I’ll begin this column on health and wellness with a disclaimer: I am neither a writer nor a health professional. Bear with me. I am a craft beer drinking, fried food eating, substance abusing, semi-former fat ass who wears Ray- Bans—who just so happens to also be maintaining over 100 pounds of weight loss, does strength and conditioning training six times a week, and is a program creator and advocate for youth health initiatives around the state of Louisiana. An anomaly of sorts. A healthy hipster (a term and label that has lost all sense of meaning in recent years, but still serves a purpose for the sake of this column, so save your fucking eye rolls and go with it).
There’s a whole generation of Gen-X cusp millennials at a pivotal Britney Spears-esque crossroads in our lives. No longer a girl, not yet a woman, caught between cheap beer, dollar menus, and the artisanal-cold-pressed-no- longer-easily-in-shape-oh-shit-my- parents-are-getting-older-and-going-to-die-someday-and-so-am-I perils of adulthood. The struggle is real. And I’m at its crux.
Let me tell you, moving to New Orleans was pretty fucking stupid for someone whose mental, emotional, and physical well-being relies on a regimen rooted in clean living and health. Here’s some of the story of how I got to the point of balancing life on total opposite ends of the spectrum. Like all good stories, it starts with some daddy issues.
My father, Lucky Luckett (that should be a clue in itself ), hails from the artery- clogging dreamscape that is Monroe, Louisiana. As the principal cook in our household, he held one belief regarding our family meals: if it tasted good, it was good for you. Fast forward to me being the fattest kid in school, grades 2nd through 12th. There was always love and acceptance in my upbringing. Unfortunately, there was also always a 24 pack of Coke, and Schwan’s frozen everything fattening and delicious. Vegetables came from a can and were always flavor-enhanced with at least a half stick of butter and a heavy hand of Tony Chachere’s. My parents did their best to provide rich, fulfilling lives for my sister and me. Unfortunately, any resemblance of a health-oriented role model was void in our upbringing.
My mother, so deeply scarred from her own childhood and struggles with weight, made it a point to never have her children feel the shame of being obese she experienced growing up, which only widened the gap and pant sizes of two children growing up completely disconnected from how their food and activity choices were shaping their health and body images for years to come.
The desire to finally do something about my morbid obesity had nothing to with realizing I was quickly killing myself, and everything to do with getting laid. I grew up buying into the idea (movies, pop culture, advertising, marketing) that because I was fat I could never be accepted the way I was by members of the opposite sex. Festering in the poor self-esteem and body image this created made seeking out that validation all the more consuming. To be happy, I needed to have sex. To have sex, I needed to be hot. To be hot, I had to lose weight.
So I did what any reasonable, lazy person who had never made an actual attempt to lose weight would do. I applied to be on NBC’s coathanger- abortion of a reality television weight- loss show The Biggest Loser. Being on that show isn’t something I’m necessarily proud or boastful of. In fact, in the seven years since I participated in the show, this will be the largest reach of people I’ve ever told. It was the quickest route to the female attention I so desperately thought would cure my sense of emptiness. The weight came off fairly easy. In eight months I was down 150 pounds, with a new sense of self and what that self was capable of doing. Mainly women. So many women.
A lot of former contestants who appeared on the show gain back all or most of their weight, for an assortment of reasons. Most people leave the show and have to return to the stresses of a demanding career or family or a household not yet capable of being supportive. I didn’t have to fuck with any of that shit. At 25, with no responsibilities or real career prospects, I got the opportunity to completely start from scratch and create a post-transformation life, further ensuring that this had a good chance of becoming a long term accomplishment, rather than a string of successes and failures with no true chance of achieving balance.
This was due mainly to spending the six months after getting kicked off the show living in California with a Zen buddhist monk for an uncle and his Fortune 500 CMO wife, who challenged me to look at and accept the emotional and mental weight that doesn’t go away with the physical shedding of pounds. By getting that buffer time to understand how obesity had affected my life up to that point, I was able to keep the demons and shadows in front of me rather than behind, allowing me to discover my truer self in a way I was incapable of doing before when I was consumed by my weight and the cloud it cast over my thoughts and actions.
A lot of contestants think that appearing on the show somehow makes them qualified to dole out advice or to begin training people themselves, or even that the show will be their catapult to fame and fortune. I just wanted to get laid. And to never be fat again. In the seven years since the show, I didn’t write a book or go on a speaking tour. I didn’t try to parlay 15 minutes of fame into something it wasn’t. I figured out what this was going to look like for the rest of my life, what living a life completely opposite from how I had the first 25 years required. Basically, I got to spend seven years doing what hipsters do. Not much of anything. At times it felt like I was squandering the opportunity I was given, via the racks of every thrift store between here and Kansas, via the food co-ops I’ve worked at to provide access to the foods I knew would help keep my weight off and keep me even-keeled mentally, via the dive bars where I learned to talk to girls without immediately being friend zoned. Bike rides, swimming holes, farmers markets, kickball. Hipster shit.
I’m very thankful that it’s had more of an impact on my life than having sex and muscles. In all that hipster shit, I was able to find the fundamental truths required to make this last forever. After seven years of living this out, I finally feel ready, willing, and qualified to share. It’s easy to lose weight like I did. Frankly, given the same opportunity, any asshole should be able to yield the same results. Losing the weight doesn’t set me apart. Keeping it off does. If you feel like you’re towing the line between two opposite worlds, I’m here to tell you that there’s a way to make it work, and that you’re not alone. Nice to meet you.