“Weight’s the exact same as last year. That’s good,” Dr. Shoemaker said, peering at my chart. “But your blood pressure is concerning. Does high blood pressure run in your family?”
I shook my head. “Not that I know of.”
She sighed and took off her reading glasses, peering at me with a look similar to the one my older sister, Janine, shot me whenever she was disappointed with my handling of, well, anything in my life. I wondered if she had gotten into general medicine because she could look so stern; everything about her was angular and sharp: the line of her bob, the set of her jaw, her frown and narrow eyes. That must help with inspiring the fear necessary to motivate healthy decisions. “I’m not thrilled with your LDL or triglycerides, either. And we’re going to need to set up a fasting glucose test for you. I suspect you might be pre-diabetic.”
“Pre-diabetic. Your blood glucose was higher than normal, which makes me think you may be developing insulin resistance.”
I must have looked like she was speaking gibberish– I knew what insulin was, because my best friend, Stacey, had had diabetes since we were kids, but I was pretty sure her body had just stopped making it. “But I feel okay.”
“Unfortunately, there aren’t many symptoms for insulin resistance, but it can lead to type 2 diabetes.”
Ah, yes. That I’d heard of. My mother was constantly telling me I’d get diabetes if I kept “eating like a teenager.” And I usually told her that my body seemed to be handling it fine, given that I wore the same size as I did in high school, so she could stop lecturing me, thank you very much.
I asked, “Don’t you have to be, you know, bigger for that?” I tugged on my paper gown in hope of emphasizing how totally healthy and normal my body looked underneath it.
Dr. Shoemaker frowned. “Unfortunately, no. Lifestyle factors play a large part. We’re seeing a rise in people who have what we call ‘normal weight obesity,’ where they have a healthy weight according to BMI, but have an extremely high body fat percentage, and, as a result, many of the major metabolic conditions that folks with BMIs over 30 do.”
I nodded like I understood what she was saying, although she lost me at “BMI.” I shifted my gaze to the poster behind her, which listed the symptoms of some medical emergency in Spanish, which, who knows, maybe I was also on the verge of.
Meanwhile, the doctor kept monologuing: “So we’ll schedule you to come in for a fasting glucose test, then take it from there. In the meantime, I suggest eating better and exercising more, regardless of the results. Being thin is not enough.”
I nodded and agreed, but began feeling a heaviness in the pit of my stomach. I could already imagine my mother’s expression when I mentioned this appointment to her. Probably similar to the one she gave me when, right after I finished college, when my student loans kicked in, I told her I’d be working at Panera nights and weekends in addition to my job teaching art classes, because, oh look, she was right about the fact that my art degree from the private college didn’t get me a job that paid enough to live off of. Or maybe it would be the more general disappointment that swept across her face when she walked into my apartment and remembered that her 36-year-old daughter still lived with random Craigslist roommates in a house furnished entirely with second-hand Ikea.
I really didn’t need my family to know about this, did not need another example of Look at how Claudia’s screwing everything up yet again. But even as my physical progressed to other, awkward areas, the doctor kept talking to me about nutritionists and walking programs and activity trackers.
So I’d need to make some changes. Fine. But could I fix this without anybody finding out there was a problem in the first place?
* * *
When I say, “anybody,” I should probably mention I mean “anybody” besides Stacey, the best friend figure. I tell her everything, and she doesn’t judge.
Well, 99.9% of the time she doesn’t judge.
Our text conversation about my (possible) diagnosis went like this:
Me: I might be pre-diabetic??!?!
Her: OMG C that’s really serious.
Me: I know…😳😔
Her: No like you can destroy your kidneys. And go blind. SUPER BAD.
Thankfully, my complete lack of response seemed to remind her that this was not the best way to communicate with me. She quickly switched tactics to, Why don’t you come to the gym with me? I bet Eric won’t mind.
My heart jumped with panic. Eric was Stacey’s personal trainer, who she’d been meeting with twice a week since Kristy opened her gym. Stacey is significantly more in shape than I am. She had almost as much arm muscle as Kristy. I could just imagine us starting our workout– jumping jacks and pushups and all those horrible exercises they used to make us do in PE– and Stacey doing everything perfectly while I collapsed on the ground from a heart attack after three minutes. Uh. Hard pass. But thanks.
Well come anyway. You can workout on your own.
Here is my deep, dark secret: I have never been in a gym. Yes, one of my closest friends OWNS a gym. I had a bad stomach flu the night of the grand-opening party, and, well, I managed to avoid ever going in. I mean, I’m sure it’s nice. Kristy hasn’t been to my work, either, for what it’s worth.
(Let’s just ignore the fact that my job is driving a truck filled with art supplies from public school to public school and running summer camps for the under-18 crowd.)
But I couldn’t very well admit that fact, even to Stacey. I mean, I’m sure plenty of people have never gone in a gym, right? It was just never on my radar. For years, I didn’t have the time, first between running from one studio class to the computer lab for hours of animation rendering to another studio class, then between running from job to job. Now, I finally had one full-time job instead of multiple part-time jobs, so, like, there was more time, but that was for creating my OWN art, which I’d fallen sorely behind on between graduating college and finally getting a job with real, grown-up benefits. Because what’s the point of getting an art degree if I don’t make art?
Yet it seemed a bit shameful to acknowledge that I’d never done this very basic thing that everybody seems to have done. Like you’ve never watched TV, except less obnoxiously holier-than-thou. No, I know. Like never dusting. It’s not really necessary (I mean, really, the dust will just come back, so what’s the point? AND NOBODY CAN SEE IT ANYWAY), but folks look at you crazy if you say you’ve never touched a feather duster or a bottle of Pledge.
So I replied, Sure, hoping I didn’t make a complete fool of myself. This is what I needed to get healthy. I could do it.
* * *
Even though I agreed to go with Stacey, it didn’t lessen my panic at the thought of going into a gym where I probably knew everybody (I am NOT exaggerating: A) Stonybrook’s not a big town, and B) everybody and their mother (including MY mother) joined Kristy’s gym the moment they heard she was opening one. Think Cheers with less booze.)
Like: How obvious would it be if I walked into the gym and tried to walk on something that was supposed to be picked up? What if there were tires, like on TV? What does a person do with tires? Roll them?
Thankfully, I at least had clothes I could wear and not look TOO out of place (thanks, athleisure movement!). I threw on some leggings covered in a festive candy sprinkle print (ok, I see the irony), a Crayola-red bralette and a canary tank with slightly elongated armholes, so the bralette peeked through on the side. The only pair of normal-ish sneakers I had were some red low-top Converse, so on those went. Hair went up in a high pony, and boom! I’d totally fit in.
Of course, when I checked myself out in the mirror, all I could see was how flabby my arms had gotten. I mean, still slender, but they definitely sagged when I held my arm out, like a little flag of flesh trembling pathetically in the wind.
Ugh, self. What are you doing?
Nope, no negative self talk, Claud. This was it. I was changing my life for the better. I could do it.
Stacey was waiting for me outside of the gym when I arrived. For whatever reason, Kristy had decided to convert an old warehouse into her gym, so, aside from the giant sign advertising it was a gym, there wasn’t anything to tell a passerby this was not some place the mafia would take you to shoot you. Not my aesthetic, but who was I to judge? Maybe I could offer to paint a mural on the front in exchange for a lifetime membership or something.
Stacey, of course, looked like she totally belonged: Chic black leggings with a few peekaboo panels of mesh along the side, fuschia racerback tank with a ruching up the spine, running shoes that faded from navy to fuschia, hair in a fashionably messy bun. And, of course, plenty of muscle.
Just as I felt my insides getting jittery, she broke out into a big smile, yelled, “Heeeeyyyyy!” And I remembered, right, this was Stacey. I grinned and jogged over.
“I’m so glad you came with me. We should really come back on a day when there’s a class. I feel like you’ll really like the classes.”
Oh, nope. There was that jitteriness again. And the faintest hint of vomit rising in the back of my throat. I forced a smile and nodded. “Sounds great!”
We went in, where I had to fill out some forms to tell them my family wouldn’t sue if I died in a horrible accident involving a giant tire and a man with a 16-pack (or something). I scanned the room, and Stacey said, “Don’t worry, Kristy’s not in on Sundays.” She raised her eyebrows and tapped the side of her head with one finger. She was right: the last thing I wanted at this moment was Kristy making a huge deal that I was finally showing my face. I’d rather slink in, get the hang of things, and THEN she could notice my presence, when I had a reasonable grasp on my surroundings.
Stacey gave me a tour of the facility, which looked exactly like I’d expect a warehouse that had been converted into a gym to look: tall ceilings, lots of metal, a ton of big imposing weights, machines that looked like they belonged in an S&M porn, a variety of large men with too little clothing and too much sweat grunting for sport.
I felt an elbow in my side. Stacey nodded her head to her right. “I think that’s the girl that Kristy was…” She waggled her eyebrows.
“Cupcake girl?!” Stacey smacked my arm, because my voice had automatically raised from my sheer excitement.
I glanced over. She was petite, probably not a whole lot taller than Kristy herself. Latina, with thick black waves that reached halfway down her back and a body like a model from a Nike ad.
Not going to lie, I love Kristy, but I’m always a bit surprised by how hot the girls she dates are.
Then again, they’re usually crazy.
We continued wandering, until we met up with Stacey’s trainer, who looked a bit like he belonged in the military, with his hair precision buzzed, square jaw, broad shoulders, complete lack of smile and eyes that seemed to be sizing up anybody within a half-mile radius.
Well, except then he smiled. “You’re Claudia? I’ve heard so much about you! You sure you don’t want to tag along today?”
I gave a weak grin back. Stacey answered before I did, though, “She’s doing her own thing today, but don’t worry, I’ll convince her to join us one of these days.” She patted me on the arm.
“Sounds great.” He continued to smile, and I realized he was one incredibly beautiful man. Tall, probably like 6’4”, some sort of mixed-Asian decent, tribal tattoos covering both forearms, and basically his entire body looked like it had been chiseled from marble. No wonder Stacey continued to train with him, week in and week out.
And, oh my god, he had the most perfect butt I had ever seen on a man.
Once they’d walked a way, I considered my surroundings. I had no clue what to do with the long row of weights in front of a mirror on one end of the room. Plus that was where the majority of the giant grunting men were, and where Stacey and Eric seemed to be headed.
There was a large strip of plastic grass along one wall, which seemed like an odd design choice, but, once again, Kristy’s gym, not mine. There were the S&M machines, which I was certain would be the most likely way to maim myself on the first day here. And then there were a few rows of machines with televisions attached to them, which is where most of the women seemed to be congregating. I recognized the treadmills, because my parents had one in their basement. I’d never used it, mind you, but I at least knew what it was and the basic functions, since Dad had excitedly showed it to me the day they got it. It was a machine you could walk on if you didn’t want to walk outside. (Capitalism! Everything’s a product.)
But you know what? I can walk. I am a damn good walker, if I do say so myself.
So I got on one of the machines and pressed the big green start button, and the belt under me started moving super slowly. Not terrible. I could keep up with it. Heck, it felt too slow. I pressed the up arrow next to the word “Speed” and got into a steady walk. Still not terrible! The screen read “2.5 mph.” I had no idea if it was good or bad, but whatever. I was doing a thing! An athletic thing!
I turned on the television and found my way to Food Network, where one of those shows where folks decorate cakes was happening. I know I’m sounding ridiculous here with my gluttony, but I really do watch it because of the artistry. If I liked baking more, and waking up at the ass-crack of dawn, I might have opened a bakery in an alternate future for myself. I could totally get behind making a cake that looked like the leg lamp from A Christmas Story or the tornado from Twister (it would have tiny little cows sticking out of it! How cool would that be?!).
So I walked along like that for a good while, maybe ten minutes, when a chick got onto the machine down the row from me and, I swear, looked me up and down. And she was kind of athletic looking herself, clearly belonged here more than I did, but geez, how is a person supposed to get into the athletic lifestyle if everybody is giving her the side-eye?
Calm down, Claud. She’s probably just checking out your awesome leggings.
I glanced down at them. They were pretty awesome.
The woman kept looking my way, though. Rude. So when she pressed the speed-up button on her treadmill and started jogging, I decided to press the speed-up button on mine. She’d gone up to 7.0mph on her treadmill, so, what the heck, I matched it. Sure, I sounded like a herd of baby elephants, the way my feet were smacking on the treadmill, but I was doing it! Where was Stacey? Could she see me?
This was a red-letter day for one Claudia Kishi.
After about a minute, I felt like dying, but the other woman kept going. After another minute she actually started pressing the speed-up button more.
Now, I’m not insane. So I did not try to go faster myself. The woman had stopped staring, at least. I figured I’d stay a couple minutes longer here, slow down to a walk, and call it a day. Stretch until Stacey got done in– I craned my neck to look at the wall clock.
Right around 40 minutes from now.
By the time I was looking forward again, I realized I had drifted back on the treadmill, so I was–
Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck!
© 2019 Kat Setzer. This page has no affiliation with Ann M. Martin, Scholastic, or any other entity involved with the Baby-Sitters Club Series. Original photo © 2019 eggeeggjiew from Adobe Stock Images.