There I was in a dirty bathroom without a shirt. I have lost more than 200 pounds. I work out six or seven days a week and I eat unprocessed foods.
I am posing for the mirror. A man who is close to 40 years of age. I see the loose skin and stretchmarks. I see the muscle underneath some skin. I see the slight resemblance of abs...
I also see a body I love.
I read an extreme weight-loss story the other day. It was about a woman who lost more than 180 pounds, and who was honest about her struggles. It was a very well-written piece, but something was missing in it for me. At first I thought it was that her tone seemed to speak for every weight-loss success story, but that was not it.
She kept on using the term "fairy tale." Weight-loss success stories love to use that term.
The problem is that it is hard to get a good success story these days. The stories that are all sunshine and roses want to sell you something. A book or a program, which gives you easy steps to get to where their picture is. Then when you do not get it, you are the failure. You did not do it right.
If you think about it, if someone truly had the secret of weight loss, wouldn't they be the richest person in the world? Wouldn't they win awards instead of selling secrets on poorly made websites where they also give you $125 worth of free books?
Then there are stories that tell you horror stories after losing weight. You will not be good enough and you will not be perfect enough. So why don't you just stay where you are?
There is rarely a happy medium.
When I was 420 pounds I hated my life and myself. I fought with my wife because I was not happy. I hated work because I could not move up to become a managing partner. I hated coughing blood and having to pee sitting down. I hated that I sweat all the time and I hated that I wanted to lose weight, but never took the initiative to do so.
I wanted a better job. I wanted a happier relationship. I wanted respect. I was tired of people assuming I was lazy. I wanted a better body.
When I started to lose weight I knew I would have loose skin. If you lose an excessive amount of weight, the odds are you will have loose skin. It is not because you lost weight too quickly. That is ridiculous. It is not because you ate the wrong foods. It is because when you were over 400 pounds, you have a lot of skin. It does not magically go away by lifting weights and eating broccoli.
So when I weighed around 300 pounds I saw it in my stomach and a little in my arms. Not a lot though, but some. I did not care. I was just so thrilled I could actually look at myself in the mirror and not hate myself. Not because of my looks, but because for the first time in a long time... I was trying. I was trying to be a better person.
When I lost all of the weight I knew I would never look like the models in Men's Fitness. It did not bother me for some reason. I started to live my life without blinders.
I saw a relationship that I always had. My wife loved me when I was 420 pounds. She loved me when I was at my worst. She loves me just as much today. I saw a job that I always had. I got promoted after losing weight. Not because I looked different, but because I had more confidence in myself. I was happier. I saw that I had the exact same life I had before. But I finally saw the fairy tale. I saw the beautiful life. With the loose skin and stretchmarks.
When I go to the pool I get nervous about taking off my shirt. But something happened last year that made me change. When my family went we saw a couple of "hot moms" in bikinis and some "six-pack abs" dads doing cannonballs.
What I saw was one dad with his daughter. He was pretty large with a hairy back. He had "man boobs," like so many of us older men do. He did not care. He was having fun. He loved the time with his daughter.
I realized that is the man I want to be. I want to love myself no matter weight loss, gain, skin or marks.
Brooke Birmingham went viral for refusing to put a shirt on for Shape magazine. The most beautiful part of that story is not what you saw in every publication out there. It is that Brooke was more than 300 pounds. The last thing she ever thought about at 350-plus pounds is wearing a bikini. When she first put one on last year, she did not ask the Internet for approval. She was rightfully proud. And no one can take that away from here, not even a large magazine.
I do not look like male models and chances are you do not either. Weight loss is kind of like being treated like a dog. Many times people tell me I should be proud of losing 200 pounds, but not that proud. I still have imperfections. I can get surgery and I can get better. So be proud, but remember you do not look like anyone else.
Everyone has a story and most are similar. When you lose a lot of weight you have flaws. You have imperfections. You might take 12 pictures and only like one. You might feel awkward in clothing that should fit. You might tug on your clothes, and there is a chance your life will not change.
My life did not change either.
I will say that I never thought I would take a shirtless selfie. I never thought I would be happy with my life. I never thought I would have kids.
I always had the fairy tale. The "happily ever after" was always there for me.