Getting into shape isn’t easy.
You have to workout consistently and put in the time and effort day after day. You have to eat healthy, refraining from indulging in your favourite foods, except on that glorious cheat day (which for some of us, has been everyday in recent memory). Doing these things is a mental and physical challenge as it is, but as a teenage boy who’s been trying to get ‘ripped’ for the last few years, I’ve found this is made significantly harder living in a household run by Indian parents. Here’s five reasons why I think it is difficult, if not impossible, to get ripped if you have South Asian parents:
1. A lot of Indian food is fat or oil based.
It’s not just a stereotype that South Asians eat curry, it’s been my staple food for the last nineteen years, which is delicious and all, except that the average serving of curry contains 15-20 grams of fat.
To put that into perspective, the meal plan given to me by a personal trainer suggested when trying to get into shape fat consumption should be around 30-35 grams, per day. And it’s not just the curry. Indian desserts are dense with sugar and fats, and because they taste so good, before you know it, you’ve consumed your weeks intake of calories in one sitting.
2. Don’t eat mum’s home-cooked meals and suffer the consequences… or the guilt trip.
Here’s the thing, I love my mum’s cooking, it’s bloody amazing. But, should I ever come home and try to eat something other than what she’s cooked, usually because I’m trying to stick to a meal plan, holy hell does the guilt trip get unleashed. It starts with a disappointed sigh, followed by an explanation of how she has spent the whole day cooking and now it feels like it’s all gone to waste. How she could be like ‘all the aunties’ and just order delivery but she puts in the work. And once I finally agree to have some, regardless of what I say, I watch as enough curry to feed a small village gets scooped onto my plate. “Here you go beta, make sure none goes to waste!”
3. Parents always think you’re getting “too skinny”.
This one may have come about as a result of their upbringing in India where poverty and famine is very common, but once, every now and again, I hear my parents tell me I’m too skinny. I could gain literally 50 kilos and turn into a human bowling bowl but if I mentioned that I’m planning to go on a ‘diet’, hell would be unleashed. “Diet? What diet, why do you want to diet? We have so much food here and in some places they have none. Don’t you appreciate the food we have? You are very lucky to even have food! Now shut up and eat your Korma.”
4. The belief that gym stunts your growth.
If there’s one thing that South Asian parents are obsessed with other than your grades, it’s your height – or at least mine were.
From making me drink a glass of milk every night to enrolling me into a basketball team at a young age, and even encouraging me to use the monkey bars at school because apparently it “stretches you out”. Unfortunately enough though, somewhere along the line my parents picked up the belief that lifting weights stunts your growth, which by the way is a complete bullshit. I tried everything to change their minds on the topic, showing them a multitude of online articles, YouTube videos, professional opinions from physiotherapists but they stood their ground – after all the one segment they saw on a current affair couldn’t have been a lie. As a result of this, it took nearly two full years of persuading and a promise that I’d reach six feet before my dad finally, finally let me get a gym membership.
5. Study > Gym
To South Asian parents, going to a room and moving around heavy things for an hour seems like a colossal waste of time, especially when there’s many other important things you “need to” be doing, like study. Every single day during year twelve when I used to come home from the gym, I had to explain why I had just spent the evening working out when I could have been doing practice exams, as if every waking minute not spent at school should be dedicated to doing that. And God forbid I ever express nerves for an exam, because I would get peppered with “I told you so’s” and “maybe if you spent more time at the desk and less time at the gym…”
So yeah, it’s not the easiest thing in the world for us curries to get into shape, but hey, it still is possible. It took a LOT of begging and tantrum throwing, but nowadays my parents generally let me do my own thing when it comes to my fitness, even letting me prepare my own meals during periods where I’m trying to cut down. I think if there’s any advice I could give, it’s to stick to it! Your parents may give you trouble at first, but once they see it’s something you’re serious and genuine about, they generally ease off. Start small, even just push-ups and sit-ups at home then build up to proposing the idea of a gym membership. And before you know it you’ll be on your way to reaching your fitness goals with minimal hindrance from your parents! Now comes the “easy” part, actually being organised and dedicated enough to follow through with them… but more on that in my next post!