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Support network appreciated; prejudice is real
December 26, 2013 - Andy Flynn
Start weight: 470 lbs.
This week (1): 463 lbs.
Total lost: 7 pounds
Writing a newspaper story is a natural thing I sometimes take for granted because I do it all the time, so publishing a column about my weight problem in the Dec. 20 issue of the Lake Placid News and on my new blog didn’t seem out of the ordinary. Yet the overwhelming support I received from my Facebook friends last week proved that, for most people, the message was not so ordinary.
People called me brave, but I don’t feel brave. They called me an inspiration, but I don’t feel like an inspiration. I’ve spoken openly to my friends about my weight problem for years, so the act of communicating my story was nothing new. I told my wife, “I haven’t done anything yet. How can I be an inspiration?”
However, the reaction I got — more than 60 comments on my Facebook post with a link to my blog — showed me that I hit a nerve. People came out of the woodwork to share their own weight-loss tips and success stories. I’m normally on high gear all the time, skipping from project to project, and rarely take the time to smell the roses or ponder life’s many mysteries. Yet the abundance of support moved me so much that I was speechless. I sat back and couldn’t believe how much people cared and how many were quick to share. It instantly created a weight-loss community, with support coming from all corners of my life. I felt lucky.
All of a sudden, this journey became real. In my mind, I said, “What the hell did I just do?” I hadn’t been watching what I was eating until that moment. Now I’m afraid to eat, in fear of letting people down.
For Christmas with the in-laws on Sunday, I had steamed broccoli and roast beef for lunch and pineapple for dessert, and I drank ice water. I survived without a problem. Fear and butterflies filled my stomach. When I got home around supper time, I was hungry, so I made tempeh with fried onions over rice and had two sugar-free brownies for dessert. I felt guilty about the rice but good about the tempeh. With no sugar, I rationalized the brownies. The onions were a mistake; they decided to talk back to me all day Monday.
People continually ask me, “What weight-loss program are you on?” My answer is, “There is no program.” I have a set of rules that I’m trying to adhere to, and that will take some time for adjustment. Right now I’m making little changes and trying to stop some bad habits, like eating after 7 p.m. I’m talking to a lot of people and learning. I’m scheduling programs for the near future — a nutrition program with Green Goddess Natural Foods and a 13-week weight-loss challenge and exercise program with Fitness Revolution. In the meantime, I’d like to enjoy the holidays guilt free, but I’m not sure that will happen with all the butterflies in my stomach.
Since I had so many great comments on my Facebook page, I’d like to share one, along with an explanation.
My friend Jim LaValley of Tupper Lake wrote, “You mention ridicule. ... I say you are a true inspiration to share your struggles for the world to see. I believe you have all of the characteristics to succeed.”
Those are very kind words, and I fully appreciate them. Yet it’s important to explain why I used the word “ridicule” to put this journey into context. Jim was referring to my sentence, “It’s embarrassing enough to walk around with this much weight, but to document the process of trimming down and reporting my successes, failures and challenges in the media sets me up for public ridicule.”
People who are my size know what I mean by ridicule. I’ve been fat most of my life, and I’ve been the target of plenty of snide remarks because of the way I look.
One day, walking home from the Tupper Lake High School as a teenager on Vachereau Street, some kids were yelling out the second-floor window of a white house, “Hey fatty!” or something like that. They kept it up until I was out of view. The whole time I was telling myself to ignore them. This was their problem, not mine. I was embarrassed and angry, and it made such a negative impact that I still remember the house where it happened. Other times, I’ve had teens yell fat-based slurs from cars as I walk down the sidewalk. Just the other day, I was continually put down because of my weight and the slow speed at which I currently move by a person who I thought was a friend and someone who promotes herself as a good Christian woman. I was insulted. And it was all because of how I look, not because of who I am or what I’ve done with my life. I feel sorry for that person.
Most of the people who read my column and blog will be supportive, as I’ve already experienced. They will have stories to share and tips to pass on. Yet there will be others who will look for an easy laugh and joke about the fat guy in the newspaper. I will continue to ignore these people, but I won’t pretend it doesn’t hurt or that this kind of prejudice doesn’t exist. It’s all too real.
To read my Facebook feedback is heart-warming and inspiring. I’d like to thank to everyone for their well wishes and kind words. Now I have to deliver and get rid of these butterflies. I’ve already heard some wonderful life-changing stories this week, and I’m looking forward to tracking down more. I hope that someday mine will be listed among them.
NEXT WEEK: I get tips from a nutrition consultant.
(Editor’s note: The premise of the Lake Placid Diet is to answer the question, “How can Lake Placid help me lose weight?”)
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Lake Placid News Editor Andy Flynn eats a no-salt peanut butter and banana sandwich on 12-grain bread while writing this week’s Lake Placid Diet column. (Photo by Peter Crowley)