Functional Obesity

Have you ever heard someone referred to as a functional alcoholic?

Basically that means that they have a serious drinking problem but that somehow it doesn’t SEEM to affect their daily job function or life. They are able to keep a job (and a lot of times excel at it), their home, their family. To everyone around it seems like they have everything together.  But those who are closest know that the alcohol has a grip on them even if they don’t display the “normal” uncontrollable alcoholic behavior. Deep down inside they are pickling their insides.  They don’t even know that they are actual alcoholic because they ARE able to function.

So, yeah, you probably know that guy.  But what does that have to do with you, you ask?

When I tell people that I have lost 60 pounds the first thing everyone says is, “Wow! You must feel great!”

I always give some non-committal answer though.  Here is the problem. I don’t really feel much different.  Well, not physically anyway. I have been struggling with this since losing 30, then 40, and then 50 pounds and so on. I am still struggling with it.  I SHOULD feel different shouldn’t I? Physically. Mentally. All of it.

It recently dawned on me.  I have been FUNCTIONALLY OBESE for my entire life.

Even though I have ALWAYS known I was overweight and hated it, I never really looked at myself as the FAT guy. Or the morbidly OBESE guy. Or the grotesquely and unpleasantly CHUNKY guy. I just saw myself as the BIG guy. I mean I never had health problems from being overweight. I don’t think I did anyway. I never really let my weight stop me from doing stuff I wanted to do. Ok, except maybe a few things like surfing and whatnot. And I “carried my weight well.” I heard that often enough. When I had my shirt on I felt like I was normal. When I looked in the mirror I saw a normal guy who was larger than others. I don’t have a problem, right? I am a functioning member of society right? Wait… I am the fat guy in the room.

You guys remember Chris Farley I am sure.  He was known as being a big, fat, obnoxious comedian who “carried his weight well.” Who could forget his Chippendale’s routine with Patrick Swayze on Saturday Night Live or him turning cartwheels?  He was a very large man who didn’t seem to let being large get in his way.  The drugs and booze on the other hand… I relate to him in that he was a big guy who could do things that most fat people can’t. He was most likely functionally obese as well.

So here is what it comes down to. People think that I must be feeling better. I don’t really.  I am not feeling very different because I never FELT (physically) bad in the first place.  I felt plenty bad on the self-worth and physical attraction fronts. But overall physically, I just didn’t realize how bad it was.

Looking back though, it was bad.  Just as the drunk was slowly killing themselves with alcohol, I was slowly killing myself with weight. Stacking stone after stone after stone on my frame.

I am glad that it finally dawned on me that I HAD to do something to change my self.  It is just that now, my body is starting to catch up to how I felt physically anyway.  So when you ask me if I feel better and I say no, don’t be surprised.

I will say yes when I can do a pull-up on my own.





5 comments to Functional Obesity

  • I’m sure this revelation will move you to the next level. Very well said. Just goes to show how we can talk ourselves into just about anything!

  • crystal

    People say that to me too. “You must feel so much better!” I didn’t really feel bad before… maybe just when I went shopping for swim suits (but I still feel bad doing that!) I think I felt bad emotionally but not as much physically. Now I’m just cold and wish I had my insulation back! OK, not really, but I did wear a giant hooded App sweatshirt of Trey’s today because I had to go walk around a community. I saw some people walking a corgi (so I chased them down like a crazy person, of course) and they were comfortable in khakis and short sleeves.

  • Jan

    The fact that you didn’t FEEL a physical ailment to motivate you to do this says even more about your journey, Hank. I never stop being impressed about how you’re tacking this challenge. Well done.

  • Very well written Hank. I think this really speaks to how a lot of people in North America perceive themselves right now.

  • Glenn
    Twitter: FatBrain262

    This was a very interesting post to me. Recently I decided to try and tackle my weight problem and get on the right track. Many things prompted me to do so, but one of the biggest was the new lower back pain I was suffering from. When I got out of bed in the morning, I could barely walk or bend my back. The pain was unbelievable. It would subside enough throughout the day such that I could function … luckily I have a desk job. Just throwing the football with my son was a problem; if I had the slightest small jump motion, I felt a shooting pain like the discs in my spine were slapping together on a bundle of nerves. Most people would go to a back surgeon or a chiropractor … but I knew deep down that this had arisen due to my total lack of any exercise. I never had back problems before, and now all of a sudden, I couldn’t even stand up straight in the morning.

    Now I feel pretty good, and am not experiencing the back pain at all. When I get up in the morning, I feel fine right away. I don’t even think about my back any more since the pain seems to have vanished. This is now 2-3 months after I started exercising. So far I’m just doing cardio work on LifeCycle, treadmill, StrairMaster and occassional elliptical workouts (not my favorite). My goal is to lose weight as well, but so far I’ve been struggling with maintaining good eating habits.

    I’m sure you might be asking by now what all of this has to do with your post … so let me tie everything back in. I’m 50 years old. For the first 49 years of my life, I never had any serious back pain or problems. Now here I am 50 with serious back problems, my feet seem to have about 20 distinct pains from different areas of the foot at different times after walking or standing for long periods of time; I occassionally have pain in my knees. And now after about 3 months of some serious cardio exercising, I feel pretty darn good. No back pain at all. Foot and knee pain comes and goes but is far less frequent. And when I finally get serious about weight loss, there is little doubt in my mind, all of these aches and pains will subside … permanently.

    So, when you say you don’t feel that different, count yourself lucky that you began your journey back to health before you got any older … because you most likely would have started experiencing some severe aches and pains had you maintained your 300+ lbs well into your 40’s and 50’s.

    Then maybe you’ll realize that you do feel both lucky … and better after all.

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