December 6, 2011


On Saturday night, Justin and I headed to Fresno, a small city about an hour south of us, for dinner. He said he wanted to go to The Cheesecake Factory, and my whole body tensed up. I told him that it's the worst restaurant on the planet in terms of calories and sodium, and he said he just really wanted their Thai lettuce wraps. I could have easily made them at home (and the next night, he did - just as delicious and certainly healthier), but that wasn't really the point, I suppose. Sometimes, you just need to get out of town.

We shared one order of them, and both immediately said "no, thank you," when the waitress asked if we were interested in any cheesecake or ice cream. I've been a little concerned about our eating lately (I'll be writing about that later this week), and so this was a very good thing, I thought. No pressure. I honestly didn't want it, which was a great feeling - in the past, I'd eat a piece there *and* take one home for later (which almost always meant "later that evening, when my friends weren't watching").

Since we'd driven an hour or so to get there, we decided to walk around the mall a little bit, to stretch and explore. It was pretty standard, as far as malls go. But it was nice to walk and talk and enjoy some good company.

The first shop we went into was Brookstone. If anyone is unaware of this place, it's a fascinating little odds-and-ends place - the front displays were bathrobes, a plastic shelf for holding your iPad while you read, and a massaging chair. We went over to the display of massagers and took turns trying them all out on each others backs through our coats. Absolutely glorious.

We returned to the front of the shop and Justin asked if the sales clerk would give him the five minute demonstration of the massage chair that was advertised on a sign posted right next to it. He sat down, and the girl started fiddling around with the buttons and switches. He said it felt incredible, and I continued to peruse the store while he made small talk with the clerk.

I made my way back about a minute later, and the clerk was telling Justin that the chair is a very popular model, and that athletes use it to relax their muscles. Justin looked at me and smiled, and said "You should get this!"

Then, the response I anticipated, but that surprised him.

The sales clerk looked at me and said, "You're an athlete?"

Deep exhale. I bit my tongue and shoved my hands deeper into my coat pockets.

"Yeah, kind of."

Justin looks shocked, and defends me. "Yes, she is. She's a runner."

And the clerk looks me up and down, and the conversation ends there.

I'm used to people reacting like that. After decades of being this way, I've come to understand that people don't expect much of a big girl. It's not right and it's not fair, but at least it hurts less than it used to. I know the truth, and I use it for fuel. Right now, we're standing in a gadget store at the mall. Tomorrow morning, I'll be running eight miles - five fewer than I'll be running in six weeks at my first half marathon.

A few weeks ago, Tim reminded me of one of my absolute favorite motivational sayings:
if you have a body, then you are an athlete.
One of the greatest lessons I've learned on my weight loss journey is that you can't judge anyone based on outside appearances. I might not look like someone's ideal image of an athlete. But I also don't look like I used to 150 pounds ago. My body is perfect the way it is - and so is yours. We are wonderful and lovely and capable of amazing things.


Cat said...

You said it.

The Girl From Back Then said...

How rude is that?! Like there is only one definition of athlete. Like you have to be svelte and slender to be a runner, what a load of bollocks. She's obviously rubbish at her job if that's how she conducts herself around potential customers. Even if she thought it, was there really a need to go ahead and say it? I know there is freedom of speech, but how was that useful?

I bet you run far more than she does. Does that make her lazy? Or demotivated, mean she has a lack of thirst for life?

At least you haven't let this discourage you. You are doing great, let this idiot's comments wash right over you. We know how much effort you put in, and how much you try.

Jessica said...

You are an athlete and you are kicking butt with those runs!!!

Saturday I ran a small local 5k...when I registered the woman started to mark the one mile walk and I told her I was doing the 5k...she looked shocked and asked if I was sure. Ugh! Let's keep shocking people with our abilities!

Greg (Transformed and Scaled) said...

Blargh, I hate it when people are horribly rude like that. Sorry that happened, Mary. You know your own body and what it's capable of. To heck with some idiot sales clerk.
And those lettuce wraps sound delicious!

Katie Foster said...

Awesome job at The Cheesecake Factory! Especially when you drove an hour to get there--it'd be tempting to get dessert.

So sorry about the rude salesperson at Brookstone. I know how you feel. When I was shopping for my bike, I was so embarrassed--feeling a fat girl pretending to be an athlete. I've been running for almost two years, and I *still* don't consider myself an "athlete". That term just makes me think of a perfect muscular body.

Anonymous said...

I bet you a million dollars you could out run that little troll of a sales clerk any day of the week! The great part is that Justin said you should get it, Justin knows that you are an athlete and Justin is lucky enough to be a part of your life. His opinion and view is wonderful, hers is laughable at best - simple minded, judgemental, hatin' ass beetch. People like that annoy the hell out of me.

I love the quote you posted, you are amazing. 151 pounds down? Progress like that does require an ATHLETE. You are amazing. :)

Laura said...

the types of things people say amaze me. You are a rockstar! I cannot wait to hear about you rocking the half marathon!

Poison said...

Ahhh.. I know this feeling all too well. I would have tensed up just the same. I am so happy he spoke up and said that you were though. It's nice to have friends supporting you in those kinds of situations. I must have missed when Tim mentioned that saying though, I've not seen it before but I like it! :)

Anonymous said...

I hate it when people judged based on appearances. I'm not a big fan of Oprah, but she did a segment on a show a long time back with testing who was fitter (she had a skinny girl and a heavier girl) and the audience was supposed to vote and then they put them to the test. Of course everyone picked the skinnier girl to be in better shape. But she wasn't. I knew from the beginning that the heavier girl was going to be in better shape.

Just like I know that you're in better shape than I am. I'm 5'10 and 152 pounds and there's no way I could go out and run 8 miles tomorrow. None whatsoever. I'm not in that kind of shape. But the people at the store would always treat me more like an athlete than they would you. Which is horribly unfair. It pisses me off.

I'm proud of you for using it as fuel. I'm proud of you for changing up everyone's notion of what an athlete "should be." You are an inspiration to me and I hope someday to be half the athlete that you are.

that TOPS lady said...

You rock. Don't forget that!

Tim said...

I'm just going to play devils advocate a second but are you sure she didn't interpret the word 'athlete' differently to what you, I and most other people would think it means?

I'm just wondering because she mentioned that athletes use the chair and she might have a certain image in her head of someone incredibly famous like Carl Lewis, Michael Jordan...rather than a non-professional athlete who does it for the love.

Maybe that's why she seemed surprised and came across as rude?

I guess this probably isnt the case considering Justin's reaction to it but whatever the person thought, the important thing is that you love what you do and you're so good at it too. Keep being an athlete, keep being you!

Miss Carrie Ann said...

The last two sentences! They gave me goosebumps!

sheila said...

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand that clerk just lost a potential sale.

Years ago my father was a contractor. After getting the final payment for a custom built house he decided it was time to buy a new car. Went to the local dealership on his way home after work and the saleman sneered at my father in his work clothes and then refused to acknowledge his presence. My father was so insulted that he went to the nearest big city the next day and purchased a new car. Drove the new car up to the local dealership and made sure to let the rude saleman know that he missed out on some commision that week.

People make judgments about class, wealth, appearance and then seem to think that they can reach conclusions as to a person's worth/value. FOOLS!

Polar's Mom said...

F that B. You get my drift, right? I think very slowly but surely people are starting to realize that thin doesn't always equal fit, but it is slow going, and SOOOO frustrating. Good for you for not stuffing a massager down her throat. Yes, I have anger issues. ;-)

Maren said...

What an idiot.
Pure an simple. :)

Stacey said...

I've gotten the same comments as well, so I know the feeling. I have about 10 races under my belt and still people are surprised I'm a runner. I've also hiked the Grand Canyon from rim to rim in 10 hours and still people are surprised. Why? Because I'm 180 lbs and not 125??? I put them right back in their place nicely and then they realize what a putz they were.

Shannon said...

"If you have a body, then you are an athlete" - I love that!! You are an incredible athlete, Mary! I hope to be able to run like you one day!

Mom on a mission said...

I love that saying!!

marisol said...

You are an athlete. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

What a great quote.

Ivana said...

It's OK. You'll never meet with every stranger's approval, and you know you are an athlete. It's painful, though.

I've run 3 marathons and 4 half-marathons, but sometimes when I mention my training, people will ask, surprised, "oh, your first?" I just don't have the runner's body, is all.

It makes me wonder what amazing and mysterious athletic endeavors all the unassuming people around me do. That big guy on the bus? Maybe he's a trail runner! That old lady at the grocery store...I'll bet she's a rock climber! It's a fun mental game to play.

Manda Renee said...

Just found your blog thru a friend - I have lost 140# so hello sister! Loved your closing words and very much related to the feelings. Wishing you all the BEST you deserve on your journey.

Hyla said...

You're an running ninja!

Read this post through to the end