At this exact moment (when I started this post) I am about two hours away from my yearly annual physical. When I was younger, smaller, (and at least appeared healthier) I never even thought twice about going to the doctor. I just went. Now I dread it and I know that my size has something to do with this feeling. Think about it, going to the doctor means sitting in the waiting room with random people looking at you and you can't help but think that they are trying to figure out why you are there. Not only that, but the paranoid Derek in my brain is of course thinking that they think I wouldn't need to be here if I would just lose weight. Then there are those two dreaded steps atop the horrid scale with it's big judgy numbers spitting proof that I am BIIIG. Quantifying my fat for statistical analysis. Sigh. I hate the scale at the doctors office lol. I hate seeing the nurse write it down on my forms then enter into the system. I hate that, that number represents so much to so many and I hate that I myself give it such weight (no pun intended... well maybe a little lol). I hate that we live in a world that looks at a few physical characteristics about a person- weight, height, skin color, build/shape and determines what (if anything) that person is worthy of. I also hate the tests, the blood pressure screening, the blood work, all waiting to possibly tell me that I am fat and it's causing some health problems for me.
No amount of body positivity combats the very real health risks of being overweight. I BS & MS degrees in science- I know the preventable problems caused by being over weight- high blood pressure, diabetes, gallbladder issues, heart disease, random body/joint pain, certain cancers, arthritis, sleep apnea, and many others. With the fear of all of these potential diagnosis in my brain I don't want to go! UGH!!!!! Buuuuut, I know that I have to go. I am honestly experiences some feelings of anxiety- UGH AGAIN! I've tried to talk myself out of going... but my prescriptions have expired and I NEEDzzz my medicine so I'm going. Besides, 'tis better to face my fears than punk out. UGh the third time! I'll be back after my appointment.
Done. I survived. It wasn't that bad.
Admittedly, I have had bad experiences in doctors offices in the past. I've been to an office with tiny exam tables, uncomfortably tight chairs with tight armrests in the waiting room, and health professionals that were harsh and crass and mean. Besides these trauma echoes, I fear hearing that I have something that can't be reversed because of my weight, mainly high blood pressure and diabetes. Four years ago at only 57 my father had a stroke. Additionally, my maternal grandfather has been diabetic my whole life. These facts concerns me to no end. So I can't help but think that at anytime the doctor is going to tell me I have an issue that I have brought on myself because I have little discipline over my eating habits. So whenever I go to the doctor I spend the entire appointment waiting for someone to say, "you really need to lose weight..."
Today's appointment wasn't too bad. I weight 10lbs less than I did at last year's physical exam (good thing). The nurse who took my vitals also complemented my cologne and bracelets (yay YaTamu- Buy some here lol). When she took my blood pressure tho she told me- It's slightly elevated- 145/87 (STAGE ONE HYPERTENSION!) I ALMOST FAINTED. The first thing that the doctor asked me about was the blood pressure- "have you ever had an elevated blood pressure before? " Nope, I told him. "Hmmmm did you run in here or anything? Were you running late?" He asked. "Well... kinda," I replied. "I'm actually really nervous I've been worrying about hearing bad news." He asked why, I said- "because I'm fat!" (lol I mean straight no chaser). He then told me that I should just calm down and they would check it a few more times before I left. They did. Three more. 125/82 and around 120/80 the other two times. Wheeeew! no hypertension.
Diabetes... that's another story. I am what you call- pre-diabetic. My A1C is elevated, but not in the diabetic range yet. So I have to take meds so that I do not become diabetic. Which sucks because I don't want to be a diabetic in part because I don't want to have to take medication. Furthermore, pre-diabetic is not a healthy range. It means, negro diabetes is knocking on the door and you need to reverse this- OR ELSE! So, I take metformin, twice a day and it helps me stay non "diabetical." The doctor told me that if I lose some weight and eat right (watch my carb intake) I may be able to need less of the meds if any at all. He asked me about my physical activity- I told him I exercise 3-4 times a week for 45mins to 90mins at a time. He said that makes sense and explains why my blood pressure and other numbers where good. However, he explained that while I may be in pretty good shape now as I get older (and I do plan on getting older- it's better than the alternative) my weight will make it less and less easy for me to have healthy numbers. This made me feel good because I DO plan on being healthier... but I still felt some type of way about the other thing I needed to bring up to him... sleep apnea.
As I sleep during the night I don't get enough oxygen because my throat obstructs my breathing to the point that at times I actually stop breathing. When this happens, after several seconds my body is like... "Negro wake up before you die!" and I jerkily wake and immediately go back to sleep. I shared this information with my doctor who then asked me to open my mouth and stick out my tongue. As soon as he looked down my throat he said, "yeah, your tongue is probably obstructing your breathing too." He then proceeded to show me an image of four different pictures of various wide open mouths with the tongue exposing varying amounts of the back of the throat. My tongue is the worst example of the obstructive sleep apnea tongue issue- in other words my fat ass tongue is hindering me from breathing at night while I sleep. This can cause great fatigue, going to sleep at the drop of a dime during the day, and eventually lead to a bunch of health issues. However, For me the biggest issue is shame. Even though my doctor said that 1/2 the people with sleep apnea have it because of genetics and are not over weight, and that 1/2 the people with it are- I can't help but feel that my weight is the reason why I now have to have a sleep study and will likely have to sleep with a mask on at night so that I can breath. sigh. Ain't nothing sexy, cute, or classic man XL fly about a freaking mask and breathing machine lol. But, In the meantime I must do what I have to do. My doctor told me that if I lose weight I may not need the machine anymore. Perhaps this is further motivation.
All in all, I had a pretty good appointment. The chairs in the waiting room were nice and big (they did have some tight ones, but you can tell whomever ordered the furniture made sure that there were some for all body shapes/types). The only uncomfortable chair moment I had was in the phlebotomy room because they had me sit on a stool thingy that didn't even offer enough space for 1/2 of my wide ass. But I survived. The phlebotomist was also interesting because she was hitting on me before she took my blood (that's a big ego boost for my almost "diabtical" about to have to wear a mask at night ass lol). My doctor gave me some good advice, and really I was the only one who brought up my weight- perhaps it was because I wanted to control how it came up.
Sadly, no matter how confident I am, or how much I love myself and my tall thick body, I know that I need to be healthier. I just need to remind myself that health for me may never look like a tall thin man with a 6-pack and those D'angelou how does it feel video muscles in the front lol. I mean just the other day I was playing basketball with guys 10+ years younger than me and they were breathing all hard, bent over, and couldn't focus because they were so out of breath, "Do you need a break? You tired?" they asked me because I was the oldest one on the court. "Dang! Why am I in better shape than you all?" I thought. The answer of course is because I workout. Stair machine, walk/run in the park, elliptical machine, treadmill, stationary bike, or swimming. Those 20 somethings looked at me- tall, big belly, glasses, and thought what many others thing- out of shape. While I may jiggle when I run, I usually don't breathe hard lol. Or if I do it takes a lot to get me there... To that end, I know that I can get healthier (reduce my risk of diabetes and other preventable issues) if I eat healthier more consistently and workout intelligently. Admittedly, I now workout simply because I don't want to gain weight- I am changing this mentality. I also plan to practice self-discipline by eating better so that I can slim down. My initial goal is a modest one- just 10% of my current weight. How much is that? None of your damn business lol.
There is a thin line between honoring and appreciating every lump on this big sturdy body of mine, and being healthy and ensuring a long quality of live. No matter how difficult, I will find the balanceI will find the balance and be a better me
My relationship with my body has finally changed; I no longer dislike how I look. I’m the largest that I’ve been but I’m not being unkind to myself because of it; I’m not beating myself up; I’m not making up stories in my head about being stared at by strangers because of my size and I’m graciously accepting every compliment. This state of mind was not easy to achieve.
My weight-consciousness began when I was 8 years old. Prior to that, I do not remember thinking about my body type. I was aware of it, but it did not seem abnormal or different from any other person’s body. I definitely did not refer to it as fat, skinny, or any other descriptive word. That quickly changed. I remember being called fat for the first time in the 3rd grade. I even still remember that kid’s name (but he’s irrelevant at this point). From that point on, my body was something I was ashamed of.
Throughout high school and college I learned to cover up my self-consciousness by being stylish. With clothing, a fresh haircut and a little makeup I was able to present a polished façade to the world while internally I struggled with liking my body. Without my armor (fashion) my self-consciousness was heightened. I would even call myself the “fat friend.” Though I said it in jest, it was harmful and untrue. Also, my friends hated when I referred to myself as such; they had never and have never said anything about my weight and they wanted no part in my self-loathing.
The adage, “youth is wasted on the young” is absolutely accurate. Looking back, I can now see that I wasted so much time not liking my body. My body has always been beautiful. It was my thoughts that were ugly. So now, 20 days before my 35th birthday, I’m deciding to rebuild my relationship with myself and my body; starting with kindness and love. I firmly believe that I cannot become healthier or more fit without loving myself first. Hating myself will never make me a better person and any changes made under the guise of self-loathing will not be sustainable. Furthermore, I will no longer apologize for my body type; no more shrinking; no more being bashful. Now, with my new armor: therapy, prayer, scheduled solitude, creativity and trust in myself, I can finally just be me; I can let the world see all of my many facets. I implore you to do the same. Take the time to reflect on your past or perhaps your self-consciousness and make changes where they are necessary and commit to them. That’s called a revision
A few weeks ago after a routine trip to the post office I made a random observation- I realized that I had been approached/hit on by nearly half-a-dozen individuals in the course of a few weeks: at the post office, grocery store, gas station, Target, and the like (not even counting the random Facebook/IG DM slides, although these are weighted less than in person interactions- right? lol ). From time to time with some regularity both women and men shoot their shot with me. I don't say this to brag, actually I am perplexed whenever I realize the a stranger is physically attracted to me. Don't get me wrong I do not think that I am unattractive, I actually think that I am pretty average looking- not ugly, but not an Ebony Fashion Fair model either lol. Even though I am perfectly happy with how I look physically, I am admittedly amazed whenever someone who doesn't know me feels compelled to try to approach me. I do think that I am somewhat handsome, smart, charming, and cool- but I feel like these are characteristics that reveal themselves overtime; they are not instantly noticeable as I stand in line at the post office. To that end, I am always confused when someone hits on me in public... I think, "I'm big, I'm fat, I'm bald (usually a day or two past the 'I really need to shave my head' mark), and I'm typically not paying anyone any attention when I'm out and about. Why and the hell are they trying to talk to me?"
I posed this question to some friends and acquaintances whom I knew would be totally honest with me. I wanted unrelenting and harsh truth. I wasn't looking for "don't call yourself fat!" or "you ain't that big." or "don't say you're not handsome!" I talked to my friends who would tell it like it T-I-S! Of the three people I asked they actually all said pretty much the same thing... First they insulted me (love my friends but that's how we keep each other UMBLE (no H in humble on purpose lol) and then they gave me variations of this basic list: "You ARE handsome, you dress well, you smell good, and you're CONFIDENT." I offered strong pushback on the idea that I'm confident, because I don't really feel that way, but they all agreed that although I may not feel it I certainly project it. I don't know if there is any shade in how they articulate the truth of my confidence, but I'm just going to take it as a compliment.
Dear fellow big boys, it is okay to be confident! It is okay to look at yourself in the mirror and be like- "Dayummmmm I look good!" I think sometimes those of us who are not skinny or seemingly in shape feel the need to bash our looks/bodies because they are not the standards that society deems attractive. Don't do it! It is ok to love the body you have! If you aren't healthy- get healthy! If you want to lose weight- lose it! But don't bash yourself in the process. Moreover, it is okay and admirable to take pride in how you look, dress, and smell. People talk about me because I iron EVERYTHING- "millennials don't iron," I've been told. Well, I guess I'm old because that's not how I was raised. I don't need creases on my shirt sleeves and pants like my granddaddy likes, but I refuse to walk out of the house wrinkled. I refuse to step out in tennis shoes that are scuffed/battered (I have kicks from college that I STILL wear, I just clean them regularly and don't wear them two days in a row lol). Furthermore, I will not venture into the world if my beard isn't oiled and combed and presentable, and my face isn't cleansed, exfoliated, and moisturized. I guess all of these little things give me that silent assurance that is the foundation of my confidence, and I guess others pick up on it even though I'm not doing it for anyone but myself. Maybe that's what true confidence is- loving yourself SOOOOO much and treating yourself SOOOOO well that you transcend needing external validation, and those in your presence observe the aura and appreciate your energy. Whatever it is, I love me and I love how I present myself to to the world- belly and all! lol. So if you want to up your style game- garner a big old fashioned heap of confidence!
P.S. I also need to say that being a big guy does not mean unattractive. We all need to remember (including me) that just because there is no six pack doesn't mean that we aren't attractive, and that people won't find us attractive. There are plenty people in the world (including those whom society would call stereotypically attractive/sexy)
I used to be skinny. Well... I used to be skinnier... slimmer, smaller, less round than I am now. A few years ago I ran into my middle school principal who said, "wow you used to be a tall bean pole..." Translation, "dang you big!" I used to be skinny, well skinnier than I am now and for years I couldn't forgive myself for gaining so much weight. I used to beat up on myself, speak unkindly to myself, drown myself in whack oversized clothes in an effort to hide my lumps, clumps, bumps, and humps. I even used to wear a t-shirt or tank-top in the pool because I was embarrassed by my stomach and man boobs. For years I was ashamed of my body and thought that I was unworthy of being fashionable or considering myself cute or just plan worthy of not being ashamed of my size.
When you are big like me (I prefer the word STURDY - LOL ) it is really easy to internalize all the the external messages that you see and hear just living your regular life. The hip (usually "affordable") trendy stores in the mall are out of the question for most sturdy men. For years I've only been able to purchase hats/ties/scarves/gloves and other accessories from stores like Banana Republic, Express, Forever 21:Men (is that a real thing or did I make it up? lol), and until recently Target. There were other stores that I could find my size in; however, once I washed those items once I couldn't squeeze into them again. Moreover, there is a new trend for clothing subscription services that use a person's style profile and sizes to ship monthly items to clients-- of course most of the popular subscription services stop at XL or XXL sizes. I need another X- a strong XXXL not a soft one lol. Furthermore, not only do most companies to affirm sturdy men like myself, but those who do often do us a disservice by catering to a old, boring, "safe" style. There's a midwest department store (it shall remain nameless in this post) that has been selling the SAME sweater vest, plaid shirts, and pleated pants since I was 16 years old (when I started Shopping on my own). It's like they think that all big dudes are supposed to look like a middle age high school chemistry teacher. Until recently, I had the most luck consistently finding dope cool threads for big sturdy brothers in big cities like NYC, ATL, and the DMV area.
In addition to dealing with the frustrations of trying to shop in the same stores as everyone else, but sometimes the words and sentiments of friends, associates, and church people can annoy and cut deep. "Wow... you seem to be doing well- You're certainly eating well.." "You've gotten big!" "What happened? (while simultaneously poking or grabbing my round stomach)" and the one I hate the most "who's feeding you?" ***UGH PEOPLE ARE SO FREAKIN' RUDE!*** It is as if they think that I don't know that I've gained weight. For a long time being called out in this way caused me to feel so ashamed and embarrassed that I simply did not want to go to public places, ESPECIALLY if I thought that I was going to run into someone who I haven't seen in a while. I allowed the negative words of others cause me to isolate myself from the world in an effort to prevent myself from having to hear more negativity.
For years I internalized the messages from stores, insensitive individuals, and the media (I mean really do we ever see big men without their shirts on television or in movies? If we do they are usually being made fun of). I convinced myself that my size was my greatest failure in life. This sentiment only caused me to further isolate myself and actually caused me to turn to my favorite drug- FOOD. Of course this only caused me to become more not skinny lol.
Eventually I learned to love and appreciate every ounce of my sturdy frame. I have also become healthier over the years by trying to eat cleaner, eat less meat, and exercise more- but all of this in the name of health and not trying to be skinny. Moreover, I have stoped shamming my own body. As much as I love to swim I now flop my big self in the pool sans shirt and sans shame! Furthermore, I take the time to find clothes that help me feel confident and attractive and I step out into the world everyday loving every ounce of my big o body. Trading in shame for unapologetic boldness has been an amazing transformation and I want to share some of the things that I learned along the journey with my other big brothers! We deserve to feel just as good as everyone else. We deserve to wear clothes that make us feel attractive and confident just like everyone else. We owe it to ourselves to free our hearts, minds, and bodies from shame, guilt, and fear.
Sturdy Brothers Unite!