Sunday, December 7, 2014

Reactions

This is Part III in a multi-part series.

Previous Entries:


When the dust settled, I had lost 40 lbs in about 4 1/2 months and was 90 pounds lighter than my previous high.



I'm a nerd, so I graph things.  I still maintain this weight chart, although the annotated version above shows the interesting parts of 2013.

This changes caused a ripple effect through the people around me.  Some of it good.  Some of it tiresome.  Some of it comical.  

First, I'll talk about family.  I've already mentioned that my immediate family (mom, dad, brothers) thought I looked great, like I did in high school.  We talk often enough that it wasn't a huge surprise when we finally did get together.  Her family thought I had cancer, because I lost weight quickly and they'd never known me at that size.  The whispering was comical, if misguided.

As far as my extended family went (cousins, aunts, uncles), I got a far different reaction.  These were the people who loved to push my buttons at family gatherings with a "hey [Abavus], looks like you put on a few pounds, eh? Heh. Heh."  Now they wouldn't meet my gaze.  Wouldn't initiate a conversation about me or how I looked, and certainly wouldn't offer a compliment.

Some members of my family wanted to downplay the hard work we put into biking, swimming, and running.  They'd focus only on my dietary changes and downplay the 4 nights a week that we worked out or did outside chores, or the hundreds of miles we biked each year, the thousands of laps that we swam.  I'd point out that I lost over half (50 lbs) of my weight with exercise alone, but needed the diet changes to truly get over the hump.  They'd change the subject. 


Coworkers were a mixed bag.  I'll put them into three groups, just for convenience.  

Group 'A' were the ones in denial.  To them, Abavus is the fat kid in gym class, always has been and always will be.  They would do a 5k run and strut around the office like kings.  I'd do a Sprint Triathlon (swim, then bike, and THEN do a 5k run) and they'd downplay it ("oh, 5k isn't that far, I do that all the time.") 

These were the guys who told me "don't donate your fat pants, you'll need them in a few months."  

Or, the guys in Group A would waive off my regimen and tell me I was doing it wrong. Or that it wasn't healthy.  Or that their diet was better.

I had one coworker tell me that I "was in no shape to do a Triathlon" the night before I drove up for my first race (I was nervous as hell; this was the kind of positive support I got... ).  No dialog about how I'd trained or what the course was like, just a kneejerk reaction based on bad assumptions.

Ultimately, these people didn't want me to be successful because it meant admitting that their poor choices were ... poor.  If I didn't change or if I wasn't successful, there was no pressure for them to adjust their lifestyle either.  Nobody set out to hurt my feelings or offer conflict; it wasn't intentional.  But it was a constant barrage of negativity that I had to wade through.

Now that so much time has passed and I've kept the weight off, a few guys in Group A have now tried to switch sides.  My boss (the ringleader of Group A) came to me with the "research" he'd done and "he" determined that my diet actually was a good one, and he'd known it all along.  He tried telling me the merits of the diet I'd been living for close to 2 years as if I hadn't heard of it before.

Group 'B' were the ones who were outwardly supportive, would defend me against Group A when the spitballs started, but would quietly pull me aside to ask what my secret was.  When I explained that it was diet and exercise, and described my triathlon training regimen, and the diet I was on, they would lose interest quickly.  They wanted an instant solution with no changes to their lifestyle.  

Obviously, I had a secret that I wasn't telling them.

Group 'C' were the guys who truly got it.  Supported me blindly.  If they had doubts, they didn't express them.  They offered thoughtful advice, showed genuine interest, and asked good questions.

Out of an office of ~30 people, there were two (just two) that I'd put in Group C.


Most of this just sounds like I'm bitching about how thoughtless or callous people can be.  Or maybe I'm still yearning for the support and validation I didn't get from my friends and coworkers.  And you'd be right on both parts.  :)

But my point is (bold italics for emphasis): if you are going to embark on abrupt personal change, the social implications are huge.  I hate to use the words peer pressure, because that's only part of it.  I'd call it peer momentum.  People expect you to continue on a certain path in life; it takes large amounts of resolve to break those expectations.

There were a couple of islands of support that saw me through.

The Clydes and Athenas forum at bikeforums.net is a great place to hang out for a large framed biker looking to shed some pounds.

And more than anyone, I have to thank Mrs. Durden.  Supportive and a good listener, she was my greatest ally through the rough patches.  She helped me ignore the naysayers.  She also understood when the food in our pantry changed, and the food that ended up on the dinner plate changed.  When I needed to talk strategy, she listened and offered opinions.  She went through the changes by osmosis with me; I do most of the cooking in the house, and with just the two of us I wasn't about to cook two separate dinners each night (i.e. I wasn't going to cook a 'normal' meal for her and my specialty plate).  And when I stopped going to certain restaurants, she understood and didn't fuss.

Without the support of the people in your household, you'll not get very far.

I'll end on a fun note:

The most fun I had with people were the ones that I see maybe once or twice a year.  College friends, or coworkers that are part of my team but work at a remote office, people like that.  These guys would have the best reactions because they saw me only rarely.

At a wedding last summer, I walked into the hotel lobby and saw some old friends sitting on the couch.  I walked up, extended my hand and said "Hey! ... how the hell are ya'?"  Two guys that I'd known close to 20 years were rocked back and caught off guard.  Only after a couple of blinks (and spotting Mrs. Durden) did they figured out who I was.  :)



I will stop here for Part III.  But, if you're reading this and you're not happy with your weight, here's some advice from someone who's been there:
- Nobody can decide to lose the weight but you.
- It's likely taken you years to get the size you are, it's ok if it takes you years to get smaller.
- Small, incremental changes do add up.
- If you want to talk, convo me ingame.


What's Playing:  The Black Keys, Magic Potion, Your Touch

2 comments:

  1. Wow. A very inspiring post about personal goals, change and tenacity. And a great observation of your environment. Sad, really to see coworkers and family in such a negative light but your experience hopefully teaches the rest of us to be focused on our goals without worrying too much about our perceived peers.

    Keep it going

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. To be honest, I hesitated to post this entry once I'd written it, because it painted the social landscape in such a bleak manner. I'm really not surrounded by insensitive clods, just normal people who sometimes talk before they think. And that's a reality I had to live with.

      The next installment will be a little more fun.

      Delete

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