Thursday, October 4, 2012

Yesterday I Was Called "Fat" at the Gym

Yesterday, I headed to the gym as has so commonly occurred over the past 8 years (it's true - my 8th anniversary is on the 15th).  Little did I know what I was in for.

After my warmup, I loaded the leg press with 270 pounds for high-reps instead of my normal 315-340 pounds for low reps - figuring that my much-needed week off while I was in Ohio might have weakened me a bit.  Up walked Gym Rat - I met him last year about this time because he happens to be in my ward and I happen to see him almost every time I go to the gym, no matter what time of the day or night.

"You been slacking off at the gym?"

"No!  Well...I did just take a week off for my sister's...." *interrupted

"No, no, no.  That's not it.  It's been much longer than that. You used to be so much more fit when I first saw you here. You have really let yourself go. You need to work hard so you can have a hot body again. You've got good genetics and muscle tone, I know you can do it." 

Um?  I simply stared at him.  The caged obeast, cottage-cheese-thighed little girl in my head pulverized her enclosure and Stay-Puft Marshmallow Manned every corner of my brain.  The marshmallow liquified and began dripping from my eyes.  

Never you mind I wear a size 4-6 and am not overweight.  Never you mind that I am in the gym six days per week.  Never you mind that I am five freaking feet tall and can feel/see a weight gain or loss any more significant than two pounds.  Never you mind that two weeks ago I ran 5 miles in 41 minutes.  Clearly, as Gym Rat pointed out, I've let myself go.  

The kicker?  I'm the exact same weight I was when I met him last year.  I cannot tell you if I am as toned as I was then, but I can tell you that lately I have been feeling pretty gross about my body.  This could be a culmination of factors such as ill-fitting fall-weather clothes, a boyfriend whom I adore in every way whom I embrace often while all-the-while my little mental fat girl fears he will flee from encountering one fat-roll too many, the fact that I know I'm not as in-shape as I could be, the fact that I have been more lenient with Gym because boyfriend is mega more important to me right now....the list goes on.  

But back to what Gym Rat said.

People, you need to keep your mouths SHUT!  You never know what a person is going through.  Yes, I have justified making generalized statements such as, "Overweight can threaten your health.  Period."  I do not feel that is a personal attack on anyone and is a black and white fact.  But to walk up to a person and just tell them they have really "let themselves go?!"  To say he knows I have "good genetics?"  Sorry, Gym Rat, but I actually don't.  If you think my path to success is my "good genetics," then you make me feel as if I am going to fail.  Several in my family have had to have gastric bypasses because of their genetic weight struggles and many more continue their struggles with obesity (not simply being overweight).  So you telling me I've let myself go implies you think I am slothful when there is really so much more you don't know. 

The interesting insight into this that most of you wouldn't know is that I know this man was not trying to be malicious.  He's a Gym Rat who sees bodies as objects and not as part of a spiritual person.  I fully believe he thought he was helping and had no idea that his comments would lead to over an hour of tears.  That doesn't make it okay.

You see, I was thrice physically obese.  I am in better physical condition and weigh less now than I did when I was 11...and 16...and 21-24.  I conquered that.  Back then, I worked my butt off to become part of a competitive gymnastics team, show choir, a national runner-up baton competition team, Ohio State baton soloist champion in my division, vocal solo competition champion in Indiana, Feature Twirler for our High School, and the list goes on.  Yet, somehow, when I "retired" from gymnastics at 16, I gained 40 pounds within 9 months.  A doctor told me he was afraid for my health because of how physically active I was while my little body was carrying around an obese load.  Ouch.  At 17, I lost weight enough to not be obese, although still overweight, and over the next few years I crept back up to the big obeast.  At 24, even through years of coaching men's gymnastics classes at BYU, I could not complete a hike with some of my friends and I realized something had to change.  And I never looked back.

I have not been obese in eight years.  Mentally, however, I am still there.  Yesterday I realized that no matter how much I think I've conquered this obeast monster in my head, sometimes a setback makes me feel like I am back at square one.  Then logic and rationale step in, helping me to realize that voice in my head is my own inner-bully.  Being as it is anti-bullying month, I definitely need to let go and replace inner-beast with inner-beauty - accepting all parts of my current and past self as the pieces that have made me the person I am today.

Do you know what makes this easier?  The outpouring I received via phone calls, text messages, and Facebook after I shared my experience.  My Facebook post received 65 comments.  I will share some of those soon. The defeated part of me has a hard time believing people who have not seen me in years, or those whom I have heard before saying "you aren't fat" flippantly to many others...but you know what?  The fact remains that I am loved and the people who love me most all find me beautiful no matter what I look like on the outside.  I could not be a luckier gal.

One more thing...


* All of the photos were taken within the past two weeks
* Even if I were, for lack of a better word, "fat," does anyone who is "fat" need someone to point it out to them and tell them they don't look good anymore?  Nope.  We are all very self-aware.


Rick said...

All I have to say is that you are not fat .. oh, and you ROCK!


Lisa said...

You are beautiful and I love you. That is all.

Amy said...

Seriously, that jackass is such a mindless fool. I am so impressed with your ability to take this hideous comment and make it empowering because you are so beautiful and healthy and amazing!! In fact, you have inspired me to step it up and make a change in my life, not because I'm "fat" but because I want to feel as good and look as incredible as you do!!

j said...

Funny how we can win battles with our bodies and still have battles left to fight with our minds.

Don't let him get you down. You're in great shape!

Unknown said...

As Napoleon Dynamite once said, "You could be drinking whole milk if you wanted to."
Seriously, you could have probably beat him up; too bad violence isn't the answer.

Kristie said...

Larissa, to be perfectly honest, it's really offensive to use the word "obeast." I think you need to be aware of the things you're saying and just because you are no longer "fat" does not mean that you can demean those that are with phrases like that.

I love you, and understand you probably aren't meaning to be offensive, but I just think you should be aware that

1. Being fat is not the worst thing in the world to be.

2. Based on your recollection, this guy wasn't the one who called you fat. He said you let yourself go, which is so so rude, but you're the one emphasizing the negative connotation of the word, "fat". It's simply body shaming. These two articles explain it better than I can:

Larissa said...

I apologize I was not entirely clear and have had a miscommunication. "Obeast" is the name of the monster in my head and the one that I battle with daily, not of the condition. I am sorry. As far as the worst thing-my life has been sunshine and lollypops because aside from heartbreak, my struggle with my weight and fitness and health HAS been the worst thing in my life. I know that sounds dumb and trivial, but that is truly the monster in my life. I am so happy you are in a place where this particular battle doesn't haunt you like it does me.

I did not post the entire conversation, but words were used that the message was entirely clear as to what he meant. The word "fat" was not specifically used, hence being in quotation marks, but when synonyms ARE used, the guesswork is eliminated.

Eve said...

I'm fat and I'm not offended by the word obeast. I think we all have to figure out how we define perfection. For me--I feel really good if I'm about 170. That would be obese to someone else. But right now, I feel obeast! To me--that means--fatter than I wanna be. Everyone defines it differently. And everyone has to have their come to Jesus moment where they identify realistic goals in order to make body image a healthy thing, rather than a reason to hate yourself. Being a size 4-6--running 5 miles in 41 minutes--those are things to be proud of.

My concern when I read this post is that I'm reading an underlying and unrealistic goal to someday satisfy everyone's definition of "not fat". That seems like an unreachable goal. There will always be some idiot who thinks that 4% body fat is too much.

I remember being a size 12 in high school and another girl yelled at me on the street--"You're such a fat elephant!" It was so stupid--but I cried and cried. Now I would laugh. Because she's crazy.

I feel so sorry for that poor lonely boy who spends more time at the gym than with people who love him. I pity him.

Larissa said...

Your concern is so legit! I am a perfectionist and I KNOW I will never be everyone's definition of "not fat." That makes me feel like a failure...which I KNOW I am not. That man's words hurt so much because I don't want to fail and I felt for a milisecond like I had. But I KNOW I have not.

Candice J said...

I don't think you know me, but I'm a friend of Stephanie J's and I want to thank you for your post. Your words are inspiring and I needed to hear it. You're an amazing beautiful person on the inside and outside. (and you're not fat!) Thanks for being you and being a great example to me.

Larissa said...

Candice - I know who are you, I just don't know if we've officially met:-) THANK YOU for your kind words! And I know you are awesome because you love Steph and that's about as awesome as people get:-)

SkinnyMinnieMoves said...

You are far from fat! I have ran into this problem with men at the gym before. They try to feel better about themselves by knocking a woman. Well anyone that knows me, knows I am full on women's rights, I feel strongly about equality, and I don't take trash talking from men! So one day when a meat head made a comment about me lifting, I gave it back to him. I said oh yeah? Well let's go for a run then and I'll show you who's in shape. I could run miles around you! He shut up and apologized :)

-Katie aka SkinnyMinnieMoves