Sometimes I don’t think people realize how much power and control they have over other human beings. Not physical power — though that’s a real component — just the natural ability to manipulate.
I think some people do this unconsciously, even unintentionally. Last spring, Michael and I ran in a 10K. (That’s 6.2 miles.) We trained for it, and we finished under our goal time of 70 minutes. At the time, I weighed 187 pounds, but I was working out religiously, and I’d lost 16 pounds since the beginning of the year. I was motivated! I was losing weight! I’d run a 10K, and done well!
But the morning after the 10K, my ankle hurt. A lot. Three days later, it still hurt, so I went to the doctor, and explained that maybe I had a strain or a sprain from the race.
He looked up at me over his glasses with this condescending look on his face, and said, “Now,” little disdainful laugh, “did you train for this 10k?”
Talk about deflation.
Of course I said I had, and explained my fitness regimen. At the time I was going to the gym for 10 hours a week. He kind of rolled his eyes and gave me the drawn out, “Okaaaaaay.”
It was devastating. To have a man, a doctor, for god’s sake, talk down to me like I was some fat woman who didn’t know how to step away from the Twinkies. No encouragement for trying to lose the weight. No comment about the fact that maybe I was overtraining and that was how I’d hurt my ankle. No, just condescension and disdain.
For months, those words pummeled my brain. I figuratively fell off the treadmill, and by the end of summer, I’d pretty much stopped going to the gym entirely. Last spring, I’d had people at work tell me I was inspiring them to join a gym, I’d had ladies at the gym telling them I was keeping them motivated because they were seeing my weight loss, and here this one fucking doctor pulled a thread that unraveled it all.
It wasn’t his fault. That would be too easy, to blame him. I think that’s part of the weight epidemic in America today — we all want to blame someone else for our failures. It was my fault for not telling him to stick it, and getting back to my goals.
Not all careless comments are negatively influencing. Back when I was in my early 20’s, I went to a doctor for a routine physical. I was very fit at the time, and I remember her throwing a careless comment my way while she was taking notes.
“Well, obviously you’re in great physical shape.”
Ten years later, that still sits with me, too.
And if I can stay focused and keep moving, one day a doctor is going to say those words again.