“Girlllll, you are so thin. Please don’t run or you’ll break”.
“What are you looking for in the gym? Do you want to disappear?”.
“Do you have sickle cell anemia?”
“Lepa shandyyyyyy!” – Lepa Shandy is a Yoruba movie centred around a skinny, young lady
“Someone please grab this girl a burger”
These were just a few words I heard daily everywhere I went. I was criticized and reminded of my weight to a point of frustration and insecurity. I remember I hated wearing skinny jeans and if I had to, I would wear thick leggings underneath to ensure the jeans had the semblance of some flesh in it. My close friends added to the narrative and I remember one of them just staring me down as we walked back to our dorm after lectures and saying very slowly ‘wow, you are really painfully skinny’. I remember I was so hurt but instead of expressing my hurt, I retorted some now forgotten words angrily at her and stormed away in a different direction.
When I arrived Canada in 2009, I was 42kg, which is a little over 90 pounds. I tried literally everything I could to gain weight. I would eat lots of carbs late in the night, I would gobble down glasses of malt with condensed milk. I ate boiled eggs and I was constantly in a calorie surplus. Ironically, I still wasn’t gaining any weight and even worse than that, I suffered from constant bloating, indigestion, constipation and sometimes the runs because (drum roll) I am lactose intolerant consuming whole milk. I remember being so frustrated with Google search because it would change my question of “how to gain weight” to “Do you mean ‘how to lose weight?'” (insert eye rolling).
At a point, I gave up and I just lived my life until my knee started acting up from a past accident and I was forced to see a doctor. He suggested working out in a gym to strengthen the knee. I reluctantly started some home exercises because I felt too ashamed to take my skinny self to the gym. I was scared of what people will say about my size. I was also scared that I wouldn’t be able to handle the machines accurately and I’d make a fool of myself. However, on January 1st, 2018, I made a New Year’s resolution that I can boldly say I stuck to. I let go of fear and I hired a trainer. On January 3, 2018, I started my first gym session. I was so scared to look weak. I was also scared of not learning quick enough. My trainer was patient and very knowledgable. On our first session, we started off with 5 lbs dumbbells working my arms and body weight squats for my legs. We ended the session with some ab workout of planks and I remember trembling uncontrollably. I was so close to tears and as a Canadian (lol), I kept apologizing to my trainer for my near tears and shaking.
The next morning, I could barely stand, sit on the toilet bowl or walk properly. The pain was unbearable but I knew I couldn’t quit. I knew I had to strengthen my knee. I had no other options. Ignorantly, I still didn’t realize that working out would cause me to grow. After almost 6 months of consistent workout, I realized I couldn’t fit into my clothes. I jumped on the scale and I was so SURPRISED at my new weight. I had gained lean muscle! I looked great. I could run, I could jump and I was stronger than ever before. Today, I am 160lbs strong from working out. I take a lot of pride in constantly remembering that my body is God’s temple and in so doing, I take care of it by choosing healthy options in food and exercise.
As we approach the end of the year, I’ll like to encourage you to take a leap of faith, dispose of fear and take that first step to working out. People will laugh, tease, look at you sideways. You will make mistakes, probably hurt yourself and want to quit but DON’T. My goal was gaining weight but today, my goals are different. It is to be healthy and strong.