Well Meaning

Since retiring, I’ve been able to exercise much more regularly than when I was working. I walk, some — my bad knees are good for about 4,000 or 5,000 steps a day. I do some seated resistance work with hand weights two or three times a week and some exercises that target hip and knee muscles. (Those really help!) And, five or six days a week, I swim laps at my local pool. I swim for at least 60 minutes, but if I can get a lane, I swim for 90 minutes. I enjoy the meditative aspect of just swimming back and forth, the sound of water lapping, the chance to just let my mind wander.

When I started swimming regularly, I lost maybe 15 pounds before my peasant DNA realized what was going on and helpfully kicked in to shift my metabolism to hold on to as much as possible of the “famine insurance” that I carry around on my hips (and thighs, and upper arms, and, well, you know.) But the swimming is great aerobic exercise and helps keep my blood pressure low, my blood sugar where it should be, and my heart and lungs in good shape. I feel both relaxed and energized when I finish.

I recently shifted my schedule around to accommodate a Friday Zoom, swimming in the morning on Fridays, instead of my preferred afternoon slot. There’s a guy there on Friday mornings who always greets me — very friendly, wiry little guy, looks like he’s worked out his whole life. He’s lifting weights and hitting the rowing machine while I’m swimming. If we’re walking in together, he’ll say something like, “Hey! Good for you. Good for getting up and getting here.” That’s nice, and I’ll say something like, “Yeah, you, too! Getting out the door is half the battle, isn’t it?” Sometimes, he’ll come into the pool room and stand at one end of my lane, wait until I get there, and say something like, “Good job! You deserve some applause.” And I’ll say, “Thanks!” flip, and keep swimming. Yesterday, we were leaving at the same time and he said, “You’re doing really well! You should try to swim on some other days, too!”

And it finally dawned on me.

He’s encouraging the fat girl.

He only sees me on Friday mornings, so he thinks that’s the only day I exercise. And, with all the good will in the world, he believes he’s being helpful.

I’m way past the time when I’d get really angry or upset over this, but I tell this story to try to remind people that, no matter what you learned in high school, and no matter what’s true for you, it simply is not the case for all of us that it’s “calories in, calories out.” It’s also not the case that every “overweight” person you see is a couch potato who “just needs to get some exercise.”

And I’ll resist the temptation to get out of the pool next week, walk dripping into the gym, stand over him on the rowing machine, and give him some encouraging applause.

Picture found here.

One response to “Well Meaning

  1. Amazing how many of us have peasant blood. My grandmother used to tell me “You come from good peasant stock. Be proud of yourself. It’s the workhorses of the world that keep everyone fed.” We’ve been a farming family forever and we’re all short stocky/plump people no matter how much we exercise. Thank you for this blog.

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