During my lunchtime gym session on Tuesday, I received a lecture from an elderly patron on how to lose weight.
It amazes me sometimes that people have no filter and can just assume it’s okay for them to say certain things to strangers. Don’t get me wrong, the guy wasn’t being mean (I don’t think). He’s a retired physician* who reminded me of the doctor my grandmother used to take me to, and he’s definitely coming from the old school of thought when it comes to diet and exercise and weight.
By old school, I’m referring to the instant assumption that fat=unhealthy and skinny=healthy.
I wasn’t offended. This isn’t something that’s new to me and I can easily accept the fact that there is a prevalent misconception that fat people at the gym are only there to lose weight. I follow a few body acceptance blogs, and I wholeheartedly agree with the fact that people shouldn’t be bullied for their size and that loving yourself no matter what you look like is key to a healthy and happy existence.
Do I think assuming I was at the gym to lose weight was a fair assumption? Not really. But I’m a non-confrontational person and didn’t feel like arguing the point.** I knew my reasons for being there, regardless of what Mr. Doctor saw; I just didn’t see any benefit of sharing this for an argument with a random stranger.
My main goal is not to lose weight, regardless of my plussy plus size. I exercise so I can walk/move/feel better and so I can keep my depression symptoms under control. End of story. I’m not going to say no to weight loss. If it happens, I’m not going to try to put the weight back on. But I’m done making that my main focus, because it obviously hasn’t worked for me during the better part of three decades.
After Mr. Doctor flat out asked me if I’d lost weight from exercising, he proceeded to tell me that exercise isn’t enough, that the best thing I can do is “push myself away from the table.” While I knew what he meant, that’s not great advice in itself. Is he saying I should just look at the food then leave? Is he saying to eat what I want but then to forcefully push myself away in order to get a good arm workout?
Sure, I know what he’s talking about, and those responses are kind of snarky. But you know what? A younger me, or another person struggling with their weight, might not get it. They might be so upset and so embarrassed that a stranger would say something like that that they’d just stop going to the gym completely.
I’ll be back in the gym regardless. But saying stuff like that to people is probably going to do more harm than good. It’s one thing to be concerned about someone’s HEALTH. It’s another thing to assume that a fat person at the gym is not healthy when you’ve likely seen thin drug addicts on the street and instantly assumed they were fine. FYI, I don’t think it’s fair to do the opposite either. Just because someone is super thin is no reason to make disparaging comments or insinuations about eating disorders.
I don’t know if we’re ever going to change the old school way of thinking for the old schoolers themselves, but maybe it’s time to start adopting some new school ways of thinking. If you’re going to get healthy, do it to feel good, not to fit into a size. Diagnose based on real health problems, not just statistics…treat people as individuals, not as a weight. And don’t assume you randomly know what’s best for everyone else in the world based on how they look.
So thanks for the lecture, Mr. Doctor, but I don’t even own a table, I exercise to keep from throwing things at nosy people, and I’m pretty sure I know the actual scientific basics of how to lose weight. Now excuse me while I drink this protein shake and go grab a taco for lunch.
*I know this because he shared that with me as part of the “discussion.”
**I didn’t feel the need to argue this for my own personal reasons. I did realize after writing this post that by not saying anything, I wasn’t really helping the cause either. But I’ll be the first to admit that my passiveness makes me a really bad activist.