Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Misplaced Nostalgia?

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?


  1. The Clydesdale division is not very common in New Zealand (I have only heard of one race that recognises it). but if it were, I would be very tempted to put on just a few more pounds to race as a Clyde. I hit 200lbs few weeks ago but have managed (using Wil's challenge as motivation) to get back to 195 ... not sure what I'm trying to say to you (not that I would attempt to give you advice) other than I can appreciate your hesitancy to move out of the Clyde division and losing that identity. Enough babbling ...


  2. Oohhh...that's hard. being the fat man isn't good but being the big man - especially the fast big man - a very seductive persona. You love being a Clyde. Thanks for sharing this process with us, and best wishes as you work through it.

  3. I've often wondered about this. I don't have a lifelong identify as a large woman but I do as a large triathlete. It's easy for me to feel good about being slow when I'm trying to run up and down hills at 165 pounds. But, if I ever get down to my "ultimate" goal weight of 145 or so, what will I be then? A slow, skinny woman? will people be as encouraging? Will it be as endearing, or just kind of pathetic?

  4. Triathlon can change your perspective pretty quickly on a lot of things. Once you drop below the two oh oh, you could try to pack on the lbs in the weight room...some curls for the girls?

  5. You are so fast you will place in the SW series as a clyd or an AG. Congrats on your weight loss. Perfect timimg with a climbing heavy Iron in 16 days.

  6. You wrote:
    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?

    As a good man.

  7. Baboo, I so identify with your post today. It is a struggle for me as well. I actually hit 217 a few months ago and quickly retreated back to 230. But I am working on it and some days are better than others.

  8. Thanks for going "all psychologist" on us. Nice self analysis. Very self honest. And I echo Brent Buckner's comment. Very much so.

  9. As someone who continues to struggle with weight, you post hit home with me. Thank you for sharing.

    And good luck on your progress - that is really a large amount of weight loss in such a short time. It should make a real difference in those later miles.

  10. This post struck a cord with me, as a guy who lost a lot of weight and gained it back. I was actually thinking about that this morning how just under a year ago I was on my own way out of the Clydesdale division but then something happened to me and I lost that momentum. I was trying to think what it was, stress from work, school, being a newly wed or all of that together. Now I have to throw in self perception into the mix, the fact that I am the fat guy/big guy. Did I sabotage myself because I was afraid of what I would be if I was no longer the fat/big guy? Hmmm…….Interesting stuff to think about and try not to get in my way next time. Thanks for your insight. I appreciate it.

  11. Big man...big guy...big stuff..yes I have heard it all. When your a tall big guy like me I have even called "dumptruck" ????????

    Thanks for sharing and inspiring us all.

    Continue the journey!!!!

  12. Anonymous6:49 AM

    Congratulations on the weight loss. That's a great accomplishment, and you did it the healthy way! Thanks for helping me think about why I may be stuck in certain patterns in my own life :)

  13. Well, that bell certainly rings close to home.

    you are a FAST man. The S just used to be silent.

    (PS I agree with Brent)

  14. I can appreciate your inner process, I totally appreciate that you chose to share it. That's a big deal, thank you.

    Would it help to know that some of us on the outside (me) have never seen you as "fat" man, or "big" man? I've always known you as a man. No qualifier.

    Except Good, as Brent points out.

    And Triathlete. But that's not a Man qualifier, it's an occupation -- two different things. It's as though the Triathlete persona is helping you to make the transition from that other thing to the person who has always been in there.

  15. Great job and great post. How true that is for so many of us.

  16. Brian-Congrats on the weightloss! And your process is interesting to read too..

  17. I always learn some new and interesting thing from your posts. From the existence of IMLou to the elements of a person's identity...

    The thing I have not yet figured out is why you seem to be so very hard on yourself?