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.