I spent the first 20 years of my life being rail thin. If you can, in general, divide your geek stereotype into two broad categories--overly fat dudes and rail-thin string beans--I was firmly in the latter camp. ( I also had bright red hair, and glasses, and braces, which put me on the fast track towards Never Having a Date and Listening to Lots of Dr. Demento--but that's a subject for another post.) And while I think it's definitely harder, in terms of social acceptance, to be fat than it is to be skinny, when you are an adolescent the skinniness is still a form of "otherness," of not being "regular"---which is all that most of us ever want at that age. I know I did. I hated being that skinny, and tried everything I could, at certain points, to gain weight. My metabolism just didn't allow for it, nor did my DNA.
Oh, to suffer from that problem now.
I remember at the time lots of older people telling me, "yeah, you just wait," but I never could believe them because I was so skinny for so long that I couldn't possibly see how my body would ever change. But holy double-double with extra cheese were they right. Now I got my "normalcy," all right, and boy do I wish I could get that old metabolism back. Because I've got about 15 pounds of blubber, minimum, that need to be sliced off my body so that I can look in the mirror and not want to point and laugh, or cry.
It totally crept up on me, too. My wife was the first to notice, of course, because that's what spouses do. "Maybe you really don't need to eat that whole pint of New York Super Fudge Chunk tonight, Jeff. I'm just saying." Not the kind of thing a guy really wants to hear, especially when you feel your day was so damn lame that you deserve the full pint of ice cream, and especially when you spent decades of your life being able to eat whatever you damn well pleased and couldn't gain weight even when you tried.
So I was blind to it, at first. It's what we do. I'd look in the mirror and not really see the current reality, but instead the me I was used to seeing, that I'd built my identity around. In junior high, one asshole kid who used to be my friend said I was a "tomato on a stick," the tomato being a reference to my red hair. And that's what I've been in my head for forever. Now I'm kind of more just like a tomato. Or perhaps a cantaloupe. In any case, it's clear, once I take a good look, or stand on a scale, that I can retire that moniker, at least for the near future.
So, yeah. I have to watch my weight, just like everyone else now. In February, PopCap sponsored an internal contest called "Play2Lose", in which participants signed up for a specific amount of weight to lose, and would receive a $50 Amazon gift certificate if they reached their goal. I signed up to lose 10. By the end of the contest period, I had gained 8. I guess the whole "drinking more beer while I'm in Seattle and also see how many cheeseburgers I can eat each week" was not the best possible strategy for this particular competition.
It really sucks. Now I know just how spoiled and easy I had it for so long. And, far, far worse than just feelings of vanity over appearance, of course, is the actual health and fitness aspect to this. Because in addition to eating more, I compounded the problem by exercising less (something also I never needed to do to keep the flubber off). I've made a serious, concerted effort to get on a regular exercise regime now (elliptical/bike/yoga/weights), but good lord do I feel like a fat, sweaty tub of lard every time I do it now, huffing and puffing over an exercise that I used to be able to do with half the effort or exhaustion. It's embarrassing to myself. But it's also good motivation for me to keep at it. There's no way I'll ever be a skinny rail of a guy again. But maybe I can somehow work my way back to feeling "normal" again. Or maybe I'll figure out, after all these decades on the planet, that such a thing might not actually exist.
I'll settle for healthy and happy.