NBC’s hit show, “The Biggest Loser” grabs audiences weekly with it’s tales of human drama via participants struggling to lose weight and alter their lifestyles. Even the show’s theme song, “Proud” has taken on a life of its own as an anthem at weight loss events and now as a message for Marriage Equality. As a 20-something overweight gay male living in New York City, I struggled within my two main demographics.
The big 3-0 was approaching and on the outside I had done nothing to prepare physically for the change and the negative talk age 30 comes with. In addition, the world of LGBT in NYC is a tightly-knit group of judgement. Somewhere along the way, pride, diversity and camaraderie have been replaced with six-pack abs, tanning booths, hair gel, and drinking cosmopolitans on Friday nights with your latest circle of lemmings, pinkies out, of course.
The sayings are true. You can do anything in New York, except be gay and overweight. If you weren’t beautiful and thin, you were a face in the crowd. As the nearly 1/4-ton me walked to work every morning, on the rare occasion I was noticed, I was greeted with judgmental looks that said, “Why are you here?”
Oh how I struggled to make it as one of the cool kids. I used to weigh over 300 pounds. Blame it on depression or the holidays or my love of Oreos: I was huge. The new weight-loss pill, Alli, had entered the market and was becoming the new mainstream way to shed pounds. If anyone has taken Alli or knows someone who has, they will understand when I say it was one of the worst experiences of my life. The side effects of this demon in pill form were vicious and unrelenting. but the promised benefits claimed to outweigh the bad.
I was finishing a medical program, studying at Anthem Institute at the time, which required us all to wear medical shirts and pants known as scrubs. The thin and bland colored fabrics were comfortable for our daily education, but not so desirable when it came to Alli’s side effects. Towards the end of my schooling, and the height of my pill consumption, I sat in class one day with a rumbling stomach. This was a typical effect of the medicine and didn’t always lead to anything.
The pill takes the food you are eating and separates the fat from it. The fat is then sent down a separate chute internally and therefore comes out on it’s own. And because the fat is processed and light, it is often impossible to distinguish flatulence from total failure. So the rumbling in the stomach is often a good time to excuse oneself away from other people and small children in case of disaster. Suffice it to say, I only spent a few months on the pill before taking into account my quality of life. What was more painful? Being constantly unsure about my own body or the occasional judgmental look? I also hated being on them. I felt that people knew I was cheating the system, vastly clear in my dramatic weight loss. I never felt like me and questioned who I was doing this for. By this point, I had also dropped 100 pounds just using the pills and being so lucky, I felt it was a good jumping off point to begin exercising before I hit a plateau.
I purchased a membership at a discount gym a few blocks from my house and began going every other day … for the first month. Life gets in the way and “I’ll go tomorrow” turns into, “I’ll go this weekend,” until the staff begins to think you have died in your house, choking on a candy bar, and your membership card is being used to prop up a broken window. As hard as I tried, I could not maintain my massive weight loss. I lack the mental tools to keep up a healthy exercise regimen and my diet has never changed since high school.
So I gained back a minimal amount of weight, nowhere near my starting number, which is quite common, and though my pants size has dropped dramatically, I still do not feel the confidence I think I should have earned. In addition, I am still not viewed as the ideal New York homosexual because now I don’t have abs or black frame glasses or any number of things that pop up and dominate the scene. Even if I made it to my goal weight, there was still another aspect of my life I would have felt needed sacrificing.
And then where does it end? How can I stay me? Losing weight is a thrill and I lost quite a bit of it, but keeping up with the trend of weight loss pills in favor of the gay culture lifestyle proved to be a waste of time. It feels good to be thinner, but not at the cost of losing myself in the process, fat or no fat.