Mental Challenges and Your Weight

Monday, May 17, 2010

I read Coach Nancy Howards blog today about being overweight and the perception that you were being judged multiple times through an average day.

You would think that as a guy I would be less judgemental of myself, of my body, but that's not how it works when you have low self esteem. I had internal emotional problems from about the age of 8 years old when my parents divorced.

I took the 'blame' for their break-up and carried it squarely on my shoulders. I thought of myself as incapable of being loved, and the obvious reason must have been because I was fat.

In high school, I still looked at myself as fat. Even though I played football and ran track - then cross country, I still perceived myself as fat. I rarely dated when in high school because I was afraid or rejection and I didn't feel I could overcome that 'fat' stigma.

After high school and 2 years of college, I was drafted (I was born in the first half of the last century). Because I scored very high on my BMA (Basic Military Assessment) I was invited to, and went to, Officer's Candidate School. While in OCS, I ran and did calesthenics daily. Because I was a joker, I really ran 'Punishment tours' every Saturday and Sunday. 2.5 miles, one way, with the last half mile up a large hill with about a 25 degree climb. At the top of the hill, we had to pick up a large rock (at least 50#) and buddy carry it back to our Company area.

If you were a really bad boy you also ran on Sunday. The hill, like many targets in the military, had a name, MB-4. I really learned to hate that name. If someone just mentioned MB-4 I would get angry enough to be called mad. In time, I learned that MB-4 was doable and I was 'promoted' to a cadet leader (I ran outside of formation, called cadence and harassed the slower, lower ranking cadets.

At 5'8" and 165 pounds, I graduated from OCS as the 'Fat Lieutenant' - in my mind. I spent two years in Germany and 'ballooned' to 175#. After Germany, I had a tour in Vietnam.

I came home from Vietnam at 165# of 'fat' and I stayed there well into my 30's. In my late 30's I did start to gain weight. At 178# I was diagnosed as Diabetic. What I wasn't told was that I really had to control my intake or I would gain weight because of the medicine I was on.

I gained about a pound per year, sometimes two, until I was 210#. I was fat and I had known it throughout my entire life.

Then came a time that I had to pay back for Vietnam. I started having 'blackouts' (actually flashbacks) where I couldn't remember what I had been doing for the period of time when I was having flashbacks. My mind was still protecting me because it wouldn't let me remember those blackout times or what I had been seeing.

It got worse and worse until I recognized I had a problem and started seeing a psychologist. Six weeks into treatment I couldn't handle living anymore and went into psychiatric hospital for a 3-day 'Evaluation'.

I finally left there 10 weeks later, with prescriptions for FOUR psychotropic medications, two of which were for the maximum recommended dosages.

With five years of therapy, where I finally was able to recognize and eliminate the childhood problem, I found myself FAT and found Spark.

I couldn't really find people to talk with because they either weren't Dealing with Depression, or they refused to acknowledge it. There were six other people that I found on all of Spark who couldn't find anyone to talk to for the same reason. Even here, depression was a scary illness that spooked a large number of Sparkers - they wanted nothing to do with us.

We gradually grew to about 25,000 members and then everything went crazy. We started gaining members at the rate of 200+ each day. Dealing with Depression is now the largest team on Spark with over 600,000 members.

At some point in that time, I was able to go back and look at pictures of my younger self. What I found was that I wasn't fat. I have a build like a fireplug, but there was no fat. No giant stomach, no rolls over my belt, no love handles. Not until my late 30's, after I had been diagnosed with Diabetes did I start to look fat.

All of that torture I put myself through had been for nothing. For nothing real, that is. It was my self perception I had been battling and I found out it was my" 'stinkin' thinkin' " that was at fault.

My endocrinologist told me that losing weight as a diabetic was nearly impossible. The key word for me was "nearly". I went from 210 down to 185. Then my pancreas started to shut down and I had to go on Insulin.

I blew up and no matter what I did, run more and eat less, I couldn't stop the weight gain. When I talked to my Endocrinologist, he said that being on insulin was almost a sentence to gain weight. This time the focus word for me was 'almost'.

I continued to battle the weight gain but slowly lost. Step by step, pound by pound I gained back up to 205#. I read everything I could get my hands on about diabetes. Publications from Mayo, from the Cleveland Clinic to the New England Journal of Medicine. I had to get a medical dictionary to understand many of the words.

What was it that I found out? Insulin is a type of steroid! I also learned that the less I ate, the lower my metabolism dropped as a means of protection against starving.

So I did the unthinkable. I raised my caloric intake to 1500 calories from 1000 - 1200 I had been eating. I immediately gained two pounds and I was ready to go back to my dangerously low calorie diet when I dropped 2# in two weeks. It continues to drop and I am now down from 207 to 198.

I've changed my goal from losing 2# a week to losing ONE pound per month. I can do that standing on my head and doing less exercise! My left knee has quit hurting completely, my right knee only hurts occasionally. My back continues to bother me, but I found out I had three disintegrated discs and three badly compressed discs.

I'll put up with that and see what losing weight does to it.

OK, one pound a month. That means that at this time next year I will weigh-in at 186#. Two years from now I'll weigh 174# - one pound less than that picture of a slender me at age 33.

I don't have to lose 5# in a month. I don't have to lose 20# in a year. Just 1# a month. -3500 calories. I can knock that out in three days and just keep my meal plan within bounds for the other 27 days and exercise a bit.

Technically, right now I'm obese. In a year I'll be overweight. In two years I'll still be overweight, but not a lot, and my doctors all want me about 10% above optimum to have a little cushion for possible illnesses. Their goal is for me to be around 170 pounds.

I can get there. I will get there. Finally, after 55 years I feel comfortable with myself. Even at obese, people tell me I'm not fat. I can definitely live with THEIR perceptions.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • no profile photo CD10482202
    You give me hope. I tend to have depression at times thanks to menopause and the fogginess I get. I tend to forget what I'm doing within seconds of doing it, and I'm told it's all part of the menopause fogginess. Also since menopause I've gained 100 lbs and nothing I do seems to work. I'm 242 lbs on a 5'9" frame, and as a woman, I'm considered extremely obese. Don't you just hate that word? I sure do. In 2005 I was a slim 142 lbs. Then my body took on a mind of it's own.
    So now I struggle to lose even 1 lb a month. But it's not in me to just give up. I will lose this weight.
    I look forward to reading more blogs from you. emoticon
    3477 days ago
    Part of my goal is to find a way to control my depression without medication. I'm going to add it to my list. Thank you.
    3848 days ago
    thank you for your blog.
    3894 days ago
    Thanks for sharing this--it couldn't have been easy to write, but it is a great inspirational story--you've come through so much and come so far. I know that you can make your weight goals--maybe slowly, but as a slow loser myself (very very slow) I remind myself daily that people who lose weight slowly are more likely to keep it off in the long run--and I aim to keep it off!

    Congratulations on managing your diabetes and not letting it rule you. Diabetes runs a lot in my family (and I find it a terrifying illness, to be honest) and I know that it's not easy to control, but it's vital to do so.

    You know, it's funny. People--even men--often assume that men don't worry as much about their appearance as women, but from talking to male-friends, I know that's not the case. Men are just as worried about being judged by their appearance--it's just the rules for how that judging works are somewhat different. It sounds like you've come a long way in dealing with those issues and that's great.

    Depression is a really terrible disease. I can't claim to understand it 100%, but I won't turn away from someone just because they are struggling with it. I have a number of friends who are dealing with variations on it, from SAD to bipolar, and it's a hard and difficult illnesses to overcome. But it can be overcome, and the group you founded to give people suffering from depression (as many as 1 in 4 people I read somewhere) a place to talk about it.

    Thank you for serving in the armed forces. It isn't much, but for what it's worth I appreciate it and I feel safer knowing that there are people like you who have and will serve to protect this country.
    3896 days ago
  • LINDA!
    As a fellow friend, with depression and anxiety issues, I understand much of what you have mentioned. I have THINGS in my head that may disappear for awhile but often sneak up on me to crush any positive thoughts I have of myself.

    I am sorry for all you have been through. But THANK YOU for serving in our military. I also thank you for always showing us that there are others out there that are like us. There is a security in knowing we are not alone.
    3896 days ago
    Fair play to you. Mental illness is unfortunately really stigmatised in today's society. As someone who has a close family member who is mentally ill, I think it's amazing that you set up a Depression Group on here to help those who suffer from this. That's fantastic.

    3897 days ago
    Thank you for sharing your life with us, I imgagine that wasn't easy, you've been through so much. I'm glad you've found a plan for your health goals. Slow and steady. You WILL win the race. See you in Corinthium emoticon emoticon
    3897 days ago
    You've been through so much in your life, and I'm delighted that you've got such a positive attitude about moving forward. Hugs to you, my Corinthium/Spark friend, and way to go on finding a path that works for you!!!

    3898 days ago
    You are an inspiration as always, my friend! emoticon
    3898 days ago
    An excellent blog - I don't THINK, I KNOW you will succeed. I love the fact you emphasised that it isn't about speed, but the end result :-)

    Kris xx
    3898 days ago
  • MAGSA10
    I just wanted to let you know that I really enjoyed your blog. I found it to be very inspiring and moving. My uncle was in Viet Nam also and he won't even talk about it. We just know that he protected supply convoys and was shot several times and received a purple heart which he wouldn't ever talk about. We know that he has mental and physical problems due to his time there and won't go to the VA for help. I want you to know that I think that you have been very brave and strong with all that you have had to deal with. No one will ever know all the things that you or anyone else will have to deal with for the rest of your lives. Please accept my profound apology for the way our Country treated you on your return from Viet Nam. I also want to Thank you for all your time and your life that you have given for our Country.

    Maggie j. emoticon
    3898 days ago
    Tell your Dad Thanks, also. And tell him "Welcome home brother".

    He'll know what I mean.
    3898 days ago
  • no profile photo CD7421340
    Very encouraging and uplifting. And emoticon for being in the military and protecting us! My dad was in Viet Nam too. :)
    3898 days ago
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