Hello there my 7&4 friends. I just want to say that up until this point this journey has been amazing. I have been pushing my body to limits I never thought I could and am finding the athlete inside of me! Working out with Ryan at the Grand Traverse Athletic Club is fantastic. I love his enthusiasm and his positive attitude! When he hi-five??s me and tells me ??we did awesome??, I know he is part of my team! The people at GTAC are so encouraging to me. I have a little fan club of people who are watching me both on television and every morning on the treadmill. They keep me accountable, and for them I will prove that obesity to athlete is a possibility!
Today I wanted to talk a little bit about what it was like growing up as an overweight child. First, I want to say when I agreed to this journey I promised complete transparency and this means talking about things that the ??average folks?? may not think of. This blog may leave you thinking differently about overweight people, which to me is my goal. My heart??s desire is to inspire change, so don??t feel bad about what I have gone through. Be thankful I??ve made it through and rejoice in my victories! Remember, ??The past is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a GIFT??.
Since I have been obese throughout childhood I have many experiences that were not pleasant. My first memory of knowing I was different was when I was in second grade. Our gym class required each child to weigh in on a scale. The way this happened was we all lined up alphabetically according to our class in the gym. My memories of that day are very clear. All of second grade was summoned to the gym at one time. One by one the gym teacher called students up to the scale that was in the middle of the gym. There were a few extra adults there to help out that day in order to record our weight in a quickly manner, as keeping an entire gymnasium of second graders entertained was certainly a task. As my name came closer I felt a sense of shame. I did not want to step foot near that scale because I knew my numbers were going to be higher than the other kids in my class.
I remember feeling anxiety inside myself. I remember squirming in and out of a ??cris- crossed applesauce formation??. I remember the girl on the list before me and I remember standing up to walk to the scale. I remember what the gym looked like, the painted brick wall, and the long rope climbing apparatus that was hanging from the left side of the gym. I focused on the basketball hoops, the kind from circa 1985 with the metal pole that was used to wind them up and down upon demand. I even remember what color hair bow I had in that day!
I don??t remember what the number on the scale said, but I certainly remember recess that day! There was a large pine tree in the very back of the playground where I would often hide on difficult days to get away from everyone. I would pick caterpillars off of the side of the school walls and bring them back there with me to play with at recess. I would build them a little house out of dirt and sticks cover it with leaves and watch them. Some days I felt like they were my only friends!
The reason I remember recess so clearly that day was because after that very traumatic experience in gym class I went to find my place of solace. Before I could get back to my tree I remember another child calling me ??fatty??. The teasing was relentless that day. I remember at that time just reminding myself over and over again that I couldn??t cry. I didn??t fight back but the impression lives on in my mind, nearly three decades later. That day I came to the realization that I was heavier than the rest of my peers.
From that experience in second grade I think I developed a mean of survival and unconsciously made a choice that I was way too young to make. I chose to work harder to try to make myself stand out among a very judgmental group of peers. This is where I began my love for writing. I picked something I was strong at and focused on that. I began spelling words from the dictionary on a regular basis and wrote constantly. I loved creative writing and developed quite the imagination. My imagination saved me!
Another story that comes to mind is when I lived at a house in the country near Grand Rapids. If I remember right I was in fifth grade. My grandmother bought the Richard Simmons Sweating to the Oldies VCR tape and I did it quite often in the den we had at our house. My siblings hated that video so often times it was me, my leg warmers, sweat pants, and water bottle doing the aerobics moves all by our lonesome! This is where I developed my love for one of my heroes, Richard Simmons.
During the time of sweating with Richard I could escape into a ??land?? where I was fully accepted. All day long I faced criticism about my weight, heard comments from peers, and faced challenges of being different and it was nice to come home to a place where I felt normal. There is something about his positivity that kept me going. Often in my juvenile mind I would dream of meeting Richard Simmons while others were dreaming of meeting their favorite teen stars. Once, I wrote a letter to Richard Simmons and prayed that it would somehow get to him, not even knowing what state he lived in. Another time, I wrote him again, ripped up the letter and blew it out of my bedroom window and hoped the angels would deliver it to him. To this day, I still hope to one day get to thank him in person for helping me get through childhood!
Obesity followed me into middle school and honestly these years were tough. The school bus in sixth grade was a breeding pool for ??fat jokes?? and often I was the one taking the blunt of the force of them. I was first on the bus and last off, leaving plenty of time for torment. I had kids poke me with sharp objects while I was on the bus, I was avoided by the ??cool kids?? who didn??t want to be associated with me, and once I experienced harassment that broke my soul to the point that I wanted to cower?|but, the funny thing is, I never opened my mouth to fight back. These scars were placed on my heart but I wasn??t going to let anyone know how I was feeling. It was my way of fighting back, no tears, just like in second grade on the playground!
You would think that this type of behavior would be limited to other children but perhaps the most dreadful part of this blog will be the behaviors that adults had towards me. Once, an evangelist told my parents that they needed to ??do something with me?? or else I would turn out to be a delinquent. I laugh at this now because at the age of thirty-four I am a God fearing, model American citizen, allowing those delinquents into my home with hopes of somehow pulling them out the criminal lifestyle I was supposed to be living. I love the irony!
The moral of this story, obesity as a child feels lonely. While other kids were living out their dreams I was forced to take a much more grown up approach in order to survive. I spent many years cowering behind a ??big shade tree?? playing with caterpillars and blowing dreams into the wind because I was overweight. I often think that this time of endurance built character within me but what a way to have to develop character and resolve!
Perhaps these childhood experiences are what fuels the fire within me to continue this journey. I know what it is like to feel like you don??t belong and I know what it feels like to be made fun of. These feelings have driven me to compete with my childhood memories so I can finally win the victory!
All of those tears that I should have cried have been bottled up, and now drip as sweat with each tenth of a mile I conquer on the treadmill! All of the secret letters I wrote to Richard are being answered through this journey that I get to share with you, and more importantly, I get a chance to expose the real side of what it feels like to be a child with obesity in hopes of changing the perspectives of those around me!
Your challenge for today, see the potential within yourself! Don??t let childhood experiences keep you from living your dreams, stop hiding behind big shade trees and be a history maker!
Lots of love,