Missing Person

How do I describe to someone who hasn’t lived it, what it’s like to have lost 150 lbs? With each passing day, my memory of what it was like to live in a morbidly obese body fades a little more. But when I look at photos like this, it all comes rushing back. In fact, I clearly remember the day I took the “before” picture above.

It was a Sunday. I was getting ready to go sit in the hot tub with a couple of my kids and I decided I might as well get some pics, since I was starting CrossFit the next day. I was hard to get into that bathing suit. Not just mentally challenging, knowing how I looked, but literally a physical challenge. You see, when you get that large, discomfort comes from places you can’t imagine unless you’ve shared the struggle. It hurt raise my arms up. The supportive fabric fought back as I tried to work the top on. I would hold my breath trying to reach the elastic band in the back and pull it down. I had to sit down to put the bottoms on. So many reasons that a “simple” task like putting on a bathing suit could lead to tears of frustration.

In truth, I was in pain just about anytime I had to move. It hurt to walk- my feet and hips ached. Morning was the worst. I remember not wanting to move when first I woke up, because there was no pain those first few moments. The physical pain was more tangible, but the emotional pain was just as present.

I felt like a failure at health. I guess I was a failure at that time. I had lost and regained weight so many times and for so many years that “My Last Fat Summer” was a joke, even to me. My brother in law asked me once (after a large loss and subsequent regain) if I wanted to retake my “before” photos. I have dozens of sets of before photos through the years, sometimes with some “in progress” photos to go along with them. Most without.

I was always starting over. There was always a Monday in my future where things were going to change. Things didn’t change. I had to change.

I had always sought dramatic change, and I had to adjust to appreciate incremental differences. The driveway leading up to our home is really steep. It’s about 1/8 of a mile from my front door to the bottom of the steepest section. When I started taking intentional walks, I had to pause every 10 steps or so to catch my breath when I was trying to walk back to the house. The next week, I could go 12-15 steps. Then one day I walked over 50 steps before I had to pause. One day I’m going to sprint all the way to the top, but for now I’m thrilled to be able to run halfway up and slow to a walk without having to pause. It’s probably been around 300 times that I have climbed that hill. But there had to be a first time, a painful time, for me to reach that eventual goal of sprinting to the top.

Life is different now. I can breath with ease, except when I am intentionally pushing the limits. A towel fits around my body. I can tie my own shoes. I don’t care how far away I park. But none of that happened quickly. And my body didn’t change quickly. With the knowledge I have now, I could have accomplished the transformation in a much shorter time, but I have no regrets.

No one gets obese overnight. It just feels like that the first time you see a photo and realize how large your heinie is from someone else’s perspective. It took a lot of tiny steps the wrong direction; nutritionally, physically and mentally- to do that to our bodies. It takes thousands of tiny steps and small decisions to transform into the person you want to become. But every single step in the right direction is a victory.

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