1998-2000: Walk On
If I had to pinpoint exactly when my weight began to creep up on me as a boy I would have to say that it was when I was ten years old.
As you can see below, photos from when I was four to six years old showed a rather slim child but once I turned ten all hell broke loose. The inactivity and voracious eating must’ve caught up with me because photos from 1995 onwards showed a growing figure and by the end of 1997 I was chunky.
As you can see, I wasn’t quite on the level of that character, Üter, from The Simpsons or Eric Cartman from South Park but I was still chubby enough to have the rounded face, the big gut and (ugh!) the man-boobs.
Damn man-boobs…….they got me into some pretty awkward situations at school.
Swimming lessons were compulsory for the kids at my school and while I was a good swimmer and could hold my own against some of my more athletic peers, none of that shit mattered once the other boys caught sight of my not-so-lean physique after we’d stripped down to our trunks. I was quite a sight in those blue speedos and the laughs and jokes flew, particularly about how I looked like a ‘normal’ sized kid with clothes on but turned out to be a fat ass without them.
Shoot, even the bigger kids were laughing at me! I didn’t stand a chance.
I’m not going to lie. Every jab was like a knife to the heart. I don’t care how tough you think you are, being mocked for your appearance hurts and it hurts bad. You see people going down a dark road when they are insulted and body-shamed all the time and it’s a feeling that I know all too well. So while I hid behind a fake smile and laughed off most of their cruel remarks I felt sick deep down.
Yet all that teasing didn’t motivate me to change. I defiantly continued my sedentary lifestyle in front of a screen when I wasn’t focused on my schoolwork and while I was swimming, taking karate lessons and played soccer with some of my classmates during lunchtimes, I barely did any physical activity outside of them and ate until I nearly burst like only a young boy can. The swimming and karate, activities that I picked up when I was eight years old, were over by the time I turned twelve. I guess it was then that my weight shifted from mildly chubby to dough-boy with moobs as the inactivity continued.
And inactivity was exactly how I spent a majority of the Summer break of 1997, just gaming, watching tv and being lazy in general. But, you know what they say, ‘time flies when you’re having fun’ and those six weeks of fun came to an end in a hurry. Before I knew it I was getting ready for my first day of high school.
Here we go. A new adventure begins.
I headed out the front door with mixed feelings. While I was thrilled at the prospect of a fresh start in a new school (no more man-titty jokes, yaaayyy!!!!), I thought of high school as a place with stricter teachers and a heavier workload, meaning that I would have to set aside time during the weekends to study.
Much to my horror, that part turned out to be true.
But there was a welcome change. Because my new school was close to home I began walking and it did my chubby body a world of good. The weight fell off fast and after a few months I noticed some changes to my body composition. The stomach was smaller, the infamous man-boobs shrunk, my face narrowed a tad and I didn’t feel as lethargic anymore.
And all I had to do was walk. Nice, huh?
Traveling to different rooms and buildings on campus throughout the day for different subjects also had a positive effect. The days of sitting in one classroom and learning everything from one teacher were over as different subjects called for different teachers and classrooms. Lord knows you couldn’t conduct science experiments anywhere other than a science room supervised by a qualified science teacher and it required a special type of room to house musical instruments.
The result was more walking and it served as the perfect form of incidental exercise outside of lunch hours. It felt good to get some fresh air into the lungs as opposed to spending a large portion of the day sitting and falling asleep on my desk in the same stuffy classroom until the bell rang. At least now I had up to six new classrooms every day to almost fall asleep in!
Ok, all kidding aside, all that walking and fresh air did wonders for my overall focus.
There were also changes at home. Now that we were older my mother assigned my sister and I with chores to do around the house. At the time I thought of it as cruel and unusual punishment and a distraction from my study and gaming times but looking back it was definitely beneficial as I was forced to get up off my ass and be more productive.
There were also some changes to the activities I enjoyed with friends during the occasional weekend hang-out. Long hours spent parked in front of the TV gave way to going for walks, playing basketball and, occasionally, practicing wrestling moves. Pro wrestling was pretty huge in the late 90s among young guys and so my buddies (and almost every male student at school) passed the time by practicing the safer stunts and moves that they saw on TV on each other, much to the annoyance of their teachers and, I’d assume, their parents.
I wasn’t really into that so when my friends decided that they wanted to imitate the likes of The Rock (before he became a full-time film actor), Bill Goldberg, Stone Cold Steve Austin I stayed on the sidelines and watched those knuckleheads go at it but at least I was on my feet outside rather than cooped up indoors in front of the TV.
And while I was far from being skilled I still joined in during basketball games. I missed the net far more than I scored but I still gave it my best and worked up a good sweat. And apparently I was good at ‘defending’ or whatever the hell that meant. Not bad for a non-athlete, huh? I will admit now that any physical activity back then made me feel superhuman, such was my lack of physicality
But don’t for a second think that I had suddenly turned over a new leaf. I was loafing around less but bad habits die hard. I didn’t do any exercise outside of house chores and walking and I completed my homework while seated, not while walking on a treadmill. True change happens over time and I had years of bad habits to overcome.
The sports carnival in the middle of 1998 was a humiliating reminder of how far I still had to go. During my elementary school years I was more of a spectator than a participant during school carnivals and on the rare occasion that I did take part I usually flopped during my events and was left winded and writhing on the grass like a dying fish afterwards.
Anyway, I reluctantly took part in a race that year – one that involved running the entire circumference of the field as quickly as possible – and not only did I come second to last (no shame in that), but I once again collapsed in an exhausted heap after stumbling past the finish line, having foolishly gone all-out from the word go instead pacing myself first and gradually building up speed like the others did.
Ahhh muscle cramps and laboured breathing, how I’ve missed you both!
The euphoria of not having come in last place did not dull the agony of total exhaustion.
But on the bright side, I finished that year slimmer than I had been in a few years. No more man-boob jokes for good ol’ me, I guess the bullies had to find something new to pick on me about – which they did but we’ll save that one for another post.
And over the next three years my body continued to transform. As I got older I began assisting my father with some of the more strenuous chores around the house such as cutting grass, taking out the garbage, helping him fix things and washing the car.
So this is what being a grown-up is all about.
As a family, we traveled whenever we could and often made it a point to go out during weekends, whether it’s visiting the beach or amusement parks or special exhibits they might have near our area or the city. As the years rolled on these outings became more frequent and at times I began to wonder if my parents were deliberately trying to get me off the couch to enjoy the outdoors.
By the end of the year 2000 I started to see a hint of a jawline on my once-chubby face and my school uniform continued to loosen up on me, particularly around the waist. I guess puberty was doing its job but I do owe plenty of it to all that working around the home and more time spent outdoors.
And I wasn’t even trying to lose the weight. All I had to do was get up and start moving. However, my athletic ability remained on the loser end. It was one thing to get up and move more but it was another to enhance one’s power, strength and stamina. I just didn’t have it in me to focus on any of that. And even if I wanted to, I didn’t have the means to get started.
But not for long.
I didn’t know it then, but the first step towards real change was coming………