Dear Woman in the Yellow Sweatshirt:
It was late one Thursday night. I had just finished a body pump class. I went to fill my water bottle in preparation for getting a few laps in on the track. I was so focused on the workout I just completed I really didn’t notice anything.
Until I noticed you.
You walked up the stairs. It was incredibly hot and humid out, but you wore long, black, baggy sweats and a long, yellow sweatshirt that you kept pulling down. As you hit the top of the stairs you looked around hoping the “I’m too sexy for this track” crowd had gone home for the night.
Although I didn’t know you nor had I ever seen you before, I knew that look in your eyes. You were a newbie, most likely on your first miserable day or two on your new diet and exercise plan you desperately wanted to work this time.
I noticed you, because not so long ago I was you.
A year ago and 125 pounds heavier I walked up winded on that same flight of stairs, wearing anything I could think of to hide all the weight I so desperately needed to lose. Like you, I hated working out in front of people, and in fact, I even cursed old people under my breath that passed me on that very same track.
It was just you and I on that track that night. There were so many things I wanted to say to you. I wanted to go behind you and give you an encouraging “You’re doing great” or “You got this girl” as I watched you try to will the clock to move faster.
I know as you walked you felt every pain, noticed every rub of your thighs together, mad that I was running when you were just winded by walking. I know you felt like your body failed you with each lap.
No one understands how trapped you feel. You’ve dealt with your weight for so long and everyone thinks if you just had more self control you could fix it. No one quite understands how hard it is for you to diet. They don’t see that while all these healthy people can magically avoid the treats in the break room no problem, there is some magnetic pull at you that makes you not only take one donut, but hide another under a strategically placed paper towel.
You hate hearing about people’s diet successes. Why does it seem like everyone else blinks and drops 20 pounds and you do everything right and gain .4? If one more person tells you to “hang in there, it will happen for you” you are going to lose it.
No one understands how hungry you are. All the time. How can you be expected to do this when you are always hungry? You check the clock in the evening when your body tells you it’s snack time only to find out that its only been 14 minutes since you ate dinner.
You hate shopping. It never fails, a last minute business get-together is scheduled, and the rest of your co-workers can run to any multitude of stores to find the latest trendy look and you show up in a way too small, long sleeve sweater in June because the one store you can shop at decided to start putting out winter clothes.
You think people are looking at you, judging you in that gym. Everyone there is so much stronger and more powerful than you, right?
What you don’t see is that YOU are the strong one. The veterans like me that go in every day because it’s a habit have it easy. It’s not hard for us to go, because we love it. We don’t have to have a nearly 10 minute internal battle with ourselves anymore to get moving. So know that the fact that you are there, when it’s so hard for you to be there, makes you the strongest one in that building.
I want you to know each step you take on the track, whether winded or not is one step closer to finding your health. To conquering a battle that many try but few can actually conquer long term. So don’t think about all the weight you have to lose, take it one step at a time.
Does it get easier? No. I know you want to hear that it does, but I respect you too much to lie. It never really ever gets easy. Here at 125 pounds lost, I still have those days where my inner voices are screaming at me to eat some cookie dough. I still have those days I stand in the mirror and all I see is the fat on my thighs. So no, it doesn’t get easier…
But you get better.
You will become more powerful and able to deal with all the challenges that this new lifestyle will face. This diet will stop being a diet and start becoming your life.
I left earlier than I wanted to, to let you savor a fantastic, no one is around moment at the gym. I hope I get to check in on you from time to time and watch you crush your goals, meet your dreams, and shed that yellow sweatshirt once and for all. I know I will.
Best of luck.