Today’s post is going to be tough. It is not all that glamorous and it is far from victorious. However, I promised y’all, at the outset of this journey, transparency and a willingness not only to deal with the symptoms of obesity but to try to dive into the causes. It does no good to take an aspirin for a headache if the cause is a brain tumor, you may mask the pain, but you wills till die. My hope is to deal with my obesity once and for all.
It was at this time that I, along with one of my friends, Timmy Herndon began to play a silly game. The basis of this game was to see who could eat the most. Who knows why? We were boys and everything had to be a competition, I guess. Then we would pull off our shirts and stick out our little bellies as far as we could to see who could have the biggest belly. Then at the sight of our distended bellies we would fall on the ground laughing.
Flash forward a few years. Braum’s came to town! Now to those of you who are not from TX/OK/ARK you do not appreciate the value of that statement because you poor, unfortunate soul’s have never been to a Braum’s Ice Cream and Dairy Store. Bar none, the best ice cream and burgers on I have ever had. Our church was located just about a mile from the new location and every Sunday night or at least every other our family along with other church members would invade Braum’s. We were Baptists as I have mentioned before and that meant if we were meetin’ we were eatin’. Period.
One particular occasion, it was not after church, but after a fishing trip with friends from church; the Henley’s. He decided to take all of us boys to Braum’s. I was by far the youngest (and cutest/most precocious one in the pack). After everyone else had ordered, I apprised myself of the situation and determined in my own mind and
determined that the Henley’s were rich especially compared to our modest ministerial income. they did after all have a boat. I knew this was my one and only chance at this, so I eased up to Mr. Henley and said, “Mr Henley, is it okay if I get a DOUBLE DIP!”
He laughed and obliged. Double Dips were things reserved for people who lived in a different part of town than we did. OH, The Extravagance of two dips of peppermint ice cream with REAL PIECES of actual peppermint candy in every bite! I was in heaven. Little did I know, that to this day, in some parts of Texas I am still known as “Double Dip” thanks to that moment. It is through unsuspecting moments like that when nicknames are born. And from nicknames are born identities. Not only how others see you, but how you see yourself.
Flash forward again. Now see a kid who was too intelligent and advanced for the grade he was in so he was moved up from 6th grade to the last few weeks of 8th grade. This was critical because I was a new kid in a new town. Moreover, I was thrust into middle school without a clique of friends and with the social skills of a 6th grader. I still thought farts were the funniest thing and all my classmates were taking interest in members of the opposite sex. I finished up that school year (just a few weeks or so) no harm no foul. But the next year was ninth grade.
I was not fat, but I was a bit chunky. I hated going shopping for clothes cause I had to shop in the “husky” section. On top of that, because they were the most durable pants and the least expensive, I had to buy “Toughskins” jeans from Sears while everyone else was wearing Levi’s, Sedgefield, and/or Wrangler’s. To make matters worse, Toughskins, were proud of their brand, apparently. So they put their logo, a big double-stitched, orange-threaded X on the back-pockets of their jeans. It was like a giant advertisement saying “I don’t fit in. I have to wear Toughskins from the Husky section.”
While I was not fat, I did have thick thighs. Not fat, just thick and powerful. I spent a lot of time on my bike, I like doing leg exercises, and they were just my genetically endowed feature. My son has even been blessed/cursed with my thighs and rump. It truly is a genetic thing. Strong legs were valuable on the football field, no so much in the hallways of school.
In an attempt to fit in and try to look somewhat like the other kids, perms or partial
perms (body waves) were quite the fashion back in the 80’s. So, I went to a beauty shop owned by a member of my church and had her give me a perm so that my otherwise straight hair could have some body. Then, it was layer-cut and waved. I had wings that would make Farrah Fawcett jealous.
Take all of this info and envision a young, geeky, overly intelligent kid – fair-complected, big thighs and hips, the rosy cheeks of pre-pubescence, and wavy hair wearing a pair of corduroy pants. This in a largely hispanic town in the cowboy-laden machismo soup of rural New Mexico. I didn’t have a prayer! I still remember the sting as other guys, mustachioed guys, would lean out of the second story windows of the “Mid-High” and jeer down, “Hey are you a boy or a girl?!” It didn’t help that genetics and a slight bit of overweight had given me a perfectly developing set of man-boobs, or as I affectionately call them now, “moobs.”
Throughout my highschool years I dealt with this kind of harassment. All you want in those years is an identity. Well, I finally had one. I was “The Fat Kid”. I didn’t necessarily like it. But it was an identity. So I tolerated the “pink bellies”, the sometimes- good-natured sometimes-not jibes, and being greeted everywhere by the phrase “Hey big guy.”
College came and through a barter arrangement with a local weight loss company and my radio station, they agreed to oversee my weight loss and I agreed to do commercials for them extolling the virtues and results of their nutritious system (wink wink, know who I am talking about?) Well it was a success! the 70 lbs I had gained in the four years since high school vanished in a little less than a year. I had become an exercise fanatic working out at least 4 hours a day. I wasn’t ripped, but I was strong, lean and looking good. No more Toughskins for me. I had some real jeans and my big strong thighs were still big, but rock solid with definition.
The funny thing is, what should have been a victory wasn’t. I was no longer the “fat kid”; I lost my identity. Additionally, people who had ignored me, particularly girls form high school, were suddenly attracted to me. I was dressing very fashion forward, I looked lean and fit, and I was – without bragging – a fairly good looking guy. But the hypocrisy of it all really annoyed me.
I still felt the same on the inside, I still told the same ridiculously corny jokes, I still was too intelligent for my own good, I was still interested in the same geeky things. My confidence may have improved slightly but other than that I was the same. The only difference was I was no longer chubby or fat. I fit into their mold and suddenly I was worthy of conversation, my jokes were funny (or at least received laughs), and my geeky expressions of myself were now seen as avant-garde or trendy. It still kinda ticks me off.
Now drop into that 2 heart-breaking, life-changing relationships with women and one ugly marriage/divorce over the next fifteen years and I gave up. I turned my sights to the inner me and made a conscious choice to ignore my physical condition. I began to read more, learn more, and avoid society more. I determined that I would be who and what I wanted to be and “rain on everyone else.”
I was becoming an infinitely better person but a fatter one. All the weight that I had lost had come back plus about 200 of its ugly friends. I did have one other flirtation with weight loss and exercise that lasted about 2 years but it was an island in an otherwise stormy sea of self-neglect.
During this time, I found the one gift that I had never had before outside of my family. Someone who loved me and accepted me, for me. In some people that might have spurred them on to greater heights. To me, it felt warm and comfortable. And like a lot of people when you get comfortable and warm you fall asleep. I knew that i was accepted by my wife and by two great kids. Gone were the days of trying to fit in, of fighting for my spot at ‘the cool kids’ table at lunch. I had a permanent spot with my name reserved. I had a family of my own and were are a formidably close-knit bunch.
In my comfort, though, I did fall asleep. No longer pressed to impress, comfort became nonchalance. Casual became sloppy. I can never apologize to my wife and kids enough for what I became. I may never know the comments that they have had to endure. The whispers about their father or their husband that they couldn’t defend because deep down they knew it was right. The shame they must’ve felt knowing that I was likely going to be the biggest person their friends have ever seen outside of a carnival freak show. The disappointment that had to have built through the years as “C’mon kids let’s go down to the creek and swim or kayak, or go hiking” devolved into “Not today, my knee is really hurting.” and “Y’all run on ahead i need to stop and catch my breath.” To my wife and to my kids, I am sorry.
Here is why I told you all of this and why the title of this blog is what it is. None of those situations, situations I recall to this day so easily, are to blame for my current situation. I made choices and the responsibility is mine. However, from those early days through today, little comments made – and usually innocently enough – become big ideas in our minds. And not all of them are from external sources, many are those still small voices of accusation form within.
And here is the irony. My son is slender and athletic. He is the roughly the same weight and is wearing the same waist size I did in highschool, though he is a couple of inches shorter.
My wife always defined herself as “the fat girl”, though my daughter who is a virtual skinny-minnie had to dress up for a school activity recently came out of her room wearing a dress my wife had worn in a play in high school. It was only slightly too big. Definitely it did not swallow her and was not even too big for my daughter to wear. I have recently seen pictures of me from days with the high school football team, and I almost didn’t recognize myself. (I wouldn’t have if it weren’t for the permed, wavy hair!) I didn’t recognize me, because I was thin. Okay, not thin, but athletic and stocky…definitely NOT fat.
Here I have lived my whole life thinking I was “The Fat Kid”, when in reality, not only is that NOT my identity, it never was. I was never fat. But if you asked me, I would have told you I have always had a weight problem.
Words become ideas, ideas become identity, identity becomes reality.
So my thought for the day is Don’t let ’em in! Whether you are 7 or 77 don’t let em in. Whether you weigh 105, 170, or 470, don’t let ’em in. Whether they are good words or bad words they are just opinions, don’t let them in. Whether it is weight, intelligence, social standing, economic standing, or some other contrived measuring stick, do not let them in.
Get to know yourself. Take an honest assessment and make an honest evaluation against an objective, not subjective measure. Change what needs to be changed (and is within your power to change) and embrace the rest.
These people, these words, want to shape you, break you, destroy you and distract you. Don’t let them in.
We are on a journey and we do not have time to be distracted by the thearmy of the uninformed.
Or as I used to tell my kids, “We will not be influenced by the opinions of stupid people.”
After you have spent time honestly evaluating yourself and have corrected the things that need correcting, use these decisions, determinations, and destinations as a brick bulwark on your journey and do not let them in.
Oh, and have a big cup of Green Lemonade, this is hard work and it will refresh you.
Then – Juice On; Join the Journey.
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