Did you just call me fat Changing routine

Did You Just Call Me Fat?

The Navy’s Senate Office exists to support a line of communication between, you guessed it, the Navy and the Senate. It’s a channel available to field any question or issue of the day in both directions and is a highly effective means of demonstrating responsiveness, whatever the concern.

All services have such offices embedded on Capitol Hill and staff those offices with the best representatives of their service. Staffs are usually career-oriented and reflect favorably on the service. These liaison offices also coordinate travel for congressional delegations around the world.

Those staffing the offices are comfortable around the most senior people, know how to live with ambiguity, and don’t wait for bad situations to worsen. In short, they know how to handle themselves extremely well and know how to get hard things done. They are up to the task.

It was a rare moment for me to feel a need to course-correct any member of office because they were as good as they were. Among a supremely talented team I worked with in the US Navy Senate Office was a dynamic young woman, former college track athlete, and accomplished helicopter pilot. By anyone’s measure, she was thin, fit, and extraordinarily competent. 

One day when I was proffering what I thought was wise Captain-like counsel to this Lieutenant regarding an aspect of performance, she stunned me with her reply. “Sir, did you just call me fat?” The look on my face likely said it all. “What are you talking about?” I replied—completely confused. Then she burst out with a smile, as did I.

The Lieutenant brilliantly used humor to break what was a brief, tense moment of discomfort for her. We continued the dialog, and she got my point, and I have never forgotten the moment, now almost 20 years later.

Changing my routine

In polite society, we don’t identify someone as fat. 

In the United States, over 70% of adults are considered overweight, and over 40% fit the body mass index categorizing them as obese. It’s a chronic social issue that impacts our lives in numerous ways, such as productivity, health care, and insurability.

“Gene Moran of Fairfax, Virginia, you are a triathlete,” sounded the race caller of the first Olympic distance triathlon I ran in Maryland in 2001. I recall it vividly because I was one of the thousands of runners crossing the finish line “mid-pack,” as they call it. At the time, I ran a lot, was much lighter than my current weight, and stress was not a factor in my life.

Throughout command of ships, tours in the pentagon, and even global travels on congressional delegations running was always a release.

My transition to a corporate role brought on too many opportunities to let running slip away. Travel, good food, regular receptions, and events all set the stage to run less and less. I played golf, occasionally walking but mostly riding in the cart. Some will still call that exercise, but I won’t pretend. When playing well, riding a golf course in a cart can be a fun experience, but it’s not a workout. 

Changing one’s routine is a mental game, a decision that requires an act of commission to force change. Until now, I’ve adjusted suits, bought new suits, and complained that my shirts were shrinking.

Tammy, my local seamstress, mused that she had, “adjusted these trousers before.” I replied, “I know, Tammy, enjoy the work.” After too many years of too little exercise, the middling I’ve allowed to sneak in has reached a critical stage.

I told my wife, Julie, “I think I need to join the gym for a while to force a change. I need to get out of the office to force the workout.” Of course, she agreed. Julie has known all along that my weight is for me to address, not her.

In my area, Crunch Fitness is close and available. People from all demographics go there to work out. High school boys preen for themselves in the mirrors and for the women who come within 20 feet.

Women of all ages move efficiently from machine to machine, headphones in, with no eye contact. Men of all ages and sizes push themselves to regain a former glory. The common theme? They are all actively making an effort to change or control their state of physical fitness.

This weekend, from my perch on a treadmill where I was not quite walking but not fully running, I observed an elderly couple. It appeared to be a husband-and-wife team in their late 60s or early 70s. The man appeared to have Parkinson’s and required his wife’s help to make the simplest of movements.

I watched as she guided him limb by limb to a seated position on a machine—this took two full minutes. Think about the level of focus and concentration required to take that time to do what takes you or me about one second.

Carefully the wife placed the husband’s hands on the bar and began moving the upper body machine with him. While she stood in front of the machine, she could guide his arms forward and back, one at a time. Together, they spent time lovingly doing far more than almost anyone I know to simply force a level of movement.

Their commitment to slow, if not arrest, the ravages of a persistent aging process was emotional to watch. It was also incredibly inspiring.

I’m writing this story, in part, for my own accountability to turn a page and make a more determined effort to be fit. My mother used to say, “getting old isn’t for the weak.” I’ve heard others make similar comments. We would all love to think our good health will ride us right up to the end. But the odds are, it will take action and commitment to give that possibility its best chance.

The work corollary

You knew I’d bring this to your federal strategy, but you weren’t sure how I was getting us there, were you?

How committed are you to changing up how you run your work situation? 

Is work unfolding as it did last year? Are you responding and adapting to new conditions?

Has your team undergone any changes? Did you fill those gaps with the same kind of talent, or did you use the opportunity to shift gears?

Is your team experiencing the equivalent of middle-aged middling? A little soft and doughy? When was the last time your team was stressed, experienced a big win, or outmaneuvered a competitor fairly and squarely?

The fitness of your team, methodologies, and strategies all require the same conscious acts of commitment as does your own personal fitness.

Have you stepped back lately to examine your practices from an outsider’s view? 

One of the more fun things I do with clients is challenge their thinking. Sometimes this takes place in a conversation. Other times it takes place through a more structured process called Sentient Strategy®. Those that are open to critical feedback and self-examination always seem to outperform their competitors. 

Once in a while, you have to take that hard look in the mirror. I won’t call you fat, but I’ll help you see things you might not be able to see.

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