This morning I weighed in…I weighed in at 203. That’s correct two hundred and three pounds. I am four measly pounds away from no longer being Clyde legal. I have not weighed this little since I was 20 years old. The last time I knew for a fact that I was under 200 was when I was 19. I have been battling my weight for 20 years and now, for once, I am winning.
But here is the catch, there is a certain nostalgia associated with this weight loss, a certain sadness, a certain, dare I say it, hesitancy. This is totally unexpected but I should have seen it coming. Ok, I’m sorry but I am going to go all psychologist on you so if you want you can hit the snooze button and wake up later in the post.
Everyone has some central self-concept that they organize their identity around, organize their lives around, get their rewards and punishments from. For me that self-concept was, in bad times, the fat man and in good times, the big man. “Hey Fat Boy!” I heard that a lot when I was younger. “You can do it Big Man!” Shouts of encouragement from people who wanted to draw the fat man out, wanted him to succeed and do better than he thought he could. The big man, the fat man, this was who I was. My constant battle with weight was my mission, it was my meaning. The discrimination suffered by overweight people in our society was my cross to bear and it hurt…and it felt good, comfortable, familiar.
When I got into triathlon I was able to adopt yet another big man persona, the Clydesdale. I was not only able to adopt that mantle but I was a FAST Clydesdale, at least in my region. I was the regional champion Clydesdale the last two of three years and was third in the region my first year. I was not just A clyde, I was THE clyde…and my “battle” with weight kept on taking place and my self image as the big man, the fat man, was allowed to remain unscathed…but then I got distracted.
I toed the line at Ironman Louisville on August 26th at 223. I was frustrated with my performance but not with my weight. I thought to myself, as a triathlete I am better than 15 and a half hours, way better and I set about doing what a TRIATHLETE would do to prepare for an attempt at recapturing some dignity at Silverman. I did not think about what a fat man would do but what a triathlete would do. Now this was not a conscious decision on my part. As far as I was concerned I was just planning out the remainder of my season the best I could. It is only in retrospect that I can recognize that for once, for the first time in over 20 years, I did not start my thought process with “the fat man”
Now, here I sit at 203. The only thing that separates me from the loss of an identity I have held my entire life, because I was a fat kid too and only had a brief respite during high school, is the equivalent of a super sized big mac meal.
I had always thought that there was something wrong with my body, that it was so unfair that it was easy for most everyone around me to keep the weight off, that I carried some special genetic burden. I’m not so sure about that anymore. Maybe what I really carried was a special mental representation of who I was. Maybe the encouragement gained by a fat man trying was too seductive, maybe the cross I bore was too compelling, maybe the battle I fought became too noble. Maybe, just maybe, I sabotaged myself all those years not because of dysfunctional relationships with food and not because of dysfunctional genes but simply because I had an identity, an identity that I understood, that was comfortable and that was just another variation on the identities everyone else has that keeps them where they are wherever that may be.
This morning I weighed in…I weighed in at 203. I was startled to discover that I am not a fat man, I am not a big man, I am just a man, nothing more, nothing less…so, where do I go from here, in what identity will I take refuge, and how will I be known?