Phase 5: Like “Really” Fat

I’d been heavy since I was a teenager so it never shocked me how fat I was. It comes on in stages, in waves and you don’t really think about it.

There’s lots of little cues you start to see. Parts of you start sagging. Other parts jiggle. You feel more tired more quickly. Stairs become scary. You’re afraid to let people see you without a shirt. These things just slowly build up.

I remember when my belt started bothering me. My belly hung over my belt buckle and because my jobs involved sitting a lot, my belly would press down into my belt buckle. It’s strange, I never really had the issue before, and suddenly my stomach hurt all the time. It would leave scratches and callouses on my stomach. I got used to the idea that every time I stood up, I had to brace myself for a sharp pain and pull my belt out of my stomach.

Carrie commented one day that I had horrible skin where this occurred. I was so instantly ashamed that I snapped at her. “I KNOW” I would say with a hint of sarcasm. I would desperately try to draw her attention anywhere else.

This was my body, I knew all its faults and features. She would stop talking about it but her eyes said plenty. God, what I wouldn’t give to wear a belt without a sense of fear. Every time I strap one on, and trust me at this weight you NEED one, I would shudder a little inside. I knew it would hurt later. I felt that I probably deserved it. I thought about switching to suspenders, but just the thought of explaining why the hell I looked like a 50’s nerd, sent me into paralysis.

I tried juice-fasting. We watched the movie “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead”, and it was fairly inspiring. It seemed like there was not only a way back from my condition, but a quick way back. I fasted the first time for 23 days and I lost 30 pounds in that time.

I was so exuberant. 30 pounds. I don’t think I’ve ever lost 30 pounds…. ever. Inevitably, this proved to be a quick fix with a quick backlash. I started gaining some of the weight back. I hadn’t really learned to change anything. I just hoped that motivation alone would set me on the path.

After a month or so I started having stomach pains. I ended up losing weight so quickly, I gave myself gallstones. Eventually after 3 trips to the emergency room I had to have surgery to remove my gallbladder and I was bedridden for days, barely able to move for weeks.

I was terrified and in pain. Carrie was with me and beside me the whole time. I made it through and silently vowed not to juice fast like that again. Around this time I weighed about 340 pounds, dipping to a low of 330 around the end of the juice fast. Before I knew it, I was 350, 360 pounds. I was closer to 400 pounds than I was to 300 pounds.

There’s something about nice round numbers that people love. 200 pounds, 300 pounds. These are milestones. If you pass 200 pounds, you’re getting unhealthy. When you cross north of 300 you’re definitively unhealthy. When you approach 400 you feel like human garbage. I watched the scale silently scream toward 400. Hell, I had to get a new scale because my roommate’s old one, only went to 350. That’s right, the scale didn’t even work for me anymore. Every time I thought about it I felt a deep and burning shame. That sometime as simple as ‘eating right’ and ‘being active’ seemed impossible, crippling, terrifying.

As I hovered and fluctuated around 370, 380, I would try to focus on other things. I did improv comedy, I worked in journalism and writing. I laughed with my friends, went to the movies constantly. There wasn’t much I could do at that weight. So every few weeks I’d find myself, standing on shore while my friends went ‘tubing’ and hanging back while people walked ahead. Pretending constantly that I didn’t want to do things because they were boring, or tedious. When in fact I just didn’t trust my body to keep up. I got so ashamed that I couldn’t really even process it. I just ignored it. I’d have fits of shame almost daily but just tamp them down to avoid getting depressed.

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