• coachsarah

5/17/19 - I speak for me.

The Morning Mantra is available on iTunes, Overcast, Stitcher, Youtube, Soundcloud, Spotify, Youtube and pretty much anywhere podcasts can be found. Transcripts forthcoming on the blog at www.coachedandloved.com

I'm going to let Lindy West take this one (quoting from Shrill: Notes From A Loud Woman): "I don’t want to have another fucking conversation with another fucking woman about what she’s eating or not eating or regrets eating or pretends to not regret eating to mask the regret. OOPS I JUST YAWNED TO DEATH."

Hi! This is Coach Sarah, and This is The Morning Mantra.

*cue intro music*

Hi, my name is MK Fleming. I'm a run coach based in Denver, Colorado. But this isn't a podcast about running, exactly. Don't tell my clients, but *whispers* we're never really talking about the running. When you know a crap-tastic event is coming it helps to have a mantra to keep you centered and focused as you move through it. You don't have to be an athlete to be hashtag #coachedandloved by coach MK. And if you are here, then you are hashtag #winningatlife.

*music ends*

Today’s mantra is: I speak for me. I speak for me.

Let’s just get this out of the way right now: Body Mass Index is a number, a number which feels somehow authoritative - dispassionate - objective - because it comes out of an official chart that gets splashed all over the goddamn place: the doctor’s office, the health magazines, the gym at my high school. I plug in my height and my weight, and out comes a number, and it falls somewhere in a zone, and that number has become a kind of shorthand for a lot of things it has no authority to discuss. My overall health. My personality type. My attractiveness. My worth as a person.

I did Weight Watchers for years, a place where your “goal weight” is defined according to the “healthy range” represented for your height by the Body Mass Index chart. Watching that BMI number inch its way out of the red zone and closer and closer to that lovely beautiful coveted green zone - that was the dream! Part of me just wanted to walk around town and greet people by saying, “hello, I don’t believe we’ve met, but my weight is now widely agreed to be in an acceptable zone for my height, and how are you today?” But, of course, that would mean alluding to time I’d spent in the red zone, effort I’d expended to get myself out. And THEN, I thought, then they would assume that red zone was my default. So no, best to just enjoy the green zone and pretend it wasn’t taking every single ounce of my spare mental and physical energy to stay there. In the green zone, as ever-present as my body weight was in my own mind, it didn’t feel like the first thing people noticed about me. In the red zone, though, I felt like it did all the talking for me.

I hate hearing stories of people being dismissed because of some facet of their physical presence - their size, their age, their clothing choices. I hate how women’s stories especially in TV and movies are so predetermined by their appearances. Let me tell you something you should do: you should go watch every single episode of the TV show Shrill on Hulu. Here’s why. First of all, because Aidy Bryant. I want her to be in everything. Second of all, because you will watch her on screen and you will realize how rarely you see a fat woman in a role like this. Of course, I also think you should read the book Shrill by Lindy West, the source material for the show, because it’s amazing, but there is something incredibly powerful about seeing Aidy Bryant onscreen. She dresses beautifully. She is smart and funny, but SHE is the one making jokes, not her body on her behalf. She has sex - good sex - and the sex she has is not a joke, either. She lives in a world where a lot of the people around her listen to her fatness first and her second, but she begins, over the course of six episodes, to realize that she does not have to accept that. It’s acceptable to hate the phrase “finding one’s voice” - but that is what happens to Aidy Bryant’s character Annie in the show. She takes stock of the way people respond to her body, as if it were speaking for her, and she decides it’s time to get a little louder.

When I watched Shrill, I cried at nearly every episode. I had never seen a fat woman kissing on television - not like this - and I had never seen a fat woman receive positive attention for her appearance that didn’t turn out to be a joke, or pity, or proof that the attention-giver was just a really good and charitable person (ugh, GROSS). What it would have meant to me, in my red-zone days, to see a woman like this on television is hard to estimate. I assumed for many, many years that people would only see me, hear me, and love me if I was thin. Once I did become thin, those assumptions only grew stronger, louder - the fear of gaining weight back was really a fear of losing the self I thought I had found in the green zone. And losing the love I thought I had gained because of it.

I don’t know what people think when they look at my body, but it probably isn’t “wow, I bet she’s a run coach.” Let alone if they knew my body mass index (a lot has happened since I was last in the green zone, yo! Like having a baby!). You know what, though? That’s my superpower. I’m not a good run coach because I’m easy to categorize as a fitness person at a glance. You have to get to know me first. There are forms that ask for my height and weight, but you’re not going to learn the meaningful things about me from those metrics - you’re just not. You’re not going to learn that I gave birth to a baby four weeks before her due date after carrying her through a Ph.D dissertation, a seven-hour graduation ceremony, and a two-month teaching stint in Italy midsummer (with no air conditioning). You’re not going to learn that since the birth of my daughter, I have run more than five thousand miles (and I’m just getting started). That’s because my height and weight do not speak for me - not anymore.

This brings us back to the mantra. You deserve to speak for you. You deserve to know - like I know - that you are capable of so. many. Things. And that we are only just getting started. The outer appearance of your body does not tell your story, and other people do NOT get to decide that they know it just from looking at you. And if they do, fuck them, because they should know better. I ignore my weight most of the time, but in this world I have to reckon with its being from time to time. This is a mantra for those moments when the numbers rush in and make you panic. When you have to fill out a form, when you’re in the exam room getting weighed and measured, when you’re in a context where the talk turns to food and diets and belly fat workouts, I want this to be your anchor. That number? It doesn’t speak for me. I speak for me.

*cue outro music*

You are Coached. You are Loooved, and you ARE winning at life. And you're definitely winning at life if you subscribe to my Nuzzel Newsletter, follow me on Facebook or follow me on Instagram. feel free to do all three!

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