I Hated This Shopping Trip

Have you ever been shopping in one of those huge malls? You know the kind with acres and acres of retail heaven, but with stairs that are located impossibly far apart, and elevators buried in the back of the anchor stores. One day, while visiting a friend in Atlanta, she and I decided to head to the mall for some retail therapy, and a snack or two. At this time, I weighed well over 250 pounds, and frequently experienced joint pain when I walked. On this particular day, I was determined to keep up with my average sized friend, and not sit down to rest like I did when I shopped with John.

We wandered in and out of stores, examining clothes that would fit her, but not me. I thought I was going to die. My legs hurt, I was tired, my feet hurt, I was done. Finally, she said the magic words. “Hey, there’s a great little coffee shop here. Do you want to get some coffee?” If I could have, I would have jumped up and down with excitement, but as it were, I just calmly said, “That sounds good.”

 She and I began walking, and walking, and walking. Along the way, we passed comfortable looking chairs and benches, all calling my name. “Sit down Diane. Sit down.” But I didn’t, I just kept walking. She finally pointed up and said, “There it is.” I looked up, but as I did, I saw the stairs out of the corner of my eye. Looming ahead of me was the longest flight of stairs I had seen in a long time. They seemed to extend forever. “You’ve got to be kidding,” I thought, “There is no way I can do those stairs after walking around for over an hour.” But I just smiled and followed her.

She walked up the stairs like a normal person, barely touching the rail, and I started up after her. Step by step, I moved up, sliding my hand up the rail before my body, trying to get more leverage. She turned around and said, “You okay?” I nodded, not able to speak. I finally got up the stairs, and to my embarrassment and partial relief she said, “Why don’t we sit here, and I’ll check in at home.” I knew she could see I was out of breath, and probably looked in pain. We sat on the bench for a few minutes while she made her unnecessary phone call.

While sitting on the bench I tried to surreptitiously catch my breath, but finally found myself inhaling and exhaling loudly to be able to breathe easier. There, I had done it. I could talk again. I was embarrassed, and frustrated. I joking told my friend, “Next time, I’ll find the elevator and I’ll meet you up here!” We both laughed at my funny joke, but inside I was mortified. How in the world could this have happened to me? We eventually got off the bench, and walked over to the coffee shop where I only ordered coffee. If I hadn’t just embarrassed myself by not being able to walk up the stairs easily, I would have ordered a sticky bun to go with the coffee.

We enjoyed our time at the mall, and although she may not remember that particular event, it is branded on my mind. I was 29, morbidly obese and unhappy. It would be two more years before I finally was able to lose the weight and get fit.

I wanted to encourage you to never give up on yourself. No matter where you are today fitness-wise, you can be in a healthier place six months from now.

Did you ever try to avoid the stairs in front of you? What’s changed for you over the past months?  Diane

29 thoughts on “I Hated This Shopping Trip

  1. vickie says:

    I not only tried to avoid stairs, I tried to avoid walking in general. I truly felt like I only had so many ‘steps’ in me and tried to conserve as much as possible. I always had a nest at home, a place with everything within arms reach so I didn’t have to get up. And when I needed something (not in reach) I sent a kid to get it.

  2. Pam says:

    I have been the quintessential avoider — any movement I could avoid, I did. Now? I have a hard time sitting still, and I LOVE it, and know its only the beginning!

    Great post as usual – its amazing how you capture what so many of us have been through. Goes to show everyone — you’re not alone in your obesity or your improvements!

  3. Desert Agave says:

    I remember dreading walking across campus to get to the building where I taught my classes just nine months ago. Now I can run five miles, and walking across campus is nothing. Things really can change.

  4. Alissa says:

    I have always dreaded the stairs at school because I get out of breath. It’s getting better than it used to be but I can totally relate with this post.

  5. Diane says:

    We actually seek out the stairs when we go to the mall. Not because of the desire to get more exercise, but because escalators completely freak my son out ( he is Autistic)- he totally freaks out and when he was little we had to physically remove him from them. He is now way too big to pick up, and the elevators are filled with stroller and wheel chair patrons, so the stairs are the option. The extra exercise is a plus

  6. Karen@WaistingTime says:

    Well this is timely! This past weekend on our travels we spent an afternoon at the Mall of America. If you have never been there, it is HUGE. My teen really wanted to shop; he had been there the previous summer with a friend. My feet were killing me by the end of the day but I have to admit I don’t remember seeing the stairs – just the escalators and elevators. Hmmm.

  7. Jody - Fit at 52 says:

    Diane, thank you for sharing! I could feel how you felt just by reading this.. well, not exactly but you wrote it so well….. the feelings came out!

    I was never that heavy so I never had those types of probs… but nowadays, I look to walk the stairs for a bit extra & a butt/leg workout! 🙂

  8. Emergefit says:

    Agree with Jody — I appreciate that you are so willing to throw it out there and share!!

    Even when I was heavy I did not avoid the stairs. Sadly, I always rationalized that it was a form of exercise — my only form of exercise during my heavy years.

    Now, each October I race the stairs of the tallest building on the west coast, The ARCO Tower in LA. 79 flights of stairs in about 15 minutes — now that is exercise.

    Jody: You wanna do this with me this year…?

  9. Tish says:

    Oh, I’ve been there, too. DH loves stairs and seeks them out. I can remember so many vacations where I waited on a bench at the bottom of some stairs while he dashed up to explore what was at the higher level. When we lived in Rome I avoided the Spanish Steps like the plague. I want another chance to see some of those things and climb some of those stairs now. I seek out the stairs now.

  10. Judy says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Diane!

    My oldest daughter just returned from college – with an extra 80 pounds!! Two weeks ago, I encouraged her to start walking with me. We only went about a mile, but she was breathless and about to pass out at the end. This week, we have been walking three miles and she said it has been easier. We have signed up for a half marathon in January. She is hoping to run most of the way.

    She knows it will be hard to lose the weight, but she has your attitude! I have shared your experiences with her, so she is encouraged in what she can do!

    Thanks again for your insight and for sharing your experiences with us!

  11. Cammy@TippyToeDiet says:

    Such a heart-wrenching post. It prods me to spend some time this morning being grateful for being able to do “routine” things without effort. When I was 100 pounds heavier, I could shop without dropping and do other moderate activities, but I did avoid the stairs. Now I avoid the elevators. 🙂

  12. Fran says:

    I never avoided and still don’t avoid stairs. Although I do remember one time in Sicily where we had to use stairs with over 100 steps to get to a church we wanted to see. My hub walked upstairs easily even started running the last ones but I had to take a break a few times to catch my breath. Not because I was so heavy although I did have overweight but I was in very bad shape back then. I felt embarrassed that I couldn’t make it like a fit person would have done.

  13. asithi says:

    Whenever I go shopping with an obese friend of mine, I wear heals. And normally I am more of a tennis shoes kind of person. Heals slows me down. Instead being able to walk for hours, my limit becomes 20 minutes or so. Sometimes I wonder if she knows that I am purposely “leveling the playing field” (so to speak) when we do active things like shopping.
    Your friends are your friends for a reason. You have common interests that extend beyond any extra weight a person might gain. Sure I want to help them, but I can’t change them if they do not want to change. I do not want to call attention to anything they might not able to do because of their excess weight; they are probably more aware of them than I am.

    So when I am with a friend who likes to avoid the stairs, I quietly head to the elevator and push the call button. I can always take the stairs when I am by myself.

  14. Dr. J says:

    Diane, how did you know how I felt when my mom forced me to go shopping with her?

    You are such a wonderful inspiration! I wish more people would save themselves like you did.

  15. Hope says:

    I used to avoid stairs too, just because when I took them, there was always someone behind me, who I was SURE was snickering at the size of my behind.

    I never really had any joint pain (Probably because I was young) but I was just so self-conscious that I didn’t climb stairs for that reason.

    What a sad story. 🙁 I’m so glad that you and I can climb those stairs now.

  16. 'Drea says:

    For me, I’m glad that your friend noticed (eventually)that you needed a break and I’m also glad that you got fit. 🙂

    I still love that I’m getting stronger and, in a few days, I’ll probably be able to hold a plank longer than I’ve been able to hold one before. I love it when I feel myself getting stronger.

  17. tina says:

    I know exactly how you felt. I can’t ever let myself feel that way again! I just saw my husband bound up the train stairs this morning and I was so proud!

  18. Marcelle says:

    I avoided steps at all cost….now I look forward to walking as I can cope and know its good for me and burning more calories.
    I love those big malls as there are non in our area…so when I do come across them I’m a happy shopper…but can imagine at that weight it cant be much fun…I never really give that a thought to be honest….you have once again made me see what life as an obese person is like..thank you for that.

  19. Biz says:

    This post really hit home with me. I realized that the fatter I got, the more I suggested non-athletic things to do with friends. I would rather sit in a movie theater than go bike riding in the trails. Rather have a 5 course chef tasting then enter a 5k.

    I like your idea of never giving up – and I don’t plan to!

  20. Shira says:

    Diane, I live in Atlanta and am pretty sure I know what mall you are talking about. 🙂 When I was heavy, I didn’t go out of my way to avoid stairs…would just engage in a lot of negative self-talk in lagging behind my friends. So it was funny how stairs became my friend in losing weight and now one of my favorite exercises is running up the double staircase at my gym.

  21. Christine says:

    My mortifying stairs experience: When I was living in Paris, I decided to go to the really ritzy mall near the Tuilleries. The mall where “Christian de La Croix” has his main store. Where “Cartier” has their HQ. You know, THAT kind of mall. I was walking around at about 200 pounds and in my student attire: some kind of long black skirt that had a LOT of stretch in it and probably cost me $5, because let’s face it, you just don’t spend a lot of money on fashion when you’re overweight, right? Anyway, I was going up the escalator in this ritzy mall when my stretchy skirt caught on the stairs! At the area where you are supposed to disembark, my skirt started to get swallowed into the apparatus! The elastic band STREEETCHED and then — WHAP! The skirt started to literally rip right off myself.

    I remember this very rich woman wearing all white (and probably a size 0 or size 2) coming up right behind me. She laughed first when she saw my struggle with my skirt. Then she leaned a bejeweled arm down (seriously! The diamonds! The pearls!) and grabbed my skirt and yanked. Viola, I was free! The skirt was shredded though, but at least I wasn’t left standing there in my underwear.

    I said a breathless “merci beaucoup madame” with a really rotten American accent, and she said something back to me in French that I mostly didn’t understand, but had something to do with “you don’t belong in here.”

    Tant pis.

  22. MamaBearJune says:

    I hate malls, but for very different reasons. I just get overwhelmed with the choices. Comes from living overseas for so long with basically just one place to shop. 🙂

    When we visited Colorado Springs in 2002, my kids and I went to see Seven Falls. There are 224 steps up to the top. My daughter, who hates heights, said, NO WAY! My son, who has a lung disease, wanted to climb the stairs. I was at my heaviest at the time. I took my camera and the video camera with me. I was DYING and my son was bounding up the steps! (I know the altitude contributed SOME to my breathlessness and burning chest!) 🙂 Even now at my fittest, I think I would still have some problems since I have POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome) but I’m sure I’d do better than I did the last time.

  23. fittingbackin says:

    Your stories are always amazing. Just really reminds me of how far you’ve come!

    In the last two months I’ve been able to run further than I ever have in my entire life. I used to avoid running… now I look forward to pushing myself further!

  24. Tami says:

    You wrote that really well. I felt like I was right there with you, feeling your pain and embarrassment.

    I was never as over weight as you were. But I did have my challenges on a bike ride one time. It was too hard going up hill with an extra 30 pounds of weight and being out of shape. I wanted to disappear right then.

    Now I walk at least 6 times a week and I am staying fit and healthy so I can do all the things I want to do.

  25. Alan (Pounds Off Playoff) says:

    A few weeks ago, we took our kids to a water park with a 62 step staircase to the platform that the slides launched from. After a year of biking and 25 pounds lost, I was able to scale it time after time…and keep up with my 7 year old!

  26. Leah says:

    It was having pain in my knees after climbing the stairs in my house that lead me to start working on losing weight. So many times I wanted to act like it wasn’t a bother to do activity all day or a long shopping trip, but it was hard.

    Thanks for the encouragement not to give up!!!

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