Friday, September 2, 2011

Fat Mountain

I’m fat. Let’s get that right out of the way. Morbidly obese, even.

I’ve been a “big guy” my whole life. I did weight watchers my senior year of college and lost 50 pounds; got down to the weight I was as a 13 year old freshman in high school. I’ve dieted several times since then; up and down. Like most guys, I got a little bigger after I got married. When clinical depression set in, I started taking antidepressants, which usually come with a side effect of weight gain. I’ve tried a few different ones, but they all came with more – not less – weight. I got off the medicine for several months a while back and dropped nineteen pounds almost immediately. But, eventually I got back on the medicine and gained the weight back, plus some.

My weight has reached a new record over the past year or so, and I get a lot of comments from people about it. As if I don’t realize it’s happened. “Oh, thank you for pointing that out!!! I’ve been wondering why I’ve had to buy new pant sizes and I’m having a harder time tying my shoes!! Thank God you figured that out!”

I take full ownership of this issue. The medicine I take may have a side effect of weight gain, but I know and acknowledge that I’m the only one that controls what I eat and how much I move.

This weight issue generally comes with feelings of failure and inadequacy. It’s not a complicated thing; eat less, lose weight. When you struggle with something so seemingly easy, it makes you feel pretty worthless. And then when people point out to you that you should be able to do something that should be easy – something I’m already feeling worthless over – well, you can see where the downward spiral sets in.

About a week ago I started eating a lot better. Eating less in general, eating a lot more fruits and veggies, not drinking so much soda, etc. I haven’t noticed any difference physically, but I’ve been feeling better. Better in general.

But, a lady stopped me today and told me how concerned she’s been about me since I’ve gotten so heavy. She said she was concerned and grabbed both of my hands and told me she hoped she hadn’t hurt my feelings, and then asked if indeed she had. “Why, of course not! It feels fantastic when people point out what a fat bastard I am! It makes me think of how disciplined I am and makes me proud of the remarkable self control I possess! It’s also thrilling to know that I look slovenly enough that my appearance is so generally offensive to you that you feel the need to say so, out loud!”

I know, I know…she – and most…but definitely not all…of the other folks who have ever said anything about my weight – probably did mean well. And whether they meant well or not, what they’re saying IS indeed true.

Like most folks, I don’t really LIKE constructive criticism, but I can take it. When I know it’s going to make me a better person, I can deal with it.

I know this health condition is a real threat. Morbidly obese means I’m going to die from something that happens because of my fatness. I realize I’m jeopardizing my future. I realize I may rob my wife of her husband. I hate that. I realize that my condition makes my daughter sad, and that I am potentially limiting my time with her. And that kills me.

But what guts me the most of all is that those things aren’t enough. If you’ve never struggled with weight issues, you may not realize how deep this stuff runs. It ties in with some heavy stuff. Often, some dark stuff.

It sounds so simple; just do better. But, would you say that to a heroin addict and expect them to instantly straight up? I’m not saying weight issues are equal to hardcore drug addiction…but, in their way, they aren’t too different. Drugs represent a crutch to the junkie. It fills some void. It meets some emotional need. Food is my crutch. It should be easy. I should think of those things and eat less. I should think of those things and exercise more.

So, why don’t I?

One possibility, I believe, is self-sabotage. The last time I lost a significant amount of weight, I didn’t like how it made me “feel”. I felt weird. I felt exposed. Am I hiding behind this fat? I’ve heard of people doing that; making themselves unattractive on purpose, or doing something that they know will hold them back in life. What the hell is that about? What am I so afraid of that I could allow this to happen?

Another reason is that being fat is a big F-You. There’s a lot happening in my life right now that I’m not happy with. Most of it, unfortunately, is stuff I have little to no control over. People in general don’t like fat people. Even if it’s not intentional or conscious…they respond a certain way to heavy folks. Big people make some other people feel a certain way; the feeling evokes certain reactions. But, am I so unhappy in these life circumstances that I’d cut my nose off to spite my face in this way?

I mentioned control before, and I believe that’s a huge factor here. I know many young to middle-aged women who have struggled with eating disorders at some point in their lives. Almost all of them have told me that ‘control’ was the main reason – even more than physical appearance or acceptance. Not eating and losing weight was something they felt they themselves had total personal control over. Life happens around us so fast. These girls couldn’t control life. But they could control what they ate and how much they ate. And they could physically see the results. And it was satisfying. Unfortunately, my ‘control’ button is on backwards. It IS an issue of control; but my control works the other way. Food makes me feel happy. The act of eating is comforting. Life is such that I often have no control over feeling happy or good. But, I can eat and feel happy and comforted. Satisfied. So I choose to eat. A choice to be happy and content. For a little while, anyway.

But ultimately, I think my current weight issue comes down to one main thing: a mountain. As I’ve stated, there are a lot of elements of my life that I’m unhappy and unfulfilled in right now. And unfortunately I can’t do much about them. Each one of those circumstances represents an insurmountable obstacle. Some of them, I tackled at full speed, with varying degrees of success. Some of them ended in abject failure. Some of the obstacles, I just stand before and look at. Some of them taunt me; they know I can’t climb them. Trying to climb them all has left me weak and weary. Tired. And I look at this one mountain; my weight. The one mountain I could control pretty easily if I just wanted to bad enough. The one mountain that could have a pretty immediate impact on how I feel about myself if I could just get in gear.

And the last thing I want to do right now is try to climb yet another mountain.

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