People who are overweight don’t want unsolicited advice. Guess what. We know we’re fat. We live in homes with mirrors.
While everyone is obsessed with the election, I’m here wondering why complete strangers think my body is a subject open to public discussion. It’s very rare I talk about my weight so openly, but something happened last week that left me so shocked, I’m still replaying the moment in my head. So here we go, tales of a fat swimmer as told by yours truly.
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I’m placing my equipment next to the pool, going over my workout plan in my head before diving in. The woman in the next lane calls me over. We’ve never met, so I’m not sure why she wants to talk to me. She starts telling me that she’s noticed I’ve lost weight. She’s says that my swimsuit is looser, and my face really shows it. I politely thank her for the compliment, but inwardly, I’m a little creeped out because I really don’t think I’ve ever even seen this woman before. She asks me how long I’ve been coming to that pool, and I respond since July. She looks me up and down, disapprovingly, almost as if to say, “It doesn’t look like you’ve been swimming for four months.”
Then she says, “Have you ever considered getting surgery to lose weight?”
Well, that escalated quickly. All I can manage is a soft “no.” In my head I’m just thinking, “How big am I that a random stranger is suggesting I have surgery?”
The woman then tells me all about how her daughter and her both got surgery to lose weight. She tells me about foods I should avoid and how much weight I could lose. Then, just to make sure I get it, she adds:
“You’re pretty, but have you ever imagined how much prettier you’d be if you lost weight?”
I actually wanted to laugh because I couldn’t believe she really said that. And she just wouldn’t stop. She asked me about my age and health insurance, and kept going about the surgery. I gave vague, short responses, trying my best to communicate that I really didn’t want to talk to her. I put my goggles on, fidgeted with my watch, and jumped in the water. I was here to swim, not to have a weight consultation. Eventually, she stops, and I swim away before she offers more “encouragement.”
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I take a short break between sets, and the woman takes it as a cue to start up the conversation again. “Wow, you’re a really good swimmer. You swim like a fish!”
I chuckle nervously and say thanks. Please don’t start again. Please don’t start again. I really just want to swim. She of course ignored all my mental pleading: “So, does obesity run in your family?”
Umm….is this a normal question? Do people go around asking about medical histories?
“It could be your DNA. It’s probably in your genes. Hmmmm have you ever gotten your thyroid checked?”
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“Stick with swimming. Everything is going to get better.”
“You know, it really doesn’t look like you’ve lost any weight. Do you take omega-3 supplements? Because those could really help.”
“I’ve seen people bigger and older than you finish Ironman races.”
“Just cut out all flour. It’s hard, I know, but it really works.”
“Rice, beans, and avocado. [Laughs]” Oh wait, that last one was actually a comment about me being Mexican…
All statements I’ve heard from complete strangers, from both men and women at the pool. All statements from people who meant well and were attempting to be encouraging. But here’s the thing, overweight people know they’re overweight. We don’t need reminding. This is after all my body, that I live in every day. Unsolicited advice on weight loss is not encouraging, nor warranted, and most of the time, it’s not even helpful. Like, I really don’t want to do an Ironman anytime soon. I didn’t even ask.
Even so, people feel like they’re doing me a favor, and I’m left wondering why they thought it was okay to discuss my personal life so freely when they don’t even know my name.
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To my fellow lap swimmers,
I want to let you know that I do in fact know my own dress size. You don’t need to tell me because I actually buy my own clothes. Like you, I’m here to swim. This is more than just about weight loss. The reality is, I’m here because I love swimming. I love the feel of cutting through the water effortlessly. I like gazing at the night sky during my backstroke. I like pushing myself and seeing what I can accomplish. Believe it or not, I’m proud of my progress. Today, I can swim longer and faster than when I first started, which makes me love my body even more.
So if you want to strike up a conversation, let it be about swim techniques and stroke rates, whether you like using fins, or if you think SWOLF numbers mean anything. And if you really want to be encouraging, compliment me on my butterfly because I’ve been working on it.
A Happy Swimmer