As a society we generally have this idea that girls and boys face different standards and obstacles growing up. Boys learn to be tough, and girls learn to be delicate and pretty. All too often we see the affects of the beauty standard, the damage that it does to the confidence, and self image of young women. But do those same type of issues impact young boys? They do, and they have played a huge role in my life.
Growing up chunky was like a constant reminder that I wasn’t like everyone else, not only by the reflection in the mirror, but by pretty much everyone around me. Not only did I look different… I couldn’t always do the same things as other kids… I surpassed the weight limit of the McDonald’s play place… I couldn’t run well or do pull-ups, like the other kids in gym class… and let’s not even get started on the horrors of shirts versus skins games.
Clothes shopping was walking past all the cool styles to the Husky Jeans section… summers were swimming with a shirt on… every day was taunting and anxiety. I didn’t want to play on sports teams or do anything… I didn’t believe that I could do anything… I was the fat kid, and I wasn’t even in middle school yet.
Around sixth grade I took on the habit of smoking full time. I had done it here and there for years before, but never had my own packs. I grew up with everyone around me smoking, so it was just something I always wanted to do… as weird as that may sound. It also kinda gave me a common ground with the same people that picked on me, helped me to feel like less of an outsider. Smoking kinda opened a door for me to a new crowd. I remember other kids telling me that I should smoke because it would help me lose weight.
In seventh grade I decided to chill on the smoking to try and play sports. We spent most summer days on the basketball court as kids, I was pretty descent too. Basketball tryouts ended for me towards the end of the first day. It had been going pretty well until the whistle blew, and the coach called for a shirts vs. skins scrimmage. My heart sank, then raced as the name of each kid being designated to a side echoed through the gym. “Spencer… skins” and at that point I pretended to have to shit, hiding in the locker room until the end. I remember hearing “where’d Spencer go?” as I leaned against the cold block wall, I never went back. I also joined the wrestling team but quit as soon as I found out what the uniform was… a tight fitted, chub hugging, leotard.
When I reached high school I was an anxious guy… having pretty much every girl I’d ever tried to talk to laugh in my face… I spent most of my time smoking cigarettes, doing drugs, and finding trouble, trying to hide the turmoil I was feeling on the inside.
Mornings before school were spent squeezing in and out of misfitting threads, trying to find which best hid my rolls. By the time I’d finished, half my closet would be on the floor, and I’d have to leave still feeling uncomfortable. Also I had learned a new trick… sucking it in. Everywhere I went I’d suck in my gut, breathing shallow breaths until I could get somewhere I could sit down and hide behind something, or sit bent over. Thinking back now, I was only fooling myself.
Halfway through my freshman year, I was whining to a friend about my weight, I didn’t know what to do. He recommended that I starve myself. Why hadn’t I thought of that? It was simple, food was making me fat, just don’t eat. So I stopped eating and within a couple months I lost 30 pounds! I had never seen myself like this… I could fit into clothes that I wanted to wear, I got compliments from the people around me. I felt great, but the voice inside me constantly nagging “How long can you do this?
By my junior year of high school I discovered diet pills. Already pretty seasoned in the avocation of recreational drug use, the ephedra laced magic pills (which are pretty much speed) helped me to not only destroy my appetite, they got me pretty buzzed up too. Cigarettes, water, and diet pills, the meth diet.
Obviously there are some pretty adverse side effects to this diet, it also goes without saying that as human beings , if we don’t eat food we die. So I would get off them, gain a little weight… then get back on them. It wasn’t too long before ephedra was made illegal in the US. Other diet pills replaced them, and I tried most of them. They didn’t have the same effects, but they helped to curb the hunger, still giving me the energy to get through the day.
At this point I had dropped out of high school, had a full time job, and adopted blow as a favorite pastime. Eating had now become an action of extreme guilt. Usually I would only eat a very small amount. When I did pig out… it was like I could feel myself getting fatter. Overcome with disgust, and dread… I would feel so anxious that I would make myself puke. I eventually started using this in between stints of starving. I even remember being proud at one point when I had trained myself so well that I didn’t even need to stick my finger down my throat anymore.
I carried these habits all the way into my twenties, when I joined the army. Basic Training was the first time that I had experienced what all my abuse had done to my body. First of all the only time you’d ever see me running in my entire life, was in the type of scenario where I might poop myself. Secondly my body was straight up ravaged from crash dieting and malnutrition. Then there was the fact that in order to join the military I needed to stop doing drugs. In the months before I left… I packed on 30 pounds. By the end of basic training I was able to meet the minimum standards for the PT tests, which was like conquering Everest to me. I had never experienced a feeling like that, and it was probably the first time that I felt what it was like to overcome seemingly impossible odds. Before that I would have just quit, or never tried in the first place.
Eating fairly well in basic training, and the constant physical demands, I was devastated to learn that I only lost 3 pounds!! So when I entered the next phase of my training, AIT, I was determined to get skinny. We were under constant contraband scrutiny and checks. It was so bad that I had one of the girls in my class hide my diet pills in a bag, concealed in her crotch, to get them into the barracks. I then cut hole in my mattress to hide them.
I was able to lose a bunch of weight again, using the pills and only eating breakfast. I lost it so quick that I was even asked at a weigh-in how this was possible. I had just been 186 pounds, and now two months later 166? I was so weak, that I barely passed the final pt test.
When I got to my unit I was feeling trim but tired. I learned to love that feeling of my clothes hanging loose on my body. I was so weak that I failed my first pt test. I passed the push-up and sit-up portion, but I didn’t have enough fuel left to get through the two mile run. This really struck a chord with me. I had worked so hard to get into shape and it was gone that easy.
I spent the next five years working out… eating, but pushing myself to failure, everyday. As we learn in the military “ Pain is weakness leaving the body” I would hit the weights 6 days a week, there by 5:30am and again at night. Even when I had the flu… I worked out. If I did miss a day… the guilt was so intense that I’d make myself sick with anxiety.
I was pretty ecstatic to discover that there were all types of supplements to aid me. Pre workout drinks that made me feel just as buzzed as the diet pills.
Then from the extreme strain of constant overuse… I hurt my shoulder… then my back. Entranced by a cocktail of a military mentality, and extreme guilt… I tried to push through. Until I reached the point that I couldn’t lift my arm to put my shirt on, and had headaches every day from the nauseating neck and back pain.
There aren’t the right words to describe how crushed I was when I had to quit working out. I had for the first time in my entire life given my all, 150%. I was in great shape, but I didn’t see it… I saw that I need to get stronger, and still had fat to lose. I failed… again, I quit. It wasn’t a choice this time, that didn’t matter though. I got super depressed and supplemented my routine with drinking, smoking weed, eating, and feeling sorry for myself.
My back was pretty destroyed and I was pretty miserable. I spent my free time in a haze trying to escape back to my teen years, partying and having fun. Though, these days I only smoked weed and drank beer, a little softer than the coke and ecstasy in the past. I felt that as long as I didn’t party on work nights then I was ok. I was unhappy when I wasn’t high, and fat again.
All my partying didn’t leave time for much else, and in a lot of ways… I neglected reality. I ran from being an adult… hiding behind a high, so I didn’t need to feel down. That along with many other factors, caused a rift between my wife and I, we split up.
Now I was somewhat single, fat and unable to workout, oh, jobless and living in my parents basement too. I needed not to hate myself so much. So I stopped eating again. I found that I could drink beer all night and drink RedBull all day. Before I new it I was back to my emaciated, unhappy self. It’s funny how starving, after a few really tough weeks and headaches, it starts to almost give you this high. I loved that high, but the same old feelings of “how long can I do this?” are always there for the come down.
My wife and I did get back together, and she got pregnant with our son. During the 9 months of her pregnancy… I gained back about 30 pounds. I’m back to being uncomfortable and nothing fitting again. With a different perspective though. I have a son now… and my body is all but destroyed. The fear of not being here for my son to grow up… or that I won’t be physically able to play with him is this real, horrifying thing. I’ve abused my body… and mind, for 34 years.
It was time for a change. I’ve spent the last 4 months learning to work out again. At first, I tried to hit the weights like I used to. I couldn’t move my arms for a week. Over these 4 months I’ve seen barely any results, but I’m learning the importance of listening to my body. I’m focusing less on the amount of weight I can lift, and more on proper execution. Most of all, the importance of rest, not overdoing it. I’m still learning to eat properly… which isn’t easy for anyone in this day and age.
Not a day goes by that I don’t think… I could just not eat, have instant results. This is the first time that I’m really trying to do it right, it’s really hard. When I look back at pictures from over the years… I was never fat. I was 225 pounds at my heaviest, and 150 and my slimmest, no matter how skinny I got… I never saw a slim guy… I saw a fat guy.
I ask myself if I had been born a skinny kid, would my life have been less plagued by demons? Would I have been confident, more successful, less addicted. I honestly… don’t know. I wouldn’t trade it though. This battle, this life long struggle… has again and again forced me to overcome. Finally reaching this breaking point of acceptance. Through all the things I tried to be… I ended up me. Someone who is not defined by a standard… rather someone that creates their own. If I could meet that little Chubby dude, 30 something years ago… I’d tell him… Fuck ‘em little man, do your thing.