I grew up fat. Since middle school I became vertically challenged – I’m 5’9” – and horizontally unchallengeable. In high school I was 160 lbs, reached 200 lbs through college and peaked at 230 lbs at age 23. I was booed, ridiculed and socially isolated. On my part, perhaps true to a stereotype, I was lazy, perpetually depressed and hated the world around me.
I ran medical tests to determine if my condition was physiological – it wasn’t. Turned out it was nothing that determined exercise couldn’t help. My family tried, and failed, to convince me to get my act together. My friends – the few I had – were scared to talk about my weight due to my sensitivity on the topic. I lived in a world of false comfort, and seemed content being there.
It all changed when I met Jimmy, my neighbour. On the outside, Jimmy was ordinary – ordinary clothes, ordinary hair and ordinary glasses. On the inside though, Jimmy was anything but ordinary. He was an eternal optimist, always smiling, a go-getter. But there was something else to Jimmy as well: he had been like me, unbearably overweight. But unlike me, he had taken proactive steps to step out of his comfort zone. To me, Jimmy was the inspiration I had needed. Learning from him I took to exercise, un-isolating myself and generally embraced a healthy lifestyle. My life has not been the same since.
I hit the gym. I woke at 5:30am, clocked two hours on a rigorous weight-loss regimen, everyday for six months. In the gym, I was stared and smirked at. The unfriendly gym-goers would mock my inability to run vigorously or lift the weights that they could. The friendly ones would show me how to use a new machine and share a few words of encouragement. I persevered, with Jimmy’s story always fresh in mind. In three months I had lost 10 lbs, in six months another 20 lbs. Today I am 170 lbs.
With loss of weight came gain of confidence. I smiled more, and people smiled back at me. I made new friends, lots of them. I shed my insecurity around women. I could talk freely and express myself freely, without fear of judgement or ridicule. I approached work with more vigour, and more focus. I participated more actively in critical discussions, sharing my opinions like I never had earlier. My new-found poise was rewarded – with pats on the back, and a promotion on my lap.
On this journey I learned a lot. I learned to respect commitment, dedication and hard work. I learned that no sincere effort goes unrewarded. But most of all I learned to respect myself, and the body that nature has given me. Looking back I realize the time I let pass waiting for a miracle to come my way. I now know that if I truly want something, I must find the way to make it happen. The power to change lies within me.
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