Like everyone else who gets paid to spend anytime behind a microphone, I made part of my pay cheque last week by turning the Rob Ford saga into a punchline. For our show – we jumped on the bandwagon with a special Rob Ford edition of our weekly “First World Problems” bit where my contribution was a joke about how the white powder on his upper lip was actually powered icing and not cocaine.
Yup. I made a fat joke about a guy with a drug problem.
Me. The fat guy with the food problem.
The more I watch Rob Ford dig his own grave (political and personal) I find myself starting to relate to the guy.
I know what it’s like to be popular in spite of your faults.
I had listeners, readers, and viewers accepting me when I couldn’t accept myself, and I used their acceptance to replace my own. Who was I to challenge my decisions if they were being happily accepted by strangers?
That’s what they call believing your own press.
Toronto loves Rob Ford. There’s something about the city that serves as Canada’s middle finger that enjoys getting the press that comes from having the second coming of Chris Farley at the helm, and they get off on the second round of coverage they get by continuing to support this guy as he nosedives his life on the front page of The Toronto Star.
I’ve done a lot of research about obesity in the last year and half – since I decided to finally tackle my own. None of the morbidly obese people that I’ve talked with in my research were single-issue people. The mental condition that has to exist for escalating obesity is usually pretty littered with other complications. Depression. Anxiety. Addiction. Identity issues. Sexuality issues. The variety of rabbits hiding in the hat is complicated by the physical co-morbidities that come along with obesity. It’s not enough that you’re fat and depressed, anxious, confused, or closeted. You’re all those things with hypertension, high cholesterol, and diabetes.
Now I’m not saying he smoked crack because he’s obese – I’m saying his obesity is a sign to the world that there are deeper issues at play.
That is a failure of our healthcare system today. If I had an eighty pound tumour on my abdomen and went to the doctor with a sore ear they’d look at my ear and then before I left the office they’d talk to me about the tumour I seemed happy to ignore – because it’s a clear and obvious sign that something is wrong. Yet patients sit before their doctors everyday for a multitude of ailments while both are happy to ignore the eighty pounds or hundred pounds of fat that hang off their body, shortening their life by the hour, and lowering their quality of life minute by minute.
And why? Because we look at obesity like it’s a choice. We treat it like smoking.
The accepted reaction inside and outside the traditional medical community is: “Well, they do it to themselves, and when they’re ready to stop, they will.”
I call bullshit. I was ready to stop long before I knew how. I was ready to be honest with myself. I was ready to admit I wasn’t healthy or happy. I was ready to admit that most of my life was lie on top of a forced smile and fake laugh. I lived day-by-day like I was writing a story about some character. I treated conversations like interviews. Years went by where there wasn’t a single honest authentic moment between me and another person because I put one lie, on top of another, on top of another until I forgot who I actually was. The thought of knocking those down was terrifying because I had no idea who I was without them.
Without being the radio guy.
Without being the funny one.
Without being the guy who fixes other people’s problems.
Without being the stable one.
Without being the calm one.
How did Mayor Ford go on TV and tell everyone he didn’t smoke crack?
Because he said it so often to those closest to him that he believed it himself.
How did I think was I living a fulfilling life encased in over 250 pounds of extra fat?
Because I forced myself to project that image so much I thought it was true.
And that comes at a cost.
Years spent living a life that isn’t actually yours.
Years working toward goals and relationships you don’t actually want.
Obesity is a disease of complicated people.
Those who say that’s not true are still believing their own lies.
They still think the tape will disappear if they just deny it exists.