Each of us has a reflection only we can see.
This image may not be what’s actually in the mirror or glimpsed in a dark puddle of water when we’re walking down the street. It’s a mental image, a part of ourselves we have judged and, in many cases, found wanting.
Half the time, none of us want to look in the mirror. Few want to see the person reflected back at us. We don’t want to peer into that picture, see that reflection, and come away unsatisfied (or horrified) by the person who is, essentially, a stranger to us. Everyone knows this feeling. This is something everyone faces, at one point in their life. Some people, however, face this harrowing reality every day of their life.
I’m one of those people.
I’m self-conscious when it comes to my body. It’s something I was taught, from an early age. Weighing approximately 235lbs, (5’8″ and large-boned), I know I’m clinically obese. I don’t have to step up on a scale to know this. I just have to look at my own body, at my clothing, at the fat rolling under my chin (something which disgusts me), and I can tell that my body isn’t what it should be. I’m not healthy, mentally or physically, and I can see the results every time I look in the mirror or when I put on a pair of pants.
I have a gut that spills over the beltline and won’t stay tucked inside any of my leggings. I like dresses, but I tend to wear them a bit loose to hide the excess fat hanging off my body. My upper arms jiggle when I move, the fat swaying as I lift my arms. Not a large amount, but I’m aware of it. Others may not notice it to the extent I do, but I’m consciously aware of it and it’s even more apparent when I’m wearing something a tad revealing.
I wear clothing that hides the things I’m ashamed of (disgusted with).
And, because I notice it, I think everyone else can see it.
I can’t help but think I’m being judged for my weight. People are me realize I harbor a great deal of disinterest in my health, but they don’t realize I’ve struggled with my weight for a decade or more. No amount of fasting, no amount of exercise and dieting, has helped. I couldn’t understand why.
As a kid, I wasn’t active. I was a bookworm, a fan of video games, and a late sleeper. I didn’t like working out, I didn’t like a lot of healthy food, and I drank far too much soda to be considered good for my own health. Now, as an adult struggling to make ends met and living with an ill mother, I’ve come to understand a lot of things about my own health I wish I had known all those years ago. I wish there were things I had done when I was young and thin that could have helped me be a healthier person today.
The truth of the matter is simple: the people of today are facing an epidemic far worse than the Black Plague because it’s of our own making! A large percentage of America is obese, fast food and junk food is cheaper than what’s naturally good for us, and many schools no longer require Physical Education as part of the curriculum. Children are taught to read on tablets, their books are being replaced by computer screens, and they’re being removed from nature with every passing year.
Obesity is more than the weight we carry.
Obesity is as much a mental illness as it is a physical illness. It’s a habitual issue, one that often has its roots buried in childhood conditioning. Obesity is a way of thought, a way of seeing the world, a way of coping with stress, a support system, and an insidious enemy that lurks, unseen, in the backdrops of our being. Obesity is one of our Shadow-Selves, a facet of our own being we ignore and turn away from.
January 2ed, I started Massage Therapy. When I first went to Metro Business College, this was the course I wanted to take. My mum convinced me to try Medical Assitant, and then, after, Medical Coding and Billing. One was good, the other a nightmare (I don’t like needles). Last year, I decided I wanted to go back and do what I intended to do from the start.
The things I’ve learned over the last two-and-a-half months has made me look close and hard at a lot of things I didn’t want to confront. Obesity is one of the things that came up in class. In our notes, it was pointed out that a lack of exercise is one of the leading causes behind:
- Mental Illness
- Cardiovascular Disease
The list above is interconnected. Being overweight leads to pain because of the extra pressure put on the joints and organs. Cancer comes into the picture because of the food we eat and the shit we put in our bodies. We’re sore, we’re hanging between ‘unwell’ and ‘not quite sick, but almost there.’
Depression itself is a common factor in people all over the world, but some handle it better than others. There are different levels of depression. Mild depression, chronic depression, mania. Dysthymia is what I have, which is a mild, but persistent, depression that sticks around for years without really letting up much. I’ve been fighting with myself in my efforts to understand my own brand of depression and what causes it.
Depression and obesity are monsters of their own, but they often share the same coin. They require the same things in order to overcome them. It’s a matter of rising over the hurtle mentally, a fact which isn’t stressed. It isn’t willpower. Willpower doesn’t exist. It’s about having the mindset that we can do anything if we’re willing to put in the work and effort, if we’re willing to pick ourselves up when we fall, and if we’re willing to start at our Shadow-Self and all its dark corners.
When it comes to losing weight, it’s a mental battle.
When you’re hungry, it’s a battle of eating what’s healthy. When trying to get your body, mind, and spirit into a good place, it’s about having the mental power to not consume copious amounts of junk food and overeat. It’s about learning how to exercise, how to move, about being aware of our bodies and how they feel (and what they’re trying to tell us).
So, how does one lose weight? It’s a battle that takes months of learning how our bodies work. It’s a war against our own mind, our own self-destructive thoughts, and habits. It’s a warzone where the enemy we face is the very same person we see every time we look in a mirror. There is no enemy to us other than ourself. There is no demon trying to drag us down other than the one we invent in our mind.
The person I was a few years ago is someone different from who I am today.
In December, I was at 250lbs. In a few months, I dropped my weight to 235. A loss of 15lbs doesn’t seem like much, but that’s about 5lbs a month. Part of that loss is from cutting down on soda and sweets, something I’ve always struggled with. I have a few weights laying around my room that I use for my arms, a Yoga Mat I do my stretches on. That Yoga Mat is also where I do a few of my other exercises.
It’s far more comfortable than my floor and far more forgiving.
In the end, I realized I was unhappy with the reflection staring back at me. I was unhappy about where I’m at in life. I started making changes. I went back to school to go after Massage, I started cutting down on soda and candy, started eating more greens and fruits, and nearly getting rid of the bread and potatoes and cereal (eggs are far more healthy a breakfast, anyway). It’s a hard battle. It’s one I’m not used to, certainly. This is a change for me, one that requires I monitor my thoughts and feelings and consciously pick healthier choices (easier said than done).
I’m doing this because it has to be done. I’m doing this because I want to be strong physically and mentally, I want to be healthy and happy. So, due to that, I have to make small changes as I go. Turning one’s life around doesn’t happen overnight; reinventing ourselves takes months of work, requires relentless and endless reinforcement, and an open mind to accept that, at times, I’ll fail and that’s okay.
I have only one body, one life, and I plan on making the best of it.