At age 16, I went to work at Pam’s figure salon in West Covina—my very first job. My duties were simple: Teach aerobics…sell memberships. Clean the hot tub… sell memberships. Tout the grapefruit diet… sell memberships. Strap women onto those ridiculous vibrating belt contraptions that were meant to shake the fat away… sell memberships.
For the entire year I worked at Pam’s I enthusiastically counted out their repetitions on the weight machines, handed them list after list of the latest diets, picked them up off the floor after having been thrown to theground by the vibrating fat- melter and coax them into extra aerobics classes.I was great at the fitness part. But how did I sell memberships? By convincing those women that if they signed a lengthy membership contract they could be thinner by Christmas. It was that simple. Because all any of them wanted was to look thinner.
To them, being fit meant being thin. The truth was despite all my efforts to get these women fit, I had very few success stories. How could I have known that what I should have been teaching these women was not how to get fit and stay fit, but why.
Despite what appears to be a national obsession with fitness 63% of Americans are overweight. That’s over six out of ten.
Adult obesity is at an all time high—in fact, it’s epidemic. Childhood obesity in the United States has more than tripled in the past two decades. And it isn’t as if we are not a body conscious society.
Every grocery store checkout line has at least one rag mag exhibiting a photo of some poor celebrity like Jessica Simpson with a headline that screams “Too Fat?” “Too Thin?” “Is She safe?”
Yet, ironically, right next to those gossipy “Janet Bulks Up To 180 Pounds!!” magazines are all the fitness and fashion mags each claiming to have the inside scoop on how to get fit. Information on how to get fit is everywhere. It exists on dvd and on television.
There are entire networks dedicated to the subject. I Googled “how to stay fit” and found 4,380,000 sites offering information on the subject. We have the most innovative machines, the most beautifully shot workout dvd’s.
We have fat farms, boot-camps, exotic fitness get-aways. We even have no fat, no calorie “food” lining the shelves of grocery isles dedicated to supplying American consumers with the latest products to help them eat their way to being fit.
Yet our growing population (and I mean that literally) of overweight adults and a new generation of sedentary children are living proof that simply telling people “how” to get fit is not working, It’s not working any better now than it did for me at Pam’s Figure Salon back in 1977.
In the years since I have tried dozens of fitness products and regimens, from weight training, and yoga, to food combining and exotic tea concoctions. I have owned Universal gyms, stationary bikes and elliptical walkers. I’ve belonged to dance studios, dojos and Pilates studios.
After all that sweating and all those calories burned, what have I learned? Simply this: that the best way for me to get fit and stay fit is to focus not on how but on why. So why do I remain so committed to fitness? To appear on a cover of a magazine or look great on the red carpet? No. I stay fit so I can play roller hockey with my son, and hula dance with my daughter or pick her up and carry her from the couch to her bed when she’s fallen asleep watching Hatari with grandpa.
Being fit lets me hike the Dolomites with my Italian friends or tandem surf with my beautiful husband, dropping into a tube while holding hands. It allows me to answer the call from all my single girlfriends who need a hand moving or cleaning out the garage. But being fit isn’t just about relentless activity. It also allows me to relax. I can say no thanks to a triathlon and yes to wine tasting on girls night out. Or help myself to birthday cake at the PTA meeting without wanting to hang myself the next day.
For me fitness is freedom.- freedom to experience, to explore, to express. It may also mean being thin or having what you consider to be a great shape and that’s fantastic. But fitness’ greatest reward is that it gives you the freedom to do the things you want to do; to be the person you choose to be.
So, if I found myself back at Pam’s Figure Salon in downtown West Covina I think I’d replace all those copies of the grapefruit diet with one mandatory membership application. It would consist of 10 blank pages and one question: “Why do you want to be fit?” I’m convinced that if everyone filled those pages with honest answers they would figure out a way—any way—to get into the shape of their lives, and stay there.
Written By: Nia Peeples Visit Nia’s Elements of Life Webinar
Get a fashion magazine you can identify with register now. PETITE Women 5′5″ & under it’s time to join the petite women’s fashion movement.
FREE trial subscription to Bella Petite Magazine and get 20%-50% off Allison Izu, Fernanda Carneiro and My Sweet Petites clothing when you become a Bella Petite Member!