Sunday, November 1, 2009

Fat? or Fit?

I can't believe that it's already November. The past few months have literally flown by -- and it's hard to believe that in just about a month and a half, I'm going to be heading out west for Christmas break at my parents' house in British Columbia. I'm looking forward to the getaway, but I'm also looking forward to seeing my sister from New Zealand, who I haven't seen in three years. She and I are quite close, and traveling this journey towards better health is something that I always thought I'd do with her by my side. Needless to say, the first moment that I see her is likely going to be an emotional one -- but it's going to be amazing.

I also had a reveal moment last week. My parents came to visit me here in Toronto for a week. I saw my dad in July at a family wedding in Pennsylvania, but I hadn't seen my mother since last Christmas. And even though I was already well on my way at this time last year, I was 110 pounds heavier. So I don't know what I was expecting, when I picked them up at the airport, but I was more than thrilled to know that she didn't recognize me and at one point wondered why my dad (who I saw first, coming out of the arrivals area) was hugging a strange man. Knowing that I look like a completely different person is something that I'm learning to get more comfortable with, but I have to admit that I still have moments where I wonder if I've really changed.

This morning, for example, I arrived at the spinning studio a bit early. It was a gorgeous fall day -- the perfect day for a run. So, I had decided to go for a light run before my spinning class. I arrived at Legacy, and one of the women who was there for this morning's boot camp class said that she didn't recognize me at first. I commented that it was my legs (because I was sporting a new pair of running tights, thanks to Dr. Steels!), and another one of the members said that it wasn't my legs. She could see a noticeable difference in my mid-section. Spinning has been a fantastic workout over the past two months. If you've read my two previous blog entries, you'll know what I high I get from them. In fact, I've dropped about 25 pounds since I started spinning, so I'm pretty thrilled with the results. And I do indeed notice a difference in the strength of my core, my flexibility, and also that my shirts, jackets and coats have a more generous fit through my mid-section. But at the end of the day, I still have moments where I take a look at my gut, and wonder if anything has really changed.

I carried a large percentage of my weight around my mid-section. As such, I've got a flabby belly, and the skin around my stomach is the least 'resilient'. Skin around other parts of my body has been quite elastic -- responding well to the work I've been doing, and nicely embracing the new and toned shape of my body and muscles. But my mid-section? Not to much. I was soaking in the tub the other night after an intense leg workout, and noticed just how much 'belly' still remains. And even though Sebastien tells me that the belly fat is the toughest and last to lose, there's still a part of me that wonders if it will ever really go away. Will I ever really get rid of it???

After spinning this morning, my friend Patsy and I took some time for one of my favourite weekend rituals: a coffee at Red Rocket Coffee in Toronto. As we were sitting outside enjoying our post-workout drinks, we were talking about all of the various things we've been doing to get fit. I always love a good long talk with Patsy, because she gets it. She understands where my head is at, and is always enthusiastic about trying new things. Over the course of our chat this morning, she stopped me at one point and said "We need to work on something. You have to stop calling yourself 'fat'."

I still think of myself as a fat man. I've dropped over 180 pounds and I still consider myself fat. I eat better than most nutrition books (except for the Skor brownie last night), and still refer to myself as fat. I ran 5km this morning and cranked out an intense spinning workout, and I still call myself fat. Combine all of these things with the fact that I still get disappointed because my gut is big and flabby, and I begin to wonder: "Will I always be 'fat'?"

There is a big part of me that thinks I will always be a fat man -- if not physically, then cognitively. And I'm not so sure I ever want to let go of that. I've been told (by others and myself) for a large part of my life that I'm not worthy of many things because I'm fat. I've been ridiculed, harassed, and objectified because I'm fat. And it's only in the past year or so that I've actually grown more comfortable calling myself 'fat'. I think there's a bit of reclamation happening here -- that I'm reclaiming the word 'fat' and using it myself to take the negative power away from it. And growing more comfortable saying the word, and describing myself in this way, I think has helped me to reach out to more people and advocate for fat people who want to actively make change in their lives. So I don't ever want to forget who I've been for the past 36 years -- and changing one word in how I describe myself is going to be much harder than I ever thought it would be.

There's a lot of power in language. There's profound meaning in the words we use to describe ourselves, and in how those descriptions link ourselves with people around us. And I still cringe sometimes when Sebastien calls me an 'athlete' or 'fit'. But it's going to take time for me to embrace these new ways of knowing and understanding myself -- especially at a time when I don't feel like the word necessarily matches who I am. How can I be 'fit' when I've got a big lump of flab around my mid-section? How can I be an 'athlete' when I weigh over 250 pounds? There is still a big part of me that's struggling to embrace the new person that I've become -- in part because I've programmed myself into thinking about who I am in only one way for so long. All I know is that it's going to take a while to re-program myself and my thinking to match the person I know I am well on my way to becoming.

So even though I run 5k, do spinning classes, and have such strong focus on my health and fitness, this is still a tough journey. It ain't easy. I still have moments where I have to stop myself in my thought patterns, and reprogram what I'm saying to myself so that I don't fall into old habits. I still have days when I'd love to stay in my pyjamas, and not go to the gym at all. And I still have moments when I'd love to devour unhealthy food in hopes that it might make me feel better than I'm feeling at that moment in time.

And that's the key.

Each time that I think about not working out, not eating well, or spiralling into some screwed up way of viewing myself and the world around me, I have to recall my past experience and know that if I don't workout; if I eat that pizza; or sit around calling myself 'fat' that I'm not going to feel any better at the end of the day. However, if I do workout; if I do eat a really healthy meal; or if I do take a moment to try on a new suit and admire the athletic figure before me, inevitably, I feel better. And that makes a whole lot more sense.

But I'm still working on it. And that's what matters most.

Kia kaha.
Stay strong.


  1. Chris, you are a complete legend and a huge inspiration!! You are a star!

  2. I've kind of fallen off the "getting into better shape" bandwagon but every time I try and pick myself back up and take a look at your blog and read about the progress and absolute love you have for changing into a completely different person, it feels pretty damn inpsirational.

    Good job, man. Very good job!


  3. You are going deep and that's important. In essence you have recreated yourself...and intellectually; how exactly does a person accept that they have the power to do this????
    Personally, I have accepted that I suffer from permanent Dysmorphia. don't laugh Chris but I still consider myslf FAT. ... so I can really relate to what you are sying. I am not sure if this is interesting to you but when I first met you; without knowing your story; I thought you were a hardcore athlete ...(which you are!!!) and was astounded when I heard your story, for the exact reason that you are so not a "fat" man....what you are doing is wonderful,

    Alex (riverdale)