05.23.24 Editor’s Desk

I have been fat most of my life. I know that the word “fat” is a dirty word these days and you aren’t supposed to say it. Instead, I should say I’m thick — or is it thicc? — or that I am larger bodied, curvy, plus-sized, big boned or overweight, but I’m OK with the word fat. Trust me, there are worse things I have been called.

As someone who has been fat most of their life, I have experienced people staring while I eat in public and had people shout out not-so-encouraging words at me from moving vehicles while walking outside. Situations like these are something I am used to, and I know that it shouldn’t be something anyone “gets used to” but if I focused on every moment in my life where someone gawked at me or stared then I wouldn’t have any time left to do anything else.

I started getting fatter when I was in high school. A closeted gay kid in a small town, I would stay in most nights and weekends, watching TV or cooking with my mom, instead of going out with friends and being active. Part of me liked being fat because it meant girls wouldn’t notice me and I wouldn’t have to ask them out on dates like everyone else was doing in school. No one wants to date the fat kid, so I was safe. In my mind it was better to be seen as fat and weird rather than be thought gay. Later in life, I learned that everyone thought I was gay anyways so that plan didn’t work out. Turns out I was just the fat, weird, gay kid.

After high school, I started to care less what people thought and made friends at work. It was then that I decided I was tired of being fat and thought joining the Air Force would help me get fit. I met with a recruiter who told me that I was too fat to serve and to come back after I lost 50 pounds. With that plan squashed, I decided to take up smoking and replaced eating with drinking and partying, which helped me lose a lot of weight — I went from nearly 300 pounds down to 210 in a year. Now while I lost weight, that is not a way I recommend for anyone to do it. Smoker’s cough and increased chance of lung cancer is not a worthy tradeoff.

After dropping nearly 100 pounds, I tried again and got into the military. In the six years I was in, I got to the thinnest I had ever been, 170 pounds. For the first time in my life, I could eat in public and not worry about being stared at or see the fear in the eyes of the person who had to sit next to me in a theater.

I started to put weight back on in 2011, after I was diagnosed with HIV. It was slow at first, between the pills, quitting smoking and eating my feelings, I managed to add 70 pounds to my weight in a few years. Almost like running down a hill, with every added pound I gained momentum and the weight just built and built, until now I sit here the heaviest I have ever been, almost 350 pounds. Almost like the morning after a drunken night, the weight gain seems like brain fog. I look at myself, thinking when did I get here?

Up to this point, I have tried a variety of diets — the Mediterranean Diet, Adkins, the cabbage soup diet, Nutrisystem, Weight Watchers, et al — and I hear all the advice of proper diet, exercise and willpower. I am amazed at how everyone becomes a dietician and personal trainer when they hear a fat person wants to lose weight.

I recently started taking Ozempic, a diabetic drug that has shown to help with weight loss, and I am optimistic to see what kind of results I get from it. I have heard amazing stories of these drugs helping people who felt trapped in their own bodies lose weight and feel better about themselves.

I have also heard stories of people hating on those using them calling it “cheating” and saying, “you’re just going to put all that weight back on once you come off it.” I’ll never understand why some people feel the need to attack and put others down, especially when it comes to something they are not a factor in. Losing weight for most people is hard, and when you have a lot of weight to lose negative comments can have more of an impact on you than any cheeseburger you’ve eaten.

So if you are on a weight loss journey like me, I say you can do it. If you need motivation or encouragement, reach out. If you are one of those who need to try and tear down those working to improve their weight and health, keep the comments to yourself.

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