You know, the fitness world can be so unforgiving.
To look at me in this moment in time, one would not know that I have competed in bodybuilding competitions. My arms have thickened along with my waistline. My thighs have gone from muscle to thunder and tend to create fire hazards when I walk. It is safe to say that at this point in my life, I cannot quietly walk while wearing corduroy pants. This moment in my life is the biggest that I have ever been. And sure, I can make excuses about being a busy wife, mom and business owner…but the reality is that my excess in weight is due to poor decisions in food choices, not taking the time to hit the gym, laziness and basically…excuses.
In my competition days, I had the opportunity to create friendships with wonderful sisters in iron who have stayed the course and made wonderful gains and continue to compete. So, I decided to meet up with two of my iron sisters to attend a summer Saturday show. One of my girls was competing and the other was the support crew with me. Anyhoo, we were back stage having a grand old time. Laughing, joking and basically keeping a lively atmosphere. Our energy was so contagious that those around us pulled closer and joined in our antics. And because my personality is so huge and I have zero problem being the funny girl and making myself the butt of my own jokes (I DO love a good laugh), I tend to create the laughter and lighthearted banter. The day was going well until a competitor that my girls and I had just met asked if she could take a picture. So my competitor girlfriend got up in her shiny rhinestone bodybuilding suit so that she could take a picture. I must say that the two of them cut a gorgeous image! But then the competitor asked my other girlfriend to be in the picture as well. My other girlfriend is 6 beautiful feet of muscle and stunning looks. I am talking an extra tall drink of water. I’m talking stop traffic kind of beauty and muscle. I’m talking Oh My Damn Who Is THAT type of gorgeousness. So…anyway, she got up and joined the other two in the picture. And then there was me…the funny girl. As I sat in the chair waiting for my invitation to be in the picture, the three women positioned themselves at their best angles for the camera. A goofy smile pasted across my face, I thought to myself, “surely, they are not going to leave the funny girl out of the picture!” Like, I am the life of the party! I tell the funny jokes…I laugh the loudest…nothing embarrasses me. And yet, there I sat smiling my goofy smile, completely embarrassed on the inside as the grim reality hit me.
It doesn’t matter how goofy, how funny, how friendly or how lovable I am…when it comes to fitness shows, NO ONE WANTS THE FAT GIRL IN THE PICTURE.
And so I sat there, a team player, grinning and egging them on as they took pictures and laughed amongst their muscle bound selves. I sat there, dying on the inside, because I felt left out. I sat there, fuming, because I was good enough to laugh and joke with but not good enough to become a part of another’s visual memento. I sat there, angry with myself, because I had allowed myself to get so out of shape that at times, I can’t bear to look at myself in the mirror. I sat there, hurt, because I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that had I looked like the Lisa of 2014, I would have been asked to be in that picture too. I must admit, it was a foreign feeling to me…one that I had never felt before…and it ached me to the core. It was a feeling of invisibility and not being good enough.
The picture taking finally ended and my girls came back and sat with me and we got back to our antics…laughing, joking and talking smack. But for me, it was no longer authentic because my heart was still smarting over being left out. And while I was gregarious and personable, I made a point of not including the competitor woman who had asked to take the pictures. I wanted to leave her out the same way that I had been left out. My feelings were hurt and I was salty. But in the living of that moment, I learned a valuable lesson: EMPATHY.
As a personal trainer, people come to me because they want to get in shape. They tell me that they feel ugly, feel fat, feel unworthy, feel less than. And I would hear them but not fully grasp what they were saying because I was so Peggy Positive and would tell them that they have to boost their own self esteem and ignore what others say/do and that they have to be their own cheerleaders. And I would say this with so much passion because I truly believed in it! But when I found myself, FitGirl360, standing in the shoes of my clients, feeling invisible and left out, THAT is when I had an epiphany. THAT is when I truly understood that my mantras are true…but they are easier said than done…and that it takes TIME and true inner strength to get there. That is when I realized that my clients, who make the decision to show up for trainings, who reach out to me when they are feeling low, who keep pushing even when the world is trying to keep them fat by promoting fast food yet keep them invisible by ignoring their presence…they are SO much stronger than I ever was! In that one experience, I was questioning my existence, yet there are folks who live this life–this experience EVERY single day. And that was an eye opener for me.
Living life is hard enough with all of the curve balls that are thrown our way. But to live life invisible is a bitter pill to swallow and no one deserves that–especially if that invisibility is rendered because of a person’s size. The reality is that there will always be fat people in the world. We were not created to all be the same size: compact and at the peak of physical fitness. We were not all created to be skinny. There will always be folks with more fat, more curves, more jiggle and more wiggle. And its those differences that help create such an interesting, dynamic, fun world that we live in. To not include someone in anything simply based on appearance is nothing short of narcissistic, insensitive and shallow as well as hurtful. But the flip side is: Do I want to be included in anything with someone who determines my worth based on how I photograph or how I look? Do I want to share my laughs with people like that? And do I want folks like that to affect my attitude and appreciation of a good joke and great laugh? I think not.
We should treat all people with love, dignity and respect regardless of their size. Why? Because they are people and they have feelings and, DAMMIT…THEY MATTER! But most important, it is imperative that people choose to surround themselves with true friends who genuinely like/love them, support and encourage them, love taking selfies & usies…and don’t mind the fat girl being in the picture.