Ever since I was young I have been, at least, a husky individual. Over the course of my lifetime, that descriptor has varied from husky to overweight to healthy(ish), and everything in between.
For a large part of my life, I was self-conscious about my weight. Not necessarily because of how I felt, since, though carrying excess baggage, I was healthy. In truth, I was self-conscious because of the same reason so many other people are – I worried about what others thought of the way I looked.
I was teased for my weight in school. Although I learned how to shrug off the stinging jabs from my schoolmates, the echoes remained. This in turn lead me to use self-deprecating humor as a defense mechanism; sometimes proactively so as to try to “take the power” from the others, but oftentimes no one was thinking or saying anything. Except for me. This pattern stuck around for the rest of my life.
A prime example occurred while having a team outing for lunch a few years ago. Following our meal, our team leader was inquiring if anyone wanted dessert, because she herself wanted some but didn’t want to be the only person to order for want of not holding up the entire group. She turned to me and said, “Chris, you’re not having dessert?” While not intended as an attack on my weight, my self-defense mechanism took control.
“That’s right. The fat guy isn’t having dessert,” I replied.
This was my regular pattern for years. Ironically, this mental exercise ended up being a catch-22. I felt bad about myself because people thought I was fat (or so I often assumed), so I ate to compensate for my emotions, thus making me gain weight. Cycle complete. How many of you have gone through life honing your mind-reading skills and just “knowing” what everyone else thinks about you? You feel their judgmental looks. Their reproachful gazes in your direction. That’s right Suzie – I know what you’re thinking! (Okay, maybe not. Suzie, I apologize for placing my own self-destructive thoughts and ideas into your head… inside of my head.)
Over the last 20 years I have tried a multitude of things to lose weight. I have joined the gym, I have tried various diets, weight loss programs, I did exercise regiments like P90X and others. All with varying success. I would always shed some weight, but eventually plateau and stay at that level. It frustrated me immensely. Them, when no further progress would be found, I would quit and the weight cycle would begin again.
As my journey of self-development has progressed over these last years, I have come to learn to love myself. I accept myself for who I am, and what I am. I’m still working on not judging myself so harshly, but that’s a work in progress. What I’ve mostly gleaned through all of this mental work is that it’s not about working harder. It’s about loving myself as I am that’s going to get me the results I want. And let me be clear here – I am not saying that I can love myself for who I am, eat a diet consisting of nothing but delicious, mouth-watering donuts from Halo Donuts (I’m looking at you Triple Chocolate cake donut!), and look like a Men’s Fitness magazine cover. What I’m saying is that by accepting myself for who I am, what I am, AS I am, I’m already lightening the burden that I’m carrying on my back. This is the first step in being more aligned with my higher-self.
There is a famous quote often misattributed to Gandhi that says: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” I’m going to reframe it to say, “Be the change you want to see in YOUR world.” If I see myself as a better, fuller person, then my body will follow suit. I don’t need to be a fitness model to feel healthy. It’s all a state of mind.
Recently, I finally accepted the fact that my body has changed in the past 20 years. For the first time since I was in university, I increased my pants size. Although I knew that I should buy a bigger size, I would always resist. My ego wouldn’t let me. “You can’t go into even fatter guy pants!” I would tell myself. But when I tried these pants on in the dressing room recently, I suddenly realized how uncomfortable I have been for many, many years. I’m tired of being uncomfortable for no reason other than my ego’s vanity.
I’m slowly, but surely, equipping myself to be better, to do better. My most recent strategy is using Noom. Noom is a “digital health company that helps people live happier, healthier lives” using behavioral science through a combination of psychology, technology and human counselling. (Please note, this is not a sales pitch. I do not get commissions, compensation, reimbursement, bonus points or pink Cadillacs if I sign you up. I just like promoting things that I enjoy. Like Halo Donuts. Seriously, treat yourself to a donut.) It’s helping me get a better grasp on food choices (even if I know what I should be eating already).
I’ve seen progress in the first two weeks that I’ve been using it. I’ve dropped about 7 pounds. Then I gained back a few pounds. Then lost some again. And that’s okay. It’s learning to accept that it’s a long-haul approach. There is no magic bullet, at least no healthy one, that will get me to drop weight. What I like about Noom is that they aren’t a restrictive diet that will ultimately cause me to cave and gorge myself on everything I’ve deprived myself of for weeks. It’s about making choices, consciously. If I want a donut, I can eat a donut. It’s more about balance, and that’s how I’m approaching my life going forward.
Life is too short, too fragile, too fleeting to spend it depriving myself entirely of the pleasures of food. I have never been a believer in uber-restrictive diets. But I am willing to take the necessary steps now to ensure that I am healthy and can fully enjoy the rest of my life in good health, so that I can continue enjoying all of the deliciousness that is in the world.