From Closet to Confident

Simon Husted describes his struggle with his weight and how it kept him unsure of acceptance

By Simon Husted

Virtually everyone has had insecure thoughts about body image. For many, it’s realizing pants worn months ago aren’t fitting as comfortably as before. For me, last year, it was looking at a photo my parents had taken of me while visiting Kent State. At the time, I was 5-foot-6 and edging on 250 pounds Regardless of how much I hated admitting it, I’ve always known I was fat, and never could I remember a time when I wasn’t. Seeing myself in any picture made me upset, but it was in this photo I realized my nightmare of staying obese forever was on the verge of becoming reality.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 35 percent of adult females and 33 percent of adult males are classified as obese. On top of serious health risks such as heart disease or Type 2 diabetes, people who perceive themselves as unattractively overweight are vulnerable to lower self-esteem and self-image.

It wasn’t very long ago I would go to the bathroom, look in the mirror, tear up and ask myself questions such as, “Is this how I’m going to look for the rest of my life?” At the end of each of my ranting spells, I’d always make up some half-full promise to change my lifestyle and become healthily slimmer. “I’ll cut a meal out of each of my days,” or “I’ll do more chores around the house to burn calories.” The most depressing part of it all was realizing that these “promises” were just part of many ill-faith cycles where I’d fail in the end.

My biggest priority concerning a social life during those years was blending into the crowd or more so hiding in it. I’d go as far as to argue obesity was the number one reason I stayed in the closet for my entire high school life. Unlike most of the LGBT peers I’ve met in high school and college, my life had no actual religious or family barriers. Both my church and family welcome diversity. What kept me so reluctant about the openness of my sexuality was the “distinctive” attention I’d direct toward my obese figure and me. I was so sure if any attention were directed at me, it’d eventually find its way to my repulsive gut, man boobs and sheer width. It may sound silly now, but it plagued my mind throughout high school and prevented the openness of my homosexuality only up until recently.

So obviously there must’ve been a happy ending, otherwise I’d be 85 pounds heavier and still in the closet. As it turns out, success does come by taking one solid leap and progressively moving forward.

In relation to becoming fit, solid leaps more than often take on the form of routine exercising. Mine was committing my weeks to more than eight hours of jogging and weightlifting, first at the gym in my hometown, then at the rec center here on campus.

I took further steps in losing weight by setting both small and moderately effective rules for me to follow. One dramatic change I made was forcing myself not to consume calories after 8 p.m. Although the cause is highly debatable among health practitioners, most studies have shown a correlation between weight loss and cutting late-night eating and snacking. Another less direct habit I adopted was keeping records — first on my weight, then on my workout performances. Recording weights and workout performances helped me keep focus on my goals, whether it was to lose five more pounds by the end of the month or strive to chest press three sets of 190 pounds at my next gym visit.

What’s amazing is it all worked. Between April 20, 2008, the day I began working out, and Aug. 20, the day I moved onto campus, I had already lost 40 pounds. I hadn’t weighed so little since seventh grade. I was so proud of my accomplishment, but I knew there was more work to be done, and as crazy as it sounds, campus life made my weight-loss adventure even easier to achieve. Walking the campus from destination to destination burned extra calories my gym visits had missed, and my independent eating schedule held less hunger temptation than at home, where my mom would sometimes cook spaghetti at 9:30 at night. Instead of losing 10 pounds each month, I was losing more than 15 pounds By early November, I reached my weight loss goal of 80 pounds, and since then I’ve been building muscle and shedding the rest of my extra skin through exercise.

I’d be lying if I said losing 85 or more pounds is easy. In fact, there’s no way of measuring the difficulty of losing weight because it’s a different experience for everyone, considering all sorts of varying obstacles. For some, it’s convenient time management. For others, it’s living in an environment, caving in to unhealthy temptations. And for the rest, it’s either some emotional, biological, medical or chemical issue preventing someone from reaching his or her ideal weight and figure. Whatever the issue, the basic key in solving it is taking one solid leap in front, and then gradually moving further on from there.

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