Contact Alan Barnes
Weighing in at 330 pounds, after so many attempts to lose weight and failing, the idea that I could somehow magically get back to weighing 180 seemed like a fantasy. Could I do it – sure. Would I? I hoped, but I was afraid.
But then circumstances took over. Circumstances that pushed me into a dark corner, into a place I didn’t want to be, and sure as hell wasn’t going to stay in.
So I started. Cautiously, with little confidence, but a desperate desire to become the person I wanted, no, needed to be. Previously I would start any kind of an eating change quietly, so that if I failed, no one would know. This time I was honest, and wrote a blog post about how it felt to start over again. How I wasn’t sure that my self-esteem could take another failure.
A few pounds became 20, then 50, and in eight months 100 pounds lost. I felt like I had finally reached a point where I could be confident that I could make it. Maybe I could get all the way down to 180 pounds.
So I kept at it. The next 40 pounds would take me another 10 months. Metabolism, it turns out, doesn’t play fair and it sure as hell doesn’t like to lose.
While I was losing, I held on to the belief that dropping all the weight would suddenly make my life perfect. That somehow something would change, that opportunities would suddenly start flowing through the door and I would achieve everything I always wanted.
Don’t worry, this isn’t one of those stories where I tell you how I lost so much weight and then put it all back on. I’ve been perfect on my diet for over 530 days now. I’ve only had 3-4 days where I have allowed myself to go over calories, and even then I’ve kept my carbohydrates as low as I wanted them.
However, this is one of those stories where I found out that just losing weight isn’t enough. And I’ve realized that one of the reasons I stayed overweight was because it gave me an excuse. While I was 330 pounds, my lack of success in other areas of my life could easily be blamed on my weight.
It’s true that people look upon you differently when you’re morbidly obese, because it looks like you have given up on yourself and your health, or that because of some mental defect you are unable to control yourself. Yes there is judgment, much of it unfair, that makes it harder for people who are morbidly obese to feel like they are part of society.
But it’s also true that in my case I used other people’s judgment and unfairness as an excuse for my own weaknesses.
That’s a hard admission. Harder than losing 140 pounds. Harder than living without a cheat meal or a “cheat bite”. Being true to ourselves doesn’t only mean living a life of congruence and integrity, it also means living a life of self honesty, and sometimes that can be a real bitch.
I have often heard it said that people who were significantly overweight got that way because it gave them a feeling of safety, by being “bigger” than most people. I didn’t realize that the safety it gave me was the ability to hide from myself.
Losing so much weight has given me a lot. In the last week, I’ve run into two people who have not see me in several years and both of them looked shocked, stunned, amazed and bewildered when they saw the difference in me. Neither of them recognized me when they initially saw me. There is a tremendous sense of accomplishment when somebody has to do a double take to see if it’s really you. Then they congratulate you, and often they ask how you did it. I’m not going to lie and tell you that doesn’t feel good: it does. But ultimately it’s not enough.
Losing weight requires hard work and discipline. Lots of discipline. And there are lessons you learn on the journey about yourself that sometimes you don’t want to learn.
Ultimately, losing weight has taken away many of my excuses. Now I’m left with the cold reality of who I am as a person. Like most people, I have a capacity for great things, while being incredibly flawed.
My problem now is that I am running out of excuses. As my weight has gone and opportunities have presented themselves, I can no longer justify my weaknesses as the unfair judgments of others, or claim that “my weight holds me back”.
The real beauty of losing so much weight is that you finally get to see yourself. The hard part is then sculpting who you are as a person to fit the body that you have formed.
Losing so much weight is a blessing. But it’s not enough. Now I have to become the person to match my impression.
And that is a harder, longer but more worthwhile journey.