I’ve struggled with my weight for as long as I can remember.
Ever since I learned what a body image was, I feel like I’ve had a negative one of my one – recently, I came across some old photos from, at this point, nearly fifteen years ago. I was about eight or nine, and the photos were of myself and my siblings going down a slip and slide during the summer, toothy grins and funny faces galore. They were cute photos, but something struck me as I saw the ones of myself, shirtless little old eight/nine year old me. I didn’t remember the day very much, as was to be expected. I didn’t remember much of my thoughts that day, or what I had for breakfast, or who I talked to – but what I did remember as I looked at myself, was the thoughts of “I’m going to look so fat in those pictures.”
And that’s it. I don’t remember how long we played out there, but I remember my father taking photos of us and every time I slid down the slide I would try to cover up my chest and stomach so no one could see how fat I was.
Like I said, eight or nine.
I have no clue how it started – I wasn’t trying to impress anyone, I didn’t think twice about what I ate. I wasn’t even really an overweight kid – I’d say relatively average if perhaps a little soft – and I don’t recall ever really getting bullied for it either.
Though for as long as I can remember, I’ve found myself distressed at my weight. Every time I would look in the mirror, I’d see myself as fatter than the previous day. I would go and eat a cracker and felt like that cracker caused me to gain ten pounds. I’d only ever feel like I wasn’t gaining weight if I just didn’t eat. It didn’t matter how much I actually weighed, I felt as if I could see my waistline growing by the minute.
When 2014 came around, I had actually gotten to the point where I was actively heavy. My mother pulled me out of school my sophomore year to “homeschool” me, but that consisted of occasionally looking up GED programs, and usually just lounging on my computer from the time I’d wake up, usually around noon or one in the afternoon, to the time I’d go to bed, usually around three at night. I’d be on my computer, I’d eat, I’d sleep, and repeat. I got heavy enough to be disgusted with myself – though as much as I hated how much I weighed, the strange thing is that I don’t think I noticed how much heavier I was then before. I hated how I looked before, I hated how I looked then, so it felt no different to me.
The following year, after returning to school and becoming a bit more active, I lost a fair bit of weight, returning to the long-abandoned land of under 200 pounds. I looked back at photos of myself from 2014 and vowed never to let myself get that heavy again, and I continued to lose weight. As I entered my senior year, I was thinner then ever before – actually meeting my BMI weight for the first and only time, ever.
But – looking back – getting skinny was probably the worst thing to happen to me.
I weighed about 175 pounds. I was weighing medium to small size shirts. People started finding me attractive. It was all so strange.
But I didn’t see myself that way. I still saw the 230 pound behemoth I used to be. I would constantly take photos of my stomach to see how fat I was. I would grab and pull on my stomach and sides wishing what little gut was there would just go away. Every time I ate, the only thought running through my head was – “This is it, I’ve finally done it, I’m a fat fuck again. How could I do this?”
I would always look at myself in any mirror I passed by. Not because I wanted to look at myself, as my girlfriend at the time jokingly implied I was a narcissist – but because I was so worried that in-between the time I had last seen my face, I had suddenly gained weight. I checked my jawline, my stomach, my hipbones – I would wrap my fingers around my wrist to see if they could still touch. If I couldn’t see a proper amount of bone, I was fat again. My girlfriend would take photos of me and all I could see was how fat I thought I was – my jawline looked less defined, my cheeks looked a little puffier, my neck was wider – even though, looking back, I looked the same every time. Nothing was changing. I was the same as I was five minutes ago, a day ago, a month ago.
That’s not the way I saw it, though.
I graduated high school still thin, and moved in with my girlfriend at the time, where we were both on our own for the first time. And this is where it started to reverse – looking at the photographs from the moment we moved in to where we moved out – I didn’t even look like the same person. I reverted back.
I was told it was because I was comfortable. The ‘Freshman 15’… more like the ‘Freshman 50’. Other people we graduated with gained weight too. It was normal.
But it didn’t feel that way. I had people that I hadn’t seen in high school that would see me around town, and for whatever reason their first greeting as “Man, you gained some weight!” When that became socially acceptable, I’ll never know. I looked back upon all of those photos that I took a year prior fearing that I had suddenly become fat overnight and cursed at myself for not realizing that I, at one point, had what I wanted. How could I have not seen how thin I was? I could I not have appreciated it? How did I take it for granted, spending all of my time just thinking I was fat?
Now I was, again. Perhaps other people didn’t see me as grotesquely overweight as I saw myself, but it didn’t matter – every time I looked in the mirror, I saw nothing but every roll, every bit of skin to grab onto, every bit of extra flesh that held on to me. And it still feels that way, every time. I’ve lost weight since, nearly twenty pounds worth, but I still feel the same. I still see the same person in the mirror.
I’ve tried all the diets. I’ve tried the starvation. I’ve tried not caring. I’ve tried gyms – but I’ve noticed that no matter how well I do, it won’t matter to me. My mind won’t see anything different. If I’m 210, I should be 190. If I’m 190, I need to be 175. If I’m 175 – I just need to be a goddamn skeleton, maybe then I’ll feel some relieve.
I’m working on body image. My mother had body dysphoria and I’m sure I have the same. I’m trying to just be healthy first and focus on the pounds second. I count my calories during the week and try to let go a little on the weekends. My wife – who has been with me while I’ve been thick and thin (haha, get it?) – never ceases to reassure me and give me positive affirmations. I’ve made an effort to stop sadly calling out my weight every time we take a photo together and to not let that be the first and only thing I notice.
It’s hard. It hurts. The old clothes not fitting and seeing the old photos make me feel unworthy. Makes me want to just fall in a spiral of anxiety and negativity – but it can’t. And I’m trying.
There’s not exactly the conclusion I wanted, originally. I was hoping that by the end of this, perhaps I would finally reach the realization that my weight doesn’t define me and I’ll be okay, and that if I keep working I’ll be where I want to be someday and be happy. That hasn’t happened, exactly. There’s no real conclusion or positive ending to leave with. No words of wisdom that have come to me to make everything better. I’m just one of many people who face this struggle everyday – and for many others, they have it much worse. It’s never the end of the world.
But I know I’m trying. I’m working towards it. I have goals set and I’m getting there – however slowly it might take. Now I’m just playing the weighting game – and no matter how it ends up, I think I just need to remember I’ll be the same person regardless. It won’t be a new me. It’ll just be a me that can fit in a medium size shirt again. I’ll be under 200 and still filled with anxiety just as I’m 215 and filled with anxiety.
But at the end of the day, it’s just the fact that I’m trying. And I think trying is enough.