This is a guest post from my friend David Allen. David is the Sports Editor for The Denisonian and a contributing writer for Cityscene Columbus and thecelebritycafe.com.
How does the normal person lose weight? Running, weight lifting, eating healthy? People who lose weight are tremendous success stories and role models, I mean really tremendous. Those stories are enlightening and amazing. The ability to overcome their environment and sometimes even their own genetics is nothing short of a miracle and should be highlighted thoroughly. Sadly, this is not one of those stories.
I had always been a chubby kid, a chubby kid who ate too much but exercised just enough to be in a healthy BMI range without any real workouts. And that was because I played basketball for most of my life, mostly rec, a little in high school, but it was just enough to keep me in shape (what shape?). However, during my sophomore year, I stopped playing basketball, and stopped doing much of everything. I was 6 foot, 210 pounds, absolutely no muscle at the end of my sophomore year.
And I was okay with it. I was happy, somewhat, I mean I knew that it made me less attractive but I was content with that. Then, during the summer of my sophomore year my parents really dug into me to try to lose weight, and so I was like, “fine, my pants need to fit better anyways.” (I hated shopping).
So over the summer I ran a little bit (3-5 miles a week) worked out a bit (maybe 1 hour in the gym a week, doing exercises that I made up). And after some time, I saw some marginal improvement, I dropped from 210 to 203, I started playing basketball again, I got happy again. And I started weaning off the diet a little bit, moving towards my old lifestyle. At the beginning of my junior year I was probably around 205-206. Still much too high. So, one day, in school, probably five days into the school year, my friend told me that I was looking very fat that day, as if I was bloated or something and he pointed it out to the rest of the lunch table, everybody laughed.
It was as if all of their internal insecurities about my weight were now able to be expressed in a healthy manner to them, while being right in front of my face. Now, I am not going to lie, I cried when I got home that day. I cried, a lot. I was so upset, not at them, not at anyone, but at myself. I thought of myself as a disgusting slob, I was pathetic, I thought. How could anyone like me? I thought. And so I forced myself to start losing weight. Things were gonna change, I told myself, and I wanted it fast and quick. It was October of that year, I was 204.
So I started running, about 3 miles a day, and working out according to plans online, I ate about the same because I really couldn’t control my hunger. I did pretty well, I dropped from 204 to about 180 by the time January came along. I was healthy now, but I wasn’t happy. But when I saw my weight drop like that, 24 pounds in a few months, god I felt so great, it was amazing, it was addictive, it was incredible. I felt so good; I had never felt that confidence before in my life, I wanted to take on the world. I wanted to look like superman. And so I wanted to lose even more, so much more in fact. I wanted to be 140, without an inch or even a cm of fat anywhere on me, I needed it to function. I was obsessed.
But unfortunately, I plateaued. I stopped losing weight at 180 lbs, I was always hungry, probably because I was so active, and thus I could not control my hunger. I was extremely sad because of this, the sadness nearly consumed me. I wanted so bad to look like the fit models, I wanted so badly to be the guy that when people would go to the beach, they would stand in awe of me and my physique. I was muscular, somewhat, but not crazy muscular, abdominals were faintly seen on me.
I remember one time looking at myself, naked in the mirror, holding onto my lovehandles and crying. I wanted them gone badly; I needed them gone badly if I wanted to look like superman. And so I did what was necessary in my mind at the time, I cheated.
I had been prescribed ADHD medication for a long time at that point, and not really taking them all too often, so i had, unknowingly, stocked up quite a collection. The type of ADHD medication I was taking was known for decreasing hunger if the dose hits a certain height. The recommended dosage for me was one pill a day and that wasn’t enough to hamper my hunger whatsoever.
So, I started taking two pills a day, sometimes three. It would sideline my hunger completely, sometimes for 14 hours, sometimes for a day, sometimes for even more than that. I fed off of my hunger, I loved being hungry. I loved losing weight, so goddamn much. I needed it like it was the drugs I was taking. I made it a competition within myself to see how long I could go without eating.
I lost 15 pounds in three weeks, I didn’t eat, I didn’t really do much else but take the pills, run and workout. It was so great. But after three weeks, I ran out of my supply, and my doctor was worried about me so he stopped prescribing the pills to me. Thus, I became worried about gaining more weight back or not being able to lose more and I felt like i had to turn to bulimia.
I couldn’t, as my gag reflex was and is not really a reflex at all. I couldn’t throw up, I couldn’t lose weight, I couldn’t stand to look at myself in the mirror even then, when I was 165 lbs at 6 foot 1 inches. So I needed to do something, anything. I looked online for weight loss drugs, tried all of them, all of them sucked. They just caused dehydration and stomach pains. So I needed to turn to something else, and I turned to running. I started running, a lot more than I had. And over the summer between my junior and senior year, I ran probably averaged 12 miles a day. 3 before breakfast, 3 after work, 3 after dinner, 3 before bed. I loved it so much, I got this runner’s high. It was amazing, and soon I decided to go for really long runs, just for the hell of it, to see if I could do it. I would go for 8,9, 10, and then I bumped it up to 14 and then 16. It was amazing. It was incredible, I got down to 152 lbs and I felt good, but I needed to lose more weight, just a little bit more, just the tiniest bit more, that’s it. Then I would stop, then I would maintain, then I would be happy, then I would be happy. I kept telling myself that, I loved telling myself that.
I weighed myself every thirty minutes, I stopped talking to friends and soon I stopped sleeping much. I would sleep from 12 am to 2 am, then run until work, and if I couldn’t run cause of leg pain (which I should not have ignored), then I would go on a stairmaster and walk until work or whenever I had free time. My waist size was at a 29, and I was 149 lbs. But, I still wasn’t happy, I still wasn’t ready to stop. I looked at myself in the mirror again, disgusted with what I saw, I threw something at the mirror because of it. I had nothing else, I ran out of drugs, I couldn’t run anymore than I was already, I had no further steps to take. I was finished, I thought.
It got worse when the next morning while running I strained myself in my hip, the strain was so bad I couldn’t run for six months without severe hip pain. So I stopped running.
And when I stopped running, everything changed. I had time throughout the day to gain perspective, I read more, I spent more time with school. I re imagined myself as a human being. I liked myself more. I didn’t have some cathartic realization or even epiphany, nothing really clicked in my mind when it came to health. I stopped weighing myself, I stopped counting calories, I started enjoying what I ate, and I started being happier for the most part. And I started gaining weight. At first, I was a little worried, wondering why. And then I realized, what if this is muscle? What if I was gaining muscle? I had been very regimented in my weight lifting plan and I had gotten acclimated with being in the gym. So I decided to go with it. I worked out a lot, I ate more, I become obsessed with gains, and I loved it. I still struggled with my weight, but I gained solace in the fact that I was getting stronger, getting better each and every day and doing my best to calm my horrendously low self-esteem and poor body image.
There were still plenty of nights where I would be lying awake, hoping to god that I would lose my little rolls on my stomach or my thick neck. Sometimes, after I would eat too much, I wouldn’t be able to do anything else that day, I would just sit in my bed, read, watch tv, and feel like I’d never want to come outside, ashamed of myself as a human being. I worked through so many of these nights and days, but I wouldn’t really do anything about it, not one thing. All I would do is focus on me, never anybody else, I didn’t realize until later just how selfish that was.
Because when I stopped feeling so selfish, halfway through my senior year in high school, when I stopped living my life solely for the purpose of ‘bettering,’ or being obsessed with, myself, and instead thinking of other people; I got so so so much happier, I would volunteer, teach and work and nothing made me happier in my life. I was able to fight off the poor body image by throwing myself into soul-fulfilling work. And when I stopped being so selfish, I was able to live with nutrition and health, and I stopped being controlled by it.
And now, three years later, I weigh 185 lbs. I want to lose 10 lbs by the end of the summer but I am not good at losing weight anymore, so we will see. My body fat percentage has stayed nearly exactly the same from when I was 149 lbs, meaning that I was so little back then, and so weak, that I still had a higher body percentage because of just how little muscle I had.
Now, I look okay, but I don’t have a ripped six pack, I don’t have muscles bulging from my shirt, I look like a big, strong kid. Nothing special. And while I struggle with not being “that guy on the beach” everyday I take pride in what I’ve been through and where I am now. I am excited now. Each and everyday provides a new opportunity for me.
I run again, in a very moderate way. I ran a half marathon last year with my dad and I hope to do another one this year. I like eating, I like eating unhealthy (as long as I don’t eat artificial flavors or trans fats or white grains, which are all absolutely horrendous and take horrific tolls on the human body) to an extent, but more than ever I feel that I have found balance in my life. I know, you’ve heard the idea of moderation many, many times. It’s overused and quite possibly ineffective. I wish there was another word, maybe another piece of advice, I don’t know. Something else. But I can tell you that I am happier than I have ever been. I am able to balance working out with two jobs during the summer and a college experience unlike any other and a relationship with a young woman who has changed my life for the better.
There is, however, maybe one piece of advice I’d like to give. If you are struggling with weight, at all, even just a little bit, please, for the love of god, tell just one person about it. Tell one human being, dog, thing, tree, about what you are going through. Fuck it, tell me (firstname.lastname@example.org) about it. It took me more than three years to write about my experience and it will take me a lifetime to actually live it. I wish that I had written about it earlier, I wish I had done something more for the people around me sooner.
I don’t have a phD, I haven’t graduated college, I have no reason or rationale to give anybody any sort of advice, maybe someone will read this story and think about it, I don’t know. But I do know that as long as I helped one person with this, I have done my job as human being.
Thank you so much for reading this, have a good day, stay kind.