I want to share something deeply personal, because this is the digital age and that’s how we handle deeply personal things these days, I guess. But it’s a cathartic feeling for me to process, and potentially helpful for others who are going through the same or similar things. Or maybe just uncomfortable for those who aren’t. We’ll see.
Considering the proof was out there in plain sight, I’m not sure why it’s so shameful for me to admit that I had gotten up to 415+ pounds. My whole life I’ve been big. Since I was a kid, it’s sort of defined me. For better or worse it’s been who I am, and it’s been my biggest defining factor (pun intended).
It’s funny, when I watch those stupid reality shows where somebody is 600 pounds, or somebody is hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, or somebody is so heavily addicted to a substance that they’re willing to go to any length, I always think to myself “How did they get there? How did that happen, why didn’t anyone stop them?”
I guess that’s the thing about addiction, it really does work how you think. You get this idea in your head that you’re the exception to the rule. You see overweight people, and you don’t really identify with them because your situation is different. But my situation wasn’t different. I’ve been around 350 pounds pretty much since I was a teenager, and I fluctuated slightly but not very much.
Eventually my anxiety and OCD got so bad that I went to a psychiatrist, who put me on some very heavy anti-anxiety medications to manage my mental health. What he didn’t tell me, was that the pills make you feel absolutely ravenous. I’ve heard of medications causing weight gain, but I never fully understood what that meant. You don’t really get it until it’s two in the morning, and you feel like you’re going to die if you don’t eat. It’s not a logical feeling, because you’re a. Overweight and b. You ate just hours ago. But your brain won’t let you sleep and you’re miserable and a few months later you’re exactly where you thought you’d never be: 400+ pounds, and dying from the inside out. Please don’t think I’m making excuses: I chose every single calorie that entered my body and I’m personally responsible for every pound on my body. I was incredibly overweight before I took medication that put me in “death-fat” category.
And that’s what 415 pounds feels like: dying. It sounds like an exaggeration, but I could feel my systems shutting down. My back hurts so bad I could barely walk, I could hardly take care of my personal hygiene, I had near constant chest pain, all I wanted to do was sleep and the only thing that made me happy was eating. I didn’t want to make friends, because who wants to hang out with me? I can’t do anything physical. I went to a friend’s movie night and broke his chair in front of 20 people. I withdrew into myself, waiting to die. I knew I wouldn’t make it through my thirties, if I even got to them.
I didn’t want to live anymore but the frustrating thing was, I knew I was the only person to blame for where I was. My life was a jail cell that I’d built up around myself, brick by brick, until it was unlivable and I had nobody to blame but me.
Here’s the thing about having such an obvious imperfection though: It’s comforting in a way. The idea that there’s this one thing, this one factor in your life that’s preventing you from being happy. And if you fixed it, everything would be okay. For me it was food, for others it’s drugs, or a relationship, or religion. The idea that, “If I just had this one thing everything would be okay. I would be okay.”
In so many ways, my weight was a way to escape my reality. My depression, my lifelong OCD and anxiety. None of that really mattered when I could barely breathe, when walking became difficult and I couldn’t go more than a few paces at a time, when I would wake up because my body stopped breathing in the night because I was close to having a stroke. Food comforted me, and my weight insulated me from facing who I really am.
Now I’m down 56 pounds, and I still have a long way to go, but I have hope and I FEEL better, regardless of pounds lost. I’m hanging out with my friends, I’m moving and walking and working out, and more importantly, I’m no longer trapped in this death sentence that I’d drafted for myself. If you’re lurking or considering starting your weight loss journey: PLEASE DO IT. It’s not too late, it IS possible. It’s hard as fuck and you’re going to be hungry and it’s going to suck, but you’ll feel so much better and you’ll be crafting a life you can be proud of. Nobody can or will do it for you.