I received an email this week from a woman living in Cape Breton who hasn’t been out of her house in the last two years. She didn’t tell me what she weighed, other than to say she’s no longer able to make it down the two steps to her backdoor, or fit behind the steering wheel of her car.
I get an email or two like this every week. I get letters from people from all over the country who have read my book and want to thank me for letting them know they’re not alone. So many obese people think they’re the only person in the world living and feeling like they do. They’re wrong. I was wrong.
When I started to make the first changes in my life I was amazed at how freeing and saddening it was to learn I wasn’t nearly as special as I thought I was. At 460 lbs., living my self-contained life, I thought I was an anomaly. I thought finding help was out of the question because I was such a unique case. I thought my anxiety, my panic, my controlling ways and my fake demeanour were a unique mix of issues special to me. Man, was I wrong.
There is a template for obesity. The mental and social effects are just as predictable as the co-morbidities like high cholesterol and diabetes. If you’re more than 100 pounds overweight, your body is getting in the way of your social life. Your health is getting in the way of your potential. Your ability to ignore your obvious physical issue is keeping you from living a truly honest life.
I was mortified when I realized I had given up a decade to this disease thinking I was unfixable when I was really just a textbook case of what young male obesity looks like. It’s not all that different from what obesity looks like at any age. The larger you get the more who you are actually getting swallowed up by fat and doubt. Bit by bit you give up pieces of your life, and your future, to a disease that separates you more and more from who you actually are.
That’s what happens the day obesity first wins; you forget who you are and you wanted to be. While my friends were dreaming of careers in the NHL, or of being doctors and lawyers I was just dreaming of getting rid of the weight and starting over.
I’ll be 32 in July and that’s still where I am. I’ve lost a lot of weight, and I have a lot of weight still to lose. I’ve changed many parts of my life, and there are many more changes to come. Some of them are small and private, and some of them are big and scary. It can feel overwhelming to know all of this stems from one desperate admission that few are willing to make: I want to change and don’t know how.
This column originally appeared in the May 21, 2014 issue of The Chronicle Herald – Cape Breton Star.