Since childhood, I have had a weight problem. Carrying extra weight was physically limiting, as most anyone can understand. What is lost is the emotional and spiritual toll this can have on a person. I know firsthand what long term damage obesity can have upon a person. I am not looking for sympathy or to change hearts. The hands of time cannot be reversed and I am not looking to expose former things. This is an exploration of discovery to help me step into my future. By losing 175 pounds in the last 3 years, I have brought a new discipline to my physical health through understanding how I got heavy and how to lose weight. In the same manner I am looking to bring a new discipline and understanding to how my obesity has affected my personality and how that too can change as a part of the new me.
School years are difficult for everybody. We all have our easy buttons, some are just easier. My weight was the easy target by classmates and adults alike. Sometimes you’d lash out – like the time I threw over a classmate’s desk in seventh grade after he led several students in imitating me “bouncing” around the room. But more often you’d say nothing because there was really nothing you could do. Like the time a teacher commented that a group of students needed to “get their little behinds out of the gym.” I guess she just wanted to convey accuracy when I passed by and she clarified, “or not so little.” Sporting events were always enjoyable – I was regularly serenaded with songs from the Fat Boys and was actually called a beached whale after diving out of bounds to save a basketball (adult spectator at the local Catholic high school). Consider dating and courting and you can imagine how my weight impacted me in that arena as well. I’m glad I didn’t have a nickel for every time I’ve been told what a great guy I am, but… I’d have probably used the money to buy fast food.
My usual response was to ignore it; to act like I didn’t hear it, but I did. I heard every comment, every snicker, every insult. They not only hit my ears, but they stayed with me and became the basis of how I viewed myself. Over time, I simply became synonymous with my size. This was a coping mechanism – it was much easier to accept it than fight it or change. I had lost the hope that I would ever change, that anything would be or could be different. I simply masked my frustration and tried my best to hide my size to the world.
This seems absurd, but it is the absolute truth. Overweight people will wear certain styles of clothing to try and hide their size. I took it to another level by trying to hide my size through most every action and decision I’ve ever made. I am afraid of being in the way because if I’m blocking an aisle it’s because I’m so big – so I avoid crowds. I hang back in crowded rooms. I wait until everyone else has passed by so as to not crowd them with my girth. I stand behind others and back away from conversations where I feel myself opened up and my size exposed. I am afraid to use my size and strength for fear that I’ll come across as some massive bulk or a bull in a china shop. When helping a friend move recently I noticed frustration on her part because I took so long to find the perfect way to handle and hold the furniture when all I really needed to do was just grab it and move it. My actions are calculated, my motions thought out to make sure that my size doesn’t make me stand out. I sit up straight and act in a very formal and proper manner so as to not give the appearance of being a slob. What I’ve come to learn is this behavior gives off the feeling that I’m uptight. People would often tell me to “relax” or “breathe.” I couldn’t understand why they were saying this – I was relaxed, at least I thought I was. It confuses me – but it happens very often. In my career I am dubbed unapproachable. In my dating life I am considered insecure. In my own mind, I am undesirable, unlovable, and unappealing.
By now you may have noticed my use of present tense verbs and it may confuse you. Didn’t I say that I’ve lost 175 pounds? Yes I have. Doesn’t that make all of this past tense? Physically? Yes. Emotionally? Not so fast. In truth, I am really just beginning to discover these things and realize that the byproduct o f years of obesity is a genuine lack of self-value. I struggle to love myself. And if this is true, how much more difficult is it for me to give and receive love from others?
This is where I stand today – my eyes finally opened to the realization that I must view myself with a greater level of value. So how am I going to do this? I’ll do it by turning to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the Son of God who extended to me the greatest demonstration of love ever seen on earth.
It is unimaginable to me how somebody could love me. I’ve had precious little experience with it in an earthly sense. But in Christ I see the purest form of love ever poured out. Romans 5:8 is a common passage of Scripture, but it provides the baseline truth from which I must view every day of my renewed life. “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Christ died for us. Christ died for me.
Jesus loved me enough to die for me, in spite of my sinfulness, in spite of my shortcomings, in spite of my obesity, Christ loved me enough to go to the cross for me. In that sacrificial act and His resurrection, God has changed me, altered my destiny, and set me on a course toward salvation and eternal bliss in His presence. But more than that, He has transformed me while I am still here on earth so that I might share this word – to share His word while firmly rooted in the full confidence that mine is a life worth saving because He loved me enough to save it.
I am 175 pounds lighter. I am in better control of my life than I have ever been. I am connected to God more definitively than ever before. I am filled with the Holy Spirit who will refresh and restore my soul. And above all, I am loveable because of the one who loved me first.
Another beautiful post, my friend. 🙂
Hi Mr. Schu,
One would never know the things you were dealing with emotionally. I always felt that you seemed confident and professional. I’m basing this on knowing you as a teacher and principal at St. Matt’s. Most all of the students adored you and thought that you were fun and fair.
I guess sometimes it’s nice to know that the people in you’re life who seem to have it together the most, sometimes have baggage from their childhood and past as well.
I am truly happy for you that you have been blessed with the ability to look back and be able to see these things in you’re past and work with them. God does work this way. Hopefully all of us will be able to use them for good, especially when it comes to helping others. By the way you look fantastic and I’m sure you feel great!
As I read this, I realized how incredible it is when we drop the defensive shields and become heart-felt friends and colleagues. We see the the goodness and beauty in each other. and mirror that back. When I see you, I see an incredibly intelligent person, a friend with great zest and humor, a gifted writer, and someone I trust enough to open up and share my hidden side also. We grow because of that, nourished by faith and those whom we know truly care for us, just as we are. Wow, Rich. Wow.
Thanks, Rich, for sharing your heart. I am glad that the Lord has seen you through this part of your life’s journey and He’s given you the victory. How beautiful.
You are blessed in so many ways and one of them being that you are a wonderful writer–both in thought and structure!
Calculating our actions based on what others might think, applies to more than just weight too! How much do we all live in fear that others are going to point out our shortcomings!!! Even after we’ve lost the obvious external shortcomings, our internal shortcomings could still be at risk of being exposed.
Just think of those we love the most – our friends, our family, our significant others – I don’t love them because they’re all perfect, most are far from it. I love them because of how privelaged I am to be let into their small worlds and see all their little piccadillos they wouldn’t want anybody else to ever see. God loves us this same way. I don’t think he loves us in spite of our ‘flaws’, I think he loves us because of how these little (or not so little) things 🙂 make us as unique as we all are.