Words. That’s mostly what my blog is. Just words. Once in awhile I include some photos, maybe a table or a graph, but mostly just words. And while words can have power, be given power, be powerless, or be used by powerful people, in the end, they are still just words. And words don’t scare me. Not really. They are my friends. They comfort me. Finding the right phrase or word is like falling in love.
While some topics or issues might scare me, I’ve found ways to deal with those fears, partly by using my words to take away their power. To identify them, to shine light on them, to drag the fear of change, the fear of success or failure, the fear of conflict, even the fear of fear into the bright light of a post. To say that the fear that hides in the shadows will not hold power over me, that it will no longer dictate my actions.
But, again, even the sharpest and most insightful post is just words. I have written five posts over the last five weeks talking about my weight loss plan, 16,662 words in total. And another 11,665 writing about Jeffrey Kottler’s book “Change” and what it meant to me in terms of my goal-setting, mostly informing my approach to being ready to commit. Twenty-eight thousand words. Just words.
Words that allowed me to feel like I was committing to weight loss while still letting the biggest scariest piece continue to lurk in the shadows. Words that I was afraid to openly write, but once having posted them, I could then pat myself on my head like a good little boy who was owning up to his fears, making a bold step forward into the light.
But they are just words, while the scariest part of the journey mocks me from the dark, laughing at my tears and struggles as if I have felt anything resembling the pain that it is capable of inflicting. A dead-cat bounce that lifts me up temporarily from the depths of being fat, but just as with stocks on the stock market, the rise of a dead cat bounce might be only a preface to dropping back into the darkness below.
Because I know that the battle is joined, and I wasn’t joking when I said it was an all-out war. My whole body is fighting back. Aches in places that shouldn’t ache, phantom pains in some cases. Cold and flu symptoms trying to settle in. Old depression-like symptoms trying to bring down my energies, reduce my will to keep fighting.
Even my mental processes are trying to trick me…suggesting, for example, that I should stay late in order to finish a project at the office, appealing to my sense of professionalism and dedication, suggesting a good Puritan work ethic approach. Except that isn’t the reason for my body making the suggestion. It is suggesting that I stay late to finish the project because it knows that if I stay late, I’ll probably stop for food on the way home. Comfort food after a long day. Fries maybe. A possibility of ice cream, my Kryptonite.
However, I knew those self-deceptions were coming, just as I knew that as my stress increased, my brain would suggest giving myself an evening off, maybe going out and just reading and relaxing. And fries wouldn’t be bad once in awhile, would they? It’s about moderation, not a maniacal pursuit of perfect deprivation, isn’t it? Except it wasn’t suggesting a night out to benefit me, it was a self-trick to go out and eat unhealthy things that are not on my diet.
Heck, even with my posts, I have known that at some point I would have to talk about today’s topic somewhere around week 4 or 5, and I delayed it until week 6. Yet my brain has been throwing up lots of other topics that, perhaps, I could write about BEFORE I write about the scary stuff. Get some more momentum, perhaps? My body is trying to delay and postpone because as long as I let today’s scary stuff hide, I never hit rock bottom.
My body’s latest trick is to overwhelm me with demanding I respond and cover lots of events all at once, in the hope that I’ll lose my commitment and simply relapse for a week or two. Pick it up after Xmas, maybe, hmm? A friend expressed the hope that perhaps I can make peace with my body, which I would like to believe is possible at some point. But any peace I made with it now would be like Neville Chamberlain stepping off a plane waving a signed piece of paper committing to peaceful co-existence, while my body secretly plots ways to raid every fast-food joint in Poland.
Some experts believe that people will and can only change when they hit rock bottom. In my case, that could have been a heart attack for example, but I didn’t have that traumatic “event”. It is just me getting to the point where my fear of not doing anything has overcome my fear of doing something.
But this is a series about weight loss. And you can’t just blog about weight loss without talking about the elephant in the room. Which isn’t just a pun, I’m literally the size of a small elephant. That’s right. I have to talk about my actual weight.
Numbers, not words. And if I truly want to scare the shit out of myself, I have to go one step further. Photos.
Even my therapist thinks that is probably a step too far. After all, most people don’t want to hit rock bottom. But the fear I feel, the emotions I have been feeling for the last few weeks in dread of this week’s post, they all tell me that the fear and the shame are still there. Hiding in the shadows, mocking me, laughing at me. Because not talking about my actual weight, not showing the evidence and the proof of my descent, allows me to hide behind the words.
It has been wreaking havoc on every aspect of my personality over the last two weeks. I met with my therapist last Wednesday, and we were mostly talking about other stressors in my life, a delaying tactic that helps me avoid talking about this. When we finally got to it, or more accurately, when *I* finally got to it, I lost my shit inside of 90 seconds. Tears, almost hyper-ventilating, having to use every calming technique I know to stop myself from panicking or becoming near hysterical. 90 seconds later, I was fine. 60 seconds after that, another emotional release. I couldn’t talk about it. I can blog about anything, apparently, but live discussion? No way in hell. Not about my ACTUAL weight. My body knows if I do, then it’s real, and I won’t be able to go back once openly discussed.
And as long as this particular dragon can hide in a cave, the last vestiges of pride and denial keeping it warm, mocking me, I have zero chance of success. I cannot do it without confronting the reality. No retreat, no surrender, nothing I won’t do to slay this dragon. I have to wrestle it in the harsh light of day, not let it distract me with whispers from the shadows.
There are three things I’m going to do to ensure that the dragon has nowhere left to hide, i.e., to ensure that all my known demons are on display.
A. First and foremost, I have to talk about my weight
The actual number. I mentioned previously that I vaguely remember breaking 200 pounds when I was in my teens. Mostly I remember consoling myself that I wasn’t “over 200” for awhile, and then when I broke it, it was easy to deny and ignore. Later I pushed up to around 250 pounds in the mid-90s. I dropped back down shortly to 230 when I was doing some martial arts, but slowly rose to 270-280 by the time I was married. And while I crept up during the next eight years, I was consoling myself that I wasn’t “over 300”.
Then two years ago, I switched to using a BIPAP machine for sleep apnea. I was kind of hoping for the standard reaction of most people to using such a machine — many of them lose 15-20 pounds. Sounded great. Except there is a small percentage that GAINS weight while using it. Guess which group I was in? Yep, I gained. Fast. Almost 45 pounds in eight weeks of using it. I didn’t mention the sudden gain before in the what changed post, but it was a contributing factor.
I suddenly started feeling my weight. Movements that were uncomfortable. More winded climbing stairs. Less active generally. More problems with my feet.
Then in June, I made the commitment. I would lose weight. I needed a plan, and over the summer, I crafted one. I did a few things to help myself, put in place a few pieces including meeting with the doctor to get a health assessment. And on September 15th, I decided it was time. I needed an official weigh-in. Holy f***, it is hard to believe I’m about to write it out and share it, but here goes.
My official starting point, and my highest weight ever:
If you want context, a baby elephant usually only weighs 200 pounds at birth. So I’m almost the size of two baby elephants.
Or in practical terms, the largest friend you have and have ever had. Maybe an exception or two, but not many.
And yes, I’m ashamed to say that (or type it).
In fact, I’ve never even shared that number with Andrea, my wife. The only people who knew it before today was my doctor and her nurse. And now anyone can see my pathetic starting point.
I was ashamed when I was close to 300, and then I jumped over it dramatically in what seemed like an overnight weight gain. I didn’t talk about the gain before because I couldn’t without talking about the actual numbers. 50 pounds higher than the previous weight that I already thought was too big, and at the time, that I thought was the largest I would ever be. Which means my first real goal is to get back under 300 pounds.
B. Photos don’t lie
If you’ve ever battled with any weight issues, you know that the camera is rarely your friend. Lots of photos are, in the nicest terms, less than flattering. When I got married in 2008, I knew there would be lots of photos taken of me. I was concerned about how I would look in them, and even though I had a nice suit to hide the flab, I was worried about my face being too pudgy or my double and triple chin showing up. So the photographer found a great spot for a photo, and by altering the pose a little so I was leaning forward and looking up, my face doesn’t show the pudginess in the official photo. Nor my neck.
At the time, I thought it was one of the few recent photos that I liked and one of the best I had ever had taken of me. But now that I have committed to weight loss, I don’t want photos that hide the way I look, I want them to show me in my worst possible light. Shame to help motivate me to change.
So I had Jacob take some really stark photos of me. I put on a pair of shorts that are less than flattering, and took off everything else. I let my body hang, not trying to stand up really straight or suck my gut in. Full frontal shot, both sides, and I already had a crappy photo of my face and neck. Maybe some day I’ll jokingly refer to these as the “BEFORE” photos, but regardless, they are me at my absolute worst. There is no dignity left in me when looking at these photos, and sharing them is absolute rock bottom for me. Short of a heart attack or death, I can’t see how I could go lower (well, without taking off the shorts and NOBODY needs to see that).
Well, that’s not quite true. I was already previously lower. I didn’t think about photos when I started, so I didn’t take the first photos until October 31st, week 20 of my new commitment and only a couple of weeks into my real commitment and attempts to improve. And by that time, I had good news. I had already lost just over 25 pounds. Which I was pretty happy about. I’ll talk more about that next week, but I don’t want to hide the fact that this is NOT me at my worst, this is me after I have had a bit of success.
I’ve made the full frontal one the lock screen on my phone and my tablet so that I’m confronted with them daily. Nowhere to hide. And when I’m done posting this, I’ll wait a day and then I’ll make the frontal photo my profile pic in FB. No hiding, no surrender until the goal is accomplished. The only way I get to change it is if I want to replace it with newer photos as I make progress.
C. Regular monitoring and reporting
Not only do I have to admit my starting point, I have to say how I’m doing on a bunch of metrics. Weight. Measurements. BMI. Activities. All of it. I have to show my work, so to speak, and not be afraid of it. Today is the first day for that. More stuff to follow next week. My goal is to update stuff every two weeks, and I’m hoping if I lag a bit, it will take a bit of the sting out of it.
Where does this leave me?
A week ago, it left me in tears. Just the thought of it. But something odd happened over the last week. I’ve been writing these blogs a bit in advance, basically over the course of the week from last Wednesday to today. And I finished the bulk of this one last Thursday when I was still quite raw about it.
So for me, in a sense, it’s like I posted it a week ago. It just wasn’t public. Not really, but it seems like it, if that makes any sense? Anyway, for me, it means I’ve been living with it for a week already. The scary shit of actually SHARING this stuff with the world. Giving up nearly the last vestiges of pride or self-respect I have for myself and my body. Like I said, nowhere to hide.
It sounds like a cliché to say it leaves me exposed. Vulnerable. On display and shameless.
Or maybe I’m just using that self-shame against itself. I can live with that, I guess. And I’ve realized this week that I can live with sharing the photos after all. It’s still scary AF, but numbers and photos do not hold power over me. They are what they are.
I hid for 50 years, 20 weeks. It’s time I learned to live in the light.