Owais Masood 5th September 2018
For as long as I can remember I’ve been skinny. And when I say skinny, I mean like extra-extra-small t-shirts skinny, so skinny that people would regularly ask me: “Do you even eat?”
Something I realised growing up is that even people who are totally fine and nice otherwise have no problem pointing out that you’re underweight, even though they’re usually sensitive to people who are overweight. Don’t worry, this piece isn’t about skinny-shaming (I don’t feel like I have ever been skinny-shamed, personally) but it’s something I’ve noticed, and it did affect me — like anything does if you hear it enough times. So at the start of this year, I decided to do it. To take steps to look and feel better about myself. This time it really would be new year, new me.
I knew it wasn’t going to be as simple as just eating more, but I did adjust my diet to start taking in way more calories. I also decided to go to the gym. Not only will I gain weight, I thought, but I’ll get fitter too. It all sounded great, until I went to the gym and everyone around me looked like Bruce Banner mid-Hulk transformation.
Being both overwhelmed and intimidated is not a good combination
Then there were the actual weights themselves. For the uninitiated it’s totally overwhelming. What do I lift? How do I lift? Am I lifting too much? Am I not lifting enough? Being both overwhelmed and intimidated is not a good combination; it’s far from the optimum state for a productive workout.
So, my fellow skinny people who want to go to the gym but are worried about it, allow me to offer some tips, on coping with and getting past the awkward phase.
Embrace the awkward phase. It sucks but it’s something everyone who starts at the gym faces. Nobody was born with rock-hard abs or giant biceps, and at some point, even the World’s Strongest Man didn’t know the difference between a dead-lift and a bench press. Just accept it, and eventually you will get past it. If you have a few bad experiences, particularly in the beginning, don’t let these stop you going to the gym altogether; everyone’s been there. Most importantly, remember that it will pass. If I’ve managed it, then you absolutely can too.
I watched YouTube videos about skinny people gaining weight
Do your research. Have some sort of plan ready for when you step into the gym. Know what you’re going to do and how to do it correctly. You don’t need to become one of those people whose only topics of conversation are fitness or gym-adjacent, but putting some thought and research into your workout plan will help massively. I watched YouTube videos about skinny people gaining weight and read articles about beginners working out. Try not to just copy what others are doing though, everyone’s different, with different goals: make your workout as individual as possible, focusing on the aspects of fitness you most want to improve.
Go at a time when the gym is quiet. The fewer people that are there, the less self-conscious you’ll be and the more you can concentrate on doing your workout. Even though on some level I know that nobody is really looking at me anyway, and I’m just being paranoid, the fact that there are fewer people around who might be looking definitely helped to put me at ease.
From a practical standpoint, it also means there’s less chance of having to wait around for certain machines or make awkward eye-contact mid-way through a particularly gruelling set of squats. Inadvisable.
Be realistic with what you try to do and, as you enter the gym, be sure to leave your ego at the door. You’re not going to need it and you’ll likely only get it severely bruised anyway. We’d all love to be able to go in there and lift the heaviest weights but that’s not realistic and you’re highly likely to injure yourself. Start from the bottom and work your way up, prioritising the number of reps over the weight you lift.
A hard learning curve for me has been not seeing results straight away. I was severely deflated to wake up the day after my first ever gym session without a rippling six-pack. Progress will be slow, particularly really noticeable changes, but don’t let that deter you. When you do see some results though — no matter how small — be happy about it. It’s always better to look at what you have gained rather what you haven’t.
By no means am I an expert gym-goer now, nor do I look like one, but I feel better
We’re fast-approaching the end of the year. So am I looking the way I want? Not even close but I am working on it. I’ve even gone up a size (I can knock one “extra” off and still fill a shirt) and people are telling me they can see a difference. It feels way better hearing that than hearing “do you even eat?”.
By no means am I an expert gym-goer now, nor do I look like one. But I feel better because I’m doing something about it rather than just sitting around and complaining (which I still do but now it’s fine because I’m doing something about it too).
I’m still very skinny and I have kind of accepted that I will always be skinny. It does have its perks; I can fit through particularly tight spaces, for instance.
It’s about me feeling good about myself and feeling comfortable rather than how others see me
If you saw me walking down a street you wouldn’t think “he goes to the gym” and that’s fine, because honestly, I’m not going for you. It’s about me feeling good about myself and feeling comfortable rather than how others see me — I know that sounds cheesy but it’s true. I think that’s the healthiest way of looking at it, for me anyway, and it makes me more motivated to keep going.
The last thing I will say to you, my fellow skinny gym goers, is that you’re halfway there. You’re starting to make a change; so keep going and the results will show. No one is watching you and no one questions your right to be there. Everyone there is trying to better themselves in one way or another.
To quote the slogan of a niche gym-wear brand I’ve discovered through my new hobby; just do it!
Owais Masood 5th September 2018