Friday, April 23, 2010

The Skinny Girl in the Elevator

Last year at DragonCon I stepped onto the crowded elevator to a scent worth drooling for: bar-be-queue sauce sweet and tangy followed by a hint of fresh French Fries. My mind filled in the rest of the meal hiding in the Styrofoam container: crumbly, buttery cornbread and cool, creamy coleslaw. Having just come from a not-nearly-as-enticing grilled chicken salad, I sighed and announced how jealous I was. A woman not far from me reminded me to think of the calories. I replied that you couldn’t always count calories. And then she said…

“Skinny girls always say things like that.”

After I picked my jaw up from the elevator floor I told her my weight and thanked her for calling me a skinny girl. She told me I wore it well and walked out of my life. That would be the first, and only, time I’ve ever been the skinny girl.

There are a few lessons here: that we’re all the skinny girl compared to someone else, that it only takes a minute to make someone’s day, and that good bar-be-que is worth a taste or two. But the most important one is this: it’s not about how other people see you, it’s about how you see you.

The girl riding the elevator with me saw skinny. Great! But I can’t take that compliment and use it to ignore the facts: my BMI registers as obese, given my family medical history sugary meals and simple carbs are dangerous, and someone with my health background needs to be better. It’s not about getting compliments, it’s not about fitting into a size 10, it’s about staying alive and being healthy.

I want to be able to live without a daily injection of insulin. I want to be able to enjoy my old age without taking several daily prescriptions. I want to walk along the beach without worrying about how far it is. I want know the only thing stopping me is good sense, not poor health.

It’s hard when you get close to your goals and other people begin to see you as skinny. Friends will say you’re doing so well, skip tonight’s run and come have a beer. Partners will pick up sugary treats, offering them to you as a reward. It’s harder still when it isn’t going well, when nothing seems to work or you just don’t want to think about it anymore. People will tell you you’re being silly, you look great. The world will make excuses for you: you’ve had a bad day, there’s some reason to celebrate, or it’s too cold or hot to be healthy.

But you’re worth the work. Your health is worth fighting this battle. Having a set back or reaching a milestone isn’t a reason to stop. You have to remain vigilant, even when it feels like you’re almost finished or feel you never will be. So bask in the glow of compliments (I still think about being the skinny girl in the elevator) but remember to stay on course. Appreciate the intentions behind the excuses, but ignore their siren’s song. Stay in control and don’t let anyone make your choices for you.

What compliments have you gotten lately? Where have you been derailed? Can you use one to fight the other? Let me know if you think I’m crazy in the comments below.


When she’s not cooking, buying, or dreaming about food Rachel Kleinsorge writes steamy paranormal mystery romances. She is currently waiting for the call from her agent, the amazing Carolyn Grayson, while working on her next novel.


Michelle Butler on April 23, 2010 at 9:18 AM said...

Thank you for this inspiring piece. I do get told that I don't need to lose anymore from time to time, and it can sap my motivation. Now, I'm very pleased with my clothes size, but the number on the scale (182) is still on the high end of overweight (though I'm ecstatic to not be obese anymore). It does seem like there's a lot of value in getting back to that healthy weight range for my height.

But, like you said, when you get close, lots of outside forces can convince you to stop working so hard. You then stop seeing results, and you start wondering if you should even continue because you aren't seeing results and you aren't taking enough account of the ways you are backsliding. It can be a tricky feedback loop to get out of.

Again, thank you for this great piece. It's very motivating for me, who has struggled a little bit for being in the close enough zone.

Deb Marlowe on April 23, 2010 at 3:52 PM said...

Beautifully said! Being the skinny girl doesn't have to be your whole motivation, but it's a nice validation! Celebrate the big and small achievements!

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Elise Hayes on April 25, 2010 at 7:18 AM said...


I can't tell you how mow much this passage touched me:

"I want to be able to live without a daily injection of insulin. I want to be able to enjoy my old age without taking several daily prescriptions. I want to walk along the beach without worrying about how far it is."

This is why I worry about my mother's weight--I want her alive and *well* for a long time so that I can enjoy her, so that her grandchild can enjoy her. She had a hard time keeping up with her granddaughter last year and it just broke my heart...and made me wonder how many fewer days, months, or years my daughter might have with grandma because of the extra weight.

And it's what keeps me running. I grew up with asthma, the kid who couldn't keep up with anyone on a bike ride, on team sports, on family walks. So when I grew out of the asthma as an adult, the running was my way of making certain I could do the activities I wanted to do and never be the last one, panting and dying in the rear, again.

That and watching my mother's struggle has made me think about aging gracefully: I've seen a 91 year old woman climbing Mount Whitney in California (ok, I didn't see her--she beat me up the mountain--but I saw her name and age in the register before me when I got to the top, feeling studly at at 26). That's the kind of grandma I want to be some day.

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