I often encounter this statement these days “aapne accha menten kiya hai”, which loosely translates into “you have maintained yourself well” or how the English speaking world would say “she has preserved herself well”. These statements are supposed to be compliments to a woman, but to me they are loaded with sexism, ageism etc. But that is not what I want to discuss here.
This blog post is my attempt to get us to think about different paradigms for staying fit and looking good in the process. One of the ways to do this, I believe, is by asking different questions and also complimenting someone differently. I am taking 3 aspects that I hear often from other women around me.
1. “You have lost weight”:
This is a very common phrase I would hear in the initial days of my new physical training regimen. While I felt good that there was some noticeable change, I knew for a fact that after 6 months of doing some intense training, my body weight had remained constant. If I was obsessed about weight loss, I would have been tremendously demotivated. I know many who are constantly worried that all that working out in the gym hasn’t helped them with weight loss and give up after some months. There are way too many factors that affect weight and exercise alone doesn’t help.
How was it that I was not losing weight but looked thinner? I believe it was due to my toned muscles and improved posture that made me look taller. If one paid attention to getting leaner, stronger muscles with a focus on form, the goal would shift from losing weight to strengthening and toning.
So next time you see someone who looks thinner than before in your eyes, pay attention to what might be happening and say “you look toned” or “you look strong”. That statement will keep them on the track to pursuing their goal.
Gaining something is a positive stance compared to losing something.
2. “You have maintained yourself well”:
Every time I hear this, I feel like I am a car that has just come back from its annual maintenance work. I understand it is meant to indicate that one is looking good and not aging fast. However, if I only “maintained” what I was at 30, I would be weak, less confident about my body and have constant aches and pains. I have not maintained, but improved as I have aged. And my fitness coach believes strongly that it is possible to be “younger” next year however old one might be.
If you want to get fit, ask: Can you do more pushups than before? How much more weight can you tote? What yogasanas are you able to do better now than earlier? How much longer can you run or swim?
And if you want to pay compliments to someone, say “you look younger than last year”.
Shift the focus from maintaining something to bettering something constantly.
3. “Are you dieting?”
This is a question that I truly do not understand and have no idea how to respond. So, I always have to ask, what do they want to know. Then some will ask, if I avoid certain foods or if I eat only salads and fruits or if I have a strict regimen on when and what I eat? The focus seems to be on what I am avoiding. Since there is no such thing as a perfect diet plan and with changing fads and new “superfoods” cropping up every day, I believe it is better to understand nutrition and how it works. Ask how can I make my current diet nutritious by adding or deleting some things?? What times during the day are important to eat? How can I bring moderation to my eating? What are some signs in my body that will indicate poor nutrition?
So if you want to know what dietary changes the person has made, ask “how are you taking care of your nourishment” and compliment on that glowing skin if appropriate.
Nourishing the body rather than denying it of something is a healthier option.
I also get questions on “how often do you work out?”, “how do you find time to work out?”, “how can I get a flat tummy?”, “how can I get rid of the fat around my hips?” etc. There is a lot of desire to seek quick solutions from those who appear to have conquered the enemy.
These questions might give some generic ideas, but never really help understand how to better oneself. If one truly wants to become fit, continue to stay healthy and young, the trick is to learn to ask different type of questions. Questions that lead to useful insights and allow us to pursue the true desired result.
And when you feel so moved to compliment someone, affirm such a way that it will lead to more awareness for self and the other. Increase motivation to continue on the path.
And please don’t say, “you maintain yourself well!”