I am a large man. No, I don’t tower above others. I mean I’m fat. It’s taken me a long time to find the courage just to make that statement. And writing it still stings. We judge others on so many things: Skin color, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, ethnicity, age, heck we even judge other by the sports team they follow. (Go Packers!) And we’ve been told time and again NOT to judge that book by its cover. Don’t be a racist. Don’t be a homophobe. Have tolerance for others beliefs and perspectives. Cherish the elderly with their wisdom and life experience. Embrace diversity.
But there is one thing that we see little tolerance for and that’s obesity. Hey, I get it. Fat is not attractive. Fat is not healthy. And all excuses aside, fat is controllable. It is the result of choices we make in our lives. And when we see a fat person, what words come to mind? Lazy? Undisciplined? Slob? We might even make assumptions about that persons abilities or economic status. Loser. Poor. Trash. After all, fat people just sit around eating Twinkies and don’t really contribute anything productive to society, right?
I’m not here to defend fat people. We are growing larger (in both size and number) and I have been caught up in the tidal wave of blubber that is expanding across our country. While not every negative attribute we assign to fat people is necessarily true, I won’t deny that poor choices and lack of will power and discipline are contributing factors to my girth. Nor will I suggest that it’s ok to be fat.
The truth is, being fat SUCKS! It affects all aspects of my life. My clothes feel tight. When I go to buy new clothes, I have a hard time finding things that are in my size. I’ve had to start shopping in the Big and Tall section of clothing stores. The number of “X’s” on the tags of my clothes now makes me look like I’m wearing pornographic apparel. I even have to let my shirts air dry after washing them because I’m afraid putting them in the dryer will shrink them to the point that I’ll no longer be able to wear them.
Travel is now complicated. I used to love to fly but now it’s become an exercise in frustration and embarrassment. I struggle to get the seat belt to click and I have even resorted to asking for one of those extensions just so I could strap myself in. The flight attendants nod and smile but I know what they’re thinking. And God forbid that I get stuck in the middle seat. I simply cannot keep myself wedged into that small area for the hours that it takes to reach my destination. Hiking through airports dragging luggage around now exhausts me and I have to stop frequently to take short breaks to catch my breath.
Dating is out of the question. Few women admit to it openly, but fat, out of shape guys are off the list of potential partners. I’d have better success in finding an interested companion being homeless and jobless.
And then there are the health issues. One would have to have been living under a big, uncomfortable rock to be unaware of the risks and dangers of carrying around the equivalent of a second person on your body 24 hours a day. Heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, sleep apnea, high cholesterol, joint and muscle pain, inflammation… gosh the list goes on and on. Perhaps the only bright spot is that an early death would spare the fatty fat fat from any more guilt, depression and embarrassment. (Ouch, harsh words).
The other day I went to retrieve my mail and I passed by a small boy about 4 years old. For whatever reason, I was shirtless (something I normally don’t do in public anymore, obviously) He looked at me and asked if I was going to the pool. I said no, I was just getting my mail. He then told me I should put a shirt on because I was fat and he didn’t want to look at me. Wow! Talk about cutting to the bone.
Now, I could have told the little twerp to take a hike, to respect his elders, to speak only when spoken to but instead I said nothing. Why? Because he was right. I am fat. Sugar coating the truth (or anything for that matter, man think of the carbs) is not healthy. I’ve been doing it for too long. Denial is a big warm insulated blanket that we wrap our selves in to protect us from the harshness of reality. Yes, the truth can hurt. But it’s necessary. Nothing but the cold hard, unadulterated truth can bring about change. And change is what is needed. For too long I have given in to the acceptance of my condition. I have allowed the frustration of failed diets and lifestyle changes to weaken my resolve and erode my confidence. It was easier to give up than to push through the obstacles. Why not just sit back and say (to quote a John Mellencamp song lyric) “Lord, this must be my destination”.
No longer. I’ve taken off my “thinning glasses” (those wonderful imaginary spectacles that make you look much less heavy than you really are when you look at yourself in the mirror) I’m letting the pain of truth wash over me. I’m gearing up for battle. I see my enemy as I gaze into the abyss of fear. Adipose tissue be warned. Your days are numbered.
Day by day I wage war against sugar and processed flour and high fructose corn syrup and high sodium content. Gone are the processed foods, the fast foods, the pastries and chips and pizza and french fries. I now fortify myself with broccoli and kale and lettuce. Fish and turkey defend me along with grapefruit and pears and blueberries. Raw fruits and veggies sustain me now as I wave goodbye to the comforts of poor eating choices. I train at the gym to strengthen my body and mind. An apple a day WILL keep the doctor away.
The pine box awaits us all. But perhaps now that I’ve embraced truth and let go of fear I can delay that final bed a bit longer. At the very least, my coffin won’t be supersized and I can live with that.