Wednesday, March 11, 2009

How I see myself

I'm going to let you in on something, a feeling from the nether-regions of my brain and my soul.

My perception is skewed. It is completely out of whack.

That doesn't sound like a problem, and maybe calling it a problem is a bit excessive, but it exists. And I struggle with it sometimes.

Perception. How I perceive myself. How I view myself. It's just a little bit off kilter.

I don't necessarily mean that in a good way or even a bad but understandable way. Good would be "My perception of myself is that I'm lean and have the body of someone who obviously works out." Bad but understandable would be "I am dead sexy."

No, it's not any thinking like that really. Sometimes, a lot actually, I feel big. I feel like I never dropped way more than 100 pounds. I feel like I'm still a big guy and that I'm starting to inflate.

I think that one of the biggest fears in my life is a fear that I'll put all my weight back on, or even a lot of it. Or even 20 pounds. I fear that I'll weigh more than 200 pounds again. It's a legitimate fear. And it feels like the beginnings of weight loss aren't far away. I feel as if I stop running or don't work out in a few days that it will be akin to having my fat-burning mechanics stop and for my body to start storing fat once again.

It's irrational, I know. It doesn't make sense. I run a lot. I wear size 32 pants! I fit in clothes that I would never thought possible, and when I put on some of the few clothes I have left from back in the day, I literally swim in them.

But don't try to talk sense into the nonsensical. My brain won't have it.

You see, for the longest time I heard that I was fat. I heard that I should exercise more, that I needed to lose weight, that I did not take care of myself. That I was lazy. Overweight. Chubby. Chunky. Just plain FAT.

Around high school was when it was the worst. Extended family members would tell me at family gatherings that I weighed too much, that I needed to drop some weight, that if all I ate was hamburgers.

So I believed them. They wouldn't tell me that I was fat if I wasn't fat, right? Time, though, has a way of showing you that your flawed way of thinking was just that, flawed.

Here is Yours Truly, circa 1991.

That's me in the middle, with the gray shorts and no shirt. I remember this picture as clear as the day it was taken. We used to go to this lake, Lake Perris, a great deal. I loved going there because it meant volleyball, splashing in the water, spending time with family and, of course, good food. But it also meant having to take my shirt off.

You want to know why I have my arms crossed? Because I thought I was fat, and that if I kept my arms at my side that I would look horrible in the picture. I seriously thought I was fat. I look at that teenager now and, I don't know, but I don't think that's fat. Or overweight even.

But of course, I didn't know any better. Before too long, I was big, well over 200 pounds. Then I was really big. Then, I was really, really big. I don't know when I crossed over from 200-plus to pushing 300 and then well over three hundred pounds. Then what?

At some point, it didn't really matter to me whether I was overweight or not. Because I had always been fat, from grade school all the way up to high school. Except that I hadn't been. And then when I really was severely overweight, it didn't really matter because I'd been hearing "You really need to lose weight" my whole life. That ceased having an impact on me years and years ago.

So now that I'm lean and have the look of someone who exercises regularly, I still have this mental baggage. See, I always perceived myself to be overweight. And I still perceive myself to be overweight because, well, not sure. Old habits die hard? In this case, old thoughts don't just vanish.

I guess in some ways it's just me trying to be humble, trying to stay grounded and not feel like I'm suddenly some Adonis. But mostly, though, it's just a lifelong thing of hearing that I'm overweight. I'd say from fourth grade until I was 30-something, I felt overweight. I heard that I was overweight. So now that I'm 30-something still, not a lot of time has passed between when I really was overweight to when I was in the average category in terms of body fat.

So while I knocked off 120-plus pounds in 20 months, it might take a bit longer to slim my perception down too.

At least nobody calls me fat anymore.


Gracey said...

I totally get what you're saying. I believe this is normal, though - a perception of self, which took years and years to form, obviously needs more than a few months to change. It's ok. :) What's NOT ok is the unacceptable way the extended family, etc treated you, telling you that you were overweight, when you clearly weren't. Someone really should have stepped in and protected you from this nonesense.

5thsister said...

LB...I am so sorry. You were NOT fat in that photo and I am sorry that family members put that idea in your mind only to become reality as you grew up...a self fulfilling prophecy. I remember all too well the push to be "perfect". In my family it was to be smart and to be beautiful. No wonder I had to deal with anorexia/bulemia in my mid 20's. I feel so bad for that young boy who internalized all the taunts. However, Luis, you are a better man today because of, or rather, in spite of what you went through.

Tattoos and Teething Rings said...

It's horrible the things that people (family, even!) will say to children and teens, not realizing the lasting effect. You're body image issues are unfortunately quite common, but hopefully you can start to move on from the negative self-image. Good luck!!

Lissaloo said...

You are such an amazing role model and person, you have accomplished so much and no one can take that away from you.

Raoulysgirl said...

Wow...I was tearing up at the end! I absolutely know what you mean! Having image issues is almost like having alcoholism or a drug fight it for the rest of your life. You're on the good side, though! It's not about being humble or modest anymore. Look in the mirror one day and say..."Damn...I'm HOT!" That'll teach ya! LOL!