A hate letter to Hong Kong’s health fanatics

Photo: istolethetv via Flickr

It seems like everyone I know (or used to know) is drinking the healthy living kool-aid and swapping morning bingeouts on Pizza Hut for homemade quinoa alternatives (pronounced “KEEN-wah”, FYI).

You know the people I’m talking about. Those friends of yours that joined a gym recently and now spend their time trying to convince you that zucchini ribbons taste just like real pasta, that juice cleanses aren’t that bad, and that it’s perfectly rational to sustain yourself on just nuts, kale and almond milk.

Before I get excommunicated from my gym – let me just stress that this is not an article damning healthy living. It’s more a list of observations made by just one person about a select few. This article probably doesn’t apply to you, so don’t get your sports bra in a twist.

Social media has recently be inundated with health fanatics bombarding us with images of their nutritious “meals”, yoga pose of the day (or hour), and post-workout selfies (why, God, why?!).

Maybe they were always there and I’ve only become more aware of them since I finally joined a gym six months ago (at the behest of my fitness fanatic boyfriend), or maybe I’m just friends with particularly maddening exhibitionists.

It’s not even the images that are so infuriating for a hedonist like myself, but the captions and hashtags that accompany them: “seize the day”, “blessed”, “#eatclean”, etc. Why the need to list everything that went into your egg whites? And since when was my friend – who, until recently spent most Saturday mornings with her head in the toilet bowl, kebab limp in her left hand – suddenly a certified nutritionist?

The worst offenders? Yogis. We all know one, because they tell you they are one. All. The. Time. Have you heard of the benefits of yoga? Of course you have. Because a yoganista dressed head to toe in Lululemon will have told you them, repeatedly, without invitation.

A yogi will let you know that all your life you’ve been breathing wrong, eating the wrong things – and don’t get them started on alcohol. Again, this does not apply to all people that do yoga, only to those that consider themselves “yogis” (a term almost as vexing as “foodie”).

I do yoga, and I love the way practising yoga makes my body feel (less gross, more bendy, etc.), but there are many aspects of it that verge on unpleasant for me. The “Om”, for example, which I cringe through, but everyone else seems to take as a challenge to have the loudest and longest.

I grimace at phrases like “honour your body”, and stay silent when we are asked to thank ourselves for turning up today (really?!). I run in fear at the end of class from the obligatory “yoga hugs” which, as a British person, I just cannot fathom.

Yoga is possibly the least inclusive of all the available exercise classes around. Rock up to a Zumba class with no rhythm? No problem. Never donned a boxing glove before? Let me help you strap up your wrist! Not able to to do a forearm stand? Watch your instructor’s disdain linger on his lips. It is unlikely he will come back to you for the remainder of the class (just stay in child pose).

For a practice built upon spirituality, there’s a heck of a lot of self-absorption and judgmental behaviour out there…

It’s not just yogis though. Crossfitters are also contenders for most annoying Hong Kong fitness freaks. Their pseudo-elite athlete mentality coupled with their need to tell you about Crossfit makes them some of the most obnoxious gymers around.

Ask them what they do outside of work and they will 100 percent mention Crossfit, and then struggle to recall any other activities (maybe wake surfing on the weekend – after a hard session at Crossfit, of course).

My boyfriend is a Crossfit fanatic, but then again, anyone who does Crossfit is. No one dabbles in Crossfit. You either do it every day or you’re not fulfilling the brief. My bf says he does it because it’s the “closest you can get to a D1 college-level weight/plyometric training program” (whatever that means).

Crossfitters, like the yogis, seem to have the final say on fitness and diet, and they really are everywhere. When I’m at the gym, I’m often interrupted by a Crossfitter kindly informing me that there are far more efficient ways to work out (nod and smile, nod and smile). At the pool, I frequently notice my boyfriend quietly observing the other men, brow furrowed. Out of the blue he’ll comment on how a guy’s six-pack is purely aesthetic, that he wouldn’t last a minute in Crossfit (sigh).

You’ll even see people taking selfies of themselves doing headstands or the camel pose in shopping malls, office buildings, on junks and planes. And once you get home, slip into bed, and check social media one last time, you’ll go through it all again (#annoying, in sanskrit of course).

Like I said, this isn’t an attack on living a healthy lifestyle. It’s not even an attack on yoga or Crossfit, which are both great in their own right. But the preaching has to stop. Some of us are still processing the fact that our favourite bar is now a workout studio, that the nearest McDonald’s is a juice bar, that Caine Road is regurgitating organic living stores, and that no-one is willing to come to Sunday brunch anymore.

We know the rise of the in-your-face health and fitness culture is upon us, but do you really have to remind us everyday?
Related articles: 

Fitness Fad Fridays: ‘Designing my body’ without breaking a sweat in a HYPOXI pod

Fitness Fad Fridays: Cycling, dancing and clubbing all rolled into one at XYZ

Fitness Fad Fridays: Trampoline cardio at BounceLimit

Fitness Fad Fridays: Analysing body fat with scary precision using a DEXA scan


Got a tip? Send it to us at hongkong@coconuts.co.

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