I've started reading The Big Fat Truth, written by the producer of The Biggest Loser and Extreme Weight Loss. The premise of the book is the emotional journey behind weight loss and getting to the heart of why you gained weight, work through it, so you don't regain all of the weight back. There is a section in the book where he gives you questions he asks of contestants prior to their acceptance on the show. The questions are supposed to make you dig deeper and really identify what is going on behind the weight gain. So, here are the first half of the questions with my answers. I want to get better, and I don't want to gain all of my weight back. I'm very committed to this journey, and I am ready to move forward.
The author stated that these questions should take a few hours to answer (and they did). I'm going to split this into two blog posts so I have more time to answer the questions. I spent a lot of time because I really need to figure this out, I really need to get my shit together. I want to be my best self before I am 30, and I know I need to do the emotional work to make this stick and last a lifetime. So, here I am, digging deep, trying to be my best self.
Is weight an issue in the family you grew up in? Who suffers from it? How much do they need to lose? Do you blame your family for making you overweight?
Hell yes weight is an issue in my family. All of my dad's side of the family is overweight. My grandfather died of a heart attack when my dad was young, and all of my dad's siblings have a weight problem. My dad's eldest sister has been yo-yo "dieting" for several years, and I have seen her lose a lot of weight and then gain it all back. I know when she is on the wagon because she talks about it all of the time. Then, I know when she falls off because she stops talking about it. She recently lost about 100 pounds, which is amazing; however, I saw a picture of her recently and think she has fallen off the wagon again. There's no way to know how much she has to lose, but my fear is she's going to gain all of her weight back. My dad's younger sister had been overweight most of her life. I remember when my wife and I went home for the sugar bowl, and i thought my aunt had an eating disorder. Turns out, she had weight loss surgery and just ate too much the night I saw her. She has never told me about her surgery; I had to hear it from other family members. She is at a good weight now, but I bet she lost about 100 pounds as well. My dad's younger brother is the largest of all of them. He had an aortic aneurism many years ago and has gained most of his weight back. It's really sad to watch him do daily activities. He lived past the age of his dad, but I don't know that he is going to live much longer. He has probably about 250 pounds to lose. My dad watched his weight all of his life. I remember he would do fad diet after fad diet to make sure the pounds stayed off. It didn't come naturally to him either as I think he would like, and lately he has started to gain some comfort weight as he is now in a committed relationship.
When I was growing up, my dad was especially hard on my mom and I about what we ate and how much weight we had gained. I understand where he was coming from, but it was very demeaning and did not build self-esteem or confidence. He used a lot of "you" language instead of nearly stating that he was concerned and wanted us to live long lives. This drove my mom into a deeper depression, which caused her to eat more. His comments were shaming and made me feel like he didn't love me because I was fat. After my parents were divorced, my mom was diagnosed with diabetes. She worked her booty off to lose weight and eat healthy, and I think she was off of medication for a little while; however, she moved back in with my grandfather and has had difficulty maintaining it. She doesn't have a whole lot of weight to lose, probably about 50 pounds. However, I don't think anyone in my family is good with dealing with emotional stuff, which is the contributing reason to their weight gain and inability to maintain a healthy weight.
I don't blame my family for my weight gain. Ultimately, I am the only person responsible for what I put in my mouth. I think, sometimes, it is really easy to blame them, and I wish people, especially my dad, had addressed things differently when I was a kid. I know a lot of my behavior is learned, but as an adult, I have the power to change my habits. This is about me and for me. I think I need to work up enough courage to tell me family "no" when they want me to participate in engaging in unhealthy behavior. For example, I do not want a whole pan of spinach dip that could feed a small army every time I come home, even though it is my favorite. I may want a serving or two while I am there, but I do not need to bring it into my home. I mean, I definitely have to unlearn some habits my family taught me, but I don't think it is their fault. They don't know any different, and while I wish they would take the time to do some of this work that I'm doing, I understand that it is hard and scary to look inside yourself and face all of the scary demons that contribute to your weight in the first place. While I wish they would do the emotional work, they have to want to do it for themselves. I have to control what I can control and let go of what I cannot control.
What is your ethnicity? Does your culture play a part in your weight?
I am white. I think food is a large part of the white culture. We revolve everything around dinner, dinner parties, parties with snacks, movies with popcorn and candy. Obesity is also at an all time high in America, predominately with the white culture. It's not culturally acceptable to have problems, be emotional, blah blah. It's just not cool. Also, it's completely the norm to go through fast food and order the oversized, deep fried, quick and cheap meal because you are stressed, don't have time, don't feel like cooking, etc. It's just the cultural norm. So, yes, I think our culture plays a huge part in my weight. It's more convenient to make an unhealthy choice than a healthy one.
Also, my family is from Italian decent, which means we practice lots of Italian tradition. This reads every function has food filled with carbs, cheese, and sugar. Again, this plays into traditions and practices. Everywhere I go, I'm programmed to bring food as a thank you, to contribute, etc. Food is such a large part of the Italian culture; however, in America you don't have the walking, farming, general physical exercise you would gain in Italy. Therefore, it contributes to weight gain. It's so much harder to make healthy choices when there are no healthy choices around. It's also considered "rude" to say no thank you to things, so you feel obligated to put it in your mouth.
Food is very much part of the social experience, and it is difficult to opt into healthy options when you are surrounded by people that do not choose the same. Then, you don't want to be thought of as "weird" or "different," so you choose to participate, which only reinforces the same messages and beliefs that got me to 253 pounds in the first place. Now, it's about standing up to the "norm" and setting boundaries with others, including friends and family, that preserve my health and wellness.
Describe your occupation. Does your weight affect your occupation? How?
I am the Clinical Director of an outpatient mental health facility. In the state of Illinois, I am a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, and I absolutely believe my weight undermines my ability to effectively counsel people. I think it tells my clients that I cannot handle my own stuff, and, if I can't do it neither can they. I think my weight is a walking billboard of how much I need help and how unwilling I am to deal with my issues. Again, if I cannot deal with my own issues, how am I supposed to help other people deal with theirs. Shouldn't I practice what I preach? I don't notice that it has been a problem; in fact, most clinicians in our clinic are overweight. However, I also know that most counselors become counselors in order to learn how to deal with their issues or to focus on helping others so they do not want to help themselves. I believe that I have come a long way in my recovery, but I also believe I have a lot of work left to do. By actively working on myself and striving to improve, I think I'm showing others that it is possible, we are all human, and we all have our own struggles that we can overcome.
What is it like being overweight? How does it affect your everyday life? How exhausting is it?
It's horrible being overweight. It's like carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders and being unable to take it off. It's shaming and debilitating. You feel like an outcast, and you work hard to preserve the identity you have outside of your weight. It makes you a little defensive because you always think people are going to judge you based on your weight. In other ways, it is a comfort. It is a pass to feel invisible and fly under the radar. No one notices you, and it gives you the freedom to continue to deal with things the ways you have always dealt with things (read food), and gives you room to not be criticized. It also keeps you in your comfort zone; you don't have to change if no one notices. You also constantly compare yourself to others; very much the dreamer and not the doer.
My weight is always one of the first things I think about in the morning. I'm always asking my wife if I look fat in my clothes. I am conscious of everything I do, because I do not want others to judge me based on my weight. I may chose not to do things, such as going out with groups, because of my weight. Also, I do not like to eat with others, especially if I am eating something unhealthy. This started fairly recently, but now I am very self-conscious of it. It is very exhausting everyday to play mind games with yourself. Does this person not like me because I'm fat? Is this person going to take me seriously because I'm fat? Do they really like me or are they just nice to me because they feel sorry for me? These mind games are detrimental to my mental health, so I ignore it, go to McDonalds, and shove greasy food in my face until I go to sleep so I don't have to deal with it. It's a vicious cycle. But, it's more mentally exhausting to break the cycle because then you constantly have to think about it. It's just easier to ignore it and continue putting crap in your face until you die of a heart attack. Not really, but that is what my actions say. I'm committed to making my thoughts and my actions match.
What are all the thing you missed out on being overweight?
There's nothing I can think of that I intentionally did not do because of my weight. However, I think there are things I unintentionally avoid because I am overweight. Thinking about it, I think I have missed out on fully living life. I don't do adventurous things. I missed hiking in the mountains, running on the beach, snorkeling, just being outside and learning the benefits of a good walk or fresh air because there were things I never did. It feels like there is this whole other side of life that I haven't experienced because I've never been exposed because I'm overweight.
I think I just aimlessly went through life not really paying attention to what I could or could not do. There were things that just "weren't meant for me" or that didn't really "interest me" because they seemed like dreams, and things like that don't happen to people like me. I guess by "people like me" I meant fat people. Unconsciously. And, I don't know that I'm fully aware of all of the things I missed out on because I am overweight.
I want to be adventurous. I want to go on hikes, zipline, be able to do physical things and ENJOY them. I remember when I was in Europe, I climbed to the top of the Vatican and did all of the things I wanted to do; however, I was always concerned about my weight and comparing myself to other people. I want to run 5Ks and 10Ks (the Disney Princess half marathon is on my bucket list). I just want to be active and not do activities that involve food.
What activities are difficult at this weight, physically or emotionally? List anything from getting in and out of cars to getting undressed in the locker room at your gym without feeling self-conscious.
I think simply living is difficult at this weight. Again, from all of the emotional stuff you worry about, it takes a toll on you. I'm always self-conscious and never think I look good in what I wear. I barely look at myself in the mirror, I don't like to get dressed in front of my wife (even though she always tells me I'm beautiful), and I don't like to eat in front of other people. I'm even self-conscious during sex because of my weight.
I can do most of my daily life without noticing my weight. Sitting in my car is tight, buckling my seatbelt at a airport is difficult, going up long flights of stairs is difficult. Again, I don't have a very active or very interesting life, so I guess I wouldn't notice my weight a whole lot. I mean, I've built my life around not noticing my weight and only now am I waking up to smell the coffee.
Does weight interfere with your life as a person in a relationship?
Yes and no. My wife is overweight, which means there is a comfort in that because we can be overweight together and accept each other. This also means we enable each other; we keep each other fat. I think that means we don't introduce new things into the relationship. We have just started being active together, and we notice that we are much happier and feel much closer when we are engaging in a more active lifestyle.
My self-consciousness with my weight prevents me from being affectionate with my wife. I think weight interferes with growing our relationship. We spend so much more time together when we are active, which develops our relationship even further. Right now, it's the elephant in the room and we don't really talk about it, but we know it would be for the best. When we are sedentary, our relationship stays sedentary as well. It prevents me from being my best self in our relationship, which isn't fair to me or my wife.
What would it mean to you to be at a healthy weight?
I don't know that I've ever thought of myself being at a healthy weight. I know I should if I'm really serious about this weight loss journey, but I don't know that I've ever truly thought about it. It would mean that I reclaimed my life, that I took something I never thought I could do and I did it. It means I will live to grow old with my wife, it would mean I changed the pattern of my family and their way to manage emotions and food. It would mean that I have found inner peace.
There are also a lot of superficial things it would mean. It would mean I can shop at any store I want, all of the boutiques and things I look at; I could actually purchase clothes from there. It means I would not think about my weight or if people are judging me because of my weight. It would mean that I don't have to worry about my health or if I'm going to develop diabetes or die of a heart attack at a young age.
Have you ever been thin? Why haven't you lost the weight?
I have never been thin. I've been thinner, but I have always been overweight. I've never lost the weight because I've been in denial about the weight. I don't think I paid much attention to what I could/need to do about the weight and just subscribed to the fact that this is my life. I tried to minimize the impact of my weight, said that it wasn't a whole lot of weight gain. I remember when I weight less than 200lbs. I remember the first time the scale said 200lbs, and I promised never to go over 200. Little did I know is three or four more years I would weight almost 300 pounds.
I also think, subconsciously, I thought I would be the outcast in my family. That my family would think I'm "too good" for them and they would not love me/like me/want to be around me. So, I didn't lose the weight. I didn't want to abandon my family. It then became a pattern, a lifestyle, and changing habits is much more difficult than anyone would like to admit.
Describe your diet from the minute you wake up to the minute you go to sleep.
Currently, I wake up and eat an Attain bar before I workout, I work out and drink a shake. Sometimes I blend spinach and fruit smoothies with protein powder, sometimes I make a simple protein shake. That usually holds me over until lunch, where I make some sort of salad or bring a frozen dinner. If I have meal prepped over the weekend, we eat what I have prepped, which usually comes from a Beachbody meal plan, skinny taste.com, or other healthy meals I found on pinterest.
When I fail to plan is usually when I don't make healthy choices. I run through a fast food joint (and justify it because this is the "last day" or it is "just this one week" or "just this one day," which is always a lie). if I forget to plan lunch, I go out to lunch. The problem is, I make unhealthy choices because this is going to be the exception to the rule when I forget my lunch and I can indulge "just this once" or whatever justification I chose to tell myself. But, it's always based on lies.