At 19 years old, my doctor hit me with the harsh reality that I was killing myself. Literally. My addiction to food was greater than anything else in my life and I wasn't going to make it to my 25th birthday. We had tried everything. Diet pills. Workout regiments. Limited food intake. Nothing worked. The combination of bad genetics, a low income upbringing which led to eating poorly, verbal abuse from everyone in my life because of my weight; I had felt completely defeated. I was fighting a battle I knew I was going to loose. My doctor suggested having Gastric Bypass and insisted about putting me on the wait list for it. At the time, the procedure was still pretty new and the only doctor in the tri-state area performing it, was only allowed to do 300-400 procedures a year because of how much it cost a hospital to have it based on how fast insurance companies were paying them for it. Being allowed to have gastric bypass was kind of like getting a golden ticket from Willy Wonka. Year after year, there was no update on when I was going to get my gold ticket.
Now in addition to dealing with this addiction, I was struggling with something else. I was gay. I was a 648-pound gay man. The internal battle I was facing was real. Being gay and being overweight just do not go hand in hand in the eyes of the LGBT community. I was so lost but yet portraying an image of happiness and joy to all those around. This game of emotional masquerade I was mastering seemingly had no end to it. Then I got the call. I was brought in for consultation by the doctor who realized quickly that I needed to have this surgery or I was going to die. After months of preparation, consultations with all types of doctors who had to sign off on me having this procedure, a lengthy 13 weeks of NO eating and drinking Medifast (a medical shake that gives your body the basics of what it needs to get through a day) prior to the surgery to lose 10% of my body weight, and pure and utter mental exhaustion; it was time. My family and friends stood by my side as I underwent a procedure that could have killed me or changed my life forever. The recover time for me was quick and challenging but freeing. The pounds fell off week after week, month after month, year after year. I saw myself changing and becoming the man I always knew that I was but was too scared to be. Even though at the time, being gay was still looked down upon, especially in the small communities that lie within the Upstate NY area, I was able to be myself and share that with so many people. I had gotten a great gig being gay on the radio, I had somewhat come out to my family and friends, and I was about to leave to move to San Francisco to attend film school.
If I had the chance to interview myself on the day that I first got myself wait-listed to have Gastric bypass, I probably could have never predicted how my life would change from this single procedure. I could have never predicted the life lessons I would learn over the next ten years. The surgery allowed me the freedom to step into my own soul. 10 years ago, I was sitting in a retail store selling cell phones and doing weekly stints as a gay entertainment personality on a local radio station. Today, I am an Emmy nominated Reality TV producer who has been lucky enough to be able to become a voice within the LGBT community based on the work I've done for nonprofit organizations, nightlife events across the country, and for being a real and honest person to all of those that I have met along the way.
The LGBT community has this internal fear of themselves and body image nightmares could not run more rampant. I would be lying if I said I don't have self doubt, deal with body dysmorphia, or worry about the way I look every single time I walk out of my house to go to my work place, or step into a gay club, or go to an event where my LGBT peers will essentially be judging me. Over the years of promoting, I've seen how others tear each other down (I know I've been victim to it), judge each other, and write off people before they know them because they look a certain way. Now if a magic lamp with a genie in it were in my back pocket, changing this would be one of my three wishes. Judging others is NOT something I want to define me as a gay man. For that to change, we must create that change. Not everyone can be strong. Not everyone can look past rude comments or shady eyes that are thrown their way. This disparaging treatment of others will be our greatest downfall. How can we truly get a respectful acceptance from others when we internally are being unjust to those in our own community? I believe the key is to not allow the power to be placed into anyone's hands that can ultimately define who you are. As cliché as it sounds, we all are who we are. No one can change that. No one will ever change that. If we think about how we want to be loved and how it feels to love; why wouldn't you want to feel that incredible sensation all the time? It's indeed MAGICAL.
So as I celebrate my 10 years, I hope that we can all learn to be a little nicer, treat each other with a loving hand, and to cherish each and every day like its our last. Life is far too great and precious to NOT love it in everyway and to love each other even more... hey, they don't call them love handles for nothing! ☺
"I believe that every single event in life happens in an opportunity to choose love over fear."
-- Oprah Winfrey
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