Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Why You're Fat

Last night I went to the movies. It was a late show -- didn't start until 10:30, and it was a school night, so it wasn't very crowded. There were maybe 20 of us in the theater. About halfway through, someone started snoring. Really loudly. Sawmill loud. Sonorous enough that I thought it was a man. It wasn't. It was a young woman probably in her mid 20s. She was leaned back in her chair like it was her own personal barcalounger, head back, mouth wide open, soft tissue rattling like it was in a marathon. The feather in her somnambulant cap was the straw hanging out of her mouth, like her own personal snorkel. I hoped that one good inhale would suck that baby down her larnyx, of only to shut her up. Perhaps even more amazing was her friend who not only didn't care enough about her (or us!) to give her a healthy nudge to shut her up, but had also intentionally left an empty seat between them.

I don't know her, but I know why she's fat. Because fat she was. Undoubtedly she's a lazy slob who shoves whatever food she wants (nutrional information upon request or otherwise) into her face, then sits around on her rather sizeable behind doing nothing to boost her metabolism. She also doesn't have supportive friends who care enough about her to encourage her to do something about her health.

Story number two: Twice a week I teach a spin class at my local YMCA. I am an AFAA certified group fitness instructor, which means I know the mechanics of putting together an aerobics class, understand basic body and muscle physiology and anatomy, and can kick your trash on a bike going nowhere fast. I have the honor of being the instructor of the sole entry-level or beginner class, so I get the full spectrum of experience and fitness levels.

Last week one of my semi-regular attendees smelled a little peculiar. It was obvious he had been indulging in an alcholic beverage (or two) prior to coming to class. It seemed like a strange choice, but okay.

He's one of these middle-aged men (middle-aged = late 40s or so) who has great muscle tone in his legs and arms, but sports a large belly. Some might even go so far as to call it a beer belly. He's a flesh and blood version of the Michelin Man without the mummified toilet paper wrap. He's still at the beginner spin level. He has a hard time supporting his body weight for any amount of time as we're doing standing hills or "jumps" or any kind of isolation drills.

After class that day, he beelined for me, obviously intent on making some excuse as to why he couldn't sustain aerobic activity for 30 minutes. Sure enough, today's excuse centered around his, well, center. According to him, because he has a big belly, his knees don't support his weight. And as any good Californian knows, a good defense is a better offense, so he turned it around on me by asking me how much I had weighed at my heaviest, obviously expecting me to say something dumb like I've never struggled with my weight. He was noticeably startled when I answered his blunt question with a frank answer. Somewhat taken aback, he then wanted to know where I had carried my weight. I told him I had been blessed to be fairly evenly distributed because even at my heaviest I was still fairly active. He then suggested that to be able to truly empathize with him and the rest of the beer belly-toting male population in my classes, I should put a 20 pound backpack around my middle so that I can better tell them how to work out. You know, because somehow it's my responsibility to make sure he loses weight.

I'll give you a moment while the inanity of that sentiment sinks in.

Before moving onto his next brilliant statement.

He had been watching Fox news the night before (much to his chagrin, since it's practically a cardinal sin in Democratic-heavy California to watch a right-leaning news show) where some idiot said that having an alcoholic beverage before working out helps you to get endorphins and makes you want to work out more.

Yep. That's what he told me. And he had obviously been willing enough to listen to his political adversaries since it gave him an excuse to drink. Which then explained the unusual smell, even for a gym, I had detected earlier.

Why is he fat? Because he makes excuses and points fingers. Until he's willing to take responsibility on his own shoulders for how his decisions impact his health and weight, he will sport an extra 20 pounds around his middle.

Go ahead -- judge me if you want. It's only fair since I've obviously been doing my own fair share of snap judging. So why are you fat? I don't know. But you may recongize some tendencies in these two illustrations. I'll tell you why I'm fat. Because I like cookies and ice cream and make all sorts of idiotic justifications about how working out allows me to treat myself -- with food. Dumb, huh? Some people may look at me now and contradict me by telling me I'm not fat, and while it's true that I'm at a healthy weight and have a good aerobic capacity and have a cute, athletic shape, I spent about a decade being overweight, and emotionally still think of myself as that fat chick. I may not physically be fat, but mentally I am. I know what it's like to have a low self esteem due to poor body image. I know what it's like to make excuses and to want to eat more than to get off the couch.

It's why I love The Biggest Loser. I unabashedly call each group of contestants "my fatties," because I really can and do relate to them. And I don't mean it disrespectfully either. I feel a certain kinship with each of them. I am appropriately disgusted and horrified at the jiggling jelly rolls on display at each weigh-in. I cheer when they finish a challenge they didn't think they could ever do, or do one more set of weight lifting, or get the treadmill up to a 15% incline at 8 m.p.h. for three minutes when the week before opening the refrigerator door was a calorie-burner for them. I am delighted when Jillian yells at them and does her Dr. Phillian routine on each of them -- because Jillian understands that behind each double chin and spare tire is a suitcase of emotional baggage that's keeping that weight on. And I love watching their transitions from disgusting couch potatoes to active, fit people with healthy motivations to make positive changes to their bodies and minds.

Season 8 started last night. No, I'm on getting paid by any networks to promote the show, but I got text messages from some friends yesterday reminding me that the new season was starting and did I have my DVR set? I'm even getting my friends to call the contestants my fatties. I was thrilled when the sappy/motivational music started introducing the contestants and the new season, and fairly cheered when Bob and Jillian introduced the season by saying, "These people aren't like you. They ARE you."

No comments:

Post a Comment