10 Feb What is it like to be fat?
I’m not sure I am ready to write this, so that probably means it is time. I’m leaping before I look. And, while I’m fairly certain there is an abyss below, staying where I am is no longer an option. So, hang on for the ride, it’s a long one.
When I was a young child, I was thin and athletic. I played all the sportsballs. I ran around outside and explored the wooded areas around my house. I rode my Mongoose Californian BMX bike everywhere. When I moved into my high school years, though, I became more sedentary. I began to gain weight quickly. Adolescence is awkward for everyone. But, a more than pudgy know-it-all teenage nerd with a bad complexion is about as awkward as it gets. For the most part, but not entirely, I was able to avoid bullying, but there were always the random comments about being fat. And, they always cut to the core, piling on to an already insecure little kid.
I had hoped that when I went to college the narrative would change – a fresh start, a new me. I had never heard of the Freshman 15 until I got to college, even then I just thought it was the latest and greatest alternative band on MTV’s 120 Minutes. I continued to gain weight, and my awkwardness did not subside. I was deathly terrified of girls and stayed sequestered in the safe little bubble of nerdery of my college debate team.
When I went to law school, I again prayed for things to change. And, well, they did. I had fallen in love with a girl who was in love with someone else. So, an arduous depression gripped my soul. As I sat at home and pined away, I just had no real interest in eating. I started to run and began to feel a little bit better. I lost a lot of weight. But, then, I started drinking more than usual and, perhaps, may have engaged in other unhealthy activities. I did not inhale, though. The weight came creeping back.
After law school, I moved to Houston to start my career. I met a group of wonderful friends. We worked hard and partied even harder. Like, really hard. Honestly, I cannot fathom how we all came out of that period alive, but we did. Still, I was grossly obese. I remember stepping on a friend’s scale and it said “249”. I thought, uh, dude, your scale is broken. (Narrator: It wasn’t broken.) When the woman at Star Pizza knows you on a personal basis, you might have a problem.
I am going to fast-forward to a time where, in my first marriage, my then-wife said matter-of-factly: “I think you have an eating problem.” We had a new baby who was not sleeping through the night. I would wake up, rock her to sleep, then head into the kitchen at 2 am and inhale an extra 500 calories. I was already consuming my fair share of food during the day. So, I went to an Overeater’s Anonymous meeting. I took to the 12 Steps. I worked the program as best I could and saw results. I did a lot of personal work. I lost 65 pounds. I finished a full marathon and a half-Ironman triathlon. I was in the best shape of my life, physically and emotionally. I stuck with it for over three years.
There were a number of things that got me away from the program (a nasty divorce, a knee surgery and extreme anxiety). The weight came back over the years. Now, I am back to square 1, a few pounds over where I was when I entered the OA program. I have a new career, a wonderful partner, and life is great except for, you guessed it, how I feel about my body. There’s somewhat of a myth surrounding men and their emotions. The “dad bod” is the latest fad. But, men, much like women, are conscious of their physiques. This morning, as I drove to meet some clients, I saw a sign for a male weight loss program. The billboard played on the old joke of “Dickydoo Disease.” What’s that, you say? When your belly sticks out further than your dickydoo. I suffer from a chronic strain of the disease. I have almost all of my life.
I realize I am an N of 1. But, here’s what is like for me to be fat. There is the endless cycle of shame which I think burdens almost everyone who suffers from an eating disorder. I eat, feel shame, then emotionally eat to ease the shame, then feel more shame. Wash, rinse, repeat. I rarely look at myself in the mirror. I feel uncomfortable naked. Hell, I feel uncomfortable in my clothes. They are tight and constricting. The other day, I was walking down the halls of the courthouse to a hearing. My sport coat was at least one size too small. All I heard in my head was Chris Farley, saying “Fat Guy in a Little Coat.” I don’t think I can handle going up another waist size. I hate to be in pictures. I fear others judge me as much as I judge myself. I am out of shape. I’m unhealthy. I’m tired. Really tired. I’m burdened… all the time, physically and emotionally.
Mostly, though, I feel helpless. I wake up every day and say, “Today is the day I will eat well.” Some days I do, but some days I don’t. But, hell, there’s always tomorrow, right? This, my friends, is the refrain of an addict. There is always some reason to start tomorrow. Or Monday. Or the first of the year. Or the first of the month. Or the 15th of the month. Rarely, however, it is time to make a change right now. This is an endless cycle, a never-ending treadmill (the type which doesn’t burn calories).
“Hi, my name is Blaine and I am a compulsive overeater.” I’m speaking this into the Universe because it is time. My brother’s heart attack was a giant thump on the head for me. I am not immune. I am not sure what things will look like in the near future for me. My desire is that this post works some magic and propels me on the journey to a better me. I hope you will follow along with me. I know I could use the help.