100 pounds down. Feels good to write that. Doesn’t feel good to know it had to happen in the first place. And truthfully, that means I’m probably half way to where I’d like to be at. But, I do think it’s important to recognize success at whatever level it is at. I’m still vastly overweight. My physical appearance still isn’t great. I still cry about my weight. But, I’m 100 pounds down.
In mid 2017 I topped out at 443 pounds. Now i’m a tall guy, and a big guy, but 443 pounds, well that sure seemed like a really big number on the scale. I hadn’t weighed myself in probably two or three years before I saw that number on the scale. I didn’t want to know the truth. I knew I had gained tons of weight the years leading up to it. I was mostly living as an agoraphobic at that point. I did my work from home. I only went to drive thru restaurants. I rarely saw friends and I routinely skipped family and holiday events. I was too anxious. And too ashamed of myself. If I had to go to the grocery store, I’d go in late at night when as few people as possible were there. I ate alone. Always. I ate in shame. Always. I ate foods that didn’t provide my body or mind with good nutrition. I ate garbage. And I ate far too much of it.
I was not a heavy kid. I was a big kid, but I wasn’t a heavy kid. But my battles with weight started when I was 8. I wanted to play football and back then they didn’t put you on a team based on your age or grade. It was based on your weight. 89ers was what the league was called. For kids under 89 pounds. I was taller than most kids in my grade, and I weighed 96 pounds. So at age 8. AGE 8. I had to go on Slim Fast to lose 7 pounds in a few weeks so I could play football with my friends. I can’t imagine that was a healthy thing for an 8 year old to have to do, but what do I know. But all through my childhood and teen years I was an athlete. I played sports all year, I rode my bike everywhere, I was extremely fit. I was always a little bit “big” but I was not overweight. But I always felt overweight in my head. And my dad constantly told me I needed to lose weight. But i see pictures of myself from high school and think “that was overweight?”
College was a different story. My daily exercise stopped. My food intake increased. My weight went up. My self esteem went down. I never had a girlfriend or really even a date all through school and I think a big part of that was because I always saw myself as fat and unattractive. I would never even ask someone out because I would feel bad for putting them in the position to have to say no to me, because of course that’s what they’d say. My dad was my second harshest critic of my weight behind myself. When he died in 2001, I think in a lot of ways, I took his criticism that was now gone and just doubled down on my own self hatred. I graduated college a year later and was 363 pounds. I decided to take a year off of school before going to law school to lose weight and honestly, just take a break. And I did really well. I started seeing a trainer and over the year lost about 80 pounds. And I kind of stayed at that weight or around it for the next few years.
In 2012 I got down to the thinnest I’ve ever been as an adult. 267. Still a big guy, but as I said earlier, I’m quite tall and I see pictures of myself from that time and I think I look a normal healthy weight. How did I get down to that? Depression. My appetite when I had depression episodes was almost non existent. I was living in Portland, Oregon in those years and my anxiety had led to bouts of depression. For much of 2012, I ate dinner at the hospital down the street. I was ALWAYS at the hospital. You know, in case I had a heart attack, or panic attack, or any other ailment that I constantly thought was going to happen to me. But at the hospitals I’d sit in the waiting areas and read, and then have dinner of like fish and vegetables. And small portions of it. So the weight fell off, even without exercise.
My anxiety always used to ebb and flow from periods of moderate general anxiety to debilitating panic attacks. As 2013 came around I slowly but surely started to gain weight again. Food was definitely a brief escape from my mental health battles and sadness. Of course, once the meal was done, I felt worse. Rinse. Wash. Repeat that cycle for years on end.
So in 2017 when I saw the 443 on the scale, I decided to try and lose weight. I went back to my old program from 2003 of eating slightly healthier meals than I normally would, but nothing extreme. And I tried to start walking regularly. My walks started out at 12 to 15 minutes each morning in a parking lot at the mall. I was too anxious to go into the mall, so even in the cold Seattle mornings, I’d be doing circles around my car. Eventually getting up to 20 or 25 minutes. Over the next few months I did start to lose some weight. I was still quite scared of going into crowded or public places, and I would use a mobility scooter if I had to. I’m sure some racing folks remember seeing me bebopping around on that thing at NHC on one of my few trips out of state during this time period. But I just couldn’t keep it together in a room or crowd without it. And my weight didn’t help. At the beginning of 2018, I had an episode of Atrial Fibrillation. Essentially my heart went out of rhythm. I was alone at a family cabin in a rural area when it happened and I of course thought I was having a heart attack, even though there was no pain. At the hospital they zapped it back into rhythm, and I went home. At that hospital visit I think I was at 409 pounds. I lost another 20 or so during 2018. My diet was still atrocious, but some friends from twitter had started doing “Saratoga steps contests” and that really motivated me to walk more. 2019 and 2020, I was on the road a lot, announcing in places like New Jersey, Virginia, and Florida. My diet still stunk, but I was keeping up with the walking and my mental health and life in general really started to improve. I kept losing a little bit of weight each year. I’d go to my physical in 2019 and was 385. Next year, 375. Last year, even with doing my walking regularly, my weight had plateaued. I lost some, but literally just a few pounds. I was 371 when I came to Tampa in November.
When I first got here I thought maybe I’d try the dating apps again. Maybe i’d meet someone to date. Maybe just some friends. But that was a total failure. I’ll be the first to admit that I shouldn’t let others dictate my self-esteem, but boy did that feel like complete rejection that nobody matched with me. Just made me feel so unlikable and ugly to be honest. So I shut them off. And I started with a personal trainer. I sought advice from my friends who helped me with diet and exercise questions. Then I got covid oops. But then back at it again. And I really tried to improve my diet. The last few months I’ve been eating better than I ever have. And I eat less portions. I try to stop when I feel satiated. My attitude about food feels much different this time around.
Well the last couple months the weight has started coming off again at a very good and steady rate. As you can guess from the weight listed at the start of this, and the first line of the blog, I’m 343 this morning. Long way to go. But I’m feeling progress. And if there’s one thing I learned from my battle with mental health issues, progress at any speed, is still progress. None of this happened over night and it’s not going to change over night. In fact I went from 371 to 350 in like a month. The last five weeks I ate just as good and worked out even harder, and only just lost those most recent 7. I foolishly thought this would all be as easy as that first month down here lol. Oops.
Losing weight is not easy. The emotions associated with weight as an overweight person in my experience have always been pretty intense. I’ve probably cried more in Tampa the last few months than I have the previous couple of years before that. Which might sound odd, cause truth be told I think I’m doing better than I ever have as an adult. In most areas of my life. I feel great about my work. I feel some optimism about my life. A lot of that emotion I think has just been old hurt about my weight and self-esteem just coming out while making changes in my life. And honestly a lot of that emotion is about gratitude. I am a very blessed person. And when I think about the support I get from the people who love and care about me, it makes me cry. Because the people in my life keep showing up for me. I wish everyone friends like the ones I have. I don’t know what I did in life to deserve some of the people I have in my corner, but my gratitude for them and for their kindness and love cannot be even remotely described with things like words. You know who you are if you’re reading this. And I love you so much.
Last thing I’ll say and this ties into the mental health side of all this. I don’t know a lot of absolute truths. But I can tell you this. The most rewarding experiences, accomplishments, and friendships in my life, almost all came as a result of moving through fear. Of being scared and doing it anyways. I spent so much of my life running from fear and worry and all it did was move me backwards. As ridiculous as it sounds, I’m fearful of what hitting my weight loss goal would be like. Being heavy has been my life for so long. What if I lose the weight and still think I look bad? What if I fail and gain the weight back? I think working on my self-esteem will be a big part of what I hope is this continuing weight loss journey. I’m sure some are reading this and are thinking I should learn to love myself just the way I am. And they’re probably right. My mom told me one time at one of my lowest points, “If you saw what we saw, you’d love yourself a lot more than you do.” I’m trying Mom. I am trying.