Mirror Mirror on the Wall

I am going to write a little bit about body image this time out. I have never liked what I saw in the mirror. From my crazy curly hair to my lack of physique, I have never liked my appearance.

“Mirror, mirror on the wall
Tell me, mirror, what is wrong?”

De La Soul

I have mentioned before that I was always the skinny kid growing up. My parents spent countless hours trying to get me to eat dinner. Mom was a great cook but I never did care for many of the dishes she put in front of me. My folks weren’t the “clean your plate” types and mom always accommodated her spoiled only child with something I would eat.

My friends convinced me I should take up weight lifting when I was in junior high. Of course I had no idea what I was doing so I managed to develop some muscle tone and definition but no mass. My ribs could have doubled as a xylophone.

With all this talk and concern about childhood diabetes and obesity, you’d think I’d be thankful I was skinny. My slight frame was nothing but a target for ridicule, even by my closest friends.

Forgive me if I am rehashing some old memories that I have already relayed. I was 97 pounds when I was a freshman in high school and weighed 122 when I graduated in 1987. I had to gain four pounds before I went to U.S. Navy boot camp in November 1987. I probably hovered around 165 at my heaviest when I was in the service and that was in the mid-1990s or so. I got out in 1997 and I honestly cannot remember my weight at the time of my exit physical.

From age 20 to 38 I was a pack a day smoker. I’m sure the nicotine intake helped keep my metabolism high and my weight down. Sometime before I quit smoking I started to put on some belly fat. I don’t remember this very much, but I see it pictures from about 12 years ago. Sometime around age 35 I started to gain some weight and I got to about 185. I exercised on a semi-regular basis but there was this ever-present belly.

I had to be about 225 pounds when I tried to lose weight the first time. Although I lost 20 pounds, I didn’t like how I looked because I didn’t change my diet. I was lean in a few areas but I still had that round belly.

When I got to 236 pounds in early January 2013 I really hated what I saw in the mirror. It wasn’t until I took the before pictures did I realize how large I really was. Now, you’d think a successful 40-something wouldn’t really care about such things. I’ve never been vain, except when it comes to my hair. Again, when you can’t tie your shoes or pull on your socks…or you get out of breath and sweaty when you get dressed…it was time to do something.

Throughout this process I have posed for photographs. The most recent pictures have finally convinced me of something. I am not the fat guy anymore. Prior to the pictures I posted two weeks ago I kept seeing the fat guy in the mirror. It didn’t matter what the scale said or the waist size of my pants. Mentally, I kept seeing the 236-pound guy in the mirror.

Three weeks ago I started a new weight-lifting program. I took pictures after a week and at the end of the first three weeks. Compared to the last set of photos from November, I am much slimmer in the middle, I no longer have the round barrel belly and I don’t see that fat guy anymore. That does not mean that I feel like I am finished by any stretch of the imagination. I am trying not to obsess over the scale. I have stopped charting and writing down my weight every day. I’ve just been using it as a guide to keep from overeating. I may even go back through this six-week program again. I think I can live with my weight as long as I am fit and in shape.

I have not become narcissistic. I still don’t “love” what I see in the mirror. However, I like it more today than I have any other time in my life. I am “average” sized. I could buy I watch with a metal wristband and not have to have links taken out, people don’t look at me funny because I am awkwardly skinny or overweight.

This is the part of the blog where I get on top of the soapbox. I have been reading about the mom with kids who is in incredible shape and has been blasting people for making excuses about life getting in the way of getting in shape or being healthy and fit. I think many people miss the point about such things. For years, beauty and gossip magazines have been accused of creating an impossible standard of beauty by showcasing the impossibly slim and skinny. By the same token, the overweight have screamed that they should be accepted for who they are.

I have come full circle. I have been both. I understand both ends of the spectrum. I have been on the edge of major health problems that are associated with being overweight. I have also found every excuse there is to not eat healthy and exercise. Convenience, laziness, too busy, comfort food, fatigue, workload, sweet tooth – you name it, I’ve used it. I have also run the gamut on how I feel about obesity throughout by journey. I’ve gone from judgmental to understanding to apathetic and all the way ‘round again.

If you have resigned yourself to being overweight, obese, or even just out of shape, so be it. Just don’t be surprised when you develop aches, pains, heart disease, back problems, knee pain, diabetes or any number of health issues – don’t you dare bitch about it because all you have to do is look in the mirror and you’ll know who to blame.

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