Before I entered high school I lost 50 pounds. For most of my childhood I was hovering over the 200-pound mark. I decided to change for high school. I was tired of all the names.
You know the names... fat, chunk, porky, fat once again.
I wanted to finally be "skinny." I wanted to have some confidence to ask out a girl. I wanted to be "popular." You realize later in life if you want to be "popular" then you will never be truly "popular."
So I got ready for my first day. I was around 155 pounds. I put on my size 30 pants and the Tommy Hilfiger shirt I begged my mom to get me. She knew how hard I worked to fit in with the other kids. She made a lot of deals with me if I lost weight. Getting new clothes was one of them.
So I put on my clothes and went to the mirror. Then I realized something...
I was still fat and ugly.
It did not make sense. I lost 50 pounds. I worked so hard to limit my calories every day. I did some walking around the neighborhood. I should be buff... right?
Instead I hated what I saw. I had a "spare tire" around my waist. My head was much bigger than my body. I looked awkward. I looked fat.
I thought it was just my shirt being tucked in. So I pulled it out. I always had a theory that I looked thinner with my shirt not tucked in. I was wrong. The "spare tire" was much more evident. I pulled the shirt out more and more but could not get it to look right. So I took my shirt off to get a new one.
Then I looked at my chest. It was horrific to me. I thought about what a girl would say if she ever saw me half naked. Would she laugh? I would if I was a girl. With my loose skin and no muscle there was no way a girl would even see me half naked.
I worked so hard just to be fat and ugly. I put the shirt back on and looked at myself.
I could not even love myself.
I thought the answer was to lose more weight. Maybe if I did I could look like Mario Lopez or Joey Lawrence. The cool guys I saw on television. The guys girls went nuts over. I mean, I had a good personality. Everyone told me that. They told me so many times I actually believed it. Later in life I questioned what the hell a "good personality" truly is. Oh yeah, a "good personality" is just code for being fat.
So I decided to lose more weight. I ate less and worked out more. Every day at school I would tug on my shirt and people would tell me how amazing my weight loss was. I told them I had a long way to go. I never enjoyed the compliments. When a girl would talk to me I would walk away. Why would anyone want to be with a fat and ugly guy like me?
After eating a lot less I got to be 142 pounds. I could see and feel my ribs. You could see my neck move when I breathed.
And I still hated myself. I hated the way I looked. I hated my body, and I was the first one to make fun of it. My nose, my gut, my legs... you name it.
After high school I slowly gained weight. I did not care. I would get to 240 pounds and then lose the weight. Then 300 pounds and then lose the weight.
When I was over 400 pounds I could not look in the mirror. I had no loose skin. I was obese. Nothing looked good on me. All I cared about was clothes fitting me.
When I was over 400 pounds I looked at one of my old high school yearbooks. I looked at my picture and realized I was beyond "skinny." I looked good, although I never saw that in me. I cried because when you weigh so much, you truly believe you will never get that chance in life again.
I lost over 200 pounds, but more than that I learned to love what I saw in the mirror. I had to. I could not do that to myself again. After hating myself and comparing myself for over 30 years I realized that I will have imperfections. I have two choices: Embrace them or be miserable with them.
So now when I look in the mirror I see a smile. I see a guy who is determined to be healthy. I have loose skin and muscle all mixed in one...
But I also see my 4-year-old son in the background looking at his dad in the mirror. Asking his dad if he went to the gym. Telling his dad he wants to be just like him.
I love him very much. And I do not want him to have the body image issues I did.
If you're struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.
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