Fat is My Default
A common story among fat people is that being fat is all we’ve ever known.
It’s like a fat identity.
The weird part is—looking back. I wasn’t really that fat.
That’s me at 5. The photo is cropped but I look like any one of the kids around me. Okay I look slightly more attractive than the rest of them.
That’s me in the suspenders. This photo earned a place in this esteemed publication (pg 15).
And awkward is a great way to describe it. By 7 you can already begin to see what would become this:
Besides a propensity for substance abuse, my pops also gifted me with a big belly.
That’s not to say he made me fat.
It’s more like he gave me the roll of clay, and I molded it into something
Then came some of these classics:
- First realization I was fat. 2nd grade. Doctor clocked me in a 90 lbs and said “Good thing you have the flu, you need to lose some weight.”
- First altercation. 3rd grade. Kid named Brett used to punch me in the stomach to skip ahead in line. But I went through puberty first and he was afraid of me in middle school and I dated his mother* (I did not)
- First embarrassment. Running through the sprinklers ~ 5th grade. I overheard a relative saying “He sure is getting fat!”. I see same relative a few years later who makes a weight comment again as soon as I saw them.
- First comment from a friend. 6th grade. My buddy Jeff told me that when I ran I looked like a bowling ball. Start wearing undershirts.
Puberty came and I added height fairly quickly. But I was still husky/pudgy/jolly/stout/big-boned/chubby/—fat.
Besides getting physicals for sports or doctors visits, I don’t think I stepped on the scale at all throughout middle school and high school—but I probably went from 175-250 lbs in that time.
I was able to be in denial for several reasons:
- I mostly gain weight in my stomach—so I can and have worn the same pair of jeans since 2005. I still have the same brown belt from 8th grade. So jeans not fitting wasn’t really an issue or a wakeup call.
- Being fat never affected me socially. Sure I told someone I couldn’t swim once just to spare everyone the glory—but I still had friends, played sports, and fought off women. What I lacked in the physique, I made up for in the charm + humor departments at least that’s what my mom tells me.
- Guys don’t have the same pressure to be thin + fit as women do. We just don’t. That’s why there are a billion more female fitness writers than men.
I became more aware of my weight in college because I used to regularly donate plasma for extra $$$. They weigh you each visit.
One time I came in at 302. I laughed it off and quickly swept it under the cerebral rug. That was 2006.
In late 2012 I stepped on a scale at a gym and slid each of those sliders over to impending doom and watched as the balance hung steady at 352 lbs.
The belt I had been wearing since 8th grade had not been worn in weeks. My pants stayed suspended on my waist—tightly. I had to strain to button them.
I had fewer choices of clothes to wear that would fit. Button ups were not up for consideration. Bring on the stretchy sweaters.
Being down 25 lbs isn’t something to sneeze at, but it is only Round 1 of several. If I were to quit now, that weight would be back in 2 months.
Because being fat is my default. It’s all I’ve known. Even when I wasn’t fat, I felt fat.
It’s hard to burn 1,000 calories in a workout, but fat people know the hardest part is the internal redefining of self, our understanding of health, our relationship with food, and how we deal with stress.
I’m tearing down this monument I’ve built to my over-indulgent self—pound by pound.
And considering, with each gym visit, weigh-in, and meal choice, what to build in its place.