Many years ago, I was sitting in a McDonald’s indoor play area. My two girls were chasing each other through a maze of tunnels, nets, and pools of plastic bacteria-ridden balls.
There was no Internet or cell phones. So I did what you normally did in the old days when there was no FB or Instagram or texting to keep you occupied: I people watched.
It must have been more than 20 years ago because I’m pretty sure I was pregnant with Unit #4. I have no idea where my oldest son was–maybe Kung Fu Class. Anyway, I was definitely there to kill some time and get out of the Florida heat.
That’s when this lady walked in.
She was maybe in her late 20’s, dark hair. I remember her clearly because she was probably 50 pounds over weight and wearing a snug fitting denim mini skirt with a tight knit top. She had a distinct muffin top, and was wearing high heeled ankle boots.
She stood out for many reasons: First was her outfit, and there was this almost giddy sense of pride maybe, but then there was this distinct anxiety and self-consciousness to her. People fascinate me, so I watched her closely as she unpacked gift bags at a table across the room. I was particularly noting her inappropriate attire for her body weight. I had many thoughts about her, and a part of me even felt embarrassed for her.
I was no smaller than her, but you didn’t see me running around dressed in skimpy clothes. The nerve.
Still, I watched her with my judging eyes and thought these thoughts and other thoughts like them. Maybe if there’d been an Instagram or FB, I might have even snuck a picture of her and shared it with some snarky comment about her and her muffin top. I was only 24 after all. I still had that high school bitchiness in me that surfaced every now and then. It was possible that I would have done something like that.
Other people started arriving—ooh more people to watch. One by one they came in. Most of them were there to see the other girl; the one with the notable muffin top. I waited for their judging looks, and was shocked that there were none.
Instead, their eyes lit up and her eyes lit up, and they hugged. “Oh my God! You look amazing!!!” One girl said to my muffin top friend. She replied with a shy, but obvious bit a pride, “Thank you!!” Another girl entered the fray, “So how much weight have you lost so far?” She was clearly excited to hear. Muffin Top replied with a triumphant smile, “Just over 100 pounds.”
I nearly died. Thank God there was no Instagram or FB back then.
I felt pretty small and petty at that moment.
But I saw this woman through totally new eyes: She was beautiful and so incredibly proud of what she’d accomplished. I could see why she was wearing what she was wearing now, and it made perfect sense and was suddenly lovely to me. Who knows the last time she glimpsed her own curves? Or the last time she wore something that made her feel like a woman. A hundred pounds. Amazing. I could almost imagine her at the store, shopping and picking out clothes that she only dreamed of ever owning.
And at that moment I felt this swell of emotion for her, “Right on, Girlfriend! You keep wearing what makes you feel awesome and bring all that sass along with it!” I was rooting for her, even if she didn’t know it.
And she changed my perspective in a way that was so unexpected, I wish I knew her now so that I could thank her.
To this day, when I see a heavy person exercising or on a bike, sweating it out and battling through all the counter-effort that comes with an unnaturally bigger body, I’m silently rooting for them.
I’m aware that some people would rather make fun of them or snicker at them, but that’s just because we live in a culture where that sort of judgement is accepted. I see the posts on social media from time to time and I always cringe a little.
I’ve been a solid 100 pounds overweight more than once. And I remember feeling awkward and self-conscious going to a gym or riding my bike; worried that people would judge me or ridicule me.
So, I’ve been on both sides of this game, and you know what? These guys are out there doing it and it’s a beautiful thing. They have to start somewhere. We all have to start somewhere.
It’s always a little awkward at first, no matter what you’re doing. But the end of the journey will make it all worthwhile, so why not root for the guy who’s trying to do something about it?
Now when I hear a snarky comment about a “Fat guy on a little bike.” I reply with, “And isn’t is awesome that he’s doing something about it?”
It’s all a matter of perspective, and it’s really cool when the other guy gets it and you see that he’s changed his perspective too.
Just imagine if we all did this when we encountered these situations in conversation or on social media. The world would be a much more awesome place, don’t you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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