I’ve been overweight since college. I was husky as a kid and throughout highschool, but I really started to pack on the pounds once I graduated college was off the school meal plan. It was easier to heat up a pizza or order take out than to make a balanced meal. By the time I was 24 I was over 300 pounds. When I was 27 I was closing in on 400.
When I hit the 300 mark I really started to feel self shame. I was teased in middle school and high school. I was picked on regularly. I was called fat, fatty, chubby, big boy, etc. In my adulthood I was even called “Hoss” by random people. I pretended like it didn’t hurt. But it did. Anytime someone mentioned what I already knew it was another stab at my fragile self image.
For those of you who are overweight my story will be all too familiar. Being sweaty palmed when someone invites you to an outdoor wedding: those flimsy folding chairs. Speaking of sweating, I was sweaty always. Worrying that you’ll be seated at a booth that you can’t fit into. Going shopping and knowing that you can’t go to “normal” stores because they don’t carry a size big enough. Most of my public appearances were filled with trepidation. Fear. Self-loathing. Eventually I made excuses to not go outside.
Weight gain sneaks up on a person. You know you’re overweight, but you don’t always realize how much. As I look back at pictures I can see how out of control I had gotten. At the time I couldn’t see it as clearly. I didn’t see how much my life had changed because of my weight gain and staying obese for so long. Not sleeping well because my back, hips, and feet hurt from my body weight on the mattress. Putting my socks on and taking them off was an odyssey. Sure, there were some tramatic life events that went into my weight gain, but really what caused me to gain weight was gaining weight. It was a steady snowball effect that got me to my heaviest.
I lost a lot of friends from my weight gain. It wasn’t their fault. It was all me. I didn’t want people to see how over weight I was. I didn’t want people to see how much I had changed since they saw me last. Cars. Planes. Socks. Shoes. All of them caused me mental and physical anguish. I pushed away from friends because that meant people seeing me. There was too much of a chance of public embarrassment.
If you know someone who is overweight realize that they know. They know they are overweight. They know you’re judging them. They know it’s bad for them. They know their life would be better if they lost weight. I didn’t look at myself in the mirror and think, “Dang, I’m looking good today.” Instead I looked in the mirror and wondered what it would be like if I didn’t have a belly. I drew imaginary lines on my body. Smaller arms. A thinner face. A flat chest (I’m a dude so that’s a good thing).
If you’re in your weight loss journey or just getting started know that there is hope. For me I was motivated by my son’s birth. I wanted to be a healthy dad who could play with him and a dad he could be proud of in public. I was motivated to ride a bike again. I had so many good memories from my childhood of riding around and I wanted that back. Now I bike regularly. I’m still embarrassed by my lumpy body but I’m getting over that. Slowly. There’s hope. It’s hard. There will be lots of ups and downs. But there’s hope.
Once you take that first step towards weight loss and a healthy life be proud of the change you’re making. Getting healthy doesn’t happen over night. You can’t wake up, snap your fingers, and be transformed. You need to learn how to live a healthy lifestyle. It truly is one day at a time, one step at a time.
All of us in the weight loss community are rooting for you. You’re not alone.