I'm running for 25 minutes.
While I'm running the woman on the treadmill next to me signals for my attention. She's older, maybe late 40s or early 50s. She's been on her ipad walking on the treadmill since I got on mine. She's been playing on Facebook and checking email, so sort of putzing around.
When she catches my attention I've been running for about 15 minutes. I'd actually just slowed to a walk because I had a cramp in my back that was making it impossible to breathe. I took out my earbud and said, "I'm sorry, what was that?"
She said: "You have a lot of stamina... for someone... well... you know... like you."
How does one even respond to something like that?
I just said, "okay thanks" and focused on getting that cramp out of my back and picked up my run again after walking for two minutes.
I completed my 25 minute run, was thrilled to have run two miles in less than 30 minutes (including a 5 minute warm up so I kept a decent pace going) and made my way to get my kids out of the childwatch.
She came at me again.
"Um, can I talk to you again for a second?"
"Back there, I didn't mean to, I mean, I wasn't trying to be insulting. It's just that I have a friend who is very overweight too and she isn't doing anything to help herself and you obviously are and she has a lot of health problems and it just is so sad when people who are heavy don't exercise but you're heavy and you are exercising and that's just really great, and boy I bet you wish I would just stop talking now but I just wanted to say that you know, I mean, it seems like you're working really hard because you're really sweating and your face is all red and..."
At this point I'm walking down the stairs incredulous that this grown woman continues flapping her gums, each word more insulting than the next
"and I mean, it's just that, you know, I was just trying to tell you you're doing a good job and it's not easy being heavy and you know, gosh, I"m just making it worse and you're probably ready for me to walk away."
I go to the car to get our pool gear and she keeps going, still talking but I have mercifully closed my ears and I don't hear anything she's saying.
You know what, I get it. I am overweight. I do struggle on my runs. Running is hard, even at my incredibly slow pace. 13 minute miles won't win any races but you know what, it's the best I can do right now dammit so back off.
There are plenty of people around me, friends, family, acquaintance who know I am watching what I eat and that I'm working out. I go to the gym 6 days a week and exercise for a minimum of 45 minutes. I know I have a lot of weight to lose. Guess what folks, this has been a lifelong battle. It started for me in the 6th grade when, upon seeing a very very fat woman walking near our school, John Schilling looked at me and said "you're going to look like her if you don't stop gaining weight." In high school I overheard two guys saying (one of whom I had a huge crush on ) that I would be so pretty if I wasn't so fat. In college a guy friend's mom said she would want me to date her son except I was so heavy and didn't wear enough make up.
I weighed 145lbs for both the high school and college comments (less in middle school, guessing around 130).
145 pounds. Today that's what I aspire to. And today I have well meaning people around me saying they know "it's hard" when they haven't ever faced comments like these, had this much weight to lose or dealt with both under-active thyroid and PCOS both conspiring together to make losing a single ounce a major feat but gaining 10 pounds something that can be done overnight.
I grew up in a house where weight was a constant issue, diet was a constant topic of conversation. It's exhausting and mentally, emotionally and spiritually draining.
I am who I am no matter what the number on the scale says.
I've said it before and I'll say it again. Very few people chose to be overweight. We get that way through a series of choices, one after another until finally here we are, overweight and unhealthy. Some people don't care. Some people see the folly in their choices and try to break bad habits, make new ones and change things. The fact is though, wherever you are in your life's journey, having family, friends and ladies on the next treadmill over be so insulting is a kick in the flabby gut.
I wish I had come up with a snappy comeback beyond "okay."
I wish I'd told her to mind her own business and get back to Facebook.
I wish I'd challenged her to a race.
All I can hope for now is that she'll know that her comments were unwelcome, unhelpful and hurtful and maybe next time she's next to a fatty out-running her on the treadmill she'll pick up her own pace and keep her mouth shut.