Sunday, May 7, 2017

Excessive Drag

Years ago, I used to participate in Dragon Boat racing. Friends encouraged me to join, we practiced, we went to races, and it was great fun.

Often these races take place in other cities. I think we had traveled to Ottawa for such a race, staying in the dorms at the university. I was out walking the grounds for some reason when I crossed another team. They spotted my team tee-shirt and one of them came over and said "Oh hey... you're rowing with the ABC team?"

"Yeah," I replied proudly. "Are you racing tomorrow?"

"We are," she said. "I'm really glad you're on their team because having a fat guy like you gives us a real edge." They walked away, laughing at how clever they were.

Honestly, there are jerks everywhere. It stung, but I quickly brushed it off and continued on. She was just trying to psyche me out and it didn't matter because my team accepted me the way I was.

The next day was sunny and clear. Our team gathered, stretched, did some warm-ups and cheered each other on. We raced a few times and did pretty well. The team worked well together, rowing in unison (which is the secret to a fast Dragon Boat BTW). It was exciting, exhilarating, and lots of fun.

** Revised **
Near the end of the day, the coach came over and benched me for a number of reasons including that it was my first competition, that I was still green, and there was a paddler limit.

On its surface, the reasons were legit, but with what happened the day before, all I heard was "The fat guy is slowing us down." Sure, there were other larger people on the team, but when you're embarrassed about your weight, you find excuses for others ("Yeah, but he's strong", "Yeah, but she's skilled", "Yeah, but I'm larger and weaker than the others").

When we got home, I quit the team. I had also been injured that season, but coupled with my own humiliation, I couldn't motivate myself to go back. I could have spoken to the coach about the incident, but I couldn't face it.

I get it. I'm at this point in my health because every day, I make choices. Sometimes I choose to walk more, sometimes I get lazy. The weight I am at is combination of choice, genes, and physiology. I can choose to get more exercise and try to disregard the despair and the pain that comes with it to try to achieve some amorphous weight loss number that seems impossible (even though so many of my friends have managed to do the same). I can choose to go out there and make a change, or I can choose comfort and stay in. It's my choice. It's always my choice.

But you also need to understand that it's difficult to face not only myself, but the others who see my weight as either a burden or a visual signpost of an undesired life. Even well-meaning people pat my tummy and laugh, as if to say "I recognize you're fat, but I still like you." I recognize the good intention in that moment, but the delivery needs work.

Another summer is arriving and with it comes more choices. Every day, I need to make the choice to take the bus, walk more, and maybe even take swimming again. I love the water, I love to swim, but taking off my shirt in public is one of the most difficult acts in this life.

I know that need to make these choices and I do appreciate all the support I do get for making these choices. When people say "You just need to [insert instruction here].", that's all well and good, but you need to understand how difficult it is to take and maintain these actions when you are surrounded by others who treat you like they are glad not to be you.

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