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The Great Wall

“Let me look back upon thee. O thou wall

That girdles in those wolves, dive in the earth

And fence not Athens!”

William Shakespeare (Timon of Athens)


I’ve spent the past month really trying to find the reasons for the weight. I’ve had several ideas as to what it might have been. I’ve tossed a lot of those around in my own head.

Truth be told, you can self-analyze yourself into one hell of a stooper if you’re not careful.

So, I decided to bring in the big guns — I called “wolf man” (aka. my therapist).

Together we worked through how far I’ve come to date. Not just the weight loss — although, that’s important to me — but the changes I’ve made in how I deal with… well, life.

During this whole journey to better health I’ve torn down walls left, right, and centre. I haven’t gotten to all of them yet, but I’ve laid waste to quite a few.


I’ve gained confidence in myself, that I never dreamed possible.

However, throughout it all there was always something in the background. An undercurrent that still resonated loudly in my ears. It was ever-present.

It was the great wall.

The one that was built as a child.

The first wall.

Like most, it was built to protect me.

I’ve talked a little bit about bullying in the past. But there really aren’t words to adequately describe the sheer amount of vitriol I experienced in my youth.

I was attacked from every conceivable angle. And because of that, there was nowhere for me to feel safe. No hamlet for me to rest my head.

And so began construction of the great wall.

Surrounding the essence of who I was.

My confidence, self-esteem, body image, intelligence — it held me, shielding out the “wolves” as Timon calls them.

And because this wall did such an admirable job in protecting me. Other walls sprung through the surface.

And now, sitting here, at the age of 38. Those walls are coming down.

Not because I’m forcing them, or I’m ashamed of them. It’s quite the opposite; those fortifications did what they needed to do. After all, they got me this far.

No, these walls are tumbling because they’re no longer needed.

By realizing my worth, and finding my voice in the crowd, I have cleared the horizon. Instead of hastily positioned bricks and mortar — now lies a landscape dotted with opportunity and hope.

It’s amazing what you can do in a year.

A Cup O’ Kindness For Auld Lang Syne

A year ago today I was 415 pounds and scared half to death of what lay ahead. I slept with my cell phone tucked under my arm in case I needed to make a call to 911. I worried about things like leaving the door unlocked so the EMT’s could come and get me.

I lived in constant fear of what my weight might do to me.

I knew the path I was on was a dark one. But sometimes, you tend to flounder around in there because that’s where you feel the safest.

Emerging from that dungeon has been a lot of hard work. It’s taken dedication and commitment that I never thought I had.

But I’ve not done it alone.

I’m writing this today to thank those around me who have helped me get to this point. My partner Caitlin has inspired me to be better, to ask questions, to challenge myself.

Last November, she said “have you ever thought of writing any of this down? Maybe it might help?” That question upset me. I reacted childishly, “no, alright, I can’t. Some things aren’t meant to be written”.

As it turns out, some things need to be written.

This foray into honesty with not only the world around me, but myself, is all thanks in part to that challenge by Caitlin.

She’s a pretty special lady (God knows, she has to be to contend with a fella like me).

I never dreamed in a million years that anyone would actually read this blog. But as it turns out, people have. Which lead to the CBC Radio column, thanks to producer Heather Barrett — which has lead to all kinds of emails, and stories, and opportunities yet to come.

To the friends, family and strangers that have read this blog, listened to the column, commented on an entry, stopped me in line at Costco, or sent me Facebook messages and tweets — it has meant more to me than you will ever know.

The web of support that surrounds me is immense.

And that web of support is what’s going to launch me into 2015 with nothing but fire in my eyes.

A year ago, I was headed for certain death, and the thought of losing 180 pounds seemed pretty much impossible. And now — some 95 pounds later — impossible is the farthest thing from my mind.

I owe much of that to all of you.

Thank you.

Of Trolls and Bridges

Being this open and vulnerable about my life and the struggles therein isn’t easy.

I started this process so I could be honest with myself, and create a sense of accountability.

Owning my struggles and my successes.

This had nothing to do with building a public profile. In fact, I’ve gone out of my way to try and not do interviews with both local and even national media. Because that’s not why I’m on this journey.

Nothing could have prepared me for the outpouring of love and support that followed both the blog here on The Narcissist’s Revenge, and Downsizing with CBC Radio. Nothing.

The messages, and feedback have been tremendous.

Another aspect that I couldn’t foresee would be that of trolling.

According to lore, Trolls were nasty little creatures that dwelled beneath bridges. They would take whatever they could from people who just happened by.

Modern day trolls attempt to attack the credibility or just hurt people online. It’s bullying of the worst kind — nameless, tasteless, and tactless.

However, here’s what the trolls are doing.

They’re shining a light on how hard it is to achieve a healthy life.

Their collective attitudes are a reflection of how pockets of society really feel about people trying to better themselves. So, when they ask “why is it so hard for you to just stop fucking eating?” They are, in essence, answering their own question.

The answer, of course, is that society treats those outside the norm as just that… outsiders.

Recently, I had somebody who knew me — most likely from years back — expound on how I wasn’t a nice guy.

And every one of us are entitled to our own opinions, so I’m not going to dispute that fact. But I tend to disagree with that un-named “friend” — which is also my right.

What I will say is that I’ve been far from a perfect.

I’ve made terrible choices. I’ve hurt people who tried to help me. I’ve shut people out of my life. I’ve said mean things on occasion to people. Held irrational opinions on a variety of topics from proper service in a restaurant to whether or not somebody said “you’re welcome” (that still bugs me, sorry).

In the years after the loss of my brother I got angry. Really angry. And I would do this thing where I’d select random people to be angry at. For little to no reason whatsoever.

One gentleman in particular — Sam was his name — was taking pictures at a party I was at and I decided to just flat out hate him. No real reason. Other than I didn’t approve of him taking photos. After all, who the fuck was he to gleefully snap away at parties? Who takes pictures at parties?

People do, that’s who. All kinds of people.

I carried that anger with me for years. Until one New Years Eve I was at another party with him. I leaned over to Sam and told him how sorry I was for being so irrational towards him.

He was a great guy. He said that he understood. I assured him that it was nothing he had done, he just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I’ve made lots of those mistakes. And more.

And while I can’t turn back time and change things. I can look forward to the future and make sure they don’t continue to happen.

When I started this project with CBC I was given the option to turn off the commenting. I said “no, leave them”. It was important for me to read how other people felt. The stories that people shared online in that public space were tremendous.

And every now and then you’d get somebody who is probably just as unhappy as I once was. And I get it. I really do. And I feel bad for people when their only release comes from public displays of anger like that.

But, I also I think it’s important for people to see the kind of vitriol that is out there. And instead of it being swept under the blanket with a “that’s trolls being trolls” attitude, or avoid reading the comments all together — perhaps we need to talk about it in a more open and rational tone. Maybe we need to ask why these attitudes exist.

I don’t know.

But one thing I do know, almost for sure, is that this kind of bullying isn’t making anyone happy — neither the bully nor the bullied.

Being overweight when you don’t want to be isn’t a lot of fun.

And let’s face it — living under a bridge can’t be all that it’s cracked up to be, either.

Attacking Panic And Other Tales…

I’ve always known anxiety.

I was pressed beneath a wave of it from an early age.

And at certain points in my life its been debilitating.

These days it’s no different.

It’s a chess match between myself and panic. A battle. Something that I have to physically fight. I have no idea what the end game is, I suppose it would involve me forcing the anxiety down on bended knee and causing it to somehow scream “uncle”.

Which is completely asinine.

This past while I have come to realize that defeating anxiety and panic is probably not very practical.

It’s too crafty a foe.

Shape-shifting in plain sight to trick me.

Often times, especially when I’m at the peak of stress, the panic wants me to go places — to hit up a burger joint, or get a pizza, or some other object of contention.

It mocks me. Laughing at my tattered tapestry of foibles.

What I’ve come to understand lately is that you can fight this stuff all you want, but for me at least, that fight is unwinnable.

So instead of swinging at the air, trying to force back a foe that is not only invisible, but unbeatable — it’s high time I started looking deeply at that part of myself.

That part that keeps me up nights and makes me feel weak and unsure of myself.

That part of me is just that. It’s a part of me. And I love who I’m becoming. And in the midst of all of that that romance I must begin loving all of me.

Including the anxiety.

Hating it. Fighting it. Languishing in it. These are futile responses.

Time has come to look at it differently, and to adore it — embracing the vulnerable sensitivity that embodies it. Trying to rid myself of these feelings is like pounding nails into the floor with your head. I’ve been doing that for 38 years without making a hell of a lot of progress.

So instead of fighting, it’s time to show myself some compassion.

It’s time to lay down the guns, and embrace a little peace, love, and understanding.

And that’s not anything to be nervous about.

The Skin I’m In

Tonight I’m doing something strange. I’m bagging up the jeans that don’t fit me any more. Which is about 75% of the pants that I own.

During the process of weight gain I kept ordering jeans that were far too small for me. And as a result, I wound up with about 25 pairs of jeans that I’d never worn. That’s a very strange admission, I suppose. I’ve known one or two other people who have experienced it, so maybe it’s not that strange.

Either way, I’m bagging them up, and I’m bringing them to the Salvation Army in the morning.

As of today’s weigh-in, I’ve lost 95 pounds. And that’s great progress. I’m officially at the half-point of my weight loss goal. And I’ve reached my ultimate goal of becoming active.

And that’s fan-fucking-tastic news, I know — like zippity-do-da-worthy news.

However, there are days where I just don’t feel comfortable in this new skin.

It generally happens when I bump into somebody who I’ve not seen in quite some time. I immediately begin to sweat. I get nervous — almost cagey.

This stuff isn’t new to me. It’s part of the whole anxiety “thing”.

So this morning, after going through one of these debacles I began to reflect on why it was happening.

I’ve spoken a lot about shame. And how it manifests itself in the body and in the mind. And it’s a hard thing to kick. It’s like the crack cocaine of human responses.

These sweats are a physical expression of that shame.

So, why do I still feel it?

I’ve spent the past ten months trying to rebuild and redefine myself. However, I’m more comfortable — despite the anxiety — with inserting the old definition of myself into the conversation. Or feel like, for lack of a better term, “old me”.

That’s because “new me” is so new — that there are times when I’m not sure how I should express it.

I’m not ashamed of who I’m becoming. Not at all. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. But somewhere, deep down, there’s a flicker of the old stuff. That stuff that got me to 415 pounds. There’s not a lot of it. Just enough to be a bother.

The good thing is I know it’s there, and I know where it came from. And part of this whole experience is learning to control those feelings of shame and guilt. Plucking them up from their little holes. And sending them packing.

Because what they don’t talk about on “The Biggest Loser” or “Extreme Home Makeover: Weight Loss Edition” is that the body isn’t the only thing that needs constant maintenance.

The mind and soul need it too.

And as I throw the last pant leg into the bag, I stop for a moment. I think about the work — both mental and physical — that has gone into this journey. I remember what it was like to order my first pair of size 50 jeans. I remember clicking the “submit” button on my computer and thinking to “Jesus Christ, what have I done to myself”?

And now, sitting in a size 42 — 10 months later — I can only hope that the recipient of these jeans will some day be filling his own bags.

And believe you me, there’s no shame in that.

You are what you eat

As of late I’ve been taking steps to try and improve my nutrition.

Or at the very least gain some knowledge on the subject.

You see, I knew nothing about nutrition when I started this whole thing. Not a blip. Nada.

You could have told me it was ok to eat batteries and I would have probably said, “yeah, cool, I can see that. Batteries are like filled with iron and shit.”

I mean I’m no dummy, but when it came to food I came at it with the intellect of a kid in a candy store.

10 years ago I lost a hundred pounds.

And do you know how I did it?

I did it by eating bacon, eggs, chicken, and salad. Caesar Salad.

That was my nourishment for six months. I never once wavered from that. Oh, wait, no I did. I gorged on “Atkins” bars to the tune of about four or five a day.

I thought that was how people lost weight. In my brain I believed that once you lost the weight you just went back to the way things were. Burgers, and fries, and milkshakes.

Looking back at it now, it’s so hard to imagine that I could ever be that uninformed.

But I was.

And that’s hard for people to admit. It’s tough to stand out there and say, “b’ys, I don’t have a friggin’ clue about what any of this means. What the fuck is a glycemic index anyway? And what odds if it’s high or low.”

And for some reason when I began this little trip I’m on, researching nutrition was always put on the back-burner. When in fact, it’s one of the most important components — along with the mental and physical aspects of it.

People say, food is just fuel.

But to me, food is more than that. It’s a memory, a taste — a smell that can light up your senses and transport you back in time. And it should be enjoyed.

Now, some food is just nonsense.

Take Pizza Hut’s new pizza stuffed with not only cheese, but bacon as well.

“Just in case you couldn’t have enough cheese and bacon on top of this massive pizza, we’ve gone ahead and injected a shitload of it inside the crust. So enjoy!”

Nitro? Anyone?

I’ve given up on the notion that we should cut ourselves off from things. Now, that being said, I do have boundaries when it comes to what I put into my body.

Take bread, for example. There’s a plethora of information that suggests bread is the devil.

And, I agree, some bread isn’t great for you. White bread in particular is perhaps not the healthiest choice. But that being said, there is a load of vitamin B in wheat, and if you’re going to all of a sudden stop eating it, where the hell are you going to find that source of vitamin B — outside of paying some ridiculous amount of money for a supplement.

Some folks have gluten issues, and I totally get that, you folks can’t eat bread. For that, I’m sorry. Because it’s awesome. Bread is awesome.

But, I digress.

Recently I met with a dietician to discuss my food choices. I’m lacking protein. Which wasn’t a big shock. Caitlin has been telling me that for months.

But do I listen? No.

The dietician really helped me understand how food works inside of you. She untangled the confusing web of scientific studies, and opinions, and banter that exist inside the old compooter box.

And I learned that I need to eat foods that will keep my glycemic index level.

Because a level glycemic index, is a happy glycemic index.

Chew on that Dr. Atkins… oh… right…. my condolences.

PS… if you want to check out my dietician’s website, here’s the link:

Hello Walls

When it comes to walls, I’m a masterbuilder. I can put up a wall faster than most people can blink.

I’m that good.

Throughout this recovery/lifestyle change/whatever else you want to call it — I’ve confronted a lot of these barriers that I’ve built.

And I’ve begun the process of demolition.

But as my wrecking ball swings heavily into the brick, it releases the thoughts and fears that were being protected in the first place. They become vulnerable. And as a result, so do I.

I’ve taken care of my fears like they were my own children. I’ve given them food and shelter, and in some cases encouragement.

And while I’d much rather charge through these walls with all the joy and charisma of the Kool-Aid man, it’s a bit more complex than that.

As the days go by, and my thoughts become clearer and my body gets stronger, I realize exactly how many of these barriers I’ve put in place.

There’s a shitload of them. I mean I’ve got more barriers than Jay Leno has cars.

And it’s not like I can seek them out. They just kind of pop up out of nowhere. Forcing me to think “now, why the hell am I reacting like this?”

The good news is that I’ve become much more analytical during this whole process. The bad news is that I’ve become much more analytical during this whole process.

I tend to overthink sometimes. In some cases it doesn’t take much to swing that wrecking ball, but the chain it’s attached to can get caught up in my self-examination.

I am, after all, a tangly bag of wires. Ask the missus, she’ll tell you.

The sheer amount of “stuff” you uncover when you do something like this constantly amazes me. It’s like unraveling an unending ball of yarn, only it’s all knotted up, and you have to take out each knot as you go… and you don’t know how many knots are there. I mean, it can be maddening,

But at the same time, it can be inspiring. Once you tear down one of these walls, you feel like a million bucks. That is until the next wall you hit. And then you just repeat. Wall after wall until all that’s left is rubble.

Sweet, hard-earned, and beautiful rubble.


For those of you who followed this blog prior to today, well you’ve now got more company. A lot more company.

Downsizing, a 6-part weekly column I’ve written for CBC Radio began early this morning. It’s spun from this blog. There are fewer swear words and a fancier sound track, but essentially it’s the same kind of documentation.

Here’s a link to the page:

Isn’t that pretty? Gotta love a URL. I’d shorten it, but… I just got back from a run and… well, I just couldn’t be bothered. Blame the interwebz.

So, people from all over the country can now read the transcript online and or hear it on their respective CBC Radio Morning Shows.

So that’s why there are so many new folks here. Hi guys. Can I get anyone a coffee? Tea? Biscuit?

In all seriousness — welcome aboard. And thanks so much for all of the support and kindness you’ve shown me. It really does do a heart good.

Size Matters

At my heaviest I’d typically vacillate between 4xl and 5xl on the regular. I know this sounds ridiculous, but there are some manufacturers out there that make a small 4xl. Hand to God they do.

For many people their clothing is a representation of who they are and what they’re about. It’s also one of the few things we have total control over in our lives. At least, most of us do.

You see, when you’re 5xt you kinda have to put on whatever it is that’s around you. There aren’t a hell of a lot of options.

When I was at my largest I’d often buy clothes that were far too big for me so that I could cover myself completely. I wanted to become lost in the fabric. Floating about inside a giant flannel cocoon, drifting along and hoping that nobody would notice.

I remember vividly, as a young man, having somebody I care about ask me if “Omar the tent maker” made my shirt.


It’s kind of funny, right?

It isn’t.

For a moment, just for a flicker, think about the man or woman who has to go into a specialty store and purchase a size 14xl t-shirt — and yeah, they make them that big. Think of what else that person is carrying — outside of the weight. The anguish they are going through must be astonishing.

How do you ever fit in if you simply cannot fit?

Most people of a certain size try and hide. As I did. I still struggle with it. Some days I say “fuck it” I’m wearing a t-shirt that clings — bite me. Other days I try and find shelter. Fortunately, they’re less and less these days.

One of the most interesting things I’ve discovered over the past week is that I have NO idea how a shirt is supposed to fit. “Too small” is in reality just a little too big. I’ve spent so much time hiding that I’ve no clue as to what constitutes a well-fitted piece of clothing.

It’s something that I’ll learn with time and, well, more shirts, most likely.

The image we have of ourselves is often complex. For many people the vision of who we are never lies congruent with the truth.

I spend most of my mental energy these days doing my best Michelangelo impression — chipping away at an uneven block of marble until something beautiful emerges.

The good news is I’m making a hell of a lot of progress. Each day brings with it a new stroke of the hammer, and slowly but surely my true identity is finding its way out of the stone and into the world.

How’s that for big and tall?


Pride — Not Only For Lions

Throughout my life I’ve never really known what it meant to be proud.

I’ve never sat back in the glow of an accomplishment and basked in its warmth.

Instead, I’ve always shaken it off like it wasn’t a big deal, or worse — concocted some situation whereby it was impossible for me to feel anything other than ashamed.

That was the pattern.

I starved myself of happiness. It’s funny how a man so overweight can be so emaciated.

If there’s one thing this blogging experience has taught me — it’s that I’m not alone. Out there in the world there are millions of people who live the exact same way. And silently, day-by-day they all go about the business of hiding.

They feel shame about their bodies. Their stomach is too big, their chest is to small, their arms aren’t toned, or their ass is too saggy. And because of this they choke themselves off from the rest of the world. And any drop of happiness that may come their way is quickly extinguished, drifting like a dying plume from a candle.

That’s not living. That’s waiting to die. And that’s simply not good enough for anyone. Everyone deserves a shot at turning things around. Some of us just need a little help.

The odd thing about help is you have to be willing to accept it.

In the past eight months I’ve made a series of small changes that have made a big difference.

I now understand what pride feels like — it’s the opposite of shame.

Whether it was my first hike, my first swim, or as simple as my first walk in public in just a t-shirt — all of those things make my heart sing just a little.

I’m now entering my third week of a running program — my first attempt a few months ago was thwarted by a bout of pneumonia. However, this time around I’m stronger, lighter and… well, I’m not hacking like a smoker on a treadmill. So that helps.

I’m experiencing what people refer to as the runners high, and man it’s amazing. Last week I ran for ten minutes, one minute walking and one minute running. Tonight we double that.

Being overweight and running isn’t necessarily the most comfortable feeling in the world. I have at least one thousand pounds of pressure pushing down on my joints, bones, muscles and ligaments with each footstep.

I ache, believe me. But through the creaks and groans of this frame, I’ve never felt this awake, alert, or alive.

And as shame continues to shed its thick calloused skin, the moments of pride that it has been covering for so long are starting to poke through.

And even though I still have quite a lot of work left ahead of me, the ability to feel proud of my accomplishments makes that work a little lighter than it has been.

Pun intended.


When the dragons have all been slayed…

I’m not an avid believer in organized religion. Actually, let me rephrase that, I’m not a believer in organized religion at the moment. Anything is possible, I suppose. However, I do have a deep appreciation for the lore and legend that is carried by theology.

The tale of St. George and the Dragon is one of those legends. It takes place in Libya. The dragon is filled with pestilence and disease and lives in a deep blue lake in the town of Lasia (in some cases it’s referred to as Silene). As near as I can tell, Lasia is a made-up town, kind of like Disney World — only, y’know, with less plague-riddled dragons kicking about.

I digress. Each day the people in Lasia would feed this monstrosity two sheep just to keep the bloody thing at bay. Then one day the dragon lost the taste for sheep, so the town began to feed this dragon their young.

The “supper child” was chosen by lottery.

And, as luck would have it, the deed fell to the king to offer his daughter to the dragon. Distraught, the King offered all his gold and silver and half the kingdom to anyone who would take her place.

They declined. Natch.

So they king did what any self-respecting Father would do — he dressed her up like a bride and marched her down to the dragon.

Then, as if by magic, St. George happened to be passing by upon his steed and saw the woman being terrorized, and sprung into action. Leaving out the gory details, George took a big whack at the dragon, wounding it almost to the point of death. He then called for the king’s daughter to throw over her girdle, and he tamed the dragon.

The two marched the dragon back to Lasia, much to the terror of the townsfolk. George proclaimed to the crowd that if they converted to Christianity he would slay the dragon on site.

They did. He did. And they were all cured. Huzzah!

Sometimes, when I think of this journey I’m on. I feel a kinship to this story.

As if, inside of me was this pestilent dragon, and for years I’ve been feeding it and feeding it and feeding it.

My dragon thrived on a steady diet of self-destruction — one that I was more than happy to provide.

About seven years ago I walked into a gym and asked for help. They weighed me, showed me the machines, and I started the process of getting fit. This all came about through a sudden sense of panic that I was losing control of my weight.

Unfortunately, I became frustrated by somebody who worked there — which is another way of saying that I created an excuse to quit and continue feeding the dragon. After that I just completely lost control of my life.

Yesterday I found this picture of myself. This was from a newspaper article in 2005. I’m at the lowest weight of my adult life there


And then I looked at this picture. This is from a taping of CBC Radio’s DNTO that was recorded in St. John’s last summer. This is me at 415 pounds — in actuality, I’m probably bigger than that.


When I made this discovery I was taken aback. It put into context exactly how much weight I had gained. And how out of control I really was.

After stepping on the scale this morning and discovering that I’m dropping weight consistently from week to week — I’ve discovered something else.

The weight loss is not what I’m most proud of.

I’m most proud of my ability to face truths. Seeing this visual comparison a year ago may have been enough knock me off my course.

Small things were once debilitating. The most insignificant comment would lead me down a twisted garden path to self-loathing. Crumpled in doubt on my couch, lashing myself with my thoughts like some devout monk.

These days, that’s no longer the case. I’m able to look at my life with the confidence of a man who knows that all will be well. Criticism is something that I cherish, in my constant push to improve not only my fitness, but me as a man.

The dragon has now been silenced.

And I stand before you converted.



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