On our way back into Seattle from a nice, relaxing visit with the in-laws (no, really), my wife and I decided to stop at Fred Meyer for some much-needed household supplies. As Lindy was busy filling the basket with useful sundries, I foolishly thought, “Hey, we’re going to a film festival in a few days. I should probably buy a nice sweater or something so I look half way presentable.”
Extra large. That seemed about right. To be perfectly honest, I haven’t shopped for new clothes in a while (I think the last time was for the L.A. premiere of our previous film, This Is Ours). I tried it on and, surprise! surprise!, it was less than a stellar fit; I looked lumpy, bulbous and
ridiculous, to be precise.
Like a sausage of fat stuffed into a sheath of gray fabric. A sausage with man-boobs.
Naturally, I got mad at the sweater. After all, it must have been its fault; certainly not mine. Some fault of manufacturing, I reasonably concluded. I harrumphed my way out of the clothing section and started bitching to Lindy.
Deep down, I knew that I had been steadily gaining weight over the last year. I just didn’t want to admit it. I had clothes that sorta-kinda worked – old, worn-in jeans and some rather forgiving polos* – and heck, if something started not to fit, I could always just blame a wash cycle. And, of course, my trusty, nearly threadbare jacket that I wore pretty much every day. I mean, it’s Seattle – it’s cold and rainy (cue the Unbridled Self-Delusion theme song).
* For those of you who may not struggle with The Fatness, a note about shirts: button-ups look wonderful when standing; when sitting, my abdomen compresses in on itself and expands outward, causing the poor, innocent buttons to strain with all their might, screaming for their lives.
So right. Back to the bitching and moaning. Why do I even bother? Clothes never fit me! Fucking Fred Meyer! Ugh, I’ll just wear my jacket the whole time! Whatever. You know, pretty much like a five-year-old. No, exactly like a five-year-old.
For the sake of brevity, I’m going to truncate the rest of the conversation; while a few moments are missing, rest assured: it is emotionally accurate…
“I think you have crutches,” Lindy said.
“What the hell?” I snorted in petulant, pugnacious retort.
“Your polos, your jacket – they’re just crutches. You wear them every day.” She sighed here, knowing what was sure to unfold.
“You know I love you, right?”
“You’re hiding. Your jacket is basically a security blanket. You haven’t felt good about yourself in what, months? Years? And so you wrap yourself up in clothes you think are hiding everything you hate about yourself.”
In an act of remarkable love, she punched me in the face with a brick of razor-sharp insight.
I mean, I had thought all of those things, but I dared not say them aloud. And to hear it coming from someone else’s mouth – to see a reflection of my own self-loathing – shook me to the core.
But first, I had to yell and throw a fit.
And have a meltdown.
Right in front of an old lady just trying to buy a box of tissues. Sorry, old lady.
It was all true, of course. And with just a few sentences, my wife was able expose the throbbing nerve of my insecurities to the fresh air of reality. It hurt. It fucking hurt.
The old lady quietly squeaked her cart away from us.
And then, as the shock of self-realization and the pain of vomiting up two years’-worth (she was right) of hating myself subsided… relief.
It felt good.
I actually felt good.
I had finally confronted a part of myself that I had tried so hard to ignore.
And we got paper towels.
The psychology of The Fatness is a tricky beast. At least for me, one way I acquiesced feelings of inadequacy, disgust, revulsion and animus was to eat – food is delicious and the act of eating itself is oddly cathartic. But, of course, eating (and, in my case, over-eating) leads to The Fatness II: Electric Bugaloo. Which leads to more of those feelings. Which leads to more eating. Downward spiral, indeed.
Couple that with a natural tendency toward laziness and the pervasive thought that weight-loss through diet and exercise is a daunting, insurmountable, Sisyphean odyssey, and you have the perfect petri dish for cultivating a spare tire.
Seriously, I can’t tell you how many times I have sat on the couch shoveling lunch meat into my face uttering that ugly, terrible, self-defeating question: “why bother?”
Hey, “Why Bother”? Yeah, you, over there. Standing next to “I’m Not Worth It” and “Whatever.” Why don’t you go fuck yourself.
So. Now. Revelation is great. But having a plan of action is even better.
STEP 1: Dress nicer. Create and cultivate confidence through my appearance. Another “funny” (not so much “ha ha” funny, more “I should just kill myself” funny) trick of The Fatness: I never want to buy new clothes because I always think, “Yeah, but I’m not happy with the way I look. If I buy clothes now, I’m effectively incentivizing myself to not be healthier.” It almost makes sense… if you’re a crazy person. What happens when I think like this? I end up wearing the same clothes for six fucking months and feeling miserable about myself. Rinse and repeat. Did I mention “downward spiral” yet?
Nicer jeans, nicer shirts, slacks. Yes. If I start to dress better, I’ll start to feel better, which will make me want to act better. I have actually done this experiment before. It works. I’m just an idiot and chose to ignore the facts in favor of feelings. Good job, brain! It does mean having to shop in the Big ‘n’ Tall section for now, but that will soon change.
STEP 2: Eat better, eat less. I do generally eat food that’s good for me. I just eat way too much of it. Like, probably three times as much. Every meal, every day. This needs to stop. But, I also need to not kid myself into thinking that I always eat well; I need to kill my vices (primarily candy and salty snacks).
Now, I think we all know that diets don’t work. Lifestyle changes do. This is going to be hard and also has to be a multi-pronged. First, I need to make radical changes in consumption so that I can become conscious and aware of what I’m eating and how much I actually need to eat. Then, I need to find the equilibrium point that makes me feel satiated but not full (my general modus operandi when eating is to gorge myself until my stomach pleads for mercy; this is probably bad). And then I need to make sure that every time I do eat, I’m making choices that are fulfilling.
For my weird brain, this basically means two things: a) math; and b) not thinking of it as saying “NO” to certain types of food, but rather saying “YES” to not feeling like shit an hour after I eat it. “Will this food make me feel good, both digestively and emotionally?” The math part is a simple input/output equation. I burn X calories per day, thus I need to consume Y calories per day to create a deficit. I am fully aware that our bodies are not perfect machines in this regard, but at least it’s something quantitative that I can hold onto. Remember: my brain is weird.
STEP 3: Exercise. I’m going to start this slow, doing things I can do by myself at home (partially because I fear if I put too much on my plate, pun intended, I will find it too easy to give up). One might call it a caveman workout – no gyms, no weird equipment. The reason for this is that I really, really, really abhor gyms. I know they serve a purpose, but God damn if that’s not the quickest way to deter myself from actually doing the work. I know my stumbling blocks, I know where my hurdles are, no matter how irrational and stupid they might be. Time to work with them instead of always fighting against them and ultimately failing.
STEP 4: Be public about it. Please know and understand that what I’m going to share with you terrifies me. First: back in 2008, I had a very similar epiphany about my weight and went on a nearly yearlong journey in which I lost 60 pounds (from 295 to 235). I have since undone 67% of that. This, to me, is an enormous failure, something I regret with every fiber of my being, something that REALLY, REALLY makes me hate myself. But, we know where those feelings lead. As Lindy said – I think by this time we had moved into a quiet corner of the Fred Meyer so that I’d stop making a scene – “You need to forgive yourself.” I immediately wanted to make a Good Will Hunting joke, but she was right.
“OK. I made a mistake. But it’s not going to define me. I forgive myself so that I may move forward.”
Second: back at the height of my initial weight-loss campaign, I shared my weekly statistics with a group of friends via the blog I had at the time. This was so incredibly helpful; it kept me accountable. So I’m going to do it again. Successes and failure, I’m going to lay it all out there.
Yes, this is terribly narcissistic, and yes, almost borderline exhibitionist, but fuck it. It works.
To start, all the numbers: I currently weigh 275.5 pounds. My waist (at the belly-button) is 50.75″, my neck is 17″, my chest is 48.5″ and my thigh (when measured at a right angle) is 25.25″.
Sweet baby Jesus. Just typing those out makes me not want to publish this. But I’m going to.
There. I just wrote that I would. Now I have to do it. Wait, hang on, let me rip the delete button out of my keyboard first. There we go.
And so it begins.
For me, this is not just about losing weight. I want to feel good – both about myself and in the more objective sense. I want to be healthy. I don’t want to die of a heart-attack. I don’t want to get diabetes (which runs in my family). I don’t want my degenerative, herniated discs to act up again. I’d love it if my left ankle stopped aching every day.
My body is a tool, and it needs to be able to do all the things I want in life.
Also, I’d really love for a stranger to come up to me in a bar and tell me I’m sexy. What? Not all the goals can be lofty and meaningful.
Kris Boustedt is a filmmaker and educator in Seattle, WA. He and his wife Lindy make movies together. And yes, they’re still married. Their most recent feature, This Is Ours, is now available on Amazon Prime: tiofilm.com. He also enjoys getting distracted on the street by small dogs. firstsightproductions.com // @krisandlindy // facebook.com/kris.boustedt
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