This is a rather long, over-dramatic note of thanks. I'm not quite sure why I wanted to tell you all this, but perhaps it's because I've never told anyone else. My story is not particularly original, or very tragic, but you have made it better. Thank you.
To say I’ve struggled with my weight all my life would be a downright lie. Oh, I’ve cried over my weight. I’ve complained about it. I’ve thrown hissy fits in fitting rooms and rationalized everything and convinced myself that one more dress size isn’t so bad. I’ve done the fad diets and the dietary pills and the starve-to-binge. For the past eight years, I’ve worn an oversized sweatshirt over nearly everything I’ve ever worn, even in the summer, because I believed that it would hide the excess fat.
Note to self: I can’t hide all that fat. No matter how big your hoodie is.
I don’t eat healthy, that’s a fact. I’ve been eating chocolate chip cookies for breakfast and my mom’s gourmet phone call for Chinese take-out is my favorite family dinner. The neighborhood pizza man knows us by name. I cringe at the thought of whole wheat and I have been known to say, "Damn it, I’m American. Make it super sized."
So when I say it’s my own damn fault that I’m overweight, well, it’s the God’s honest truth. I’ve ignored too many doctors’ warnings and reached around too many water bottles for Pepsi cans to pass the blame off on somebody else. And the old mantra that "admitting it is the first step" is, in my case, very false. I admitted it a long time ago. And I’ve done nothing about it.
And to be honest, I’m lazy. I was a hell of a slugger in softball but I never ran laps. I was a damn fine tap dancer, too, but I never worked out. I am a voracious reader, so I’d pass the day on the couch and get up only for trips to the refrigerator. I’d even read weight loss books—countless books about changing my lifestyle and improving my diet and getting mobile—but I’d finish a chapter and celebrate with a candy bar. It really is amazing that I haven’t hit the 300lb mark yet. I guess all those times I cursed my out-of-shape body, I never realized how hard it fought for me to stay healthy, even when I’d stacked the odds against it.
But then my first real sense of weight loss came my senior year in college. I was living on my own and having the time of my life, and the icing on the proverbial cake (and the literal cake, actually) was watching the pounds melt away. It was so fast. I went from wearing size twenty-two jeans and my signature oversized sweatshirt out to the clubs, to hardly recognizing myself. It was an amazing feeling.
The problem, of course, was that I did not do it right. Actually, I don’t think anybody could have done it less right. College was a time of personal growth for me, a time to learn about the world and about myself, but it was also when I fell into a cycle of binge drinking, hard partying, and experimenting with drugs. If I had five dollars in my pocket, I bought a pack of cigarettes and had no money left for dinner. If I had twenty dollars, I’d buy a bump, a six pack, and a large pizza. I didn’t say no to any substance or any party. I stayed up all night and threw up often, and I thought it was all okay because I was having fun and losing so much of that damn weight.
It was also during that time that I found my "Easy Button"—the prescription A.D.D medicine Adderall. We started calling it the Wonder Drug. It was just a tiny little pill that we could get for five bucks from the stoner up the street, who’d conned a prescription out of his doctor. None of us actually had A.D.D. And this Wonder Drug, it could keep you up all night to finish a term paper, it could get you through Finals Week feeling like you were on top of the world. It could keep us drinking until dawn, and we loved it. Adderall is, essentially, an amphetamine. Speed. When abused, it can be quite dangerous and very addicting. But it kicked up my heart rate and it made me lose weight faster than anything in the world. I dropped six pants sizes and I passed all my exams and I never missed a party.
A real Wonder Drug.
I am ashamed to admit it, but if I hadn’t graduated college at the end of that year, May of 2011, I’d either be dead right now, or still living that way, abusing drugs and losing weight. A part of me wishes I’d never given it up, because popping pills and snorting powders is a lot easier than exercising and eating right. But, eventually, I did go through the stages of breaking the drug addiction. Or, maybe, it was a lifestyle addiction. In the absense of drugs and drinking and college life, I filled the void with food. Lots of it.
So then, after all the bad decisions I’d made, after all the horrible things I’d put my body through, it was the diet pills that put me in the hospital.
Okay, I can’t prove it was the dietary pills that did it, but sometimes you just know what’s wrong with you. Sometimes, you can just feel your body saying, "This is the last straw!" before your mother has to drive you to the emergency room at three am because you think it might be really serious this time. All those flashy packages at the drugstore advertise quick weight loss, guaranteed results, et cetera, et cetera. None of them tell you the truth:
It’s all a load of crap. And it’s trying to kill you.
After college, I suffered alone because I wouldn’t tell my family what I’d done, because my college friends were gone and I had a real life to begin. And with that came depression. I realized that I may have overcome some of my addictions, but there was one that I clung to: food. And because I was sad, I stayed inside and didn't move around or get active. It has been only a year, but I’ve gained back all of the weight my Wonder Drug took off, and added a lot more. I’m heavier than I ever was. And now, I’m jaded, too, because all I can think about is how quickly I’d lost weight when I did it the unhealthy way, how good I looked then. I started thinking that maybe this is a losing battle, maybe there is no way for me to lose weight and live to tell about it.
That’s where you come in. I found your blog one day when I was sitting on the couch, eating a bag of potato chips and looking for anybody on the internet to vindicate my new outlook on weight loss. Clearly, your blog did not stand up and tell me that it was okay to be unhealthy, to lose pounds but gain other problems. In fact, it was your blog above all others that told me most plainly that I was, to be blunt, an idiot.
Or maybe it was just the pants-flag thing. That one really got me.
Now, remember, I’m still lazy. I started reading your blog on-and-off a few months ago, and I’ve still had chocolate chip cookies for breakfast since then. You inspired me, truly, like nothing else ever had, but it was motivation I needed, and that could only come from myself. Today, I’m not writing to you to say I’ve lost so much weight because of your blog, but I am writing to say thank you for something much more important: changing my attitude.
I know it’s very cliché. Attitude is everything, yada yada yada, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. I think you gave me a turning point when I read some of your blog posts and realized that losing weight is a lifestyle change. And I’ve done lifestyle change before. Successfully. Healthily. Your blog showed me that that’s the same kind of energy and focus and dedication I need to direct toward my weight loss, too.
In one of your recent posts, you compared the first steps of detoxing/lifestyle change to a kind of methadone. Rehabilitation from the way I’ve been eating and loafing around my whole life. That, I think, is exactly how I need to look at it. Sometimes I want a Big Mac more than I’ve ever craved a drug, but I feel better without it, just like I feel better without the side effects from the narcotics. I took my life back from the hard-partying lifestyle, and I can take my life back from obesity. And it was your words that put that together in my head for me.
It's so much nicer to be looking forward to a beginning than it is to be dreading an end. So here I am, getting started. I’ve started a million times, but this time, I understand myself better, I get it. Thanks for the kick in the ass. Thanks for the honesty. I’m twenty-three years old and I’m starting a real life, but I’m also going to start a healthy one, thanks to you. I know it’s going to be difficult—and I appreciate you for not beating around that fact—but I want a pants-flag of my own, one I’ve earned with hard work and discipline. Thanks for showing me that I can do it.
Best wishes in all your endeavors,