You always hear this term “obesity” as you grow up. It’s something you want to avoid altogether; don’t become it and don’t approach it. Ever since I was little I have been considered obese. At age 10 I was the heaviest kid in my class, and that’s honestly the last time I remember not being completely out of control. 10 years later I weigh 345 pounds. I was told the risks of diabetes, cancer, arthritis, injury, and permanent damage to my organs. It didn’t hit me until I actually learned about what I am actually doing to my body.
I am a sophomore at Penn State studying kinesiology, or in layman’s terms “the study of human movement.” I didn’t know what it was when I chose it as my major, but I didn’t care as long as it got me out of the biology program. I’ve focused a lot on sports history, bodily functions, and the mentalities that come from movement. The thing is, though, I didn’t know any of this stuff growing up. I didn’t learn about the benefits of movement and healthy living, I was just told it was what I was supposed to do. “Eat your vegetables,” and “run around,” and “do exercise.” How the hell am I supposed to make any meaning of these things at a young age. All I knew was that I loved cake, and I loved TV. As a kid, you don’t realize the concept of permanence. You don’t understand that eating that extra piece of cake, or dinner, literally goes right to your thighs. They don’t tell you that diabetes causes you pancreas to malfunction and your hormone levels to be completely off. They don’t tell you that too much weight bearing on your knees can lead to degeneration and ultimately a knee replacement. There is nothing in a high school text book about the effects of sedentary living on organ function or depression. It’s just not something you learn about.
People like to live in ignorance. They like to believe that things aren’t a problem unless you can see it. Sure, you can’t see the immediate results of obesity, but let me tell you that they start to pop up like a disease. At just 20 years old, I’ve already herniated a disk, have had multiple scares of type 2 diabetes, and I definitely feel something going on in my heart. The damage I have done is pretty significant. I can’t reverse the degeneration in my knees or my hip no matter how much weight I lose. I can’t decrease the blockages in my arteries even if I only eat vegetables for the rest of my life. I can’t take back the tears from not being about to find a prom dress that fit, and I can’t take back the disappointment of being the last person picked in gym class. It’s irreversible damage. The only thing I can do is try to stop anything worse from happening, and nothing is harder than losing weight.
At the point I am in, it hurts to try. I grew up in a house where my dad put over the top portions on our plate, and my mom either didn’t eat anything or she only ate donuts and tasty cakes to put back on whatever weight she lost from not eating. I didn’t understand portion control, and I still don’t understand it. I didn’t understand “efficient” movement, and now that I do, I can’t do any of it. My body is so out of shape that running even 20 feet puts me out of breath. Not to mention the idea of other people watching me try to work out is terrifying. Everyone tells me that people don’t judge you at the gym, but I don’t believe it. I don’t believe that someone watching a 350 pound 20 year old trying to dance in Zumba wouldn’t laugh. All my shit bouncing up and down and all around. It’s funny. I would laugh. But I can’t get past it. I can’t shake the idea that everyone is watching me an judging me as I move and eat.
Really, though, it comes down to this. I am going to die if I don’t make a change. Either my heart will stop, my pancreas will stop, or something else will shut down. I did this to myself. I let emotional eating get in the way. I could probably knock back two Entenmann’s cheese danishes and feel fine. I could eat 2 breakfast sandwiches, a hash brown, and probably a banana without remorse. That’s exactly what I did. I literally ate until it hurt because nobody tells you what the food is doing for you. Did I have a clue that too much sugar will literally clog your arteries, or throwoff chemical balances and pH in your body? Would I have known what they were talking about if they had told me? Hell no! But these are the things we have to start telling people. We have to give them the dirty truth, but we have to have educated people tell them. You can’t have your mom tell you “food is fuel” because she doesn’t know what it fuels. Kids need to know which types of food help what in your body. Tell them protein helps build muscle. Tell them that vitamins help regulate balances in your body, and that you can get them with veggies or pills. Tell them that saturated fats and carbs clog your arteries, and that fat stores throughout your body and impairs organ functions. And make sure every kid has a game that they love: baseball, football, running, swimming; anything that gets them moving and makes it meaningful. It’s not too late for me to change my life, but sure would have been a hell of a lot easier to start back in grade school.