My family traveled to New Orleans this past weekend. If you have never been, the summers are HOT and uncomfortably humid. Let’s put it in an exercise kind of way: in Baltimore I go for long distance runs with a cell phone in hand. I hold it for the use of Pandora or in case of emergency. When I left the house at 7:30 a.m. on Friday morning to head out for a run, it was so hot, steamy, and muggy outside that I knew my phone would be ruined if I ran with it.
My husband spontaneously decided to join me for a morning run through the streets of Uptown and then around Audubon Park. The park was beautiful, as it had a wide track, which was mostly shaded, and circled a golf course. Though New Orleans is known for its unique, southern cuisine, and has been voted one of America’s Fattest Cities in years past, the park was filled with activity. Between runners, walkers, jogging strollers, bikes, and golfers, the park was bustling.
My husband had his headphones on, music blaring, and was primarily focused on breathing in any air he was able to inhale. I, on the other hand, was running in silence, observing everything around me, and just trying to dodge construction cones and sidewalk cracks along the way. And just then, I spotted a woman walking toward us.
She was briskly walking in the morning heat, without headphones or music, and it appeared she was on mission by her fast pace. As we approached her, she was barely able to crack a smile and say hello, which is the proper etiquette of active people in passing. It was blatantly obvious that the only mission she was on was to burn more calories and hopefully lose another pound to her emaciated figure.
I immediately felt her pain. Not because of the way she looked, or her lack of amiability, but for how she must have been feeling in that moment. I was able to vividly recall those similar times I experienced with exercise. Similar to that woman, I worked out at a high intensity, focused on tackling each workout, while unable to appreciate or absorb my surroundings. At the time I battled anorexia, it was as if I had tunnel vision, and the only thing I was able to see was the finish line. And that was exactly what I saw this woman experiencing in the absurd heat and discomfort of New Orleans weather.
After we passed her, my husband, not realizing how loud his music was, yelled, “Did you see that woman?” I did not respond to him. Not because I didn’t hear him, and not because I was ignoring him or being rude, but because I was simply speechless. Of course I saw her. I don’t miss things like that. It’s called Ano-radar, and I have it. Since he thought he may not have heard my response over his music, he proceeded to take out one ear phone, and asked again, “Did you see how skinny that woman was?”
Skinny? You are going to use the word skinny? Emaciated, famished, anorexic, skeletal, undernourished, and you chose to use skinny to describe her? And then I thought to myself, this is the major difference between the majority of men and women. I saw her insides churning, mind racing, anxiety burning through, AND her physical battle with weight and anorexia. My husband only saw that she was a skinny woman.
I will forever be tuned in to other women who are experiencing issues I struggled with regarding weight and exercise. I will empathize with those who are dealing with it in the present time, and will identify with someone who has suffered from and recovered from it. I felt for her. I wanted to give her a hug and let her know she will be ok. She just needs to acknowledge it, want help, and seek it. I hope one day she will be able to go for a walk through Audubon park, enjoy the birds chirping, the ducks meandering along the water, and the friendly, active people out and about admiring the sunrise and taking pleasure in early morning exercise.