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Body Issues

For anyone who has known me in person, my body issues have been on public display for most of my life. In fact, I remember all the way back in kindergarten that I was Santa in our Christmas play because some of my classmates suggested I fit the role because I was fat. I look back at photos of me at that age and I don’t understand it.

Me on the day of Kindergarten graduation
Morning of Kindergarten Graduation

Were they somehow psychic or was it a self-fulfilling prophecy? I don’t know but if I had the nerve to share photos from just a couple of years later, I was fully a chubby child, no doubt. And that lasted well into college. I’m sure there’s some feedback between my repressed sexuality and my weight but I have no idea which came first. I just know it was part of the picture throughout what would have been an awkward phase of my life no matter what.

Finally in my last year and a half of college working on my bachelors I got serious about my weight. I started walking and riding a stationary bike. I look back at photos of myself after the weight loss and I wish I had been happier with my body but I still saw someone who was fat and unlovable.

Still I came out of my shell a little and kept working on my weight through grad school. In fact that’s the period of my life when I got sort of obsessive about it. This is a story that I only recently told anyone but my second year of grad school I was going to the campus gym every day and being very restrictive about what I would eat when I was alone. Up until that point I had only tackled my weight with exercise but as I said I was having an obsessive time. One day after getting home from the gym, I passed out on my bathroom floor. I don’t know how much time passed. But whatever the case, it was my own personal wake up call. After that I did still exercise but I could see clearly that I had gone too far and understood all too well how people develop disorders.

The lightest period of my life was somewhere in my late 30s. I was getting up before daylight every morning to walk before work. And I often walked or did my stationary bike in the evening. I finally got within about 20 pounds of what the calculators say I should weigh. About that time I went through a disrupting period. First a bad case of tendonitis and months spent in physical therapy. Followed up almost as soon as I recovered with a fall that irritated a bone spur that had previously not hurt. So add surgery on my foot. Those two events disrupted my regular exercise for the bulk of a year. I didn’t regain immediately but I stopped losing and I became painfully aware that I was still deeply unhappy.

Maybe a bit of body dysmorphia but almost certainly also my years of repressed sexuality. My unhappiness wasn’t just unhappiness with my weight in other words. A couple of years later I left my cube job, traveled a bit and got started on trying to make a living with my art. Exercise and worrying about my weight faded from the forefront of my mind. I regained some but what was really ultimately the worse part was my Mom’s dementia because I have always been a stress eater and there was a lot of stress. When I saw the doctor near my birthday in 2022, I found out I had reached my peak weight from all the way back in my college years. That was the first time in all of my adult life that I had managed to yo-yo all the way back to where I started.

It was still another month or so before I quietly started exercising again. I know for a lot of people it helps if they tell others so they can be held accountable, but for me, it’s always been the reverse. I don’t want people to know I’ve tried in case I fail basically. And saying something it’s almost like a “f*** you” that I’ll purposefully quit rather than fail. I wonder about my brain some days.

So I’ve mostly been quiet about getting back into exercising in earnest. I’ve mostly been doing my stationary bike again but this time instead of watching TV while I peddle I’ve been doing HIIT videos on YouTube which I think has made a difference. And I’ve also mixed in some days of training with resistance bands – again with YouTube videos. Don’t ask me about weight. I refuse to look at my weight. I did the same thing the first time I lost weight decades ago. I don’t want to obsess over numbers like that. But a week ago, I put on shorts and a t-shirt that I haven’t been able to wear in a decade. I have more I hope to lose but I’m also trying to learn to be happier in the skin I’m in.

That’s what feels different this time. I don’t beat myself up. If I wake up one day and feel too tired, I have decided to listen to my body as long as it’s not turning into multiple days. I think opening up to others about my being gay/queer has also had a huge impact. That was undoubtedly something that held me back in the past and kept me from finding happiness in even small victories. I wish I could have seen that sooner but happy that I can see it now.

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