About My Dad, About Weight, About Change

My dad was moved from the emergency ward, where they were keeping him under intense care because there were no beds in the ICU available, to a “normal” ward because he’s now stabilizing.

The long and the short of what’s wrong is, he has a systemic diabetic infection. Bad shit’s going on inside him and they’re trying to flush it all out. He is sick because he is fat and because he eats shit and does no exercise. Plain and simple. I love him, but these are the facts.

My father is morbidly obese, and then some. He’s pushing 400 pounds. His legs are shot. His heart’s riddled with issues. There’s the stepmom’s chain-smoking, his daily dalliances with alcohol despite being told a single drink could kill him, and then there’s the ridiculous Southern diet the wife (who was a nurse for 35 years, is equally morbidly obese, smokes, is never active, and who is also diabetic with heart issues) is always cooking. How about scalloped potatoes in their house? A casserole has a half-stick of butter and a jar of Cheez Whiz. You want sour cream with that? It’s in the fridge.

If there was a textbook “how not to be diabetic” example, it’d be them.

Two years ago my father had this infection ramped up several notches with a leg going gangrenous from weeping ulcers and more, and all manner of bad shit. It almost killed him. He learned nothing.

Since then, however, I have.

I’m 35 and killing myself to become healthy and learn how to eat better. When my mother died, she died of cancer. I thought “What’s the point? She was healthy and died anyhow.” And I went to town and became very destructive in my eating and, particularly, my drinking. But when my father almost died of diabetic infection two years ago, it was horrifying, and it occurred to me: It’s completely avoidable.

I feel like I’ve never really lived because I’ve always been so out of shape, fat, and unhealthy. And, yeah, I blame my parents. (My mother became healthy later, but couldn’t convince me to change because she didn’t know how to make healthy “tasty” like I do now.)

I blamed them because they didn’t force me to be active in my youth. I blamed them because I never learned to eat healthy at home. I blamed them because the example they set is the example I came to live by.

Eventually I had to take responsibility for myself, but I don’t doubt for a minute that my upbringing didn’t factor hugely in who I’ve become.

Me, 55 pounds into my weightloss journey, I find myself becoming very, very opinionated about all the motherfucking studies coming out that say, “Oh, being fat is genetic.” It enrages me. Why? Because I’m telling you, from fucking experience, that being fat is a choice.

We learn to “accept” ourselves because we can’t face the hardship and the struggle that comes from being 100% honest with ourselves about every calorie we eat and every calorie we burn. It’s bullshit. Loving yourself does NOT have to equal copping out. It’s possible to say “I’m a fantastic person, but it’s important that I take some weight off so I can enjoy the life I truly deserve to live, the freedom I’ve always wanted to experience.”

Weightloss isn’t willpower, it’s math. If you do it correctly, with 100% accountability and unfailing honesty with yourself, YOU WILL LOSE WEIGHT.

If you lie to yourself, think “oh, 2 teaspoons of butter is the same as 1 teaspoon”, or fudge things for the fuck of it, you WILL NOT LOSE WEIGHT. It’s not NEGOTIABLE. It is SCIENCE. The numbers are what they are. Weight loss is NOT easy. It is the hardest accomplishment you will likely ever achieve, but the point is, it is not some unicorn-like fantasy object. It can be done. Knowledge and effort are all you really need.

I think Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, and any of those organizations are a good start, but if you do not learn food values and how to count calories and BE accountable, I guarantee you, that weight will come back if you ever go off those organizations’ systems. Now comes the struggle of, at 67, trying to teach my father all these things.

My gift today is to all the parents out there who have kids, who are overweight, and who are kidding themselves about it.

Parents: You need to know how I, as a grown daughter, feel about this. I was riding on a skytrain yesterday, watching this young girl with her fit father and the fun, playful relationship they had. I’ve never, ever had that. When you take the ability to “do” things out of a relationship, all you’re left with is talk. My father and I have almost nothing in common except that we love each other and are smart people. Aside from that, nothing. I feel like I was robbed of a life with him. I feel like I’ve been ripped off, like he cheated me.

He’s never been a happy man, his insecurities have always shown. We could never enjoy meals out or go to movies or anything like that, because we couldn’t be sure he’d fit anywhere. Relationship? What relationship? I don’t even know what it’s like to go on a walk with my father, or play ball. The last time I “played” with him, I was 5 or 6.

And the legacy passed on to me? Of what, a predisposition to diabetes? A tendency to eat without accountability? A life of insecurity, inadequacy, illness, and shame? Because that’s honestly almost all my father and I ever shared. We were both fat. We both felt out of place in our worlds, burdensome. We felt we had nothing to give others.

I don’t feel that way anymore. But he still does.

His almost-death two years ago and my realization that I was getting dangerously close to his condition last year is what spurred me to finally take action.

There is no gift that would make me cry harder, feel more pride, swell more with love, or shout with jubilation louder than if my father could find a way to embrace a healthy lifestyle. If I could have five, maybe 10 years with him actually TRYING to be alive, TRYING to enjoy that thing called “living”, it’d erase all the anger I’ve felt all these years.

If you’re an overweight parent, you’re not just killing yourself, but you’re negatively impacting your children, and the legacy of that could be them weighing 300 pounds at 30 like I did. Your relationships are affected by your weight. Your life is compromised. HOW you live is compromised. Your future is compromised. But, worse, you are compromising your child’s life in EVERY way, especially their future.

Now’s the time to set a goal and make it happen.

I’m hoping this stay in the hospital will change everything with my father. When I go there tomorrow, he’ll be clearer mentally, and I’ll be able to talk to him about some of the things I wish I’d said sooner. Because, this time at least, it’s still not too late.