I’ve been heavy all of my life.
Even as a kid, I was always the biggest one in the playgroup. Not tallest, mind you… just biggest. I ran the slowest, I was the kid lagging behind everyone on the bikes, and I was always the first kid asked to either get off the sled because I was holding it down or the first kid to be asked to play goalie in soccor because I blocked more of the net. It was a combination of inclusion and exclusion that was both confusing and (sadly) the norm.
Being overweight has always been a part of my life, although I never blamed my parents for giving me junk food or not encouraging me to go outside and gets some exercise. It was just the opposite: My mother would always tell me and my brother to outside and play it was a nice day outside… and we did. In fact, our only rule (besides my father’s ever-present “Don’t Talk To Strangers” and “Don’t Pet Any Strange Dogs”) was be home before dark.
As I got older and went through elementary school, middle school, and highschool, I also had one other constant in my life:
From an outside perspective, it just seemed like kids being kids… except from the inside, it was far less harmless and far more insidious. Children, for those of you who aren’t aware, can be very cruel. I don’t know if its due to how parents raise thier children, environmental factors, peer pressure, or external factors affecting their behaviours in a negative fashion, or combination/mixture of the above. What I do know, is that often times they can be unrelenting. It could be comments about how slow they are, how big their clothes are, what they’re eating at lunch (and how much), and other specific things. Its never a general poke here and there. Its a pointed, precise, and often personalized type of torment.
After going through this from the ages of 6 through 18, you would think a person would have become used to, or at least numb, to this kind of psychological (and often physical) abuse. I’m here to tell you that you never get used to it. Ever.
Once I hit 18 and had graduated college, I figured “I’m an adult now. I don’t have to endure the ridicule and shaming anymore”.
Boy, was I ever wrong.
It turns out that as you shift from a kid and teenager into an adult, the abuse simply transforms and adapts to new surroundings and environments, much like a virus or disease does. Just when you think you’ve gotten rid of it, a new strain shows up and decides to reintroduce itself to the system in new and terrifying ways. There were fewer direct comments about what you ate or how much, but instead they were sly (and snide) comments like “That’s a big lunch!” or “Oh, are you eating for two?” in a lame attempt at being cruel masked with insipid humour.
To this day, I’m extremely uncomfortable eating in front of anyone except my mother, the most supportive and wonderful person I know. One thing that a person that is heavy all of their life develops, is one particular thing: A Defense Mechanism.
Some people choose to be angry at life and people around them and shield themselves with an angry and defiant “I don’t care what you do, say, or think about me” personality, or in my case… humour. As a matter of personal and psychological survival, I erected an iron-clad wall around myself made up of humour, jokes, and the happy-go-lucky funny guy. I deflected and dodged insults and uncomfortable conversations and situations with the grace and skill of Neo from The Matrix. I made sure nothing could touch me and I worked day and night to cultivate the wall I’d built to ensure there were no cracks where things could get through. What I failed to realize, is that in constructing this wall, I was unknowingly trapping myself in. I didn’t want to ever admit it, but being alone seemed safer and less likely to hurt in the long run. After all, who could ever want to be with someone as big as I was?
One day, however, something changed. I had gone in to see my Doctor (of many many years) about something and we had gotten onto the topic of weight. What you have to understand, is that this Doctor was the first one I had ever seen who didn’t automatically judge me based on my apperance and didn’t attribute everything wrong with me to my weight. He listened, advised, and most of all, he understood. This particular visit, he suggested a program through our respective healthcare system that could only be accessed by a doctor’s referral:
The Bariatric Program.
The first thing most people think off when they hear that word, Bariatric, is “tummy tuck” or “stomach stapling”, of which both couldn’t be far from the truth. The program, I was surprised to find, was not just a “lose a pile of weight and then get operated on”. It was a combination of quite a few things, namely the mental health aspect. I wasn’t aware there was one, until I was introduced to it. For a procedure of that calibre, they want to ensure that a person will be able to mentally ready before-hand, and even more so I think, afterwards. Life will be different. Food amounts taken in, vitamin regiments to combat malabsorption, perhaps even things you can’t eat anymore. They wanted to make sure that a person knew that having the procedure done wasn’t a magic solution where, if one were to go through with it, that suddenly life would be like the end of a romantic drama where you got the girl and rode off into the sunset.
Life isn’t like that.
After being in the program and being exposed (in a good way) to the myriad of things to consider and exploring the mental health aspects of it all, I’ve come to the conclusion that I will be doing it, but I’ll be going into it with a clear head and no magical results afterwards. I’ll still have my demons that have haunted me from childhood around, but instead of having them riding piggy-back and whispering in my ear, they’ll instead (hopefully) be a distant echo that isn’t holding me down anymore.
Talking about this has taken (excuse the pun) a weight off of my shoulders.