Hello! For those of you who do not know me, I’m Irfan. I’m an actor, fitness instructor, personal trainer, Digme Studio leader and more!
Throughout my life, I’ve struggled with accepting my body and I’ve never felt comfortable in my own skin. I’ve struggled when going to the gym, to the beach with friends, trying on clothes and getting changed in changing rooms because of my size. From a young age, I was bullied because of my weight, and it affected me and stayed with me throughout my adult life. I thought that I needed to change it, change myself, my lifestyle and do what everyone on social media does – go to the gym and starve myself – I thought this was the only way to get rid of those self-esteem issues.
I soon became obsessed with this and how everyone saw me – not how I saw myself. I was mentally unstable, tracking every small macro on my phone, not going out with friends and feeling such guilt if I didn’t manage to go to the gym. Also, as an actor, I had the added pressure of ensuring that my industry accepted me and that I was successful. I convinced myself that the only way to be successful was to be ‘skinny’ or muscly and not at the weight I was. Ultimately, I struggled big time – and even when I made a big weight change, I was still stuck inside a massive hole and I still had the same self-esteem issues that I had before – so I thought to myself, what was the point?
Looking back, I’ve been on some journey and I’m now extremely grateful enough to feel comfortable in my skin (albeit, not entirely), but I’ve learnt that it’s extremely important to love myself, love my body and be confident in myself. The best thing to come out of that is my love for fitness, which is why I currently work at Digme both as a staff member and an instructor. I felt like the fitness industry needed more people that looked like me and I’m extremely grateful that Digme gave me the opportunity to continue in my fitness journey and help others in a similar position.
The fitness industry still needs some work – I have the mantra that despite my size “I can be who I want to be” so I became a fitness instructor. BUT because of my size, I was met with a lot of backlash, comments such as “Really? You don’t look like a PT”, “You can’t be a fitness instructor”, “I bet you can’t even do a burpee”.
In society, the fitness industry, the arts and in the real world – we need to normalise normal bodies. We need to normalise men who haven’t got massive biceps and 8 packs, we need to normalise skinny guys, big guys and every other shape or size. If you love fitness, then the way you look shouldn’t be stop you from training. This is a message that I want the whole fitness industry to practice!
I’m grateful that I’m currently the strongest, fittest, and happiest I’ve been in a long time – but I’m also the biggest I’ve been in ages. I still get looks and comments in the gym, I still have to put up with patronising conversations wherever I am with people who don’t know me – and that’s what needs to change.
We need to create a society where everyone can be comfortable, regardless of gender, size, sexuality, race or religion. My main goal in life is to be happy – and to do more of what makes me happy. Fitness makes me happy, and even though I don’t look like the majority of men in this industry I’m so happy to make my stand within the fitness world.
To everyone who can relate to what I've been through, your bodies are amazing! No matter how big or small you are, if you want to be something, you can do it. If you love something, no one should ever stop you from doing what you want to do. Your size does not define you.
If you aren’t comfortable in your own skin, I hear you and I understand you. It’s a huge journey that I still struggle with sometimes but I’m here to tell you that we can do this. We don’t have to be who society tells us to be.
Love your body, look after your mind and be happy.