At The Heart of it All; Bullying and Perceptions

Bullying –

Bullying. I hate this word. And being a writer, there aren’t a lot of words that I hate in the English language, but this one…this one makes my blood kind of boil. Almost boil…rapidly simmering(?), I don’t know…Sadly, we’re all perpetrators to it in one form or another, be it good natured ribbing with friends, or on the receiving end of the shit-pile of whatever-at-the-time-seemed-funny-whimsical-fuckery that some grade school playground bully is throwing your way. And even more sadly, bullying goes into our adult lives; the douchebag with the overinflated sense of entitlement that sees you with two slices of pizza instead of one while he’s putting down six himself; you can imagine him smiling back, chomping at his food like a cow, saying, “Because I can and you can’t…” or, the hauty-tauty woman that would only give you the time of day because you paid her to tell you, and yes, even the gamer geeks that ridicule a “normie” because he/she doesn’t know who shot first, Han or Greedo, or asks, mistakenly, “Didn’t Gandalf die?” whilst watching Harry Potter and whatever it was that Harry Potter was looking for in that movie. The point is, bullying happens every day, and, it sucks. Even the most secure people are susceptible to bullying, and even these secure and overly confident people have cracks in their foundations that a passerby might not even notice, but, they are there. And when someone DOES see those cracks and begins to dig into them or point them out to others, that’s when things change and the “it’s all fun and games” turns sour.

“It’s not how others perceive you, but rather, how you perceive yourself, that matters” – this was something that I would talk about in my Weight Watchers meetings, and no one really seemed to get it, which, I honestly didn’t understand. If you see yourself as confident and a fun person to be around, if you project this, then, people will see it. It’s something that I had almost completely forgotten about until my friend, Juniper, made me remember one night while having a drink with her. I had fallen off my own mantra and quite by accident, I began bullying myself about it; which sucks because I was bullied as a kid growing up because I was overweight. Not because I looked funny or because I smelled funny (no, I wasn’t THAT kid; every class had one), or because I didn’t have new clothes at the onset of each school year…I was bullied for being “the fat kid”. Thankfully, I didn’t let it get to me in a deep psychological manner. I didn’t end up psychologically scarred in the sense that I would end up atop a church tower with a box of shells and a rifle checking names off a list as Steve Buscemi would have in “Billy Madison”. I sat in a corner and played chess against myself and delved into nearly any book I could read, and I wrote stories; I delved into my imagination, deeply, and stayed there. How I didn’t become an axe wielding maniacal fuck-head, ala Patrick Bateman is beyond me.

I abhor bullying and I can’t believe that some people go thru it and continue to go thru it in their adult life. Not just with being overweight, but, with anything considered “outside the norm”. It disgusts me.

I sometimes look for the “big meaning” behind some of my memories or thoughts, and to be honest, sometimes there’s nothing there. I think this might be why I don’t write on this subject as regularly as I should. God knows I have more than enough material to write about, filling pages of me rambling – going on and on and on, ad nauseum…I think anyone who is coming to terms with some aspect of their life, or something that they are trying to change CAN go on about relentlessly. Nietchize said, “Be careful when you stare into the abyss, for the abyss might stare back,” and I think this is very true. Not having the want or desire to sit down and talk with a therapist, or at least, establish a new relationship with a new therapist means that I get to write out my thoughts when the mood strikes. And you get the fortunate (or unfortunate) grace of being handed an electronic trashcan filled with words.  It’s like being sick; the feeling comes on a few days prior, you try to brush it aside, there’s a mental build up and then, you find yourself trying to steel against admitting that you’re “sick”, in this case wanting to whine about growing up overweight; the big build up, and then, SPLAT! word vomit, right there in front of you. Only, thankfully, it’s not the green and yellow color of mucus or whatever you ate the night prior.

And believe me I was “sick” a lot growing up. And how I managed to get away with it most of the time, is beyond me. I guess I was overly good at giving the perception that I was sick; nevermind the fact that the movie, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” seemed to take a page out of my own playbook of “How To Fake Being Sick, Convince Your Parents and Still Have an Awesome Day Without Even Trying”…trust me, I think I wrote the book on how to do this successfully.

Growing up, I didn’t really take well to the other kids around me. Sure, I painted a smile on my face and went out to play football in the street in the evening, or even “ditch’em” (if you don’t know what “ditch’em” is, it’s a team based game of hide and seek within a neighborhood at night. You find a place to hide and wait for the other team to find you….I was typically forgotten) but, I never felt like I fit in with any of them. I met the neighborhood kids every morning where my house made a “T” with the street directly in front. We would walk around the block and meet with a few others, and then walk the half mile (or however long of a walk it was) and meet another schoolmate, then walk up the canal to the bridge, and then the long walk into the backside of the schoolyard. The walk to the school was typically fun; we would laugh and joke – it was normally about a half dozen of us and the perception was that we were all best friends. And I wish I could say that we were, but, we weren’t. Even though I thought we were, most of the time, it was just a matter of me being in a form of denial.

Admittedly, two of those kids and I did become friends.

There was a bridge that spanned the width of the canal, and beyond that, a chain-link fence with a swinging gate that was locked at night that lead into the schoolyard. By kids’ standards, this playground was huge…going back as an adult, not so much; Funny how perceptions change over the years. Anyways, all of us, including every other kid from the neighborhood would congregate at the bridge and wait. For some then unknown (even now I don’t know) reason, the school wouldn’t allow the kids on the playground until 7:00 AM. There were two gnarly old men that stood guard over the chain link gate; mean old bastards like goblins guarding an old and forgotten keep, they stood there with skin like leather, stubble on their faces that looked as though it hadn’t been shaved in weeks; broken and yellowed teeth on display whenever one of them would cackle at an inside joke that none of us kids would understand, but would laugh reluctantly just because; and tattoos on their forearms -tattoos that had dulled in color over time so that now there was no trace of art but rather, a blue green sea of crisscrossing lines that made no sense at all, seemingly forgotten even to the wearer. They wore the bright orange construction worker vests and yelled at all of us; the now funny “Get off my lawn” kind of yelling that would hush the lot of us without so much of a whimper. And they would smoke. They smoked cigarettes like their last breaths on this planet depended on it. I would stand there, seemingly alone, staring at them and everyone else. I say “alone” because I noticed as a kid, or at least it was my thought as a kid, that my friends had suddenly deserted me. This desertion wasn’t brought about by the shouting or incoherent mutterings of the old men that stood guard on the bridge, but rather because we were now around other kids, more “normal” kids, more “average” kids. The hierarchy that dominates you from grade school, junior high and high-school (and that seems to be a necessity in growing up) had kicked in. Although we were friends every morning while walking to school and even after on the walk home, once we hit that gate, all bets were off. It was a silent form of bullying and one of the most intrusive. And I was “the fat kid”; Not Dusty or Dustin, but “Chunk”, “Heavy”, “Fatty”, and every other derogatory fat name a kid could think of. Believe me, kids can think of some doosies and can be more hurtful than adults.

“Dusty’s got a…a big butt, a big butt…Dusty’s got a…big butt, big, big butt…” Ryan Winklepeck would sing over and over again, while slapping my ass, “Hey, it wiggles like Jell-O!” he’d finish saying.

“Hey, Dusty, you got dunlaps disease…you’re so fat, it DUNLAPS over your belt!” Tommy Williamson would shout, followed by a chorus of laughter by everyone, including the girls in the class. Shockey, Martin, Hodgeson, Cooper, Gentry, Ricca…every one of them had their taunts directed towards me because I was “the fat kid”.

“Be careful, you might make him mad and he’ll sit on you, wait, that would mean he’s have to catch us first…like that’s going to happen,” another would say, which was followed up by, “If he ran, that would be a massive earthquake!” Incidentally, the huge earthquake in the late eighties in Southern California…it was whispered in class that I was the cause of it because someone watched me fall down on the playground.

How do you reply to verbal assaults like this? How does one reply when they come from your “friends”?

Anyways, at the end of the day, once we passed the other side of the bridge, we were all friends again. When the sidewalk took me to the front of my door, I would typically hear, “You know we were just playing around today, right?”

“Oh, I know…see you guys later!” I would shout back, as I unlocked the door, and threw my bag down onto the floor while Sasha, our dog looked up at me with seemingly eyes of understanding, and then proceeded to follow me to the kitchen where I would gorge myself on whatever was available from the fridge.

Rinse. Lather. Repeat.

And because of these moments in time, you grow up with the perception that you really ARE what these kids, your supposed peers and friends, say you are. This is the worst kind of bullying, in my opinion: allowing the projected insecurities of another person, albeit a kid, weigh you down like a loadstone. You want to lash out at some of these people, but, you were told to never throw the first punch; I don’t advocate playground fighting and I don’t advocate bullying in any way, but, what no one knew, then, was that it was a near every day fist fight with some of the kids that taunted me, just for being overweight – for being different than everyone else; In the bathroom, behind the bus, in gym class – usually in places where the eyes of a teacher were blind to.

Perceptions change and the open taunting can become much more subtle. Back then, it was simple notes and whispers; folded pieces of paper left in lockers or dropped in a backpack, “You’re fat – no one likes you” were the simplest of messages.  The “You’re so fat…” lines were personal favorites, albeit not original, and the ever favorite group taunting during gym class when you’re required to strip down and clean up after running your ass off in the hot Arizona sun, was by far the most favorite of the time…Yet, in this world of instant messaging and technology driven media sites, it’s easy for a child to be bullied, at least, it’s faster for a child to be bullied by not one or two other kids and their handful of cronies, but an entire chorus of kids chiming in nano-second after nano-second throughout the entire day;  A relentless never-ending cacophony of messages coming in on your phone or laptop, iPad or tablet hammering your head and heart, droning it into you until you believe it. Not unlike “Ender’s Game” when Ender was being taunted, the words marched around the screen like parading circus animals. Thanks to technology, the kid sitting next to you, who doesn’t like you for whatever reason, only has to find your Facebook page and message you – even while in class. And, as a kid, you fight back not knowing that fighting back only fuels that wretched beast of a bully. It’s only later in your adult life that you learn to just let things slide off of you, or even to say “Stop”

The opinion is that when we become adults the bullying or the weird comments will cease to exist, but, this doesn’t necessarily happen. You tend to wrap yourself in a “normal” cocoon, at least as much as you can. Normal and quiet, unassuming, almost forgettable, a simple face in the crowd – these are the things you seemingly strive for so that the spotlight of being taunted is taken off of you, for whatever reason. “My god, make them stop – maybe if I disappear…somehow…” In my case, going through school taunted and bullied the way I was for being overweight, I excelled at being normal and unassuming. And even today, some of those cocoons still wrap around me, even though I try to come out of them whenever I notice those warm folds engulfing me. And I did disappear; for three months in junior high and most of my freshman year, I was home. I did a home study program due to massive migraines. And I wasn’t even missed, seemingly. When I went back to finish my freshman year, I was placed into a completely different class structure, which meant new kids and not the kids I came up thru the grade school system with.

But, you grow up, you find your own path, seemingly, and you find those that are like you; the same interests, likes, dislikes…like finds like, geek finds geek, nerd finds nerd, and I’m thankful for this. I have a lot of great friends that I surround myself with that have varying levels of, well, everything, and I’m thankful each and every time that I hang out with them. Thankfully, as I became older I realized that most people, when they sling insults and become a bully, are just verbally manifesting their own trite insecurities, hoping that someone doesn’t notice that they are balding, or are short, or walk like a duck or a pigeon. It’s that psychological need to denigrate another person in order to be accepted by a group of peers that you want to be a part of, or, to simply be a douche.

“You don’t wear the shirt of the band you’re going to see, Gutter…” –Jeremy Piven, “PCU”

Basically, don’t be a douche. And don’t be a bully.

Perceptions –

Perceptions can be a bitch.

I was recently reminded about perceptions and how others see you as a person; what it is you put before you and how those people react – good or bad, people see what they want to see, rather than what, and who you are at first.  Like anything else, these moments of fluidity can spark old memories; some good, some bad, and some…somewhere in the middle. I began looking into what it was outwardly that people saw that would give them the impression of someone not wanting to change their ways; the impression of someone not trying to be healthy. What perception did I, as someone who was struggling with being overweight, give off to everyone I considered “normal” (see: thin).

My father is a mouth breather (I know that’s a hell of a segue, but, bear with me). He tells me that he’s been a mouth breather since he was a kid. School teachers even tried to get him to learn HOW to breathe through his nose autonomously, but, it just wouldn’t happen. If he thought about it long enough and hard enough, he could do it, but, eventually, he’d go back to being a mouth breather. Listening to him on the phone from time to time is like listening to…well, you get the idea. And he’s a big guy, so there’s a lot of heavy breathing to move that body and do everything he does, every day. I’m a nose breather; I’m insanely quiet when I breathe to the point of having past girlfriends wake me up in the middle of the night wondering if I had stopped breathing. When I sit and I’m at rest, so I’m told, it’s difficult to see my body move from breathing, let alone HEAR me breathe. When on the phone, and there’s a long pause, people ask, “Are you there?” because they don’t hear me breathing. The only time I AM a mouth breather is when A) I’m out of breath (obviously) and B) when I have a cold and CAN’T breathe through my nose (again, obviously).

About a month ago, I’m sitting at my bi-weekly “Geek Trivia” and I’m asked if I wanted to join a board game that was about to be played, mainly to pass the time before the event started. This group of people had asked me before, and I had waved them off because I had to check work issues, or even study, but, this time I had no excuse so I said “Sure,” and joined. As the game progressed, one of the guys sitting across from me, looked at me and asked, “How come I don’t hear you breathing?”

“I’m sorry?” I replied after a few moments of surprise at the question. Typically, this way of replying, for me, is my filtering point for not letting the douche-baggery asshole answer from coming out…I definitely heard the question, but, my knee-jerk answer isn’t something that the guy wanted to hear.

“Well, I noticed I didn’t hear you breathing,” he said, shuffling his cards for the next move.

“Um, ok? I don’t think I understand the question,” I replied.

“Well, you’re fat, like me, and being fat, I know I have problems breathing; I breathe loudly, everyone can hear it. How come I don’t hear you breathing?”

“I guess I’m just a quiet breather?” I said to him, brushing aside the assumption that because I’m, you know, fat, that I need to breathe through my mouth….and loudly at that.

Oh, hang on…it gets better…

“Do you find you sweat a lot?” he asked after the next round of game play. The woman that was there seemed to look at him in that, “Dude…what are you doing?” kind of way, but, he stared at me, expecting an answer.

“I don’t really know what you mean,” I say as I roll the dice on the board and move my pieces, followed by “What’s the next step?” as though I’m trying to change topics.

“Well, again, you and I are both overweight, so, you sweat a lot, right?”

This is where I understood the direction of where he was going – the perception that, being overweight equates to not being healthy, by any margin, which is a falsity. I explained that I work out regularly and MOST of the time, I shy away from fast food in most forms, that I limit my sugar intake and generally try to eat as healthy as I can. He gave me a look of surprise, mumbled something that most people that he knows are overweight are very out of shape and could care less about health matters. I explained to him that just because a person is overweight, this doesn’t mean that they are unhealthy…at the very least, there’s the thought that, even if you are overweight and wanting to change something about your eating habits, you will. It’s like anyone going through any form of addiction or any BIG CHANGE – When you want to make the change, you will. Short of that moment in time, you’re destined to sit there and just, well, wonder. The round of gameplay continued and the topic was refreshed by one of the players. A topic I don’t really remember now. Yet, the perception still lingered, heavy and palpable almost; looming over the horizon and there was a part of me that wanted to ask him about it more, to get into the ‘why’ of the matter behind his thinking more than what he had already said to me. In the long run, I realized that this would be a conversation that would have very differing points of view and my argument to his falsity would go unwanted and unheard.

Never use a cannon to kill a fly.” – Confucius

So, I let him continue with his perception. This perception I also had to explain to the checkout girl at the store a few days later.

When I do my shopping, I typically buy in bulk; bulk rice, pasta, etc. My cart is typically filled with boneless / skinless chicken, white and brown rice, sometimes whole wheat pastas, low fat foods, lots of fruit, vegetables, potatoes, cans of tuna, and sometimes (not often) red meat. I’ll make my own bread when I have the time and desire, with my awesome bread maker. Don’t get it twisted though: there was a time when the cart was filled with boxed Mac & Cheese, mounds of processed foods, packaged foods, candy, and fatty, oh-so-glorious fatty foods. I find it interesting when I begin unloading my items onto the conveyor belt and I get that unexpected look from the cashier, because someone like me throwing healthy food on the belt is just pure nonsense, but this day was different.

“Going on a diet?” she brazenly asked as if we had known each other for years and we were meeting for drinks…as if, THIS is the first thing you would ask of a person that you’re meeting for drinks anyways. I meet with my friends a lot for drinks and I never begin the pleasantries with, “Say, uh, Rich…you’re pretty fat…but I see you’re drinking Diet Coke…are you going on a diet?”

Honestly, I was a little taken aback; “Excuse me?” my voice nearing that incredulous level of tone.

“Oh, I didn’t mean to embarrass you, I was just curious – “

I interrupted her, “Actually, I eat like this all the time, now.”

I left it at that as I could see that she was visibly apologetic and a little embarrassed as she looked down and then to the cash register while swiping items across that little red light while I grabbed my debit card. I looked at the woman behind me and she gave me an apologetic look, and then I noticed she looked at her food items and then at me; she LOOKED healthy; slender and fit with good muscle tone, and, by all rights, she probably was fit. Yet there the complete opposite kind of food in her cart…to which, I really didn’t care about.

“You have to understand,” the checkout girl began again, swiping my attention back to the here and now, “That most people like you that I see have their carts filled with microwaveable foods, candy, ramen and a bunch of other…stuff. You’re about the healthiest buyer I’ve seen all day, so, I just assumed, being…well, you were going on a diet.”

Her stammering was so much like that high school girl telling the jock that she liked him, and, I almost envisioned her kicking at the linoleum flooring hoping to kick a rock, that I pretty much forgot that the whole banter was mostly insulting. It simply came down to perceptions. She perceived, like the gamer guy, that because I am overweight, that I’m not healthy. Her perception is that all overweight people are not healthy, and this is not true. I’m healthier now than I have ever been in my entire life. My doctor says I have a healthier heart than most 20-25 year olds, and, I look younger than I really am. In the long run, I knew she wasn’t being malicious, so, I let the whole thing go. I half expected her to ask the woman behind me if she were looking to gain weight, what with the contents of her cart!

It’s the perception that if a person is overweight then they must be lazy sloths that just chomp at the bit until the next trough feeding, and, this isn’t true. I spent about 9 months in Phoenix (where I was raised) and dropped 60 lbs. When I came back to Portland, I put 20lbs back on because I went back to a desk job; I spent the better part of 8 months getting those 20 pounds off, in addition to losing about 4% body fat and building more lean muscle. Currently, I’m hovering around 298 lbs, and most people tell me that I look more like 230-240. I’m overweight, yes, and might even be considered obese by the numbers, but, I’m actually far from it, health wise. I work out nearly every day, sometimes even twice a day, and I maintain a calorie intake of 1900 calories / day – to place that number into a tangible image for you, a footlong “Spicy Italian” from SUBWAY is about 1200 calories, not including the chips and not including the sweet sweet sugary soda you might throw into it. There’s also the perception that being overweight means you, as a person, don’t have any social skills, that you are a forced introvert, and that you’d rather be left alone, plotting the demise of the thin world while living in a dank, moldy basement that smells like unwashed feet, or droppings from some fantastic creature. And this is also not true. Which, the reasoning behind this is interesting because, scientifically, Endomorphic (me, filled with the center-y goodness of a Mesomorph) people are seen as the lovers of relaxation, comfort and being around people, whereas Mesomorphs, typically center around assertiveness and love of action, while the remaining Ectomorph is truly the introvert steadfastly delving into his/her own privacy, restraint, and a highly developed sense of self-awareness.

While I wouldn’t mind plotting the demise of all the high metabolism fuckers out there that have never had to deal with being overweight, I’m not going to lump someone into a specific judgment based solely on their body type. Or, in what they eat.

Even with constant working out, I know that my metabolism isn’t going to rise much higher than that of a Polar Bear during the middle of winter. And I’m ok with this.

Lessons Learned:

  1. Don’t be a douche.
  2. Mind what you say; not everyone is going to let things slide off their backs…you never know who might ACTUALLY be atop a church tower with a rifle because of the things you said or did way back in the days of yore.
  3. Don’t let your perceptions allow you to judge.
  4. Like Bill and Ted said, “Be excellent, to each other…”

 

 

–Dusty.

The Devil dances with an odd sense of humor.

It’s amazing the things that one can become addicted to. It’s even more amazing when a person becomes addicted to something and that person doesn’t even know it has happened. My last post was how, yes, I was a recovering food addict, and as much as I’m going to talk about addiction now, it’s not about food. Rather, an addiction that I didn’t even know I had been playing with. It was an addiction of “Announcement”; being addicted to announcing how much weight I have lost, but, not in the sense of bragging or looking for recognition, applause, or well-to-do’s, but rather, to announce to anyone that would listen that I was once over 420 pounds and that I wasn’t anymore; Almost a sense of personal entitlement, as if to say, “I’ve done this…what have you done?”.

Yet, I didn’t know that I was saying these things on a regular basis. Like word vomit, most of the time it would just come out…those things you say, almost pre-recorded so that your brain doesn’t have to think about the words that just come out whenever your mouth opens.; Much like the guy or girl who has too much to drink and loses the filter and says the most socially inept things that makes him or her look like a giant douche.

I was sitting, having a drink with a friend that I see regularly (She’s a dancer and I don’t think she would appreciate her real name being used, so, I’ll use “J” instead) and we were talking about nothing in particular, when, something that was said that made me crack a joke at my being overweight. She didn’t laugh, which, honestly through me for a slight loop. She sat there, looking at me for a moment with very open eyes and the music of the bar playing loudly in the background.  Clearing her throat first, “J” took a sip of her tequila and pineapple chaser, leaned in towards me and said, “You know, you really shouldn’t talk like that about yourself. As your friend, I don’t like it.”

“It’s a joke,” I said, “I can make fun about myself…I do all the time. I’m actually pretty good about making people laugh cracking jokes about me.”

She slowly nodded as if to say, “And, your point?”

“It’s self-deprecating humor, J.”

She placed her hand on my knee and continued, “Yeah, but, if you make fun of yourself in this way, then this is what everyone else sees… immediately. They see this and not the funny, awesome guy that I know,” She paused to take another sip of her drink and then continued, “And I’ve noticed something else about you, Dusty. Every time I see you, you always bring up how you were overweight, are still overweight; that you ARE a big guy, or that you’ve lost over a hundred and twenty three pounds. It’s either by a comment or in a way of a joke; some self-defense mechanism. This doesn’t define you, but, I think you allow it to define you, and it shouldn’t. You shouldn’t do that.”

To be honest, hearing this was like a piercing dagger that went straight to the heart, but not in the hurtful way. Actually, no…more like a wrecking ball that smashed through this wall I unknowingly placed around who I am and how I see myself; rather than making fun about being overweight and using self-deprecating humor to place people at ease or in a good mood, and allowing the butt of the joke to be about ME, I should focus more on the awesomeness that I am, and, that which I surround myself with. I sat there for a few moments thinking about what she had said; she leaned into me and told me she had to get on stage but that she would be back. For the little while, I simply sat there, staring at my drink. A friend of mine that had joined me that night, had noticed me being deep in thought, but, opted to leave me be; besides, he was interested in another dancer and went to speak with her.

I had realized, with this insight from someone that is completely removed from my “normal” social group of friends, that what she had said was completely and utterly true. And in that brief fifteen minutes, under the dim red lighting of the club, and the thumping of whatever song was playing over the house system, I realized that I needed to stop projecting this self-deprecating humor, and that, what “J” had said was also very true…that if I project this overweight image of myself, then, this is what people are going to see first. And a lot of people can’t get past that kind of image, even though you can prove to them that there is something worth so much more beneath the joking and that first initial layer.

Despite being proud of an accomplishment in losing weight, I had never intended to become a braggart about it, and while I don’t see myself as such, I CAN see how actions and words can lend to such an assumption. It was in that moment, before her coming back to hang out with me, that I decided that being overweight wasn’t going to define me, as, apparently I had allowed it to. For so many years, I DID allow this preceding image of myself come before me, which, looking back, is very sad. “Here, let me introduce you to this lump of fat; somewhere along the way, we’ll get to the real person after a barrage of jokes about him being fat…” is how I now imagine that I’ve sounded, kind of – at least, in a paraphrasing kind of way.

To be honest, all I wanted to do was leave before she came back for another drink, but, my friend was chatting up a dancer and I was left to sit and think some more on this bomb that someone managed to explode under so many layers of me. In a way, it was amazing; for someone to be able to pinpoint something that you yourself hadn’t even noticed, let alone, something a therapist had never took a stab at. When “J” came back to the table, I ordered us both another round of drinks; she went with the same drink as before, a tequila and pineapple chaser and I drank a scotch (neat); my friend came back to the table with a beer and we sat there. “J” and I continued our chatting, but, most of whatever we were talking about refused to stay with me. I kept thinking about what had been said just a handful of minutes before. She snapped me out of it by asking if I was alright, to which I nodded and smiled, and took a drink from my glass. She smiled and another topic came about until she needed to go and dance again. When she finished her set, she came by, and said that she would be back to say goodnight. I sat there with my friend as “J” walked away. A few moments later, my buddy asked me if everything was alright, to which I replied, “Fucking gold, man.”

“What, did you get her number?”

“Better,” I replied, “personal insight.”

When “J” came back a few minutes later, my friend and I stood to say goodbye. She asked me again if I was alright and I told her that everything was completely cool. She reached in for a hug and I simply whispered, “Thank you,” – She asked what for, and, sounding like Darth Vader to Luke when he was dying (spoilers), I simply said, “You were right.”

I left the club and made my way to a late night diner with my friend, not really talking too much about what had been said between “J” and myself. The night had been good and I had to think about what had been said in more detail. Unfortunately, sometimes, it takes me a few weeks to process something. On the surface, I completely understood what had been said, and why, but, a part of my brain needed to dive into it much more; to really look at the mechanics of it. The gearing and cogs needed to have a reason as to WHY they were moving in this way – what caused this, as it were? And this is what I wanted to peer into. And I did; I found that what I had said to “J” that night just before leaving was very true: She was very right in her deconstruction. I had been allowing myself to let my weight and my physical representation of me DEFINE what it was to be me, and this could be a very large blocking point for anyone new that I wanted to let into my life.

Since that night, I have been conscious about making jokes about being a bigger guy, and I have been overly conscious about talking about myself negatively, even though it was / had been in a humorous and playful manner. Because of this slight re-alignment in self-perception, I have seen myself in a different way; I see something different in the mirror and how I hold myself around my friends and others. I’ve been a bit more extroverted, if one can be when most of their days are filled with being extroverted, and, I’ve loosened up even more. All because of someone breaking through a wall, that even I didn’t know was there.

It’s always odd to come across someone that is outside your normal circle of, whatever, and find this person having the ability to foster the breaking of an unknown addiction and help to push another person on their continued journey about finding more about themselves; However that might happen. For this little insight, for those few sentences, I am eternally grateful to my friend, “J”.

Dusty.

Addicts and the fat of the land…

When I was younger, I hated myself; I hated myself in that similar way that an addict hates themselves when they find the solid, bone-crushingly depressive feeling of hitting rock bottom, because, in a way, I too was an addict. Although not an addict of a drug or alcohol, but, of food. Sweetened sweets, detectible sugary fillings, over stuffed plates dripping with gravy; mounds of pizza and burgers, buckets of deep fried chicken – I loved it all, and I was addicted; I was addicted physically and emotionally to the food that I put into my mouth, and, I loathed myself for it. Yet, I didn’t internalize this feeling whenever I put something in my mouth, but rather, whenever I felt ridiculed and made fun of, which, began the vicious cycle all over again. I would be made fun for being fat, because I found solace in eating, and from being made fun of, I would stick my head into the fridge or the cupboard and, invariably, find whatever was the “best” (or worst) foods I could find, and heap them into my belly never really pausing while I inhaled.

Like Hunter S. Thompson doing bump after bump after bump of cocaine and then chasing it with a fifth of whiskey, I did bumps of Big Macs, Whoppers, fried chicken and drank chasers of 2-litres of Coke. I was an addict in a never ending, relentless viscous cycle of self loathing and self hating about being overweight. I was terrified to go to school; I would make up ways to stay home when I was in grade school so I didn’t have to face the other kids that would mercilessly taunt me because I was “chubby”; I would force a thermometer to get just above the fever zone to incite my mother to let me stay home, wherein I would sit in front of the TV all day eating 8-10 deep fried chicken strips or three Price Club (Now Costco) chicken patties, smothered in mayonnaise and bacon; a snack might be a platter of nachos made with fake cheese, a half tub of sour cream and anything else that looked good. Junior high, I would have a second lunch most days, and in High School, I would attempt to satiate my addiction by eating three or four McDonald’s sausage Biscuits with Cheese before class, and then go off campus and inhale another six tacos from Taco Bell at lunch only to go out and eat with friends later in the evening. Another place of business that would seem to cringe when I came in through the door, hoping I wasn’t there for the “All you can eat fish” or dessert bar; any place that sold a double helping of food that would easily feed a family of three was my destination, and I would sit there, hearing the screams in my head about what I was eating, but listening to that little devil of addiction, telling me, “No, seriously, it’s OK…they don’t understand you like I do. here, eat another doughnut…you’ll feel better.” My addiction would tap me on the shoulder, sometimes, in the middle of the night with thoughts of anything sweet or salty that I could find, and, when I lived on my own, the depression became so bad and the addition to food was so great that I would sit down with an X-Large pizza and finish it off by myself in under 30 minutes, only to throw down two or three microwaveable burritos and a giant Big Gulp of Coke. The acid reflux was relentless and I would feed myself antacids like they were little white pieces of candy. I honestly think I should have stock in those companies now.

Addiction, in any form, can be detrimental to not only your body, but your psyche as well as your confidence. I floundered when I began to reach “that age” and tried to talk to the fairer sex; I became the “Big” brother to a lot of the girls, and when admitting that awkward, eyes down, foot shifting in the dirt moment of, “I, uh, well, you know…like you,” I was met with looks of terror and horror, seemingly, that just made a fat guy want to crawl back into the cave, which was quickly covered by, “Oh, we’re too good of friends,” and “You’re like my brother,” and, my personal favorite at the time, “I don’t want to ruin what we already have as a friendship,”

I never received the memo that a person could be confident and overweight at the same time. I think that this vital piece of information was pulled from my mailbox at an early age amid the snickering and pointed fingers, calls of “Wide Load” and other stabs at being overweight. Yet, what being overweight throughout childhood takes away from you in confidence, gives you, alternately a steeled suit of armor, an ability to laugh at yourself, and a sense of humor that most people can become jealous of.

Ultimately, I did finally receive that memo around my early-twenties; it was littered with road tracks and tire marks and stickers from around the world, seemingly, and I could barely make out who it was addressed to. Like a forensic detective, I had to make out the lettering and with each word decoded, I found more and more confidence. It was also around friends; true friends that I found more of myself that I had hidden away for a long time. I’ve mentioned before on how I grew up playing D&D, video games, and anything decidedly NOT physical, and I embraced this as a part of me. Even with that addiction to food still baring down on me, I found a way to cope with it through friends and my geek-dom. I also found I had a voice, or rather, a penchant for writing more than I had ever known, and not just for storytelling. I wrote lyrics and songs – I heard whole concerts in my head as I scribbled away at work or in class; too many hours were lost in class trying to learn something new while the words poured into my head. That first job as a dishwasher at some ill-forgotten seafood restaurant was forgotten and lost because I would sit in the Walk-In and write, covered in thick cold gear just to not be found by my boss.

But SOCIAL confidence was still unobtainable. I was gregarious and outgoing, but, I didn’t know how to keep centered in a spotlight for any longer than a few moments, and that was usually with the help of someone I knew. I could keep a jok going, but a conversation was more difficult. And god forbid if there was a pretty woman about as I would suddenly shut up and become inept, almost stumbling over my own shoes. When you flounder, socially, and you become awkward, AND you’re overweight, you end up going back to that old friend, who welcomes you with open arms and a seat to push you up to the table, saying, “This will make you feel better, my friend. All warm and succulent for your tastebuds. Eat, and all will be right with the world.”

Summers in Arizona are horrible, and even more-so before you get your driver’s license. You’re left to the whims of either an older sibling to get you somewhere, or, you hope that one of your friends is a little older than you are and they have a car. My brother wasn’t around to take me here or there during those formidable years, and I was pretty much the oldest out of most of my friends; those who were older, didn’t have a car yet. The summer forces you to see yourself everyday in very much the same way that the taunting kids do, and, even at that young age, you can begin to hate yourself just as much as they hate you. Even though ti might not be because you’re overweight; kids can be more cruel than adults, and, they have the best ability to find the smallest thing to make fun of and you end upo doing it to yourself. Trying to rid my head of these self imposed taunts, I would hop on the bike that my brother decided wasn’t good enough for him to ride, and, head out on the far reaching stretches of the canal; a long paved pathway that was never-ending – not really, it just felt that way because I was fat. it was really only about a half mile to the canal and then another mile and a half for the loop around the neighborhood, but, when you’re a 15 year old kid, that seems like the breadth of the whole galaxy! But, i would ride the bike, hoping that when I got home, I would be thin. I wasn’t. it didn’t work that way. I didn’t know, then, that it was a tireless and merciless changing of your life that would take place over years to fix what needed to be done. I would get home, jump on the scales, and quickly become sad in seeing that the scale hadn’t changed at all. At this point, I would sadly saunter over to the M&M jar, and dump enough to fill an ice-cream bowl and proceed to eat it while watching god-knows-what on TV.

Self-loathing and addiction.

Years later, and after a horribly messy first real relationship breakup, I sat in the doctors office with upper abdomen problems, and then (unknown to my family) slightly-kindof-sortof-chest problems annoying me; my blood pressure was so high that the doctor was deathly worried that I would fall victim to a heart attack in near three weeks time. My listed BMI was over 50%, I was light headed all the time, my hands were numb most of the time, and other issues that I could ramble on and on about. The only thing I heard that was good from that visit was, “Well, at least you’re not diabetic…yet.” –  I could hear and feel my knees creak whenever I walked – almost as though they protested in agony and fright and were small twigs holding up more weight than they should… I was scared and I got on to a bike later that next night. I weighed a little over 420 pounds, and it was the night that my addiction to food ended.

I still have a “love / hate” relationship with food, but, I’m no longer addicted. I know what I should and shouldn’t put into my system and I know what a food trigger is for me. I also know how a stressful situation or an emotional one can trigger my reaction to “EAT ALL THE THINGS”. Every once in a while, I find myself, as anyone does, in the drive through lane, but, I don’t ask for enough food for three people because I’m unhappy with myself. It took a long time to be happy with ME, despite being overweight. And I still am overweight and that’s for me to work on, and not for someone else to point out. I thoroughly and completely enjoy being around myself and I think I’m an amazing person with amazing qualities and great personality; I’m completely extroverted and want to meet new people whenever I can – I make jokes and play around more-so than I ever have, and I’m not afraid to show it in public now; and I have equally amazing friends that know me really well. every so often that little devil of addiction pops up on my shoulder, but, I easily brush him away. I think about the distance it’s taken to get from there to here, and I’m not willing to go back to where I was. I spend a lot of my time, and new found energy, at the gym. When the weather was warmer, I spent my after work days riding my bike outdoors, but since the season is changing to cooler weather and the rains are coming, I find myself back in a gym. I hike almost weekly with a friend, I walk on lunch breaks, and when i find myself “itching”, I’ll do pushups. I don’t keep the food I used to keep hidden away in the cupboard – now, there’s fruit and other healthy choices. Like all addicts, you have to find a way to keep going, each day…food was my addiction and like any addiction, you can relapse. And while food isn’t AS dangerous as playing “let’s see who can snort the most” with Hunter or Charlie, it’s just AS dangerous to someone like me who grew up over indulging in sweets and deep fried goodness.

My name is Dusty, and, I’m a recovering food addict.

Even a fat guy can rant…

I never looked at myself as “fat”, even as a kid.

Most fat kids don’t develop sports abilities at an early age. Our bodies won’t let us, seemingly…at least, in my opinion. I was a Dungeons and Dragons geek; I always had my nose in a book, I played in chess tournaments, and I played video games on my Atari 2600, the NES, etc and even wrote a few very basic games in basic programming. My brother was seemingly born with a ball in his hand and had a natural ability to any sport that had said ball in it. I was an indoor kind of kid, and, even in my adult life, I still like to play D&D, read, play chess and play video games, but, I am now at a point in my life where I LOVE being outside doing SOMETHING way more than I enjoy sitting in front of the tv/computer blowing shit up. Don’t get me wrong – running around with a bunch of NPC’s in Guild Wars doing this quest or that quest is a blast, and I love it, or swapping bullets in any of the beautifully done FPS’s; I’m even in three RPG’s (Exalted, 2nd Ed AD&D, and Angels & Demons).

Now, I really enjoy riding my bike outside on nice days, and, I’m trying to meet up with friends that run a weekly kick-ball game. A friend of mine has invited me to go kayaking with her if she ever gets a group together; I want to try rock climbing at the rock gym, and, I also go on nature hikes with a friend of mine typically once a week. There’s so much more to do outside, now, later in my life that I would rather do. But it was never like this as a kid. I hated going outside; maybe it was growing up in the Arizona heat, or, not wanting to be outside because I knew the jokes and name calling would ensue.

As a kid, I played soccer and I thought I was really good; looking back, it’s hard to be “Good” when there are no tryouts for the team as the game is all inclusive. Yet, I still had fun and it was the one sport that I truly did enjoy as a fat kid. We had “Field Day” in grade school, and, as the fat kid, I was the anchor in tug of war, and any other event that needed weight at the ass end of anything. High jump saw me landing on the bar and bending it – I even heard about this at my 10 year HS reunion from people I went thru grade school thru high school with; the perils of a school system where everyone moves at the same pace.

There was a time, way back in the day that I would never have even dreamed of making fun of myself, my shortcomings, or especially, my weight. I can now, though, and I have no problem with it.

And gods forbid if anyone made a crack about my weight when I was younger.

But over the years of losing weight, fighting a weight “problem” [as the rest of the country calls it] I learned to become comfortable with who I am. Am I 100% comfortable with me being big? No…if I was, I wouldn’t be at the waterfront riding my bike at least 10 miles a day, or running / walking 5 miles; I’m much happier with myself than I ever have been. Much more comfortable with myself, and really, for the first time in my life I actually believe that I’m a good looking guy with some fine qualities to the opposite sex.

Something I never thought I would ever believe.

But the humor that I throw at myself sometimes receives some odd looks. A lot of people don’t know how to take a larger guy being able to poke fun at himself or his size. Now, I’m not as huge as a house, but I’m a fairly decent sized guy. I watch what I eat; I regularly exercise, I don’t eat late into the night, I drink tons of water, and I wear clothes that fit me, rather than trying to squeeze into something a little too small for my build. Some people I’ve come in contact with think I’m being down on myself when I joke about my “fat ass” or anything else that has to do with being ‘large’…no, that’s not true. I’m just comfortable, for the most part, with myself. Comfortable enough to poke fun at the easiest person to poke fun at: Myself. And, it’s not me poking fun at myself because I LOATHE me, or dislike myself, quite the contrary – I think I’m an awesome and fun person to be around. As one of my closer Portland friends said to me one night over pizza, and just before trivia, “Dusty, you are probably one of THE MOST extroverted persons I know!”

I remember when the movie “Shallow Hal” was released. I thought it was a hilarious movie. I think I saw it three times in the theaters. The 2nd time I was there, I found myself outside talking and laughing about the movie with a friend. After we said our goodbyes, I began walking away when a group of other large people approached me. They indicated to me that they thought the movie was offensive and wanted to see if I would be interested in trying to get a petition together to get it banned from the theater. I thought this was ridiculous and I told each of them this in turn. They were actually offended that I ENJOYED the movie, telling me that as a “Big Beautiful Person” I should be offended.

“What, you mean, as a FAT guy I should be offended?” is what I asked them as a reply.

“Big Beautiful Person”…What the Hell is that? You’re fat, I’m fat; who the hell are we trying to convince that we are not…? “Big Beautiful Person”…You’re fat! Just like me. You can’t take the stand that “Cartman” does and say “I’m big boned!” It just doesn’t work. When I would eat a lot [around the age of 16 – 25] I would rationalize that I was going on a “Growth Spurt”…yeah, a spurt of roundness! I have some heft to me, but these few people were actually rather obese, to the point of being “morbidly obese”…which I’m not making fun of, but, well, I looked thin compared to them if that gives you any indication of what I’m trying to visualize for you. They were actually offended that any producer would make fun of a larger person; that they felt discriminated against and that society discriminates against those persons that are overweight / obese and wanted the movie boycotted.

Now, I’m not saying that society isn’t prejudiced against those that are fat, because, society IS. There is discrimination, mostly in the workplace, about a person being fat. But, I’m not going to get into this wedge of thought…it’s not what I’m writing about.

Have you ever seen the movie “Fatso” with Dom Deluise where he makes fun of himself? No, probably not. Let alone a plethora of other movies making fun of the same subject matter. It’s good humor, and it’s all in fun. You don’t see some dumb, ignorant, white, trailer trash woman out there trying to sue Brittney Spears do you? Because really, isn’t Brittney Spears just a dumb, ignorant, white, trailer trash woman that has no conception of anything except how to open her legs and snort coke off another woman’s breasts??

I told these people that were gathered around me so long ago that *I* was actually offended that they believed I should be offended from this movie. And the point of the movie wasn’t even about being fat…but they never got the point; they saw a movie where a hefty sized guy [Jack Black] fell for this morbidly obese woman [Gweneth Paltrow] and went off the handle about it because they saw the movie as “making fun of” the lead female character; that they were not “socially aware” when they filmed the movie.

My humor about my size comes from years and years of hearing EVERY fat joke in the book. But I took them and spun them to make people laugh with me…it shows I’m comfortable with myself. I find it interesting to see that some people have an awkward time around a “bigger” person…you don’t know what you can say, and you don’t know if you can laugh if a “fat” joke is thrown out by that person. Basically with me, if I’m smiling or laughing after whatever I said, you can too.

Self-deprecation (definition):

A form of humor in which people make jokes about themselves, their shortcomings,
or their culture, usually without being guided by any underlining self-esteem issues.
The boundaries for this kind of humor are often more relaxed than for other kinds of humor.
For example, whereas a Jewish joke told by a non-Jew may be considered Anti-Semitic
and offensive, the same joke told by a Jewish person may be taken in good humor.
The ability to laugh at oneself and the absurdities in one’s own culture
is often considered a good character trait.

Good character traits…well, seemingly, I’m overflowing with the little fuckers!

It’s also called, “I-have-a-good-sense-of-humor-I-can-laugh-at-myself”

You should try one…go out and buy yourself one if you haven’t already.

When I was born, my father tells me that there was a betting pool on how large I would be. My mother was quite a bit larger in carrying me than my brother six years prior. When I popped out like a loaf of warm bread, I was heavier than the doctors had anticipated. A lot heavier…so, every Mother’s Day I give my mom two cards; one that says “Hi mom, I love you, Happy Mother’s Day” and the other says “I’m sorry.” So, I was large from the beginning. My parents tell me that I was thin at one point, but really, I think they were just trying to make me feel better. I’ve seen the proof in photographs…I was a chubby little fucker, complete with that early 80’s medium blue t-shirt with the gold, sparkled, bubble letters that said “Here Comes Trouble”. AND, to add insult to injury, I was riddled with a feathered haircut. So, as a child, I had the hairstyle of Han Solo, only nowhere near as cool, and, well, chubby. And I didn’t have the Millennium Falcon either…I was cheated! Clothes became that nice term for kid fat, which was, “Husky”; do you know what “Husky” means? It means you were too fat as a kid to get your ass into kid clothing so you had to wear that ‘in-between’ size…between kids and adults. This invariably meant ELASTIC waist bands. God, I hated those.

I always hated the new school year. As a kid, this was the one time of year that I completely loathed. Not because I would meet new kids, quite the contrary – with a very few minor changes, the kids I met upon changing schools in third grade were the same kids I went through and graduated High School with. I hated the new school year because it meant that one horrible, daunting, and humiliating endeavor that I was forced to do with my mother…

New clothes shopping.

I hated it, and I don’t really hate anything in life, but I REALLY hated new clothes shopping. Even to this day, and weighing nowhere near 423 pounds, I still dislike going shopping for new clothing. I didn’t see myself as being fat growing up, and I hated going new clothes shopping because of two words: “Husky” and “Adult”. By the time fourth grade rolled around, I was a wobbling 126 pounds and wearing the “husky” size of jeans – that horrible inbetween size of jeans for fat little boys that look like an Oompa-Loompa or Augustus from “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”; too big for the children’s size of clothing, but not quite big enough for the full-fledged adult sizes. The brand name was even called “Husky Jeans” with this sad looking husky stamped on the faux leather patch above the ass near the right butt pocket, presumably where I could keep candy or, an Egg McMuffin; the location of that patch making sure that EVERYONE knew that you wore their jeans because you were a rolly-polly of a kid. And if I were REALLY lucky, my mom would find the pair with the elastic band that was hidden or a pair with those sliding clasps that make the waist give just a little bit more if needed – much like your fat uncle on Thanksgiving, or the over indulgent cousin in front of a birthday cake.

After spending what felt like endless hours as a kid, looking through, seemingly, the same damn pair of jeans, we would make our way over to the “adult” section of clothing and look for shirts. I wore a medium size…the same size as most of my friends’ dads.

So, to this day, I hate clothes shopping.

Growing up I heard every fat joke ever even imagined. So, it really tempered my personality about being larger. I know when people are playing with me, like my friends and I take it all in good fun. I know when people are being malicious, and that’s when the red flags come out. There’s a distinct difference in delivery when someone is being malicious and someone playing in jest. Then there are some of those slick types that can make it sound as though it were in jest, but it really wasn’t. I can see thru those types from about 10 miles away. I guess I just find it amusing and funny when people get bothered by, like the example way above, a movie…that really didn’t poke at anyone being fat, but rather, someone’s perspective or point of view. I think having the ability to laugh at one’s self is a good thing…even when trying to lose weight. I think for me it was when I dropped the 120 pounds. I could look back and say, “Goddamn, I was a huge fatass…” and in all sincerity, that’s where the joking about me came from.

I’m a low-key gamer and a geek. This typically goes hand in hand with being overweight. And if you didn’t catch me being a geek from the Star Wars references, and the fact that I mentioned that I still play D&D and video games, well, then you don’t really pay attention do you? It’s ok…everyone has their own shortcomings. Maybe you can laugh about it…I do. Anyways, now, being a low keyed gamer has its own stigma to begin with, but throw in being overweight and you have a concoction that resembles a haz-mat operation between the legs of a skank-porn actress! One becomes a social outcast, which is really too bad because those of us that are fat, typically have a good sense of humor and are not only really smart but a damn good friend. But, like finds like. That has its own advantages and disadvantages. So, being a gamer-geek and large, I’m reminded of one night that my friends realized that I was a lot more open to the jokes about being bigger. We were playing some RPG at a friend’s apartment and before the session, we would catch up on the week, joke, laugh and generally bullshit for an hour. Gaming was always a back drop to hanging out which most gamers don’t get. We were more interested in having fun over what the book said or what the rules stated.

So I’m sitting on the smaller couch, leaning- actually resting my arm on one arm and then stretching my leg across the sofa; kind of half lying down half sitting up. My feet were together and hanging off the edge. As a twitch, sometimes I bounce my foot, which was happening, but I had longer jeans on so it honestly looked like I had a small tail. My friend Mark came into the room, stared at me, sat down and said, “Nice to see you too, Jabba…”

The others just stopped and stared…Now, Mark typically has balls larger than planet killing meteors, so something like this was not something new, but it was new to being said to one of us. After about 5 seconds of him staring at me, and me staring back, I burst out laughing! It was hilarious. After everyone stopped laughing the comment was made that the perception of me had really changed because I was able to roll with the joke and not get upset. Two years or so prior to that night, I probably would have become so upset that I left altogether. But I didn’t…because I had a good sense of humor about myself, and still do. It’s just that, sometimes, people don’t know what to do with a person that has a sense of humor like this.

 Deal with it.
Roll with it.
Accept it.
Laugh with it

Sometimes, you have to…

 If I laugh about a joke I made on my size, it gives you permission too. Although, I might fuck with you and get serious…deadly serious and turn to you and say, “Why do you have to laugh at the fat jokes man? Do you take pleasure in making fun of me?” I’ll give you about 5 seconds to sweat it out and then I’ll smile, laugh and continue on my way.

 “I saw the way your friend Mauricio looked at me; I thought he was going to shoot me with a tranquilizer gun and tag my ear.”

-Rosemary from “Shallow Hal”

But back to my thoughts on the group that stopped me after seeing “Shallow Hal”…it was a prime example of people, in my opinion, not being comfortable with their own selves, and then blaming society for not being sympathetic to their “plight”; Feeling as though the world in general shunned them for being large. Aesthetically speaking, overly round people are not well looked upon. Genetically, we’re looked at as those that are aloof, lazy, unkind to our bodies, and gluttonous…so, in a way, I could see where they were coming from. But it’s more of a psychological problem: you don’t like how you are physically, so, rather than try to correct that which you don’t like, you find reason to lash out at something that maybe, kind of sort of, pokes fun, not at YOU, but at the situation you are in; the lifestyle you choose. The group that approached me – NAAFA: the “National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance” wherein they state they are an “organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for fat people”

Obesity is a problem in this country and rather than do something about it, there is an organization out there that strives to make society accept, by and large, overweight people.

Obesity leads to massive medical problems for a person – it’s been documented and proven leading to heart disease, diabetes, strokes, heart attacks, high blood pressure, organ failure, and a litany of other problems, so, I just don’t understand why anyone, any group, would promote that it’s OK to be overweight / obese

Now, I’ve had some odd looks thrown my way when ordering some pretty monstrous sized food back in my day, but…really? Is the QUALITY of life THAT bad for larger people, for fat people? I’m a HUGE [no pun intended] promoter of Weight Watchers…I’ve been on program for a long time and I’ve lost 120 pounds on it. The program was initially started in 1961 and they promote healthy lifestyle changes in your eating and everyday lives. One of the main statements that I heard over and over again was that “No one made you this way except you” and it’s very true. No one hog tied me like the guy in “SEVEN” and forced me to eat spaghetti until my stomach burst open because it was too full. No one made me eat 2 pounds of chocolate, and, no one forced me to eat an extra-large pepperoni, sausage, olive pizza (because I did)…so I don’t really get how people, larger people, can be upset at “normies” giving them sideways glances despite the fact that some people might have a medical condition that makes them fat, but, I’m not discussing that here. I’m talking about those people, myself included that ate and ate and ate because of “whatever” reason. If you have to join a group that is actively searching for society to accept being Fat…don’t bitch about being fat! Don’t bitch that the seats are too small in an airliner, and don’t bitch that the ambulance can’t carry you –  It’s that simple. If you want to be thin, or thinner, then join Weight Watchers. Or Jenny Craig, or go and walk, join a gym, or some other program whereby you can eat less [as in less caloric intake], maintain a healthy lifestyle and slim down. If you’re fat, and you bitch about being fat, and you join a group that tries to promote BEING fat, you’re just enabling. And you’ll never do anything for yourself.

There’s a difference about being large and being comfortable enough with yourself to joke around, and being large and pissed off at everyone else because they don’t accept you being fat (society) except yourself and not doing anything about it.

*Commence flame war here*

Maybe it’s my perception now that I’ve been on program for such a good amount of time, and that I’ve lost the average sized woman [in weight]. I actively try to do something about being “fat”; I know there is a stigma…there’s nothing I, or anyone else can do about it other than to slim down and I work at slimming down not because society tells me to, but rather, because *I* want to. I understand that some people are just fine with being overweight and large…good for them. This is my life, and this is how I try to correct the problem that I  either ALLOWED to get out of hand, or by some cruel joke in the celestial closet that when I looked to pick my body, I didn’t get the same outerwear that I had originally decided on, or that genetics had a hand in.

But seriously, learn to joke about yourself…it makes it so much easier, and it makes the journey easier as well. If you can’t joke about yourself from time to time, and honestly take it as a joke with yourself, then there’s something wrong. Figure out what it is, and then learn to laugh. Everyone has shortcomings, has some kind of flaw…it’s how they let the world perceive those flaws that make or break them.

 

-Dusty.

Salad dressing is NOT supposed to be a dipping sauce…

Growing up in my family, dinner was a product of my parents’ generation – steak with potatoes, pork chops, mounds of spaghetti, fried chicken, etc. Salad was pretty much the only pre-dinner “side”, but, salad dressing was more of a dipping sauce than a condiment. And what I mean by that, is, typically the leaves of “rabbit food and burnt bread” (as my dad called it) were drowned in salad dressing. Thousand Island dressing, Ranch, French, etc…salad was more like soup with leaves of iceberg lettuce in it.

At least, that’s how it seems in my memories.

My father, as a kid, seemed to demand steak nearly every night and I grew to nearly loathe a side of beef; even now, a grown man, I cannot typically eat a steak without the memories of sitting at the dining room table, my brother sitting across from me, my dad to my right and my mom to my left – each of us with a massive steak on our plate, a huge helping of some kind of potato (mashed, whipped, scalloped, baked, fried, whathaveyou), and a side of dripping in butter godliness of a vegetable, typically corn. Pork chops were cooked in a frying pan, slathered in butter to give the meat that golden brown hue; the meat becoming so tender it almost fell off th bone. Even then, I didn’t really like either of those dishes. I would constantly receive a look of consternation and frustration from my father as I would cut the massive amounts of excess fat off of the steak or chop, then, meticulously, cutting around the hardened gristle. The steak that was given to me, sometimes, seemingly a 10OZ after cooked steak, was now half the size of a deck of cards.

“You’re not going to eat that?” I would hear my father say, the gruffness in his voice filling the room. he was by no means angry, just frustrated that his son wouldn’t eat the hard earned steak he placed on his plate.

“Nope” I don’t like it.” I would say, to which, he would reach over and stab at the flank of meat, place it on his plate, cut it, and then finish it off himself. My parents had the mentality of food that came from their own parents during the Great Depression: You don’t waste food.

The nights that I came to love were those where dinner was my mother’s Pork Fried Rice, but, the rice was never a side to chicken or anything else. Dinner was a heaping plate of steaming rice that had been fried in butter and laced with 1/4 to 1/2 inch chunks of cut pork pieces; the batch was made into a 2 gallon cooking pot where it cooked in the oven with nearly 5 cans of beef consume’  to 5 cans of water. Other nights that same cooking pot was given to the gloriousness that was my grandmothers (on my father’s side) Macaroni and Cheese which was very simple to make but very unhealthy as I came to find out as I became older: a layer of macaroni noodles about 2 inches thick, layer it with Velveeta Cheese slices, about 1/2 thick each until the macaroni is covered completely, then, layer that with ground beef. Continue all the way to the top of the pot and then cook until gooey.

That was never a side dish, either, but rather, an entire plateful, which, later, I measured out as nearly 6 cups…both for the rice and the mac & cheese.

Spaghetti nights were the same, the only difference to my parents plate and mine, was that I mixed ladel-fulls of peas into my food. I was kind of weird like that.

Years progress and things become a little more hectic; my parents took in two of my brothers best friends while in High School because they were having family problems. Imagine three defensive football players, all about 6’4″ and each weighing over 250 pounds, living in one house with my parents and myself. My mom and dad took care of them as though they were their own, feeding, clothing and making them feel at home. A typical weekend bill from “Price-Club” (now akin to COSTCO”) was about $500 (That was in 1989), and then a trip to Albertson’s for another $250…this was a weekly occurrence if I remember correctly. Yet, when things change, you sometimes don’t know that what you’re putting in your mouth might be even WORSE than what you were eating prior.

There were still the steaks and chops, but, because LIFE went into a higher gear, a lot of meals were usurped by fried fatty goodness: Chicken nuggets, chicken patties, cordon bleu…most of which were deep fried in a frying pan served with a lot of fries or tots. Pizza was a weekly staple with a box of 50 wings, and soda. Breakfasts were 6-8 of those mini Jimmy Dean Sausage Biscuits in the morning before going to school, and lunch was typically going off campus for burgers.

I certainly don’t blame my parents for me getting larger and larger. Actually, both of my parents were quite worried about my weight gain, but, when you hate yourself, for whatever reason, anyone trying to tell you something GOOD for you falls on very deaf ears.

Now, years later, I rarely put stuff like this into my system. I’m not going to lie…it happens, but, only when it’s a HAVE TO. I tend to stick to B/S chicken that’s either baked or BBQ’d; I will use a frying pan but I don’t use any oil, I cook the meat in a little bit of water with spices. I eat a lot of rice and baked potatoes – I use more organic foods, whole foods, I try to stay away from processed foods, foods high in sodium, etc.

The point is, food tastes, like personalities can change over the years. Thankfully, as I have become older, I chose to have the thought and desire to eat better. Like I said, sometimes I make mistakes – I’m not infallible with my diet. If I were, I would weigh 185 lbs right now.

-Dusty.

A brief look into the previously sausage lined heart of a fat man…

I am fat.

I know this, because I look at myself in the mirror on a daily basis, and, while I am not ashamed of myself, as I once was, I can see that I do not look the way that I want to. Yet, most people deal with this simple thought on a regular basis, so, I am not breaking new ground. But, I am, however, comfortable with myself enough to want to improve upon what I see every day of my life. Some have told me that I am not happy with myself as a person; that I am not happy being ME, the way that I was “created”, or, to put in gaming geek terms, I wasn’t happy with one of my stats rolls (that being CHR) – simply put, my soul wandered the “Closet of Traits, Skills and Attributes” and while I took high rolls on many stats, and even took a few feats, for some strange reason I bottomed out and took a low roll on the CHR.

Apparently, I didn’t beg the DM for a reroll.

Oh, I’m also still a gamer – but, not the basement dwelling non-bathing sloth that you might knee-jerk-reaction think of. I have an education, a great and full life with an equally fulfilling job, amazing friends (here and abroad), family, two awesome cats, a mountain of movies and books, and plenty of other endeavors to keep me occupied throughout the days and nights. I even find some nights to get in some “sexy-sexy” time, but, there’s no detail of that here.

I am fat…and it took me years to come to the ability to say it without a modicum of cringing at myself, or, without a dash of self-loathing. And believe me, there was plenty of self loathing from childhood to adult life. Yet, when I am about to turn the knob and open the door to the age of 35, I find myself being more active and more healthy than I have ever been in my life…even after I lost 120 pounds. If my younger self of 21 years old, were to ever have a conversation with my now 34 year old self (35 isn’t until this Saturday), firstly, I’d bitch-slap myself and have an extremely staunch conversation. Secondly, the YOUNGER me would have scoffed at the OLDER me stating that I would enjoy and look forward to a plate of vegetables…even for dinner. There was a time, not too long ago, when a dinner consisted of an Ultimate Cheeseburger with bacon from Jack in the Box, a chicken sandwich with extra mayo,  jumbo fries, two tacos, and a super-duper large “real” coke.

To break that down, an adult male should intake no more than 2500 calories per day to maintain a “healthy living” – yes, I know this number can be argued against…I’m going with the “norm”. The food I listed above was a normal meal just prior to a night of fun, adventuresome gaming – and that’s not to include the table full of munchies that any gaming group is want to have nearby.

Bacon Ultimate Cheeseburger – 1090 Calories with 77 Grams of fat

Jumbo Fries – 612 Calories with 28 Grams of fat

Two Tacos – 400 Calories with 22 Grams of fat

Chicken Sandwich w/ extra mayo – 415 Calories with 21 Grams of fat

44 ounce Coke Classic – 499 Calories with 0 Grams of fat

Total Caloric intake for that ONE meal – 3016 Calories with 148 grams of fat.

My heart actually shudders at the thought of what I was actually ingesting. On average, I was probably taking in 3,000 to 4,200 calories PER DAY. Part of my brain rationalized that I was powerlifting at the time; this thought was simply delusional. Sure, I WAS powerlifting and I became VERY strong, but I wasn’t burning enough during those sessions to warrant that kind of calorie intake.

By the end of high school, I weighed a little more than 375 pounds. By the time I was the age of 21, my first SERIOUS (as serious as you can get at that age) girlfriend and I broke up. I weighed a little more than 420 lbs. After more than a month of agonizing pain that even the fated Romeo couldn’t understand, because, that’s how you feel when you’re fat and the relationship you had with a petite girlfriend ends, I dropped near 20 pounds…mainly because I wasn’t eating. I was losing weight out of sheer depression. My chest hurt, my abdomen hurt; I was chewing down 2-3 rolls of Rolaids per day just to quell the heartburn. I finally went into the doctor to complain, and, where I thought I was going to get a sympathetic ear, I nearly was slapped across the face. My blood pressure was so high that if he were to cut me, I’d spurt out blood for nearly 60 feet (I’m quite sure he was exaggerating…). My heart was racing so fast, that, just moving was giving added stress. My knees ached, my back ached…everything ached.

“If you don’t lose 20 pounds in two weeks, you’re going to be dead of a heart attack in THREE weeks…”

The doctor went on to tell me that he didn’t care HOW I lost the weight, just that I did; Jokingly, he said he didn’t care f I sliced open my fat ass and shoved a Hoover Vacuum cleaner up it, or even (unethically) stating that he didn’t care if I started meth as a diet; he was very worried and very scared for me.

Two weeks later, I had a little more than 20 pounds off and he was happy. But I had a LONG way to go. A very long way.

Fast forward to more recent times.

I haven’t weighed the weight that I currently am since probably my Sophomore year in high school. In 4th grade I weighed 126lbs and by 7th grade, I weighed 221lbs. I’ve had many potholes that have made me gain some weight back on; someone very close passing away, depression, unemployment, etc…the things that can be curve balls in life, but, I never simply gave up. I paused the game, but never quit it. By the end of my last serious relationship, I had ballooned back up to 351 pounds…I hadn’t really even realized it until I went to a costume party and, what I saw in my head with the outfit, WASN’T what I saw in the mirror! A few months later, I was in a bad accident, the above mentioned relationship ended and I went to Phoenix for half a year. There, I found part of me, and I found how easily it can be to lose weight.

And by easy, I mean pain meds and not eating very much.

In the here and the now, I bike or run (jog / walk really) nearly every day; the running aspect is a 2.6 mile loop around the waterfront park in Downtown Portland and I typically run two laps –three if I’m feeling bold. Two days out of the week, I ride my bike that is sitting on a stationary trainer in my living room where I watch episodes of “Stargate Universe”, “Mad men”, Doctor Who” or any other TV show or movie – I average a 60 – 90 minute ride on the hardest bike gear setting with half full tension on the resistance meter. As of last night, I’m averaging 17.9 MPH for those rides where I used to average a little more than 12 MPH. I continue to use Weight Watchers as my main “diet” but I also use an online tracker that also shows an approximation of my calorie, fat, carbs and protein intake for the day. In addition, the program also tells me an approximation of calories burned during my riding / running.

I eat more healthy now than I ever have – that’s not to say that I don’t put down a couple slices of pizza once a week at trivia, because, I do. Whereas once upon a time, I was able to down an XL Peter Piper Pizza (21 inch pizza) on my own and chase it with three microwave burritos and a 2 liter of “Coke Classic”. Now, I eat turkey, chicken, and I have glorious amounts of fruit and vegetables throughout the day.

I still have a long ways to go, and I know that there will be moments of faltering mixed with sometimes self-hate because I faltered, but, as one of my favorite professors told me once over coffee, “Even in the face of adversary, one must soldier on…”

And right now, I’m going to soldier on to my run for the day.

-Dusty.