Dear Young, Fit Couple From My Morning Run:
First, let me congratulate you on being in phenomenal shape. As I was running from way back as you walked after your morning workout, I could not help but notice that your combined body fat must be somewhere south of ten percent. That is amazing and must take a lot of work and dedication.
Second, I’m fat, not deaf. Since what you said is now seared in my memory, I thought I’d help you understand how your words and attitude can impact people. Let’s take this from the beginning.
As I passed, I heard the mid-twenties fit guy say, “Oh geez, look at this.” Followed by the mid-twenties fit woman’s snort of derision while saying, “You can’t miss him, especially as loud as he’s breathing.”
You are right, it is hard to miss me. I’m a 5’8″, 214-pound (and shrinking!) male at the very end of a 35-minute run. The last part of the run was uphill, by my choice as I’m trying to push myself in a controlled manner as I train for the Naperville half-marathon this fall.
I was lucky enough to be done with my run at this point and started my cool down walk, so I was lucky enough to hear the rest of what you had to say. The earbuds were in, but my podcast was over, so your not-so-soft voices were loud and clear.
The young, fit gentleman then said, “I just don’t get it. How do you let yourself get that fat and out of shape?” To which his female companion replied, “Tell me about it. That’s one reason I hate going to the gym. I really don’t want to watch all that blubber bounce.” You both snickered at this line.
There are many reasons for us to let ourselves go. The reasons are important for sure because you can only reverse the unhealthy course once you understand what put you in this position. For some of us, food is comfort and escape. Sometimes we are lazy but sometimes we aren’t. I think you were implying we must be stupid and lazy to get fat. While laziness can be a factor, it was for me at times, let me assure you that fat does not equal stupid.
We do notice when we are getting bigger. And let me tell you, it hurts. It hurts in so many ways. It can be embarrassing at times and frustrating at others. Sometimes it is just easier to stay overweight and put time and energy into other aspects of life.
One really big point both of you need to understand is this – about two-thirds of the U.S. adult population is overweight, so we are the majority. In other words, you will encounter us in all aspects of life, not just on the trail or at the gym. We are business owners, managers, moms, dads, janitors, teachers, doctors, lawyers, friends, aunts, uncles, etc. Most of all, we are human beings with feelings and dreams, just like you in the fit minority.
Our lives are not made easier by encountering the two of you while we try to lose weight by exercising in the heat of a beautiful summer Sunday morning. Believe me, it would have been much easier for me to sit down with a giant plate of French toast and bacon this morning versus getting out the door for my training run.
As I was about to cross the street to get home, I was lucky enough to hear your final comments. Young, fit male said, “That sweat pouring off him is enough to make me sick. Glad I haven’t eaten yet.” To which the laughing young, fit woman said, as I turned, “Oh thank God, he’s crossing the street.” After a pause, she strangely added, “Hope he doesn’t have kids. What a crappy example to set.” More snickering followed and then I was, thankfully, out of earshot.
I will admit, I came near tears because of the kid comment. I’ll get back to that because I’m still hurt and angered by this particularly venomous bit of hate.
Yes, I was sweating buckets. I’m very proud of that effort today. And, just so you know, heavy sweaters occupy every body type. It just so happened that I was listening to a podcast with Olympian Shalane Flanagan earlier in my run. Shalane qualified for Rio after bonking at the trials where the weather was downright scorching. She went to get tested to figure out the best hydration strategy for Rio and found out she is a heavy sweater. Shalane found out she sweats three times as much as her training partner, and fellow Olympian, Amy Cragg. Shalane and Amy kicked some butt today in Rio finishing 6th and 9th (with American Desi Linden in 7th). Was the 6th place female Olympian enough to make you sick with how much she sweat today? I saw it when I got home and she was sweating buckets. People sweat, so you two may want to get used to that too.
Now back to the shot at my parenting skills because I’m fat. I’ve been relatively nice to you two so far but his is too far. That statement is idiotic.
My three children mean the world to me. I’ve worked hard to be a better parent. I don’t need some kids twenty years my junior questioning the example I’m setting. Since you did, let me help you figure it out.
Here are a couple of my favorite examples. Mistakes are not important. How you recover from a mistake is very important, though. And my favorite saying has to do with choices. The best time to plant a tree was 25 years ago. The second best time is today.
You see, I am not ashamed of being fat. I am disappointed that I am not healthy. I should have taken care of this 25 years ago. Since I didn’t, I am making the choice to fix it today.
Another lesson I’m teaching my kids is to NEVER, EVER talk about people to their face or behind their back the way you two did about me today. That type of judgment does not help anyone. Let me assure you that your speech is not motivating. It does make you look bad, though, despite your perfect bodies.
My final bit of advice to you two is to channel your disgust for fat people into a more positive direction. The one thing you had right is that we have to set good examples for the children. If we can start to reverse the trend of childhood obesity, then it should carry through to the adult population. Use your love of fitness to teach kids to live happy, active lives. Volunteer in the community and help put the next generation on track.
I know you were glad to see me go today and, truthfully, I was more thankful to get away from you two before I opened my mouth. You need to understand that mocking a person is not acceptable. Today this is called bullying, fat-shaming, body-shaming. I just call it ignorance.
I will give you the benefit of the doubt here. Maybe you don’t realize that fat people are human beings with feelings and hopes and dreams. Maybe you didn’t realize that perfection is a great goal, but no one hits it, even you two. Maybe you didn’t realize that my hearing is not impacted by the extra weight I carry. Maybe you didn’t realize that my two oldest kids are incredible athletes and that my excess weight has not changed that fact. Maybe you didn’t realize that I’m in the majority and that my fellow overweight brethren fight a battle every single day that, I pray, you never have to understand. Maybe you two really are amazing people and you just were having an off day.
I hope you learned something today. I know I sure did. And, in case this will impact your schedule, I plan to be out there sweating my butt off and putting in huge efforts to be better on and near the path from this morning. If I see you again, I will only smile and wave. If you are lucky, I might stop to ask if you got this letter. I really think it could be good for you.
#intentional #HOPE #choosemypath #FatManRising