Sunday, December 31, 2006

Know Who To Listen To

The other day, someone said something to me about my body size. Actually, it was along the lines of she cannot do glide because she does not have any body fat.

Normally, I do not get offended easily. After all, someone cannot make you feel inferior, worthless, upset unless you give them permission to. But today was different. You see, what offended me the most was that it was said in front of a group of about fifteen other athletes and it was said by an employee of my health club.

Employee of a health club implying that this person has received some advanced training and education in coaching, athletics, sports psychology, exercise physiology. Implying that they should have the skill to know how to coach people, know how to motivate people, etc. Implying that as an employee, a professional, they have the tact and social skills to represent themselves and the facility professionally.

But I guess everything implied was wrong.

Ironically, the person saying the comment was on the hefty side themselves. If I was too skinny then I would presume to say they were too bulky. But I didn’t say that. I would never say that. I would never point out to her and fifteen other athletes that they cannot do _______ because they are carrying around too much body fat.

But somehow, the reverse is considered acceptable. Not appropriate, but acceptable. It’s acceptable to tease people about being too small. But too big? Why that constitutes discrimination or insult. How dare you point out that someone has forgotten to push away from the table, or give up buttered popcorn, or spends too much time watching television or any other myriad behaviors and examples of lack of self-control that allow one’s waistline to expand.

Certainly I understand that genetic predisposition or other conditions beyond one’s control can contribute to excess weight. Perhaps it was not their fault that they were a little plump. And so, perhaps I should not have said those things. Well, actually, I didn’t say those things to the person – I said them to you. But you get the point.

Maybe, though, I can plead the same. In my deck of excuses, reasons, and explanations, I pull out the I can’t help it card. You see, I come from a line of small people. Petite-ness and low body fat are bred into our bones, are the product of generations of genetic code. My great-grandmother, imported from Italy, stood at 4 foot 8 inches tall. What she lacked in stature, she made up for in child-bearing abilities as out of that woman emerged 6 sons and 1 daughter – my grandmother. My grandmother was no behemoth herself. She topped out at 4 feet 10 inches tall and weighed in around 85 lbs. My grandmother made a lifetime of meals, cooking, and coffee but couldn’t put on a pound. And from there is born my mother. Upon her own marriage, my mother weighed in at 93 lbs.


And finally we reach me. Literally a monster in terms of my lineage. Weighing in at 105.2 lbs, I might be considered the milkman’s daughter. And he must have been a large guy. Looking back, I’ve always been small. In high school, I weighed about 89 lbs. I didn’t hit triple digits until college. Add on top of that my current workout regime and my fairly decent diet and you get I guess what you're left with is one small cookie.

Is that so wrong? Does that demand teasing or insult? Does that make me so freakish that this person felt obligated to point out my freakishly small stature to all of the other athletes? And why did she think they would care?

Psychology tells me otherwise. You see, you never think that psych degree will get you anything – career, money, babes – but then you hit a situation like this and everything makes sense. Perhaps this person was so insecure with their own a-little-too-large appearance and picked the smallest person around to displace their dissatisfaction on to. Or maybe it was jealously. Or ignorance. Or lack of social skills.

Whatever it was, what bothered me the most was that they were almost trying to make me feel bad about being small. Aside from the fact that I find most store doors way too heavy and most shelves in our kitchen out of reach, I am quite pleased with my size. Ok, shopping for jeans is a real bitch but I can get over that. But I can’t tell you how many times people have tried to make me feel bad about being small. Or, make me feel like I’m a bitch for being small. Or acted like all of this comes with no work, no sacrifice, no problem.

But that is not the case. Genetically, I am programmed with a small frame but that does not grant me genetic permission to sit around the house all day eating chocolate, ice cream, cheese, and French fries. No, if I did that certainly I would be big. And so, I make many sacrifices and work very hard to stay this size. Sure, there were some slip-ups during Ironman training and more than a few nights of desert-induced indulgence but in general I am saying no a lot more often than I am saying bring it on.

What also bothered me was that this person was limiting my potential based on my body size stating that I could not do something because of the way I was built. Which to me seems counterintuitive to what a coach/employee of a health club should be doing. Moreover, since when did body fat become a prerequisite for doing anything, especially gliding in the pool? What does body fat have to do with glide? Doesn’t it have to do with reaching, rolling, and pausing on your side? Were they suggesting I supersize myself in order to slide and glide?

Imagine if we all followed this person’s advice - that I would never succeed with glide because of my lack of body fat. Imagine if we all listened to the voices that told us you can’t, you won’t, you are not built for that. Incidents like this are just more proof that we must let the voice in our head speak louder than anyone else’s voice. It’s about knowing who to listen to. And more often than not, you have to just listen to yourself. You can do anything you are committed to regardless of body shape, size, height, weight, gender, etc. So keep telling yourself that you can do whatever you put your mind to and can achieve anything you desire and make that the loudest thing you hear each day.

1 comment:

Brenda said...

Good advice Liz. You can do anything you commit yourself too.
You wouldn't know it now, but I was teased throughout elementary school and Junior High for being too skinny. It was devastating.
Keep up the awesome work, it's very satisifying to prove people wrong! :)