the idea of your own strength is farfetched and all in your head. Trust me, I didn’t even think it was possible to stay away from chocolate and hot wings from KFC.

We should all make it a point to stop telling people that they have gained weight or that their acne needs attention. We should stop shaming mothers who do not immediately snap back into shape after giving birth. Everyone’s circumstances are different. While for some lifestyle changes can be easy, for others it might just be beyond their control.

We should therefore encourage people to start small, like urging them to drink more water. We can offer childcare for women instead of shaming them. We should stop try to impose every single fitness and health trend we happen on. Guess what? Chia seeds aren’t the only thing that works. Our bodies work differently. The journey is to be healthy, right? So, when you go to the gym, resist the urge to judge. Just enjoy your exercise time rather than trying to further push people into thinking that it is a place where they don’t belong.

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