Welcome to the world of fitness fanaticism
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Welcome to the world of fitness fanaticism

We bring you a special anniversary issue, on the theme 'Look How We've Changed!'. We asked writers to do a series of essays for us, chronicling these changes | A decade back, any mention of six pack was brushed aside with 'our genetics don't allow it' claim; not today, writes Jamal Shaikh.

brunch Updated: Feb 23, 2014 19:59 IST
Jamal Shaikh
Jamal Shaikh
Hindustan Times
Jamal Shaikh,10 Years of Brunch,Brunch

The first issue of Brunch in Delhi came out on February 1, 2004. Nine months later, with the launch of the Hindustan Times in Mumbai, Brunch was introduced to readers there as well. The Delhi Brunch completes 10 years this month.

And so we bring you a special two-part anniversary issue, on the theme 'Look How We've Changed!' We asked writers and specialists in their field, to do a series of essays for us, chronicling these changes.

In this essay, Jamal Shaikh, editorial director of men's lifestyle magazine Men's Health, talks of the major trends in health and fitness.

A joke doing the rounds of smartphones of some not-so-smart people at the gym recently went something like this: If Deewar were to be remade in 2014, what would Amitabh Bachchan's character have to say to elicit the "Mere paas maa hai!" response? The answer: He'd say "Mere pass bangla hai, gaadi hai, paisa hai… (and then, the 2014 addition…) six-pack bhi hai! Tumhare paas kya hai?"

Read:The six-pack is now a tyre, says Kunal Kapoor

Hah, ladies and gents, welcome to the world of fitness fanaticism, where vanity rules, selfies abound, and beauty spots don't really matter… lip plumpers do! It's all about looking good, feeling better. Girls don't just diet, they also lift weights. Guys can't stop at crunches to carve their six-packs, they must also frequent grooming salons to scrub, clean and… ugh… wax!

Read:The manicure men

Less than 10 years ago, things were more than just a little different. 'Our genetics don't allow the Indian body type to have rock hard abs,' I was told emphatically by the marketing types when we set out to launch Men's Health magazine in India. I reckoned the same naysayers must've scoffed at the Miss India pageant a decade earlier, saying that the full-bodied Indian woman was meant to rock a sari, folds of fat weren't meant to be in a swimsuit!

Men who work out are obsessed with 'protein', and chicken is every Gymbo's favourite dish

How wrong they were! The once-voluptuous supermodel Bipasha Basu has grown never-ending legs and sells workout DVDs. Indian girls went on to win world titles (including Miss Perfect 10) and made us proud. And male superstars from Bollywood, who once had jiggly bellies are now frequently made to unbutton their shirts to prove their six-pack-ability… the biscuit-like protrusions on the torso are the epitome of male fitness and beauty. You've either got them, or you have nothing!

So, besides these things, what else has changed in health and fitness in India in the last 10 years? Here's a quick recap:

Vanity wins the hand
Make no mistake, today's obsession with being fit is as superficial as an Instagram filter. It's not about living longer, feeling stronger or any of that crap. It is about looking good tonight, at the party on Saturday, or at the family wedding next month. Shallow pursuit, you say? Deeper gains, I point out!

Food for naught
From being the root of all evil for diet-conscious women, food is now a series of complex words that everyone uses, but nobody fully understands. 'Fats' are the easiest to comprehend and are to be avoided, but most women also feel 'carbs' are just as villainous. Men who work out are obsessed with 'protein', and chicken is every Gymbo's favourite dish. Whey powders and supplements thrive, and are considered magic potions to Muscledom and Glory.
What to remember: Carbohydrates are necessary to process protein, fibre is even more important, and nobody needs steroids or energy drinks… not sportspeople, not party animals, no one!


Calories versus inches
The units of measurement once associated with energy and tailoring, now form an intrinsic part of the aesthetic body movement. 'A rasgulla has fewer calories than a gulab jamun!' the kitty party aunty professes whilst planning a lunch menu, while her daughter regularly buys branded clothing that's one size smaller in the hope that the inches will eventually disappear and the compliments will begin to pour…
What to do: Measure inches around your waist instead of taking on the impossible task of counting calories. And if you're the daughter, please do not wear the one-size-small until you've lost the weight, will you?

Health off the shelf
From 'As Seen On TV' slimming belts and fat busters to overpriced dieticians, poorly qualified personal trainers and gyms that seem fancier than five-stars, the business of fitness is big business indeed.
Remember: You pay your trainer/dietician to guide and motivate, not to actually do the job at hand. Employ a strong resolve instead; it costs nothing, and gets you the best results ever!

Gadgets and gizmos
Remember standing on a clunky weighing scale and being told to look straight ahead - not down at the display - lest the reading deviates by a few hundred grams? You wondered how to check your weight, which was the purpose of getting on the contraption in the first place! From being the solo go-to gadget for weight watchers a decade ago, the machine now shares space with fitness bands, heart rate monitors, sleep enhancers, and apps that record every move you make.
What you should pick: Nothing, except a good pair of shoes. Even the developers know that none of the fitness tech available is backed by foolproof science yet!

Abs for all
Back to our topic du jour: abs! Every guy today wants a six-pack, not realising that abs are not a sign of ultimate fitness, they're just a sure-fire indicator of low body fat… a guy with a 36" waist could be fitter than the guy with a 29"!
What you should do: If you're young, determined and restless, bite the bait and get those abs to pop. Then, do a photo shoot for posterity, and return right back to your regular levels of working out ASAP. Your pictures of pride will tell your tale forever!

Men checking out men
Men checking out women is common. Women checking out women is still OK. But men comparing bicep inches and abs with other men? It's common enough in men's locker rooms these days, but must be contained.
What guys mustn't forget: Sense of achievement aside, do not overdo it. You may be a legs man, or a breasts man, but have you ever heard of a girl who says she's an 'abs girl' or a 'big arms fanatic'? The only number she'll ever go for is the one hidden in your bank account. The bigger, the healthier, the better. Obviously, some things just don't change!

Postscript: If Deewar were truly to be remade in 2014, do you feel that even the maa would go for the beta with the paisa? Abs can buy pride, not solitaires.

Jamal Shaikh is Editorial Director of the men's lifestyle magazine Men's Health, In spite of pushing rock hard abs on every other cover, he insists it's a six-pack in the brain that really counts.

From HT Brunch, February 23

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First Published: Feb 21, 2014 18:50 IST