Welcome to Thankful Tuesday!

I haven’t consistently seen a doctor since I stopped seeing my pediatrician six years ago, but I figured that, since I guess I am a grownup now, I should make it a habit. I mean, I might as well make sure I don’t have some terrible disease that is slowly devouring me. Plus, I am going to be a father in 7 months or so, so I guess I need to start acting responsibly.

So the doctor gave me a physical yesterday. Barring any weird results from the labs he ordered, I am completely healthy. Except, to quote my doctor, “Blood pressure: good. Weight: not good.” And, just to rub it in my face, he dictated to his computer, and I quote, “Patient is obese.”

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I’m not sure where I got the idea that everything will work out in the end. Or where I became so delusional that I was able to minimize my problem. Oh, I know I’m “overweight.” I am well aware that I won’t wear certain shirts because I think they make me look fatter. I’ve had “breakthroughs” before, like when I dropped forty pounds over the course of six months because I ate less and exercised more, because I asked a good friend to train me.

But, since then, I’ve put thirty pounds back on. And I really haven’t thought about it much. Until yesterday.

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The doctor told me that I would die younger than everyone else. He told me that I would develop diabetes, extreme joint pain, and other “nasty” things if I didn’t intervene now. “At your age,” he said, “this is completely reversible.” But, he implied, it won’t be for much longer.

At twenty-four years of age, I am at my peak. After this, my body heads downhill. At twenty-four years of age, I have no official health problems, but I am carrying around 110 lbs of potential co-morbidities. Right now, I can do almost anything I want to do. I run out of steam a little early when hiking or playing ultimate frisbee, but that’s about it. But in ten years, in twenty years!, things will be much worse.

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The doctor implied that the problem was caused by a) overeating and b) eating crap. This is only partly true. I don’t really eat that much “crap.” I did for many years, especially through college, but have largely stuck to eating good food for the last year or so (and I haven’t gained much weight over the course of the last year). Overeating, though? That is the problem.

I started counting calories today. And, honestly, I hate it. It’s exceedingly tedious. But, at least for today, I am counting calories because I want to see how much I actually eat. As it turns out, I consumed close to a thousand calories for breakfast. And I was trying to cut back a little today!

My problem is simple: I eat more food than my body can use, and certainly more than it needs. I eat that much because I want to feel full.

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My goal is to lose 110 lbs by Christmas of 2015 (so that I am my ideal weight of 150 lbs instead of my current 260 lbs). That’s about 18 months. I have a distinct plan that I know is doable: I will eat around 1900 calories per day and will moderately exercise. In this way, I will slowly burn more calories than I take in.

I already know that my primary enemy will be the sensation of hunger. I do not usually eat when I am full, but it takes far more food than it should to make me feel full.

It is embarrassing to admit that I am beholden to such a basic sensation, a primal instinct; but there it is.

I have low impulse control in general, and practically none when it comes to food. What control I do have is a feeling of shame which, in the end, tends to lead to more eating.

So here it is: my name is Greg, and I am an overeater.

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I am writing about such a potentially embarrassing topic so publicly for three reasons.

First, I think shame will largely lose its power if the cat is out of the bag. Everyone already knows that I am obese. I don’t fool anyone by wearing larger T-shirts or baggier shorts (something we fat people tend to do so that we don’t inflict our fatness on anybody else). Obese people are people, and though obese people so obviously struggle, we all struggle with things. Non-obese people just get to hide some of their demons. In any case, being so open about my goals and desires helps prevent me from so easily backing out of them when, say, tomorrow I decide that this really isn’t worth it.

Second, I hope this encourages other people. Like all obese people, I don’t enjoy being fat. I don’t enjoy the toll it takes on my body. I don’t enjoy being so self-conscious. I didn’t sit down one day and choose this; this is the result of my negligence. And while we all know that body shape and size are affected by a multiplicity of factors (including genetics, environmental factors, personality, socio-economic location, etc), in the end there is only one person capable of making the decision to get healthy. Yes, I will need the support of family and friends. Yes, I need resources (like the Internet and apps). But I have to be behind this, or it won’t work.

Third, I hope to use my experience as a springboard to discuss other related issues, like the stereotyping of fat people in our culture. I hope to discuss the way this issue relates to my search for spiritual discipline. I want to discuss its connection to mine and Amanda’s commitment to eat local, in-season, and organic. I want to discuss the relationship between being fat and being poor, and the industrial food machine that first makes us fat on its processed crap, and then shames us into trying every miracle food or pill, so that it can make a profit.

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So, Thankful Tuesday? I am tremendously thankful for my doctor who pushed this in front of my face. I am thankful to Amanda who is totally supportive. And I am thankful for a community of family and friends who will support me and, at times (I hope), push me to make the right decision.