Here are a few quick facts to start us off: one in every seven people is now a member of a gym, 224 new gym facilities opened last year, the fitness industry is worth £4.4 billion in the UK and this year gym membership spending is up by 44%. Here are a few quick facts about me: my favourite food group is pastry, I once ate a Gregg’s sausage roll before going on a run, and, according to the machine that just weighed me, I’m obese. This should give you a good idea why I’ve put myself on this programme. Firstly, being fit is on trend and I love trends (I’m a fashion writer after all). Secondly, I’m apparently fat and that’s not great considering how vain I am (see above).
To be frank I’ve got a pretty slapdash relationship with health and fitness. I drink, I smoke, I eat too much, and my few desultory attempts at working out are too infrequent to put a dent in the damage I do on a daily basis. I swing between being fine with this and getting anxious about it but mostly I’ve locked these feelings away in the same dark, dank corner of my brain that secures my worries about my lack of savings, my absence of a ‘life plan’ and my friends getting married. It’s stuff I only worry about when I can’t sleep.
The space where my transformation is set to take place is a small mostly blue room that sits at the bottom of a steep set of stairs off a side road in central London. Inside, instead of the rows of treadmills and rowers and cycling machines, is a lot of open space that’s flanked by free weights and pulleys and is full of trainers working with their clients. An athletic young Asian guy is doing pull ups. A middle-aged woman does squats. The trainers, rather than shouting, offer quiet encouragement and correct posture. More Life is playing. I don’t like gyms but I could like this.
I’m met by one of the senior trainers, Dan, who is going to talk me through what we want to achieve in the course and what my current status is. He’s built like a brick shithouse and exudes the sense of ‘wellness’ that’s common to all fitness professionals – he’s got good skin, there aren’t any bags under his eyes, his posture is strong and he’s disconcertingly alert for 3pm on a Monday afternoon. To kick things off we talk about my diet. This is part You Are What You Eat part catholic confessional (‘Forgive me father for I have sinned. My last pint was two days ago.’) and he gently coaxes my bad eating habits out of me. I’m writing a week into the course but I can still remember the blend of horror and anxiety as we totted up the calories I’d inhale on a ‘bad day’ and the revelation that my ‘good days’ weren’t really that good at all. We follow this up by weighing me on the In-Body 720, a set of space-age scales that does a ‘Body Composition Analysis’, telling us I’ve got high skeletal muscle mass, my right arm has more muscle than my left (wink) and that, apparently, I’m obese. By health industry standards rather than real world ones but still obese.
Obese is a horrible word that’s loaded with meaning. Even saying its rounded vowels feels fat in your mouth. Obesity isn’t just fatness, it’s a ‘disease’, an ‘epidemic’ and a ‘social ill’, it represents a self indulgent culture without self control and it demonstrates how topsy turvy modern society has become. Once, the rich were fat and the poor were thin. Now, the rich are stacked and the poor are obese. Obese was once those preposterously large blokes my dad would point out in the street, now it’s me absent-mindedly eating a sleeve of biscuits at my desk trying to meet a deadline.
I was in two minds about telling you about my ‘diagnosis’ but I feel it’s pretty crucial information. There have been gigabytes of fitness diaries written and not many of them are very honest about the process, they’re generally puff pieces for fitness courses and a chance for journos to get themselves into shape for free. The diets are faddish, the workouts are impossible to recreate and generally you read it, think ‘huh, maybe I could do that when I’ve got the money’ and close the window. I want to give you a warts and all rundown of how this goes, how hard it is, and show you how to do it yourself by passing on everything I’ve learned going through £2000+ worth of personal training and nutritional advice. This is just the start so I don’t have much to tell you just yet apart from this: if you want some motivation, get a robot to call you obese.
Thanks to the team at SIX3NINE – if you’re in London and want to get fit, there’s nobody better. Check out the second entry in this series to find out what my diet plan is and how to make one for yourself. If you like listening to people complaining about being hungry, you’ll love it.