“Everywhere I went — pick up, drop off, lunch, wherever I was — everyone was always wearing leggings,” says Lucy Sykes between cappuccino sips at Charles Street coffeehouse The Elk, in Manhattan’s West Village. “Even mums at school looked like J. Lo.”
If you live in New York and are a living, breathing, semi-observant individual, you’ve experienced much of the same: The fitness craze abounds, and nowhere more than within the fashion pack.
While perhaps eye-roll-inducing for the rest of us, the phenomenon served as inspiration for Sykes’ new book “Fitness Junkie,” her follow-up to 2015’s “The Knockoff” with writing partner Jo Piazza.
“Everywhere I went, people would ask me, ‘How much weight have you lost?’ Literally, it was like, ‘0, 20, 10!’” Sykes says. “One of my really good friends was like, ‘I have been on a vegan diet for a month. Look at my abs!’ It’s everywhere. I would try to buy some water and there would only be bubbly water or lavender water for $20. Food just started being really expensive. My Zara bills were like restaurant bills — my outfits would cost as much as food.”
Sykes, the former fashion director of Marie Claire who describes herself as “really more of a trained person than a writer,” set out to research the craze, which sets the stage for the novel’s main character, Janey Sweet.
“I started meeting the shamans — I was at SoHo House full of Ralph Lauren models,” Sykes says. “They are all in the book. I had gone on a holiday, and there was this really cute girl that I met. She basically tells me I have really good legs, but, ‘Here, I would just Facetune that there.’ She had this thing that said ‘Girl Power’ around her neck. And I thought, ‘That’s a really nasty comment, but this has to go in the book.’”
“Fitness Junkie” follows Sweet as she dives head first into the health and exercise world after her boss at her couture wedding dress company tells her she must lose weight or she’ll lose her job.
The quest for a life of fitness is deeper for many New York women than just flat abs and a Facetune-free Instagram, Sykes says.
“It fascinates me, because there is a lot going on right now where people need a tribe again,” she explains of the fascination behind cult-inducing classes like SoulCycle and Tracy Anderson, the latter of which is the workout regime behind the queen of all fitness crazes, Gwyneth Paltrow. “I’m not into all her other stuff, but physically, she looks amazing,” Sykes says of the Goop guru.
Sykes herself is a devotee of Flybarre, which she warmed to after several (several) failed attempts at meshing with a workout clique.
“You don’t have these classes in England,” she says. “You go for a walk.”
“Fitness Junkie” is out today from Doubleday.