When it comes to reality checks, you can't do much better than a visit to a beach or pool. You see all types there: sculpted men and women, exposing all but their naughtiest bits; vacationing Europeans in Speedos, even those who should opt for more coverage; leather-skinned sun worshippers soaking up UV rays, and older folks in Cuban shirts and dark socks sitting beneath tents and umbrellas. I spent hours at the MGM Grand pool in Las Vegas recently, and I saw it all — all those types of people, plus one more. People like me. There was the 50-something woman who'd obviously lost a great deal of weight. Her legs were saggy, but she walked among the young goddesses with pride. A guy with a belly twice the size of mine looked around nervously as he headed with his kids toward the pool, but once submerged, he swam like a seal, at ease in the water. Other obese folks wandered through the pool complex, too. They had less confidence, and I felt bad for them. To me, the worst was a plump boy, maybe 12 years old, who kept his T-shirt on when he entered the water. I wanted to tell him that he didn't need to hide, that he didn't need to be embarrassed, but I couldn't. It wasn't my place to tell him that, for one thing, but for another I simply didn't know if it was true. Adults are cruel enough. Children can be worse, especially to each other. I didn't know what he had hidden away beneath that shirt, if it was just his protruding tummy or if he also had burn scars or something more. But I did know that he seemed insecure at the pool, already uncomfortable in his own skin. I didn't like to see that. It made me think about my situation. I was shirtless by the pool, and while I wasn't awkward about it, I was certainly aware of my belly. Each time I stood up, I found myself sucking in my gut, as if that alone would be enough to make me look "hot.” I measured myself against the other fat guys out there. "Am I as big as him? I'm definitely smaller than that guy.” I developed grudges against the people close to my age who were still in great shape. One beautiful couple had four pretty children with them, the entire family beaming with golden health, and I created a whole narrative around them. The father, I decided, was a television reporter at an Arizona network affiliate. He'd met his wife on the job, when she worked in public relations for a large hospital. After their second child was born, he got promoted to morning anchor, and she quit her job. Now she is active in Arizona charities and their church, and everyone tells her what a lovely family she has. Jerks. Of course, the life I imagined for them probably bears little resemblance to reality. I was simply envious because I identified less with them than I did with the pudgy boy wearing his shirt in the pool. They were comfortable and relaxed. I was tense. That's illustrative of my problems with obesity. I've talked before about the weight limit, that point you reach when you realize you no longer fit in the "normal” world. It's nerve-racking to live beyond that barrier. I've lost 27 pounds so far, but I still couldn't find a T-shirt to fit me in Las Vegas, and I worried (needlessly, thank goodness) about whether I'd be too big to ride in the plane. I squirmed on the tour bus we took to the Grand Canyon because the seat was too narrow — or, more accurately, I was too wide. I've come a long way so far. I lost a pound this week. But I still have a long way to go. At least I'm not wearing a Speedo.
Staff Writer Ken Raymond began a yearlong weight loss and fitness journey on April 1.
Here are his stats:
• Age: 41
• Height: About 6 feet 1 inch
• Beginning weight: 307 pounds
• Current weight: 280 pounds
OnlineFor more, including videos and Ken's daily blog, go to NewsOK.com/fat-to-fit