Wednesday, January 11, 2017

A Must Read Guest Posting Apology

Yesterday I read a remarkable open letter of apology on Reddit from RoundRobinator. It was written by a man who was once regularly engaged in fat shaming and stereotyping, who following his own weight gain, was fat shamed himself. I asked him if he'd be willing to let me post it here, and he graciously agreed. It's a remarkable read.
I am the one who was giving you dirty looks in the grocery store.

I am the one who rolled their eyes at you in the restaurant.

I am the one who shared that insensitive meme.

I am the one who wouldn't play with you in elementary school, teased you in middle school, and pretended you didn't exist in high school.

I am the one telling you it is your fault. That you're disgusting and you're just lazy.

I have trolled this very subreddit before.

But I'm not anymore.

I took for granted being thin my whole life. I came from an active family, my mom was home to cook for us kids every night, and I was involved in sports from the time I could walk because that's just what I was told boys did.

I played varsity hockey all throughout high school, when I graduated I took a very physical job that kept me up and moving 8 to 10 hours a day. I only had time to drink coffee for breakfast, 20 minutes to inhale a burrito at lunch, then ate as big a dinner as I wanted plus a couple sodas and if it was the weekend more than a couple of beers.

I did not understand how someone becomes fat, I thought I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was a conscious decision people made. Having this thin privilege handed to me my entire life I thought weight loss was like any other goal, it just took organization and willpower.

I hated fat people. I was enraged that my taxes were going up because they were using the healthcare dollars. I felt cheated when one sat next to me on the bus and spilled over into my seat. I didn't want my daughter to have overweight friends because I thought they were a bad influence. I didn't hire them at work because I thought they were weak and unmotivated.

Then, two years ago next week, I was in an emergency room being diagnosed with a complete rupture of my left Achilles' tendon.

It happened on the job, and they were so glad I wasn't suing that they didn't fight me on the six months of workers comp (an Achilles rupture is usually 4-6 months of recovery.)

Once the worst of the pain subsided, I was almost excited to be injured. I was getting paid time off, in bed all day, doing whatever I wanted.

And what I wanted to do was eat. All my hobbies are physical, and I had nothing to do with myself. I was at home all day, on bed rest for the first few weeks, then allowed limited movement as long as it didn't disrupt my cast.

I didn't realize how much more I'd been eating. Instead of coffee for breakfast I was having a couple eggs and a package of toasted waffles just to kill more time before I went back into my injury limbo. Not three hours later I'd make myself a big sandwich, with soda and chips, I'd eat dinner with my family but some nights it was so uncomfortable sleeping in my bulky cast that I'd end up eating a second dinner. You can see where I'm going with this.

It was when they decided I needed surgery, about three months after the injury, that I got the first wake up call. At my pre-op appointment, they weighed me. I went from being 170 pounds to 200. It had happened so gradually. I stayed in my pajamas all day. I'd only been leaving the house to go to PT or the doctor, and I wore sweatpants to those appointments. Sure I noticed my stomach was looser and my clothes were tighter, but I thought it was 10-15 pounds max, injury weight that would melt off when I got back to work. My doctors cautioned me that that wasn't the case.

But I was in denial. I shrugged it off and told myself once I was healed it would fall off without any effort on my part. I also told myself I'd cut back on the sweets.

I don't think I even made it to the end of that day before I told myself "you're injured, you shouldn't be stressing yourself out with crazy diets."

At the surgery I was 218. I told myself it was because the surgery was later in the day than my pre op appointment had been.

Recovery time, more denial, more recovery time, fast forward seven months after my injury, and I'm cleared to transition back in to work.

By this time I'd bought all new bigger clothes under the guise of these being my "injury clothes". I even joked that they were my "manternity" clothing.

But my coffee in the morning wasn't satiating me anymore. I found myself agitated, hungry, disorganized. I found myself stopping for Dunkin Donuts on the way in to work. Then my regular chicken burrito at lunch felt sparse. I missed my thick sandwiches, bags of chips, and limitless soda. Dinner, the same cycle. I told myself it was just the stress of transitioning back in to work, and once things calmed down I'd be back to normal.

Then things weren't going so well at work. My numbers dropped, I couldn't keep up with the other guys in my pod, and I was switched to desk work until I was "fully recuperated." If this injury weren't the result of their shitty protocols, I'd have likely been axed on the spot.

I was called in to an important meeting one morning and tried to button my shirt. Couldn't do it. And this was my "manternity" shirt. I couldn't even remember when I'd stopped buttoning my shirt like I used to do every morning.

I told myself I was going to start running. I had a 6 minute mile in high school, and I ran a marathon in my twenties. After a quarter of a mile I was in more pain than I was at the end of that marathon. Not in my Achilles' tendon either. My chest was burning, there was a radiating pain in my knees, my feet felt like I'd been running barefoot on gravel. But I told myself "Don't be a p*ssy, play through the pain. You've got to get in shape."

I'd gone out with what I thought was a conservative goal of running three miles. By the time I hit a mile, which took me 11 minutes, I was in so much pain I could barely think straight. And this is coming from someone who had the presence of mind to play "I Spy" with a three year old while getting a knuckles tattoo.

I was so out of breath I genuinely thought I was going in to anaphylactic shock (which I've experienced for real three times before).

It took me twenty minutes to even feel capable of walking home.

I thought it had to be a medical condition. Maybe a side effect of having taken so many anti inflammatory drugs during the recovery process. I thought my kidneys might be failing. I went to the doctor the very next day.

And she told me in no uncertain terms "The only thing wrong with you is that you're overweight. Running is not only going to be exceedingly difficult, but dangerous for your joints. Start with walking and build up to running. And I'd recommend you see a dietician sooner than later."

I thought "I don't need a dietician, weight loss is just about sticking it out." I went home and got rid of all the junk, I gave away all my Dunkin Donuts cards, and bought heaps of fruit and vegetables, I ate a boiled chicken breast and steamed broccoli for dinner and I wrote down the calories. And I thought "This is easy. See? Pathetic fat losers just can't put down the fork because they care more about their superficial wants than their health. Well, a strong guy like me isn't going to fall for that. I've been to hell and back in my lifetime, this is nothing."

3am, after a restless night, I got in my car and drove half an hour out of town to buy Chips Ahoy cookies. And I ate them alone in my truck. Not one or two of them. All of them. With a half liter of coke. I looked up and I couldn't even remember the exact moment I decided to go to the store or exactly how I'd talked myself into it. It was just a visceral frenzy.

Then I started to realize I might have a very real problem.

Queue a year and a few months of starting exercise programs and stopping exercise programs because of achy pains, not having the time between all my work (which, again, is behind a desk now), and discouragement from not seeing results. And fad diets, and quitting cold turkey, and weaning off, only to be hit with a craving so strong or something so stressful I blindly dive right back into it. And it wasn't a choice and it wasn't intentional and I didn't feel like I'd gamed the system or proud of myself. I was awash in guilt and shame and downright misery. At some junctures it was a guilt as powerful as I'd felt wen my mom's house was foreclosed on because I didn't make enough to take care of my family and her. It cut so deep I would have done almost anything to stop it.

I kept telling myself I could do this on my own and it was a test of strength and nothing I couldn't handle.

I didn't notice the subtle shifts in attitude at first.

I started encouraging my daughter to invite bigger kids to play with her and her friends, invite them to her birthday, and pick them for teams.

I'd see those people sharing stupid memes about fat people on the internet and think "Jesus Christ, and you call yourself an adult?" Then I saw a particularly ignorant "shock value" fat people meme, and decided I was going to unfriend whoever had shared it, so I clicked on it. It was a Facebook "memory" of a post I'd shared three years prior. I went and deleted it off my timeline reassuring myself I'd made up for that by now.

But the tipping point came one week ago.

I was power walking through the neighborhood, sweating bullets, feeling really proud of myself for not stopping for a breather in almost twenty minutes, when some guy drove by and made pig noises out his window at me. I was broken. I've been in bar fights, I've been hospitalized, I grew up with not one but two abusive stepfathers, I'm a fighter. But I was so hurt and broken and embarrassed that I just stood there. If some guy had done that to me when I was thin, there's a good chance I'd have hurled a rock at their window. But I couldn't think of anything to say or do because this time, on some level, I agreed with them.

And that's when I realized that was insane. Because of course I was trying my hardest. I'd been trying for years. I had to sacrifice a job I love, I haven't had sex in months, I buy all my clothes online, I dread going out into public, I try any diet that sounds promising, I undergo intense physical and psychological pain in an effort to get back in shape. Who is this guy to judge me? But I was that guy. I've changed but I'm still the same person who did those things in the past, even if I'd never dare to do them now.

I went to a dietitian today. It was the first time I'd stepped on a scale without diverting my eyes since my surgery. The few times nurses had weighed me I told them I wasn't interested in what the number was. And I stopped seeing the doctor long enough ago that I can't pinpoint exactly when. I have an appointment with her next week at the advice of the dieititian.

I'm 289 pounds.

And now, in this same subreddit where my old account, that was so toxic that I've since taken it down, was banned from, I'm coming for help.

Call it karma, it probably is. I don't know if you believe in a God, but I do, I think he did this intentionally because of the unchristian way I acted towards others. I was sick, I was nasty, I was the disgusting one.

I know you fight. I know you're not weak, you're the opposite, you're the strongest kind of person out there.

I am sorry for every look I every shot you. For anything I ever muttered under my breath. For every time I changed seats because of you. For the names I called you in school and for the dance I wouldn't be your date for. You deserved better than me anyways.

I apologize to each and every one of you who has ever been unfortunate enough to cross paths with a volatile prick like me who sought to make your personal private health concerns their business.

As devastating as this has been for me, a 6'2 guy with a deep voice, shoulder length beard and tattoos, I cannot comprehend how difficult and damaging it was for anyone who has to cope with this publicly accepted, encouraged even, abuse, as an innocent defenseless child.

I know now that you are so much more than your weight. I'm the weak one. I'm the wrong one. Now I'm the fat one.

And in all the ways that matter I'm still the same guy. I'm no longer the ignorant, mouthy, judgmental, abusive guy I was. But I'm the same loving father I was as a thin guy. I've got the same powerhouse work ethic I did as a thin guy. I'm still as much of a dog lover as I was as a thin guy. I've got the same level of faith, if not stronger, than I did as a thin guy. All the fundamental pieces of my identity and all the good things about me remain the same at any weight. And I was too blind to see it before, there is no such thing as a "fat person" there are only "people who are fat". That doesn't override or in any way undermine the other parts of their identity.

Of course I don't want to be this way and I didn't choose it. But even if someone does decide they want to stay fat, and they choose to accept it, you won't hear any judgement from me. Because this life is HARD. It is not the easy way out. It's the hardest I've ever worked and the most emotionally heightened state I've ever lived in in my entire life. I see now more than ever that what you do with your body is none of my business and I can't even begin to understand where you're coming from or what other factors are at play in your life.

I've been the worst kind of person and have undoubtably hurt people in ways I will never realistically comprehend. I'm a changed man now but that doesn't change the past and my actions.
Don't forgive me, I don't deserve forgiveness. I don't and nobody who acts like I did does. Don't forgive them, write them off. They don't deserve your attention, your wholeness, your love, or your time. They're ugly on the inside. I'm getting my soul in shape alongside all this, and I've done a lot of good work, and I've got a ways to go. But just..... just know that for whatever it is worth I was wrong. And I am sorry.

I've got a new eating plan from the nutritionist and an exercise plan too. And I'm going to work it as hard as I can. And even if I get to be 160 pounds of rock solid muscle and go on to win an iron man challenge, I'll never be stronger than I had to be when I was fat.