45. Judge Me by My Size, Do You?

45. Judge Me by My Size, Do You?

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Curvy & Confident

Judge Me by My Size, Do You?

Judge me if you want, but at the end of my life I choose to have memories not regrets.

~Steve Maraboli

The two fitness company reps sitting by the promotional display didn’t look up from their phones when I said hello. I was at a health and fitness expo held in conjunction with a 5K race I was running. The convention center ballroom was filled with booths and tables advertising everything from sports drinks to other running events. However, I didn’t seem to be the customer they wanted.

I moved on to another booth, where they were promoting a holiday 5K race. I picked up a flier and tried to engage the rep in conversation.

“I’m interested in —” He cut me off without even looking at me and shouted over my head at the crowd behind me, inviting them to visit the booth. I put the brochure down and walked away.

I went to the next booth, where a company offered to take free photos of race participants with silly props. I approached the photographer with a smile, but was greeted with indifference.

“What do you want?” He was amazed that I wanted to get my picture taken.

I was frustrated. Walking in 5Ks was an integral part of my life. I completed more than ten organized 5K events every year, medalled in two race-walking 5Ks, and walked miles on my own every week. Even when I became disabled after being diagnosed with several medical conditions, I continued walking and dancing as much as I could. I wasn’t as fast and the races left me exhausted for days, but I crossed the finish line of every 5K I entered.

But as far as these exhibitors were concerned, I was invisible. When they did see me, many assumed it was my first race or I received patronizing comments like: “Good for you, trying to do a 5K!”

Last fall, I was getting dressed to attend yet another expo and choosing a shirt to wear. I had a huge collection of 5K T-shirts from previous races. I was about to pick up a favorite red one, when I noticed another in my closet — a shirt I’d purchased at Disneyland. It was a Star Wars shirt with a single sentence printed on it: “Judge me by my size, do you?” In The Empire Strikes Back, Yoda posed this question to Luke Skywalker, who had treated him with derision because of his short stature.

But as far as these exhibitors were concerned, I was invisible.

I felt like I was facing a similar situation when I was judged by my weight. Some people wrote me off the moment they saw me, assuming I couldn’t be athletic because I was heavyset, and that I was not worth the same respect and consideration they gave to other people.

I didn’t feel comfortable confronting my critics directly, but maybe I could let my shirt speak for me. I put it on, tied my hair back to make sure my message was visible, and went off to the expo.

The difference was drastic and immediate: instead of ignoring me, the shirt became a conversation starter for many vendors.

“That’s a very powerful statement,” observed one rep, as I strolled into her booth. Another spent ten minutes discussing his event with me. The reps at the sports nutrition booths gave me the same consideration as the thinner race participants standing there. None of them assumed it was my first 5K.

I left the expo with my head held high and a bag full of swag.

Perhaps the other reps and vendors hadn’t realized they were showing size bias. Perhaps they knew they were, but didn’t care. Either way, Yoda had helped gently remind them that I, and other curvy and heavyset runners and walkers, were worthy of the same respect as everyone else.

I now wear my Yoda shirt to race expos, fitness conventions, dance events, and any other place I may be judged by my size.

It never fails to attract attention, and it always makes people consider their words and behavior toward people of different physiques.

Hopefully, that mindfulness stays with them long after the race is over.

~Denise Reich

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