When I was in junior high, I became a high valued target for fat shaming.
I don’t know why this happened because I wasn’t overweight and was very active playing soccer. Sure I didn’t have the ripped body of a young Roman god like some teenagers enjoy today, but I wasn’t obese either. Apparently my chubby cheeks and slight fluffiness was all they needed in order to pick on me.
The constant barrage of negative comments were hurtful at times, but overall didn’t seem to bother me. At least I thought — until it all resurfaced years later.
Getting fat for real.
After I graduated and got older I did start putting on a few pounds. Once Donetta and I started our family, I put on some sympathy weight due to her pregnancies. Then one day the realization hit me like a ton of bricks … I looked like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. For real.
My weight had exploded from around 170 lbs. to 225 lbs. in a matter of years!!!
At the time I didn’t know how this could happen, but now that I’m a little bit smarter, it’s easy to understand how this guy went from average to pleasantly plump. It was a very depressing time, one that brought back so many hurtful memories of being fat shamed as a kid.
Of course I used all the coping mechanisms to deal with the pain: alcohol, drugs, anger, and the kind of self-inflicted negative talk that would make a sailor blush. It was one of those moments in the life of facing adversity that seemed impossible to overcome.
Despite all these problems, I decided to change my life for the better. I enlisted in the Army.
You’re in the Army now.
As I was growing up, I always had the love and appreciation for the military. I wanted to be Rambo, Bruce Lee, and John Wayne all rolled up into one. I dreamed of being a bad ass Green Beret while reading Soldiers of Fortune magazine. Some day I even hoped to fight for our freedom.
When I enlisted in the Oklahoma Army National Guard at the ripe old age of 26, I knew two things would come of it — I’d be a highly trained fighting machine and I’d look sexy as hell. 😀
Now if you think fat shaming might be bad in junior high, you should go and experience bootcamp.
And it wasn’t just regular basic training – this was U.S. Army Infantry bootcamp – where the Drill Sergeants had even more free rein to practice their evil methods and moments of terror on you. While I understood the reasoning and dynamics of (and at times even laughed at) these tactics, it could be very brutal for us enlistees.
It was this moment in time where I became Private Fat Body.
Yep, that’s right. Arriving at bootcamp at a paltry 220 pounds made me a highly valued target for Drill Sergeants Rodriguez, Sanchez, and Bennet. Every opportunity to lovingly call me “Private Fat Body” and provide the joyful gift of physical punishment, was taken advantage of.
I didn’t resent them for the cruelty or “proper” motivation; I actually started to embrace the suck and appreciate it.
Their generous and rewarding attention helped me begin to overcome adversity. I even started to thrive on the negativity and turned it into positivity. When I graduated from Army Infantry Training I was 163 lbs (that’s a reduction of 57 lbs) and a lean meaning fighting machine.
I told one of the Drill Sergeants I’d never return to my old ways. He responded by telling me I’d always be a fat body. And that was just one of the many amazing memories of Fort Benning, Georgia!
Regrets and shaming other people.
He was right. I would eventually become overweight again and all I had worked so hard for was eventually destroyed. Years later I resumed my lead role as the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and looked at myself in absolute disgust. This was a very hard pill to swallow, though apparently soda pops and Big Macs were not.
Drill Sergeant will always be in my head.
Unfortunately the negative words from bootcamp still remain with me to this day. I’ve verbally abused myself for years in a way that is worse than what was experienced at Fort Benning. The hate I had for myself and what I’d become again was intense. Failure was hard to deal with.
It gets worse though because the shamed became the shamer.
It saddens me to say this but I started fat shaming others as well. All that pain and suffering I encountered was now being projected onto obese people by me. Every person who was overweight was labeled a fat body and judged in ways I should’ve never allowed. My hate for “fatties” grew into epic proportions and even though I never ever said harmful things to others, I definitely thought them.
I am truly sorry and will live with these regrets until I die.
Fat shaming is never OK.
The old poem of “sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is unequivocally and 100% pure bullshit. Words can cause just as much damage, if not more, than broken bones. My physical wounds have healed but the mental ones have lasted forever.
Whether directed toward others or ourselves, hateful speech is truly damaging. We need to do everything in our power to stop it.
Mental wellness begins with loving ourselves and others. Happiness starts when we stop judging ourselves and others. Positive change begins when we stop shaming in whatever form it manifests itself. Our lives and the world will be a much better place because of it.
So next time you start to think or even speak words that are detrimental to yourself or others, do your best to reverse engineer those thoughts into something positive and helpful. Or live with a life of pain and regrets.
One last thing about obesity.
For decades, we’ve been taught that being overweight is simply because people are lazy or that they don’t practice the “eat less, exercise more” model. This is not entirely true.
Donetta and I have learned so much about the science of how our body works, as well as what good nutrition is all about. We’ve invested hundreds of hours reading research about diets and diseases in an effort to live healthier and happier lives. While this topic demands another several posts and those will come, the gist of it is we have been lied to by our government and health professionals.
Insulin is what causes obesity and health issues. Not calories, fat, or a lack of exercise.
So there are a lot of overweight people working their asses off to do what the “experts” are telling them to do and it’s never going to result in success. These poor people have been set up for failure. No amount of fad dieting and time on the Peloton exercise bike is going to make them healthier.
Of course the commercials tell them differently but the science does not lie.
What this also means is that I, and others, have fat shamed many amazing people who are doing everything possible to lose weight, but can’t because it was never possible to begin with. The standard, recommended American diet (which is killing people) or expend more calories plan (you can’t outrun a bad diet) is wrong.
The proof is in the pudding. Even though pudding isn’t good for you.
How do I know this for certain? Because Donetta and I are living proof!
For two and a half years we have embraced and lived the keto lifestyle. We’ve each lost over 40 lbs and kept it off, without working out. Our blood work is the best it’s ever been and we feel better than we ever have, including more energy and focus. My mental wellness is a million times better.
It’s time to think differently!
There is so much research we will share to support the health statements made, but my goal here was discussing the need to change how we think or feel as it relates to weight gain.
We must stop beating ourselves up for being overweight. We must also stop shaming others who aren’t thin. Negative talk isn’t helping anyone and it’s just not as simple as eat less, workout more. So give yourselves and the people around you some love. We all desperately deserve it.
Remain Strong is about empowering others with the knowledge to make better choices and inspiring those struggling with mental and health issues to stay in the fight. And we will do all we can to change the wrong perceptions and negativity surrounding these pursuits.
If there is any way we can help you, please reach out to us or follow our Facebook page. Just remember this …