There is a look that people get on their face as their mind quickly races to find a polite way to ask some version of these questions. It’s funny. I didn’t really get this when I lived in Ca
pe Breton – mostly because my decision was so public that anyone who wanted to know could find out. It was a really neat experience to feel I had the support of the entire community as I took this on, and really it’s only since I left that I realize how much a part of my life that whole support network had become.
The people I spend all of my time with in Fredericton, with the exception of a handful of family and friends, have no idea what it was like to have 460 pounds of me in their life. For the few months that they’ve known me I’ve just been who I am now….an overweight guy making an honest effort to live a healthy and happy life.
So when I meet someone who wants to know more I have trouble really capturing it in some short way. More often than not it gets reduced to “I weighed 460 pounds” or “I’ve lost 200 pound
s” or every now and then they’ll see a picture of me at my heaviest. I don’t think any of that really captures how bad it was. Weight amounts and pictures are all cosmetic.
Sure I looked bad but I felt worse. The longer I live this new way the more I find myself judging the guy that I was. I was worried that as time went by I’d forget what it felt like to be 460 pounds but I’m not worried about that anymore. I’ll never forget because with each new experience I am reminded that my days and nights are now full of things that guy couldn’t do.
So when people ask me now I try not to talk to them about weight amounts and clothing sizes. So many of the things I used to measure my success in the early stages now seem so strange to me.
Twice I’ve gone with friends to the see a performance at The Playhouse. I couldn’t have done that before because I couldn’t fit in the seats. It’s a regular thing to hop in the back of a friends car and go for a drive. I haven’t fit in the back of a small car in years. I’ve gone skating. On actual skates. We just did a station event that includes a hike around a lake – and I couldn’t wait for it because hiking is just about my favorite thing to do. Just last March I stayed in my hotel room while my cohost hiked at a similar event in Baddeck. This year – I could have been out there all day. Yesterday afternoon I met with my two co-hosts, sitting on plastic patio furniture at a sidewalk bar. I couldn’t fit in patio furniture before and I certainly exceeded the weight restriction. I’ll agree to go to lunch anywhere now without worrying I don’t fit in their booths. It’s nothing for me to walk from one end of downtown to another for a meeting. In Sydney I used to break a sweat walking from the studio to my upstairs office.
But it wasn’t just physical. I walked around with a wall between myself and the rest of the world. I hid behind my job, saying writers and news guys are basically antisocial people, functioning best as wallflowers – observers of it all. Meanwhile I was frustrated as hell because I knew the real me wasn’t a wallflower at all but no one but those closest to me really knew that.
I had zero hope. I had no ambition. I felt lucky to have stumbled into a job that played to my strengths and weaknesses in just the right ways allow me to sustain a small sliver of normalcy.
Socially, I torpedoed relationship after relationship – convincing myself I really enjoyed dating and just wasn’t ready to settle down, when really I would just kill anything when it got too real. It was too much work to be fake, and too risky to be myself. There’s a special place in the stars for the women I dated in my 20s….the ones that put up with me and stuck around are the ones who saw parts of me worth being with, when I thought there were none. I didn’t let anyone get close because I assumed they’d reject me, just as I had rejected myself.
I write a lot – and when I look back now at some of the stuff I was writing at my heaviest they are stories and essays filled with regular guys battling something bigger than themselves. They are stories of people who never thought they had what it took to fight the good fight and turn seemingly impossible challenges into incredible opportunities. Now I realize they’re all stories about me.
I am so thankful for the people in my life – those who helped me when I started this journey and those who are with me now. I knew that moving to a new city meant the chance to meet a lot of a new people. I had no idea one of them would be me.