There. I said it. Not “big boned”, not “swoll”, not “cultivating mass” or “(un)pleasantly plump”. Just fat. It’s a very painful reality check to acknowledge such a negative trait about yourself in such an open way. It means that the time has come to stop finding nice ways to downplay where I am physically. Time to stop pretending that I should just “accept” that this is who I am now and that it’s “ok”. It’s not ok. It’s bull shit and I’m not going to “accept” anything about who I am right now. It’s not that I believe that everyone should be the same size and shape. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Everyone is entitled to be whoever they want to be (within reason people), and I am not one to go around telling people not to be who or what they should or shouldn’t be.
My un-acceptance of myself is not directly related to my size. It’s related to my happiness. And if you’ve been reading my most recent posts, you’ll know that my happiness is stuck in a downward spiral where my dislike of my location breeds a depression within me which I try to console with food. Which in turn furthers my depression about my current appearance that kills any motivation to create the change necessary in my routine. That then revolves back around to the feeling of being trapped in a place that is killing me slowly. And so the cycle must be broken.
But how? It was so easy to slide down this slope. The blatantly obvious bad decision of stopping at the fast food drive through on the way home from the track rather than waiting an extra 5 minutes to have a healthier option at home is one that I’ve justified countless times. The “you had a rough day” or “I’m starving and won’t make it another min” or my personal favorite “this is just way easier and faster and I don’t have time to cook the right meal” excuses all seem utterly ridiculous when you say them out loud. And perhaps that’s why these are always discussions and decisions we choose to keep hidden. For fear of public judgment and ridicule seem to be far worse than facing own demons within. A thought that hits extra close to home for me.
I was picked on growing up, a lot more than I’d like to admit. In elementary school it was a tinge of basic social awkwardness coupled with protective parenting that made it harder than not for me to relate to other kids and make friends. Name calling, being picked last for teams and general exclusion from groups of friends led to a career of acting out in the classroom. A fact made painfully evident a few years back when emptying an old box of old school materials where I found every teacher through elementary school had to send home weekly and sometimes even daily “reports” on my behavior. They always say hindsight is 20/20 but how no one saw a red flag along this path is still beyond me. The teachers who got the best out of me were the ones who either pushed me the hardest or worked to discover something I was passionate about and let me run with it. I’ll never forget my second grade teacher (I think it was) discovered I had an infatuation with whales and spent a whole month of the year where the whole class learned in depth about whales and the ocean. She even allowed me to design and set up the “display” that every class had in the hall for that month to which I took tremendous pride and reveled in being the “best” at something and the person people turned to for once. A trait that would obviously serve me well in my athletic pursuits.
Middle school was more of the same judgment and ridicule stemming from the same social awkwardness. But this time it would be coupled with harassment over not being up to date with the same fashion trends as everyone else in school. If I had to classify my family I would say we were more blue collar than white collar. The importance of fashion trends like “expensive” khaki cargo pants and polo shirts were lost on us and so I went without. Seems simple enough in today’s world, but in middle school this was grounds for exclusion. That coupled with the growing public knowledge that I was now a guy who shaved his legs made for a new level of viciousness I had yet to experience. Teachers were no longer interested in going exceptionally out of their way for an individual student as they now only saw us for 45min at a time. Add to that my parents teaching me to always stick up for myself when I knew I was right, and you’ve got a “problem” child who everyone knows they can get to lash out with little to no effort. And so began the decoupling of my respect for authority as I learned that it’s never about who started anything, it’s just who gets caught first. I guess it makes even more sense now why when I knew the rules of racing I wasn’t scared to go toe to toe with any official if I thought they had made a wrong call. But the world isn’t fair and I lost a lot of those battles too.
Now I enter high school with a resounding resentment for not only the majority of my classmates, but also the larger defunct authority with which the school is run. My social exclusion from certain circles has been thoroughly established at this point so I am forced to take a back seat as the “bad boy” always gets the girl and as members of the sports teams make their own rules. I watched countless members of the football team get passes for missing class, skipping school and failing grades. Some even got away with driving drunk and worse. Yet, when the football team made the state championships, the whole school day was ended early so the whole school could go to a pep rally for the team. At this point I’m multiple national champion and Jr. World’s silver medalist, but I can’t get away with being 30 seconds late to class?!? Needless to say I haven’t been to a class reunion yet and not sure I ever will be. There was a little bit of saving grace to my high school years though. A small circle of great friends and a few awesome teachers who supported everything I was doing outside of the classroom. I’ll never forget my math teacher Mr. Haff. He followed me through every level of math I had in high school and would never hesitate to publicly be “on my team”. I’ll never forget how much I enjoyed his class or how easily I learned the material.
Oh yeah, so back to why I’m fat. Well after years of abuse and ridicule in school, I escaped to the world of cycling where I was not only the best on the bike, but largely respected off it as well. I finally had a source of positive energy to fuel the work necessary to continue ascending the cycling ladder. But, like I touched on in my last post, much like school, even competition would burn me out and I would need another escape. But without the positive reinforcement to drive the motivation to keep in shape, I began sliding down the spiral I described earlier. It’s amazing to me how much easier sliding downhill is than breaking the cycle and making a change. I mean it is just simple laws of physics I supposed. But if going downhill is so much fun, and uphill is so painful, why are the rewards for each the opposite? But I guess that’s just the definition of human nature and a concrete example of the simplified phrase “nothing good is ever easy”.
But if you apply that philosophy to the current state of the human race, we are doomed. Everything in our world is being created to make our lives easier and simpler. When a problem arises, rather than fix the root of the problem and make a big change, we simply make a pill or an app for that. We are constantly creating ways to make everything faster and more robustly entertaining without “facing the music” of our actions. Much the same as our actions are slowly killing the planet, my actions were slowly killing my health. So I decided to face my music and embrace the reality of the mirror and the scale. It’s not a pretty one and it takes a lot to share this publicly. But I believe it might be the only way I break my cycle and become accountable for my actions, my health and my happiness. Not for what other people will think of me. But for my own happiness with myself.
I always say, “it’s just a number”, but today it’s more than that. Today that number is who I used to be. Today that number becomes my past.
239 pounds and counting… down.