Well, after dropping all that weight over six months, I seem to have stabilized around the 190-pound mark. Still want to try to whittle down to 185 and stay there. Game plan was to go for 180 as I still have some extra meat on my bones, but 188 lbs. turns out to be my temporary Waterloo, where I lost the thread. The past few weeks have shown me I can ease off the clutch diet wise (still eating wisely, of course, which I’ll do for the rest of my days) and maintain around this level, which is good to know.
But now that I’m finishing this relentless march, I’m reflecting on what it meant to weigh around 250 lbs. for years on end, probably close to 18 years. This, after being a chubby kid, rail-thin teenager, sleek specimen through my 20s, before hitting my early 30s and slowly but surely packing on the pounds, to become that kind-faced, bouncer type guy I was for a large portion of my adulthood.
I learned what it was like to feel invisible, which does have its merits. When you’re a good 60/70 lbs. overweight, people take one look at you an think “fat guy” if they’re pricks, but more often than not, nothing registers in their eyes. You don’t register with them. They don’t notice if you have kind eyes, or a nice head of hair, or natural grace. It’s understood that when you’re heavy, you sort of blend in with the scenery. While you don’t readily offend people, your presence does nothing to grab their eye.
Some people might be put off by that lack of attention, but I saw it more as reality, and a comfortable one when I realized this is how the world works. We place so much value on physical looks, especially under 40, surely to a very depraved, wrong extent in our culture. I can see this now with someone like Miley Cyrus, who essentially offers herself up as a piece of ass to be fawned over. A beautiful girl, can probably sing her off ass, given the right material … but it just seems more important to her to be a piece of ass. Like so many before her. Like so many who will come after her. And I’m sure her attitude is: “I won’t be this way forever, better get it while I’m hot.”
And it’s a good feeling to be “cold” in a world like this! Because when you’re cold, when no one gives a shit about you, when no one thinks twice to look at you when you walk in a room, that’s when you see the world clearly. It’s the difference between being the center of attention and being someone who pays attention. When you’re the center of attention, the natural reaction is to become self-absorbed and think the world is somehow spinning on the axis of you. It isn’t, save we’ve constructed this sickly celebrity culture to make a select few think just that about themselves, and more than a few idiots to place value in this junk and empower these jackasses.
I’ve been far from alone in this realization. A few years ago while visiting a drivers’ license renewal center back in Pennsylvania, I saw something that spooked me. It was a busy time in the place, which was simply a large room in a nondescript shopping center just outside of Shamokin. Rural America, a place I know in my bones. When a friend and I walked in, we couldn’t help but notice something about the few dozen people sitting there, waiting their turn to have their pictures taken: I was one of the smaller people in the room. At six feet tall and 250 lbs.! No, the place wasn’t filled with football players and farmers. At least half the crowd was 16-year-old girls getting their first license. They were larger than I was. Heavily tattooed and nose-ringed, too, in many cases.
I’m not sure what’s going on in rural America these days. Are they feeding people radioactive food that makes them grown exponentially? I was shocked to see these girls were already huge. Their parents were huge. Understand, when I was 16 and going for my first license, I probably was the same height I am now and weighed around 165 lbs., going on to gain nearly 100 lbs. in my adult life. What does that portend for teenage girls who are already pushing or well over the 200 lb. mark?
I don’t want to think about it, nor do they. If there’s one thing I could tell them, or anyone overweight, it’s that sooner or later, your weight is going to damage your health. Very few people seriously overweight cruise through life with few health issues. More than likely, in their 30s or 40s, issues are going to develop. Diabetes. Joint problems. Digestive problems. Shortness of breath. And that’s the easy stuff to predict. There will probably be any number of health problems an overweight person has that can’t be directly attributed to their weight, but at the very least being in that sort of physical condition isn’t doing them any favors.
Another thing I could tell them is that genetics kick in after awhile, again, getting near 40 years old, and even if you keep yourself in perfect condition, bad health issues might develop with no warning. Various forms of cancer, blood diseases, heart issues, kidneys … any internal organs that your family might have genetic history with. You don’t see this shit when you’re 25, or even 35. Well, you do and you don’t. You’re aware of it, but you tell yourself, that’s not me, I’m in perfect physical condition, I’ll beat the family odds. Maybe you will, maybe you won’t.
My point being, even if you make yourself as strong as possible to face the world, the world might choose to kick your ass anyway. Just for kicks. No reason. The greatest challenges most of us will face in life won’t be obvious things, filled with drama and happy or sad endings. It will be quiet things that slip into our lives unannounced and end up wreaking havoc. Much as I woke up one day last March and felt that little lump over my belly button. No reason. Just happened. I later learned from my Mom that her father had grievous issues with hernias, although I’m not sure what type or how many. My brother had one too, although that may have been caused by a previous surgery. I’m left with the knowledge that it could happen again, no matter what I do. Which is the over-riding reason why I bolted off dozens of pounds, simply to do everything within my power to lower the likelihood of that. If you haven’t had the displeasure of having your body cut open, take my word for it, much like shit eating or being mugged, it’s one experience you don’t want or need.
It’s a world away from the care-free, skinny teenager I was. Just as that was a world away from the chubby kid I was before then. In my mind, I will probably always be that chubby kid, which isn’t a bad thing to be in your head. As noted above, you see things more clearly when you’re not the center of attention. What I remember most about being a chubby kid was Little League baseball, being a very good first baseman, a good player in general … but somehow dropped to a lower level because I was chubby. I didn’t make the first cut from Farm System to Little League despite doing fine in the tryouts … I can only think because I was a little overweight. I see the pictures of me now from that time period: chubby, not bloated.
A few weeks into being held back in the farm system that season, I told my mom I wanted to quit the whole thing, mainly because all my same-age friends had made the cut and moved up to Little League. I felt like an asshole, knowing that my skills were just as good as theirs. Luckily, my Mom didn’t just talk me out of it, but made a few phone calls and got me placed on my brother’s old team … where I immediately started at first base and was a set part of the team with no problems.
Well, one problem. They didn’t have a uniform that fit me. Again, I wasn’t a blob – at that point I was probably no more than 15-20 lbs. over what I should have weighed. Mom had to get a pair of pants, split the seam on the side and sew a patch of elastic into it.
Believe me, I remember this shit like it was yesterday! Just another one of those crazy, mildly abusive childhood things that follows you into adulthood. I don’t mind memories where I clearly fucked up and caused damage to myself or someone around me – at least then I can take the blame for them and recognize those negative things served some sort of purpose. But stuff like this, being treated like a chump because of my weight, and then humiliated because the league was so money-strapped that they only had pants to fit average-sized kids … it sucked.
So much of how I am now as an adult traces back to being a chubby kid. On one hand, my ability to make people laugh on occasion. I gather there are a lot of heavy guys who have that quality in spades, because they recognize making people laugh puts them at ease and gets them to not focus on the weight thing. Which is a beautiful defense mechanism well worth developing for anyone. On the other, I’m content to blend in with the background more often than not. It’s just more comfortable to not be the center attention. I’m sure this has wreaked havoc on my ability to “make it” as a writer – a lot of the writers I’ve known have a burning ambition to be famous and respected. Whereas I think it might just be woven into my character not to give a shit about what other people think about me, for better and worse. When you’re a chubby kid, you had better learn how to accept yourself, because you’re convinced no one else will.
These are some of the things that go through my head when I look in the mirror now and see a face and body that are a lot more in line with how I want to be. I wouldn’t say it’s wise not to forget how it feels to be overweight. It’s fucking impossible to forget! But I can see through all these physical permutations that I’ve gone through in life, with old age still to come, that there are certain things you just can’t change about yourself, although everything else changes. Mom has warned me, when you get old, over 70, and your looks go, it’s not a good feeling, probably akin to the invisibility of being overweight. I can only think as I write this now that I’m well prepared to handle whatever the mirror throws my way.