Thursday, January 17, 2008

MY HISTORY PART 2: Junior High & High School

Toward the end of sixth grade my parents decided to put me on the swim team. It seemed like a perfect fit, I had always loved the water and swimming came naturally to me. When I was little we had a pool in the backyard, and because my mother was paranoid that I would crawl over to it, fall in and drown, she insisted I learn to swim as soon as I became mobile. At the age of two I was a swimming machine and by four I was teaching other kids to swim. So three or four days a week I would swim after school. And the pounds started floating away. By the middle of seventh grade I had stopped swimming (in order to make time to hang out with friends) and the pounds started to come back. By the end of seventh grade I weighed in at 130 lbs.

To further complicate the issue, it was not just the lack of swimming that allowed for the weight to come back; my family moved into a new house in a new neighborhood at the beginning of seventh grade. My new neighbors, and the only kids my age on the block, were skinny athletic kids who could eat anything they wanted, and did. Their mother shopped at Costco and purchased all the foods that were a big “no-no“ in my house. There were the little bags of chips, pop tarts, cookies, crackers, ice cream, etc.; it was a fat kid’s wet dream. We would often play outside for a bit, then head in and have a snack (one of the really nutritious ones I mentioned), watch some TV, or play a video game. After a few months, and we were all more comfortable with each other, I would often be invited to stay over for dinner. I usually stayed (hard to believe, I know), and because my family would often eat dinner later than the average family, I would go home and eat with my family. That’s right, I would consume two dinners! And then, to make matters worse, sometimes on my way out of their house I would grab a snack from the shelf in the garage and scarf it down before I made it to my door, often hiding the wrapper in the bushes. My parents were at a loss and thought the only option was to put locks on the fridge and the cabinets. They never actually did, but the fact that it seemed the only option is scary. Go figure that by the time Freshman Year rolled around I was five foot five inches and 185lbs.

During Freshman Year I made a conscious effort to lose the weight so that the next year I could make the swim team (and not look like a beached walrus in a pair of Speedos). After school I would walk to the gym and work out for about an hour, then call my parents to get picked up. This lasted a month tops before I lost steam and gave up. Sophomore year was more of the same, as was Junior Year. I tried crazy fad diets but all with out success, or temporary success. At some point I thought that instead of not bringing a lunch to school, or buying one, all I needed was a sprite. I thought, “Hey, a sprite can hold me over until school gets out.” What I didn’t know at the time was how bad all that high fructose corn syrup was, and that the carbonation of the soda prevented my body from absorbing nutrients (assuming there were any useful nutrients I was consuming), meaning that I was really compounding the problem. I also tried slim-fast (the powdered chemical, horrible for you, shake substance). Both of these only led me to become a ravenous eating machine when I got home from school.

My weight kept my self-confidence quite low. My lack of self-confidence led to minor depression. Making friends, real friends, was difficult, and I spent a lot of nights and weekends alone at home watching TV and snacking. At school I would eat lunch by myself or go to the library to study or work on homework that I hadn’t finished, figuring I wouldn’t look like such a loser if I used the guise of studying to hide my lack of friends. It got to the point where being at school and enduring lunch became more than I could bear and I started faking illness and doing whatever I could to avoid going.

Late Sophomore Year/early Junior Year is when I really started to process the fact that I was gay. Before that, it was never really evident, and I remember having crushes on girls as late as Freshman Year. This newfound awareness brought with it the subconscious desire to maintain my obese status. The logic behind that being that as long as I was overweight no one would expect me to be dating, and the girlfriend question would never come up. That worked for the most part and when it didn’t, I shrugged the question off.

Senior year is also when I started working at a restaurant. This meant unlimited soda and half priced meals on days I worked. This was not a health conscious restaurant and I would say that most menu items were of the artery-clogging, heart attack inducing kind. We would grab a plate of fries and some ranch dressing and go into the back and share them before a manager could catch us, or I would walk into the fridge and grab a slice of cheese (sometimes slices of tomato or lettuce if I was being good) to snack on. Slowly and steadily my weight increased. By the time I graduated from High School I was six feet tall and my weight had skyrocketed to 290 or so pounds (I say “or so” because I avoided weighing myself and am not sure of the exact amount). Ignorance is bliss.

I was really overweight, and I wasn’t happy about it. It was frustrating, and no matter how hard I tried my unexplained and uncontrollable desire to consume got the best of me. My bad habits always outweighed any efforts I tried to make. Every summer was time to transform, to shed the pounds and come back to school in the fall a brand new me. However, any plans or regimens I came up with never lasted more than a couple weeks. Gradually, each year I packed on the pounds. My parents felt hopeless, my dad (step-dad) expressed his frustration verbally, which only compounded the problem, and made me want to piss him off by not making any changes.
As badly as I wanted to be thin, I was consumed by feelings of hopelessness and lack of determination.

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