Weighty thoughts on being heavy

Going through scores of old family photos recently reminded me of something for which I need no reminder: I’m the heavyweight in the family.

From age four on, every photograph shows a chubby me. While the rest of my family was of normal proportions, I was wearing “husky” jeans from JC Penney.

At one time in my childhood I actually wondered if I had been adopted by a skinny family.

My first experience with dieting occurred during the summer between seventh and eighth grades. As a remedy for Osgood Schlatters Disease (knee problems) my doctor prescribed a diet and that summer I lost nearly 30 pounds. A year later, however, I was seven inches taller and 50 pounds heavier. I suppose you would call that a growth spurt.

The next diet took place in my early 20s when I lost some 50 pounds. Five years later, however, most of those pounds found me again.

When I was 34 my doctor advised that I had to lose 100 pounds. “You can decide right now,” he warned, “whether you will die sooner or later.” Gulp.

With a wife and two young children I was highly motivated and lost 85 pounds in six months. That was it. After 85 pounds the weight loss came to a stop.

Doc agreed that losing 85 pounds was enough. I was so gaunt, however, friends who hadn’t seen me for awhile asked if I was ill.

Ironically, at that point I remained 15 pounds over what the dreadful life insurance height and weight charts indicated I should weigh.

About 15 of the pounds I lost found their way back quickly, but I was able to hold off much of the remaining weight for years. Then I turned 50.

Though my 79 inches of height masks a lot of pounds, I indeed have a weight problem. Unfortunately, the older I get the tougher it is to lose weight, because by now my body and my fat are really good friends.

Though I haven’t given up the battle I have become pragmatic. I don’t want to be 95 years old and wish I had eaten more ice cream. Then again, I probably won’t make 95. Just as well have another ice cream cone.

I share this lifelong frustration to point out another frustration. Some folks who have never had a weight problem can be awfully judgmental — even rude — toward those who do.

Let me be clear: obesity is a significant national health concern and a serious health problem for those of us so labeled. Obesity, however, remains one of the last things unprotected by political correctness. Upon meeting me for the first time, one woman asked, “My god, man, how much do you weigh?”

Visiting my mother’s hometown when I was about 12 years old I overheard two older women discussing my weight in Low German. At that age I didn’t have the courage to tell them that I understood every word. The old gals were no Tinkerbells themselves.

Frequently I’ve heard snide remarks about an obese person’s overeating. Obesity is usually the result of overeating, of course, but in most cases the overeating is a symptom of a deeper problem.

Obesity is often a result of genetics, metabolism, socio-cultural or psychological components; perhaps more than one of those factors. The malady is not easily fixed by a snotty remark or simply trying to eat less. Case in point: the increasing number of persons who resort to bariatric surgery to lose weight.

Despite normal parents and siblings, I come from a line of large people. Some of my great-aunts, bless their hearts, could have played for the Green Bay Packers. One of my great-uncles was 6’6″ tall and weighed 300 pounds at his prime in the early 1900s when a man his size was a giant.

Over the years I have come to accept my size. Who I am is much more than the size of the clothes I wear.

Obesity is a major health problem; no doubt about it. However, we should never lose sight of the fact that the gal who shops for dresses at the plus size store is no less valuable or precious to her family and her Creator than the gal who shops for a size two at the fashion boutique.

Ditto for men.

Arvid Huisman can be contacted at huismaniowa@gmail.com. © 2023 by Huisman Communications.


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