What Brought Me Here

I want to talk a little bit about how I came to be as fat as I am. I promise to make it as short as I can.

I have been overweight for as along as I can remember. I am told, and photographic evidence bears this out, that up until I was four I was a skinny little thing. But by five I was already sporting a bit of a belly. I wasn’t fat. Not yet. Not then. But I was no longer a skinny little thing to be sure.

Over the next eight years I grew more up than out and by the time I was thirteen I was close to six feet tall and chubby. Looking back now I wasn’t anywhere near fat — maybe twenty pounds over what I “should” have been — but I thought I was the fattest thing in the world. Towering over all of my girlfriends didn’t help. I was tall and broad and freakishly strong. I wanted to be small and short and willowy. (I’ve always wanted to be described as “willowy.” But even if I lost ALL the weight I have to lose and then some I will NEVER be willowy. I’m just not built that way, I don’t think.)

I’ll skip over the junior high and high school years. They’re too painful to recount in detail now. Let’s just say that my peers did little to disabuse me of the notion that I was a big, fat, worthless pig. I left them behind soon enough but the trauma stayed with me. I internalized it. And I spent my twenties hating being fat and punishing myself for it by compulsively overeating my way up to 330 pounds. Yeah, I know, it makes no fucking sense to me either. But I wasn’t exactly thinking or behaving rationally at the time.

There was one point in the middle of all that mess when I went on a starvation diet (500 calories per day) and lost maybe thirty pounds. And of course it all came back plus some when my body gave out and I could starve myself no more.

That brings us up to about two years ago. 330 pounds and more miserable than ever. A cross-country move, giving up soda and an increase in daily movement knocked off forty pounds and brought me down to about 290 pounds. That was enough for a while. Although still very fat I felt really good about the fact that I had managed to keep the weight off and not regain.

But I had stalled. Even though I was eating healthier and moving more I just wasn’t losing more weight. I was no longer compulsively overeating and though I did occasionally overindulge I wasn’t taking in impossibly huge numbers of calories. I tried a few lower-calorie, low-fat, high-carb diets but I felt deprived and miserable the whole time. I lost and regained the same seven pounds.

Then I came across a copy of Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution. I had heard of low-carb dieting before, of course — it was impossible to avoid for a few years there — but I had dismissed it as a fad. This time I thought I might try it out. It just so happened that the very next book I read was Gary Taubes’ Good Calories, Bad Calories. I was sold. I figured that I would try cutting down on the carbs for a while and see what happened. If it didn’t work I’d stop.

Well, what’s happened so far is that I’ve lost fifteen pounds in two weeks and I feel healthier than I have in a long, long time. So I’m going to stick with it for a while and see where it leads me. I have a goal weight but I don’t know for sure if I’ll ever be a thin person. All I really want is to be a healthy person. My goal weight isn’t quite as meaningful to me as my goal activities: run a 5k, climb a mountain, take a plane ride without worrying about whether the seatbelt will fit or not. These are the images I tape to my fridge. This is what’s keeping me going. And I have a long, long way to go.

Keep your fingers crossed for me. I need all the help I can get.


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