Do You Hear What I Hear? a 1962 Christmas song written by Noël Regney and Gloria Shayne Baker, sold a quarter-of-a-million records that first Christmas season. The following year it skyrocketed to fame when Bing Crosby’s version was released. Do You Hear What I Hear? contains the question, “Do you see what I see?” The likelihood is awfully high that you don’t.
I was two-and-a-half years old in December of 1963. It’s possible, though unlikely, that my body dismorphia had already germinated. I know it was in full swing well before my tenth birthday. I have suffered from poor body image for half-of-a-century, a feeling that I am ugly at worst and unattractive at best. When I look in a mirror I see fat and ugly (now old too.) If you think that’s harsh, trying living it.
My mother, a wonderful woman who placed great emphasis on self-care and tried hard not to look the half-generation older than my father that she was, emphasized staying trim. It was important to her that she be thin and she regularly commented on the size of her five children. Luckily for four of us we were relatively slender youths, my two sisters remaining reed thin to this day as they age gracefully into their mid and late fifties, and my older brother and I were smaller boned and more Gregory Peck shaped than eldest brother Steve with his Alec Baldwin physique. (Side note- all four of my siblings earned high school letters through sport- I never did and Steve was offered a partial scholarship to Depaw University because of his athleticism.)
My father, a big-boned, John Wayne of a man, college professor during my youth, would often comment, “There’s no reason why someone should be heavier after forty-years-of-age than before.” A highly ironic statement for a man whose weight increased by at least twenty percent shortly after reaching two-score-years. I remember an occasion when I was ten, drinking orange juice and being oblivious, when Dad, his finger pointing accusingly, said to me, “That’s what puts the butts on you!” He encouraged me to take up jogging with him, something I may have done twice before Dad gave up on me and running.
I was heavy until puberty’s growth spurt hit and then I was heroin addict thin, at least for two years. I reverted to my old endomorph physique and climbed to a squishy 175 pound weight where I remained until I began cycling at nineteen. My increase in activity helped me shed 17% of my body weight and I could stand looking in a mirror, at least until the weight came back on and I achieved my first 200+ pound personal record. Go team! I have strong memories of visiting my parents post getting married and having my mother say to me as a greeting, “Oh. You’ve gained weight.” Thanks, Mom! I hadn’t noticed.
I would yo yo back and forth between a personally perceived as presentable 185 lb/84 Kg and a massive 205/93, a weight that was not super heavy in fact for a thin boned, 74 inch/185 cm tall man, but one that repulsed me, nonetheless. Had I seen another man who looked exactly as I did at six feet one and 205 pounds I would not have thought twice about his weight, in fact seldom do I think of the weight of others, but to look in a mirror is agony.
Just before moving to Florida, where one can have fun in the sun all year and never grow fat, I dropped weight, exercising back to my fighting form of 185/84 (Though I did shed an inch/ 2+ centimeters along the way, aging is a bitch!) The fun in the sun thing was not a good fit for me and my fitness plummeted while my stockiness grew. Our move to F-L-A started a free-fall depression and my weight quickly jumped to new found heights in my new found lows.
Know what’s sadder than a fit, middle-aged man with body dismorphia? A fat, out-of-shape, depressed, middle-aged man with body dismorphia! I have since flirted with the 220/100 Kg limit but haven’t (quite) crossed the threshold.
We left Florida over a year ago and I believe that my depression fed weight gain is done. At least for now. My ever-loving goddess of a wife signed our younger son and us to race a half-marathon in mid-May and I am using that event as an impetus for weight loss and more physical activity. I cut way back on sweets, my Achilles heel, and shed about 4 lb/2 Kg in two weeks. I’m hoping to be sub 200 pounds by mid-May and in my dreams I’m projecting my two pounds per week weight loss back to my 185 benchmark. A good goal, but probably more dream than scheme for my time period.
Of course, we, my wife and I, have learned no lessons from this. She does an incredible job of taking care of herself and has a physique and physical strength women a third her age envy. Her self-care is great but our older son, unlike our reedy fellow half marathoner second born, has a body weight at least 25% too high. What do we do about it? Well, one of us bites his tongue, knowing just how harsh that lashing can feel, but the other, in an attempt to help her under active offspring have a healthier, longer life, brings up his weight and exercise far too often.
The goddess and I know the importance of self-care, which is good, but, like my mother before me, we tend to have a lousy, ego devastating presentation concerning food portions, activity and body mass when discussing these vital to vitality and longevity health benchmarks. Parents: You can’t enter the world without ’em and you can’t make it through life without bearing a few scars from their well intentioned misdeeds. Take care of and love yourselves and try to see the truth.