Denial was a big part of my life back in the days when I weighed in excess of 300 pounds. In order to deal with the physical and emotional burden caused by the extra weight I carried around for more than 20 years, my strategy was to plunge, swan-dive-style, into an infinity pool of denial. My self-constructed La-La Land was not just over my size. I also didn't want to confront, in any way, two situations in my life which needed immediate attention: a job that centered around a stressful, negative and emotionally-debilitating work environment, and a 15-year relationship that had dragged on for about 14 years too long.
My conscious mind was glib, playing its usual smoke-and-mirrors tricks that said life wasn't all that bad, and I wasn't all that unhappy. But on a gut level I knew I was fooling myself. Not surprisingly, I often told my gut to shut the heck up back in those days. Wow, did I pay a price. Not just in pounds, but in sadness, frustration and spending a large part of my life nearly lifeless.
I may appear cheerful in this 2003 Mardi Gras photo, but it was my smile, not the green rhinestone mask, that was the real disguise. Looking back, this position of passivity, of being overwhelmed by my personal life, was a big part of why I gave up and accepted that I'd be 300 pounds plus for the rest of my days. If the pain wasn't going anywhere, then neither were the copious amounts of food required to tranquilize myself into a state of what I thought was bliss. And I made sure I had elaborate supplies of junk and fast food at all times, just in case the anesthesia started to suddenly wear off. It wasn't the perfect plan, but it was the only plan I had for dealing with life and all its complexities.
And then life (as it often mercifully does) pulled the rug out from underneath my carefully self-constructed comfort zone. The job got more and more toxic, which turned out to be manna from heaven in the long run, because I finally gathered the courage to permanently evacuate and never look back. The year was 2004, and it was truly a turning point in my belief system, a declaration of what I did and didn't deserve.
Now, about the other half of that equation... I knew when I left the job at Misery Central I still had one more major stone to heave off of my chest, but I chose complete submergence in my favorite infinity pool for another five years, thinking that if I just looked the other way, I could get away with ignoring the issue. But the day came when even a master craftsman of denial like me had to finally look in the mirror and admit I was half alive and bound by the lies I was living.
And while we're on the subject of lies, here's a big one: that people of size will be miraculously cured of what ails them simply by eating less and moving more. Sure, there's physical validity to the formula, but if obesity was solely a physical problem, diets and exercise gadgets would have eradicated the condition off the face of the earth. I had some serious inner wounds to heal. So I tended to them as I put the above formula into place in a way that felt natural to me. The last thing I wanted was another diet or anything that felt like one. So, in addition to eating when I'm hungry (and not to fill an emotional hole), long-distance walking, yoga and a little dumbbell lifting, I also practice confronting problems and troubling emotions head-on. It's the only way I know to keep both the weight and emotional burdens off my back.
In celebration of the new me, I had a friend take a new Mardi Gras snapshot. Comparing the 2003 photo with the current one, the physical changes are obvious. I'm also different in many ways that will never be tangible, but I feel them. In every moment of every day, I feel them.