People keep telling me I’m losing weight, but I’m not. Since my weigh-in of 208 lbs. on Dec. 6, Sonny’s due date, which doubled as the date I set to be under 200 lbs., my weight hasn’t dropped much, ranging between 206 and 216, depending on the time of day, how much water I’ve had and some other factors you probably don’t want to read about.
I have officially plateaued. My body has adjusted to my new lifestyle and no longer burns calories at the same rate as when I was heavier, reaching a point of diminishing returns. Last time I was here I thought I needed to “quit being a pussy and take it to the next level,” something I told myself often. I believed all the health and fitness advice I read in mens’ magazines, which are basically like Cosmo but with fewer mentions of the G-spot. I pared down my diet to a list of foods I could count on two hands (protein bars and shakes, meat, chicken, pasta, rice, some fruit and vegetables, yogurt and these awful low-fat soups), ratcheted up my work-outs to six days a week and cut everything out of my life that wasn’t part of this “clean” lifestyle I wanted to live, one that wasn’t sustainable. When I broke my diet, I beat myself up. When I didn’t lift as much or sweat as heavily as the work-out before, I beat myself up. When I missed a work-out, the stages of grief settled in, though usually I just stayed in the anger stage until the next work-out when I pushed myself harder than before. I wasn’t exercising to become a healthier person–I was punishing myself for a lifetime of overeating and depression, which only made me want to eat more and fall deeper into that hole because it was comfortable and safe, and food, more than anything else, made me happy.
Unable to reach my goal weight, I slowly began to loosen my restrictions, eating ice cream and other foods I had sworn off, drinking, partying, and then hating myself for my choices the next day, waking up in a food coma, my stomach swollen well beyond its capacity, or with an awful hangover, forcing me deeper and deeper into that hole. Soon, it all snowballed, veering back into old habits until one morning I went to the gym determined to get back on track but doing it the wrong way. I let my pride, my manhood, my quest to not be “a pussy” drive me, skipping stretching and warming up and heading straight for the bench where I was determined to lift my max weight with more sets and reps than I was capable of–not because it was a goal but rather a punishment I believed fit the crime. Halfway through that work-out, I felt a pop in my back, pain radiating down my left side and up into my shoulders, the part of my back I hurt when I was in a car accident years earlier. I should have stopped then, but I didn’t because I wasn’t a “pussy.” I truly believed being a man meant not being weak or vulnerable, and for a boy becoming a man without a father in his life, my entire existence was about proving my manhood, being the toughest, strongest person I could be, and always ready to kick somebody’s ass. But that one pop crumbled my facade the next morning when, getting out of bed, muscle spasms leveled me, turning my back, shoulder and neck into one massive knot that would take three years and multiple chiropractors and massage therapists to undo. During that time, the hole grew deeper and wider, if only to accommodate my body, which grew by 80 lbs., as well as the massive load of depression and anxiety tethered to my slowly disappearing neck. Eventually, the hole found its terminus, though I had several starts and stops, believing I’d hit bottom only to re-injure myself or be struck by a trauma–a burglary, being hit by a car, a near assault, losing my mother– turning back to food for happiness, making that hole a little deeper, a little wider.
This time, I am trying not to fixate on my weight, which, as of yesterday, was still 208 lbs. more than three months after my goal weigh-in. Instead, I focus on my strength, the way my clothes fit and–the completely unquantifiable–how I feel. I am stronger than I have ever been in my life, but what drives me, what pushes me out of bed each morning, isn’t this belief that I cannot be a pussy, this false sense of manhood and pride. I am motivated by my desire to live a healthy life, to become the person I know I am capable of being, the man of a few specialized talents, the fat kid who wants to tell other fat kids the truth: it won’t get better until you’re happy with who you are, and ultimately, to be the father who’s always there, none of which a scale will tell me.