Let me begin by writing that I can’t ever imagine being fat enough that finding clothes that fit would be impossible. Fat enough that a medical professional might turn me away. So fat that some airlines might refuse me a seat, or force me to buy two seats so that I don’t make anyone uncomfortable. I can’t imagine it because I’ve never even been close to being obese. I’ve made a conscious choice not to be fat, so I have no idea how it feels when an individual or an institution treats a fat person in a disrespectful manner.
I do know, however, how it feels to be less than acceptable. My father was my professor. I learned so many lessons from him, but they were not the ones he intended to impart to me. I did not buy his bullshit. When he would tell me I was not good enough, or a stupid c**t, or an ugly bitch, or the really fabulous time he told me he’d wish I’d never been born, I’d feel that worthlessness and I’d reject it. Not every time, obviously. I wasn’t, and am still not, completely resistant to targeted barbs and hurled insults. By the time it really counted for me, though, I rejected it. It is also the reason why I do what I do. If asked, I want to help people with their health and invariably it involves their weight and their unhappiness with it.
Not only did I make the eventual conscious choice not to be a mousy doormat of a woman, I also made a choice to be the most powerful kind of woman I could be and part of that, FOR ME, was not becoming fat. There are people that pile on fat to be the buffer between them and the world and the perceived hurt coming their way, and then there are people who feel that being physically attractive will only help in their quest to getting what they want out of life. Mind you, not being fat does NOT guarantee that you will be fit. Far from it. I didn’t quite get the fit part until my thirties and by then, I was sliding into the fat zone. Well, the skinny fat zone. I write about that here, if you want the low down on that. I did not allow myself any excuses as to the reason for my slippage, even though one of my friends gave me a convenient one….my age. It was to be expected. Ermmmm…NO!
That’s what this post is about. Excuses. I’m an authority on them. Not so much on giving, though I’ve done more than my fair share, but on hearing them. As a fitness professional, I’ve heard them all! My eye-rolling level is expert. Here is just one event from my life, and it contains the most infuriating excuse that I have ever heard given to me…
In May of 2000, my husband and I moved to northern Kentucky. Specifically Union, Kentucky, just outside Cincinnati, Ohio. We had built a house in a golf course community. We joined the golf club. Not because I wanted to. At the time of moving there, I did not play golf, but my husband did. He’s not fanatical about it, but he does love the game and as the membership fee was quite reasonable, and we were told that we could sell it later should we decide to sell our home, we decided to take the plunge. Besides, there was a great clubhouse and pool. It would also be a way for me to meet other women. Being a woman that is childless by choice makes it very hard to find friends that don’t talk endlessly about their children, rather than their own accomplishments and what they are doing. There is absolutely nothing wrong with talking about your kids, but listening to it holds no interest for me. Clearly, I’m a horrible human being.
I had met a woman on my street that had children, but they were adult children, and as such had flown the nest and were leading lives of their own. That was a common occurrence back in 2000, when you were not still considered a child until you were 26. She was a golfer, though, and I was not. She convinced me to try it; to take lessons and then to golf with her and her group of friends. I considered it a life line at the time. Because we had moved so often, it always felt like I was starting over at a new school. I was always friendless at the beginning. So…I took those lessons and then when I was feeling confident enough, I phoned my friend and told her I was ready to join her and her group for a morning nine holes, and then lunch at the club house.
At this point in the story, lest you think I was one of those ladies who lunch, I must inform you that I was working, at the time, as the Group Fitness Director for a large chain of fitness clubs in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. They would fly me in once a month for about seven or eight days so I could get some training done for the fitness team and make sure that the program was running smoothly and efficiently. The rest of the time, I would work remotely at home. My husband was allowed to work in the US as he had his L1 Visa obtained legally and through the correct channels. I had my L2 visa, but at that time, I had not received any authorization to work in the United States. In fact, my Social Security Card had “not authorized to work” stamped across it. I chose to respect that and did not try to find a job and work illegally.
Anyway………..off I went to play those nine holes. It was quite enjoyable and I was actually looking forward to lunch. There were six other women in the group, so there would be eight of us all together. We were all different ages and sizes, but there was one woman who was fat. Let’s call her Joan. I could see her struggling to get in and out of her cart and I could see that even the slight heat of the morning was bothersome to her. By the time we all met up at the clubhouse, Joan was quite a mess and I felt sorry for her. She really did look uncomfortable. She, along with a few of the ladies, went to the locker rooms to clean up while the rest of us just used the bathroom to wash our hands and to use the loo. My hair was tied expertly into a ponytail, so I was good to go.
I was introduced to all of the women before we started golfing, so once we all sat down I got to know everyone a bit more. It wasn’t long before the fact that I was a fitness trainer came up, and this happened just before we ordered our lunches. I knew my lunch order would be scrutinized and judged. I didn’t care.
As usual, I didn’t order anything weird. I ordered my typical go to….a salmon sandwich with a side salad. No wine, just club soda with lime. In hindsight, the wine might have been a better choice. I don’t remember exactly what everyone else ordered but I do remember what Joan ordered. A hamburger with fries AND a Caesar salad and a diet coke…..Again, fine. In my head I was thinking that this was not the best choice for her, but as she was not a client, had not asked my opinion and was able to make decisions for herself, I said nothing.
Once the orders had been taken, talk turned to what I did for a living. I answered simple questions about health, exercises and then………….nutrition. Accckkk! Joan did not ask the question, one of the other ladies merely asked me what my meals consisted of, generally speaking, throughout the week. I was honest and told her what I ate. The same lady then asked me what I thought about the Cabbage Soup Diet. For those of you reading wondering what the hell that is, it’s a fad diet that came out around 1995-1996.
It was reaching heights of popularity (and stupidity) about the time of this conversation in 2000. As always, I gave my honest opinion, because that is what I was asked for. I told her that it was crap because it did not teach you how to manage your real life food choices for, you know, day to day real life. Well, Joan leveled her gaze at me and I sweatergawd, deadly laser beams were shooting out of her eyes. What did she add to the conversation? Well, it was to tell me that SHE had been on the Cabbage Soup Diet (obviously not at that moment as she was intending on devouring the cow sandwich accompanied by deep fried potatoes and a salad that was approximately 170 calories, of which 130 are from fat) and that it had enabled her to lose weight. I told her, calmly, that of course she lost weight but it was likely water and muscle weight, unless she was working out with weights at the same time she was on the diet? Joan informed me that she never worked out with weights because she did not want to look like a man. The table went pretty quiet at this point. All eyes on me…the newcomer to this little group, and clearly an agitator!
I mustered all of my patience and told Joan that working out with weights would not make her look like a man, because she was a woman! In fact, working with weights would help her burn more fat as her metabolism would speed up, not to mention all the benefits to her bone health. I told her that I worked out with weights, but I had never been mistaken for a man. With the facts presented to Joan, she apparently had only one option….to make excuses, and for the first time EVER in my life, I….little old ME….was the excuse. Joan coldly told me that it was not for me to say that this Cabbage Soup diet was not a good thing because clearly being thin and fit was just…wait for it now…..EASY FOR ME!!! I might have passed out for a bit as things got a little dark for a second. Turns out it was probably my rage.
I’d love to tell y’all that by the end of the lunch, Joan had asked me to help her with her health and wellness and that we golfed twice a week together for the rest of my time in Kentucky. Alas, nope. It was the EXCUSE that Joan used that set me off. Her excuse for believing that a fad diet was the answer for her instead of sensible food choices on a consistent basis because somehow SHE had it more difficult than me. Her excuse for believing that a high sodium soup was the answer for her because being fit and thin was only hard for HER and not for me.
To my credit, I did not raise my voice, but I’m pretty sure my teeth were clenched when I asked her how on EARTH she could believe that it was just easy for me to be healthy? If I had thought the table had gone silent before, I was sadly mistaken. Now it was coffin quiet.
Now, I could have left it there and we could all have sat in an uncomfortable silence for a bit. The the food would have arrived and we could have just changed the subject. I saw this as a teachable moment, though. Not just for Joan, but for me as well. I was NOT going to sit there and have Joan actually believe the tripe she just uttered, nor did I want any of the women sitting there thinking that I thought myself a magical person that could slay fat and sloth with my shamanistic spirit. Plus everything that Joan had articulated was false. Not just false but a myth!! The myth of there being some people who can just easily achieve health and wellness by minimal to no effort. Are you fucking kidding me? I proceeded to educate…
I used a measured and even voice , at least that is how I choose to remember it, and told Joan that it was certainly not easy for me to stay healthy. Basically my speech to her (that had in all likelihood a very slight self righteous tone to it… yes, I’ll admit that) discussed the effort that is required every single day by me because I choose health over excuses. I told her that I have to decide to do the hard work instead of allowing myself to slack off. I have to elect to do the workout when I do not really feel like doing it because it’s hot or I’m tired or I have other errands to do. Excuses are not going to get me fit. Action does. I informed her that I schedule my workouts, I plan my foods, I choose to live a healthy lifestyle. Planning is not easy. Nothing about how I look, how I feel and how I live my life is easy. If I look a certain way, it’s because I put in hard work and effort. Not just one day, but every BLOODY day. It’s called consistency and determination and commitment. That, my dear Joan, is not easy and how dare you tell me that it is!
I could have added that what Joan was doing was the easy thing, but that would have escalated things further. All I really wanted to do was to let her know I wasn’t buying her excuse! At the time, I was really offended by her words. In hindsight I should not have felt that way. In the ensuing sixteen years since that encounter I have heard every excuse in the book as to WHY something could not be done, though I have never had the excuse be aimed my way again. Something for my blood pressure to be thankful for I guess.
By the way, neither Joan or I walked off in a huff after I finished what I had to say. It was tense at first but the subject changed, and eventually lunch was over. We both continued to play in the ladies golf group, but things were always slightly strained between us. I tried a few times to engage her in conversation. She wanted nothing to do with me, so I just gave up. I was okay with that as I found out later from the rest of the girls that Joan was considered a bit of a bully and that I was the first person to really push back at her. I was a kind of hero to them.
I believe I have heard of all the excuses for staying fat. Big pause here while some of you gasp and think: Waaaaiiit, a minute!!! Heard excuses about STAYING FAT??? Gail! Who on earth would give you excuses for staying fat? That’s just crazy talk! Well, I’m glad you asked. It’s just my perception. When I hear someone who is overweight tell me that they can’t eat properly because they will be on vacation, what they are really telling me is that they can’t eat properly because they don’t want to. I hear…”I want to stay fat”. If someone who is struggling with their weight tells me that they will be away at their cottage so they can’t exercise, for me that is code for I don’t want to work out. In other words, “I want to stay fat”. When I am told by a person who has asked me for help getting slim and fit that it will be impossible to eat properly and exercise because guests are coming for a week, I translate that into I don’t want to work out and eat properly. Ergo: “I want to stay fat”. Really it’s that simple for me. They are excuses, not reasons.
Hey, and that’s absolutely OK with me. It’s your body after all. If you want to tell me or anyone else, that you reserve the right to eat what you want, as much as you want, when you want, and get fat in the process, and not be held accountable for it, that’s absolutely fine. Just be honest about it please. Don’t make up excuses because you are just fooling yourself. I liken it to coming across two booths, side by side to each other. If one has got a plaque above it saying Comforting Lies and the other booth’s plaque reads: Unpleasant Truths, guess which one will have the longer queue?
I do understand that life should be fun and that, in moderation, sugar and alcohol are probably going to be a part of that. However, having that fit looking body is much harder with even small amounts. That’s just a fact that some people don’t want to acknowledge. Over the long haul, for me, I found that if I was aiming for a tight, fit body, I had to get real and stop thinking that YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE when presented with a food choice that wasn’t going to serve me or my goals. I had to get real and push myself in workouts where I just wanted to slack off or, worse, just not do them. Even as a fitness instructor, I don’t always wake up wanting to get my run in or my HIIT workout done. I do it anyway, though, because I know what the payoff is and how I will feel after I complete it. I’ve never, ever regretted one workout, but I can tell you that I have regretted the ones I did not do. The ones I DID talk myself out of. You also have to get real about the food you eat. You can’t constantly be telling yourself that it’s okay to treat yourself, especially when the treats are all too frequent. All of that is not easy.
The way I look at it, excuses are people’s pacifiers. It makes them feel good in the moment. It allows them to escape reality and to believe that it is something out of their control that is making them decide to veer off their health and fitness track. It’s never out of your control. Ever. As an adult, you are the only one that makes decisions for you. The sooner you own your bad decisions, the better you’ll be at sticking to your good ones.
So………….eat better, move more often and stop pretending. Words to live by.
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