In the podcast and e-book Confessions of an Obese Child, I have spoken about the trials and tribulations of growing up obese. The interfamilial dynamics that led me to turn to food to numb the pain, the resulting taunting and bullying caused the burgeoning waist line, the continued binge eating to numb the new bullying shame and self-loathing and how I eventually lost the weight. The secondary part of the podcast deals with lingering coping mechanisms that affected my adult personal and professional relationship. We do focus on positive aspects of growing up fat, such as it makes you a better person. Today we will talk about how being a fat kid stopped me from turning to alcohol/drugs.
You might ask “How being a fat kid stopped me from turning to alcohol/drugs?” Well, one of the ancillary benefits of being fat as a kid is that you are not high on the popularity ladder. In Dark Night of the Soul and Opposite Sex episodes I discussed how the outcasts stuck together for solidarity. There was a token fat kid, the token bad acne kid, the token super skinny kid, and the kids way too into Monty Python or Star Trek. It was like the Sandlot but not nearly as cool.
The ostracism started early. In middle school dances, no girls asked us to dance, nor would we hazard to ask one. We knew even at 12-years-old we were not desired by the girls, but at least at these dances they were public and all students were invited. I remember specifically at my 8th grade graduation party sitting in a bathroom stall all night.
In high school, it got worse. No one went to the school dances, but rather to the house parties. I went to a rather wealthy private school so many of the parties were those reminiscent of 16 Candles or Pretty in Pink. Large house full of debaucherous, drunk, lecherous adolescents was the norm. We, nerds, wouldn’t even know about the parties, or at least particulars. We heard about them the next weekend. It was an understood rule that we weren’t invited.
Even after my weight loss at the beginning of the my senior year of high school, I didn’t go to the parties. I was a good-looking guy and my prospects changed with the opposite sex…kind of. I had no confidence. I didn’t know how to talk to girls (partly because I went to an all-boy school).
Eventually I began speaking to the theater girls because the all-girl school next to us would use our theater facilities. There I gravitated toward the female freshman and sophomore even though I was a senior, because I didn’t think I had the confidence to get a senior, plus I honestly didn’t know how to meet seniors.
The social prospects didn’t improve. I still didn’t go to the house parties. Honestly, now that I was skinny I didn’t know if they would have been against me going. Maybe not, but either way I didn’t feel comfortable, plus my nerd friends would have turned on me.
As documented in College Dysfunction, college wasn’t much different. New location, new venue, new people but I still lacked the confidence to talk and hang out with the good-looking people and Greek students. I still felt like a fat, nerd in a skinny person’s body. Amazingly, in my four years of college, I never went to a college or frat/sorority party…ever. I hung out mostly with the Campus Ministry “Jesus Freaks,” who were the nerds of my university.
How being a fat kid stopped me from turning to alcohol/drugs
How did this connect to “How being a fat kid stopped me from turning to alcohol/drugs?” Here’s the thing. Peer pressure to fit in is humungous in high school and college. The statistics bear that out. The entry age of introduction to alcohol, drugs, vaping, and sex is in high school…if not earlier. Because I was not invited to these parties from 14-22 years of age, I was never offered or tempted to try these vices. We, nerds, weren’t getting drunk while watching a Star Trek marathon at my house. And later, the “Jesus Freaks” saw alcohol as a vice.
So many kids get an appetite for alcohol and drugs during this period. They try it first to fit in and many times continue to do it because they like it or because the need to fit in. For example in college they think they have to binge drink so their frat brothers would accept them. I never had that pressure.
The other factor was that my father and brother were functional alcoholics. I saw the interpersonal and interfamilial damage it wrought so I was righteously against it. I didn’t want to end up being a slave to the vices like my poor father was.
So you may see How being a fat kid stopped me from turning to alcohol/drugs. You add the lack of opportunity to indulge compounded by the alcoholism in my family, they caused me to never be tempted to do these vices during the most formative, malleable, impressionable time in a person’s life.
I didn’t start trying wine until I was well into my mid-20’s. By that age, the pressure to fit in has abated. You don’t feel the need to drink to excess or try new vices. Also, you have better discernment to see through the BS of Big Advert and their attempt to manipulate you to buy their wares.
So we must try to find a silver lining when it comes to horrible experiences. Of course, I would not want to grow up fat and have to deal with the trauma associated with it, but it did help me avoid some possible addiction issues with other vices. As it is emotional eaters are already predisposed to other addictions.
Today I can say that I have a very health attitude toward “The Drink.” I don’t drink beer or mixed drinks. I drink a glass of wine maybe twice a month if out with friends or a lady. I can still say that I have never been drunk. In my earlier days, I would say that with shame; now I say it with pride. I look around and I see so many people and loved ones hooked to alcohol, smoking cigarettes, prescription drugs, shopping and more and I may thank God that I am not one of those people. Perhaps it was in His grand plan that I should be fat to avoid those slings and arrows.
Listen to this great Confessions of an Obese Child episode on how Growing Up Fat Made Me a Better Person. So not only did it save me from possibly becoming an addict but listen to this episode to see how all overweight people benefitted from growing up fat.