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...
I AM NOT FAT!!!**
* 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.