Monday, March 26, 2012

On Being The Big Guy...

After awhile… you just get tired of being fat. Eventually you decide it’s time to do something about it. You try to soften the truth by saying things like “more of me to love” and “I’m just big-boned.” You use euphemisms like ample and husky and plus-sized and over-weight. You say, “Love me for who I am, not what for I look like.” You tell your friends, “I like being big” and “I wouldn’t want to date some skinny little thing.” These are all just lies and they don’t really help. I know this because these are the lies I have told. They are the lies we tell ourselves to take the edge off the pain we feel when we look in the mirror. They’re the lies we tell to divert the shame we feel in the presence of those thinner and healthier. The truth is, no matter how happy we seem, how great our personality is, we still look longingly at the skinny people. We still have to suppress a pang of jealousy that stirs inside us in the company of our friends. In the end, the only real escape is to stop being fat.

Easier said than done. Being fat is the result of a lifetime of decisions. Of staying too long on the couch. Of driving where you could have walked. Eating that third helping. Too much sugar. Too much starch. Too much fat. Too much sodium. Too much processed food. Too many excuses. Too much stress. It’s easy to defend to the lifestyle we’ve settled into than it is to make a change. Even in our fledgling desire to lose weight, we look for the easy way out. Miracle pills. Liposuction. Stomach bands. More often than not, they all fall flat.

This isn’t news to anyone. America has a very real and dangerous obesity problem, compounded by the fact that some of our most profitable industries thrive on keeping people in front of a television or computer. Some people have a metabolism that overcomes even a sedentary lifestyle. Most don’t. I don’t.

More and more, I’ve found myself disgusted with the image in the mirror. Sadly, that image saturates deeply. It affects the ego, the sense of self worth. I look at photographs—the spontaneous ones where I don’t get to suck in my gut first—and I can’t believe I really look like that. “Is that what people see when they look at me?” I come away from clothes shopping depressed because the shirt I really liked doesn’t come in XXL or sometimes even XXL isn’t big enough.

Enough is enough. There comes a time when you have to finally decide whether you are a victim or a victor. Can do or won’t do? Getting in shape isn’t easy. It’s hard. But being fat sucks. Life with the increased threat of diabetes and/or heart problems sucks. Longing to be looked at with desire sucks. The only way to make it stop sucking is to do something about it.

Exercise. Diet. There is so much taboo attached to these words that the mention of them is enough to make the chronically lazy turn their backs and run. Images of five-mile runs and of virtual starvation flood our minds. This is why we shy away from the things our bodies desire most. Need most. We are used to sitting around and we are used to eating as we please. We are used to being fat. And that’s the problem. Complacency. The true enemy of health and happiness.

In the end, what it takes is willpower and the directed application of desire. Yes, I want to eat potato chips and burritos. But I also want to be able to take my shirt off and the beach or buy clothes without wondering why they never have the stuff I want in my size. What do I want more? That’s the burning question, and only I can answer it. In fact, it’s up to me to decide what the answer is.

So I decide. I want to feel good about myself. I want to look in the mirror and feel like I’m doing better. My wife and I resolve to do it together. We start to eat right, eat better. We start to exercise, even when we don’t feel like it. We stick it out. We persevere. In the first week, I think I’m going to die. I’m frustrated because I can’t even do some of the exercises on the videos, let alone keep up with the trainer. After a few days, I think I’ve committed to a hopeless cause. “I’m just too far gone.” But my wife is there to keep pushing me. To remind me why I’m here, so I keep at it. I talk to my friends who are healthy, who work out, who eat well. Their encouragement is enough.

In the second week, I realize I can do more repetitions with fewer breaks. I can actually do most of the exercises or closer approximations than before. I’m eating healthier and complaining about it a lot less. And best of all, I’m wearing my belt and notch tighter than the week before.

I’m in week three now, and have no intention of stopping. I can feel it. I’m better. I don’t feel bloated—although I’m nowhere near my target—and my clothes don’t feel so tight. When I work out, I actually have the energy to work out. I’m not stopping as much to rest which means I’m working my muscles more, I’m getting my heart rate up and keeping it there… burning calories!

I’m not there yet… the image of me I have in my mind. But I’m on my way. And at times like this, when I’m feeling a somewhat good about myself and what I consider to be noteworthy accomplishments, it seems fitting to throw out one of those corny adages from yesteryear. “It’s not the destination that matters, it’s the journey.” At the end of this—if there is an end—I will probably look as good as I ever have, but I have already begun to realize the more important aspect in the quest: I finally feel good about me, and it doesn’t really matter what I look like. In time, the body will reflect the mind… and honestly, that’s pretty encouraging.