Nobody has ever walked up to me and asked, "JC Poppe, why are you fat?" but thanks to the suggestion of one of my editors, I'm going to tell you why.
Anybody who follows me on Twitter or is friends with me on Facebook – or is friends with me in real life – knows that I am one of those people who just loves to eat terrible, fatty foods in mass quantities in one sitting.
I am a binge eater.
Looking back on my life, I've not always been a binge eater but something about my mental approach to food changed in my early teens.
Without going to into detail, I was a very rebellious pre-teen/teen and had a complicated home life because of my aggressive, destructive nature. My parents, truth be told, were and are a little off themselves – but whose parents aren't?
To cope with the stress of being shut off to the normal world and seeking anything that would give me some happiness, food was far more accessible than illegal substances or substances that were illegal to me because of my age.
Food, for the most part, had to be my vice. Or, rather that was – for the most part – the vice that I largely took to.
Once I hit high school, the pedal hit the proverbial metal. I was a frequent visitor to our a la carte line thanks to "borrowing" money from "friends." I always told them that I'd pay them back, and in front of the mind I believed that I wasn't the kind of assh*le that wouldn't eventually repay them, but in the back of my mind I knew that I had no way of possibly repaying them.
To these people I owe a deep and sincere apology, and it is something that still bothers me to this day because I've never made it right.
I hang on to guilt, which makes me feel worse of course, which then leads to more extreme behavior.
Of all the stuff that I was taught in my old world German-style Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod Church, I held on to the fact that I was a miserable, low-down, worthless individual far more than I held on to anything else.
So, the cycle is set and reaffirmed through each mistake and each endorphin-releasing gorge-fest.
Throughout high school, I was able to maintain a weight of around 240 to 245 pounds. Playing a couple of seasons of sports during the first couple of years of high school, coupled with having a steady girlfriend for the last part of high school helped me to keep things pretty steady on the scale.
I did have a brief reduction in weight between the end of my junior year and the middle of my senior year, getting down to 207 pounds thanks to Weight Watchers and encouragement from my mom, but that was quickly derailed when I tore my ACL and my medial and lateral menisci in my left knee.
The inactivity and my once again falling into the fast food comfort cycle destroyed all of the hard work that was put in and I started to blow up once again.
Shout out to Taco Bell and Wendy's late night menu for being so tempting and cheap.
Once college hit, a plethora of psychological twists and turns were around every corner. Relationships came and went, a surprising amount of family, friends, close and far acquaintances died through murder, suicide, car accidents and natural causes.
Friends that I had since early middle school were in and out of jail.
My home life was deteriorating as I drove further and further into depression.
Food, and not the savior I was surrounded by at Concordia University Wisconsin, was my messiah, and I looked to it to deliver me from everything and anything that I was struggling with.
The great – and terrible – thing about college dining is the large variety of choices one can eat as much of as one wants. That would be great if I was in love with lettuce and carrots, but I loved cheeseburgers and pizza.
Thanks to CUW's food service rules, any resident could use their meal swipes or points for anybody else, and so after buddying up with several people I was soon dining for free with my company.
This was trouble city and where things really spiraled out of control.
But the time I graduated college, I was up to 260 pounds. When you are 5'6" that much weight has no place to go except for out in places like the neck, stomach, chest and back.
I was beginning to look more and more like a bowling ball, but I wasn't quite perfectly round yet.
During my year off of school between college and graduate school I decided to kick my butt in gear and to get in some kind of shape that was better than where I was at.
I did light but aerobic workouts with weights and tried my best to keep myself moving in some fashion during these workouts so I could keep my heart rate up.
Surprisingly, it worked, and my weight dropped from 260 pounds to 217 over the course of about six months.
I was feeling great and I was looking pretty good, and that's when I snagged my wife.
Now, something took place that was a reversal of my reasons for eating prior to meeting her. No longer was I depressed or looking to replace feeling bad with eating "good" food. Now, I was eating because I was happy and was falling in love.
I didn't own a scale during this time of my life, but I went from needing to stretch out my XL shirts a little to having to majorly stretch out XXL shirts in about six months.
I went to grad school, had a miserable go of it, came back and dove further into comfort/joy eating.
After coming back from a failed attempt at grad school, I took a job as a car salesman and the downward spiral was set to hyper-speed.
When you start a job like selling cars in the winter, there aren't a ton of people to sell to. There is a lot of jawing and "learning" and eating.
Somebody was always running to get something to eat or people were calling in orders for delivery or pick-up.
When it would snow a lot, management would buy us several pizzas for spending half of the day outside clearing off the cars and moving them so the lot could be cleared.
During this time in my life, I regularly ripped my dress shirts and went through several pairs of pants.
I wore a sweater over my shirts, not because I was cold, but because if another shirt was going to rip or pop a button, I wanted to conceal it instead of having to run to the nearby Kohl's to buy a new one. Unfortunately when my pants would rip at the seams, there was no hiding that and I needed to make that trip to Kohl's.
Deep down, I'd like to believe that Kohl's purposely sells larger-sized clothing with defects in them to get us fatties to bust them so we have to buy new clothes.
It's not true, but it would've made me feel better psychologically had it been true.
The most embarrassing moment for me came after I had just sold a car to a family during a hot, sticky summer day.
I put the rear license plate on with no trouble but as soon as I crouched down to put on the front plate, my pants ripped from my knees to my crotch.
I did everything I could to hold back my embarrassment.
Thankfully the family in the new car left as quickly as they could, but the real trouble was laying inside the dealership where my ruthless coworkers sat.
Raucous laughter began, and of course, being the type of person to play the Chris Farley role, I whooped it up with them.
I cried on the way home that day.
Later on in my brief car sales career, my boss told me that he initially had reservations about hiring me because of my weight, but that my outgoing and warm personality was evident in the interview.
This crushed me.
I had gone on a lot of interviews for different jobs after I came home from grad school and I thought I wasn't getting the jobs because my degree was in a faith-based field, but at that moment I realized that it was probable that I wasn't hired by some of the different places I interviewed at because they weren't willing to take a chance on the fat guy.
Soon after that I left the car sales industry and left Milwaukee with my wife to live in the La Crosse area because that is where my wife is from. She was pregnant and wanted to be by her family.
Being that it made more sense that living in Milwaukee due to her having such a large and supportive family, I left the region of Wisconsin that I grew up in and loved beyond almost anything else.
It was pedal to the metal time again, and after struggling with acclimating to the new area and being away from my parents, my friends, my city and way of life, I took to massively binge eating quicker than an adult film director takes to the girls that get off of a newly arrived bus in Los Angeles with the hopes of being a star.
Yes, that was crass but gluttony isn't pretty either.
Toss all of this uncertainty on top of expecting a new child when I've never had any experience with a kid younger than the age of 3, my wife almost dying a few weeks after giving birth – and multiple near-death experiences over a six-week period at Casa Del Mayo Clinic – and I was up to a record fat for me, 307 pounds.
For the past two and a half years, the length my wonderful son has been around, I've bounced around between that high and a low of 285 pounds.
Before the holidays hit this last year I was at 293 pounds and then managed to get back up to 304 pounds.
Back over 300 and back to being so incredibly upset about my weight, I'm finally back to doing something about it.
I'm tired of having sleep apnea.
I'm tired of my entire body hurting all the time.
I'm tired of the constant and sometimes crippling headaches.
I'm tired of needing an entire pot of coffee to get through my day of sitting on the couch or in a car, or on the floor when I'm reading to or playing with my son.
To use the old cliché, I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired.
I'm done with it. I'm over it. Hey, fatty, f*ck off!
Several weeks ago I started modifying my eating habits and it's time to talk to about it. Not in a "look at me, validate me" way.
I'm talking about it because my biggest fear is being a failure in the eye of the public, so if I put something down in writing and say it to the world, I need to do whatever I can to keep myself from being a liar.
I hate being told "I told you so" or having people have the ability to say "I told you so."
So, that's why I have to write this down and make it public. I know you most likely don't care about me or my health and most of you are probably annoyed by me, but that said, I'm not going to give more ammo to anybody who says "this guy will be back to eating cheeseburgers for every meal in a month, tops."
My goals are still evolving as this is something new, but I do know that I want to eventually see myself under 200 pounds. I don't know if that's a maintainable weight for me or even doable, but I want to see 199 just once in my adult life.
I'm setting 220 pounds as my maximum weight for the next decade of my life. I'm on the verge of 30 and I feel 220 pounds or under is a decent weight to maintain throughout my 30s.
I don't even know if that's possible, but I want it to be and I'm going to try to make it possible.
Well, there you have it, my introduction to my last months as a fatty.
I hope this goes well.
i swallowed a lot of aggression...along with a lot of pizzas.
Hey man, you can absolutely meet your goals. I'm not familiar with the websites others have mentioned, but I've used the calorie tracker on livestrong.com in the past. Counting calories is a pain in the butt, but once you do it for a few weeks and get an idea of how many calories you're consuming each day, you start to get a sense of what and when you can/should be eating and you become more aware of the choices you make. For examples, is it worth it to eat a bagel that one of your coworkers brought in for an office treat even if you already had breakfast? How will that affect your weight loss goal if adding that treat puts you over your calorie goal for the day? Something to think about.
I think everyone who read your story is proud of you for sharing it and believes that you can get to where you want to be. Be accountable for your choices and you'll definitely reach your goals.
You're not at all alone in this battle. I'm a binge eater too. When I was growing up, I had no concept of proper nutrition or portion size and my mom would rather food go to my hips than into her garbage can, so I was a human garbage disposal, she fed me like a pig being readied for slaughter. I recently joined T.O.P.S. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) to help me keep myself accountable because I know it's essential to have peer support, especially since my self-discipline is somewhat lacking. Since I'm on the south side, the group I go to is in the world HQ building, a half block up the street from Beer Belly's. I don't know if I would go if it weren't for that irony - I laugh about that every time I go, and somehow that makes it easier. Anyhow, good luck to you in building a healthier patterns for yourself.
Thanks for your moving and honest story. I have also struggled with weight and food issues and my health has suffered. It can be a hard spiral to break out of. If you need any motivation, just look at your son and imagine all the things you want to be healthy to be part of. (That works for me.) Best of luck to you (and me too).
I've been fighting with myself to try and lose weight for 30 years and have been up and down. I found a site that is truly helpful. It is called Transformation.com by Bill Phillips. It's worth checking out. Sparkspeople is a great community, too. I like the food tracker.
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