Rick's Lifestyle Change - Introduction
“There is only one happiness in this life, to love and be loved.”
A very true and powerful quote, but from my perspective, I can see now there is more to it than just being loved by and loving others as is. A big part of your happiness is also loving yourself, being able to look in the mirror and smile because you enjoy what you see looking back at you. If you can’t truly love yourself, how can anyone else? This is something I struggled with for years, looking in the mirror and wanting to punch out what I saw in front of me. I often felt depressed because of what I saw, the feeling of being inadequate and not worthwhile. I didn’t love myself and I made damn sure it was hard for anyone else to love me as well.
For those who don’t know me my name is Ricardo Vega, I am 25 years old, and for most of my life, I have battled with my weight. Over the past five years, I’ve mostly been getting my ass kicked in said battle. I grew up in a typical Mexican family where the food was plentiful and often times overly excessive. We all struggled with our weight, from my parents, my sisters, my aunts, my uncles, to even my dog (he’s a fatty, which yes, I know, is also my fault). I spent most of my childhood at my grandparents’ house after school and the first thing my grandmother would ask when I walked through the door was “Tienes hambremijo?” And the answer was always “Si.” To this day I know very little Spanish, but I’ll never forget how to say I am hungry. No doubt there were bean and cheese tacos, arroz con pollo, and fideo to my heart’s desire. My parents would then pick us up and as best I could I would try and decipher whether they were asking my grandmother if we had eaten already. Once we were in the car and headed home they’d inevitably ask if I had eaten and if I had the green light, I would lie and say no. There were even times when I knew my parents were told I ate but I would try and minimize what I ate by breaking a taco down into fractions like, “No Mom, I only ate like a third of a taco.” Pretty smart for a child if you ask me. So I spent my childhood swindling my way to as many extra meals as I could, with no idea the damage I was doing. I just knew I loved eating and I wanted to do it as often as possible. I was laying down the foundation for a future of health issues and complexes about who and what I was.
As I grew so did my appetite, spending my nights sneaking into the kitchen and eating full meals after everyone was off to bed. You see, even at fourteen and fifteen years old, I battled with self-control. I just knew I was hungry and I had to eat, if I was thirsty water wasn’t an option when soda or juice was tempting me. Why eat fruit when there are chips and cookies around? There was even a time when I stole a 12-count bag of string cheese and devoured them in my room. When my mom came into my room I tried to hide them in the storage space under my headboard. As all moms do though with their extra powerful mom senses she knew I was up to something and found all the wrappers. Oh man, did I get in trouble for that one? I was addicted to sugar and salty snacks and I just couldn’t stop. Through high school, those complexes started to come through.
I now weighed 240 pounds and I stuffed myself into clothes that were way too tight because I couldn’t accept what I had become. I was full on addicted to sodas and greasy fast food, and that lack of self-control was biting me on the ass. I knew I couldn’t keep on this path but I couldn’t stop the runaway train of bad eating habits and chronic laziness. I slowly started to resent myself, and looking in the mirror became harder and harder.
As a young adult, I learned quickly that with a car, a less-than-stellar paycheck, and an insufferable appetite for fast food I was screwed. McDonald's was always five minutes away and five dollars would get me three burgers and a drink (always have to account for taxes, learned that quick). Early into my 20s, I ballooned to 290 pounds. I was bigger than I had ever been and at that point, I realized I didn’t love myself anymore. I couldn’t stand looking in the mirror and I finally reached that point where wanting to punch what I was looking at became more and more tempting, I stopped wanting to leave the house unless it was to go get food, I felt like everybody judged me for how big I had gotten so I went in to hiding.
The problem with that was my unwillingness to leave the house except to feed my hunger for more and more food led to more air in the balloon, an extra 30 pounds to be exact. At 330 pounds I was bigger and more depressed than ever. Life was done for me, I didn’t hate myself when I looked in the mirror, because I didn’t even have the energy to hate. I was just saddened by what I had become but I had resigned myself to this life. The worst part was the people I was bringing down with me.
Perhaps most of all, I hurt the woman who for years stood by my side through every bad choice I made, the woman who saw me gain 80 pounds but still supported me, even when I became the hermit crab who would never take her out to show her off or do anything for her that couldn’t be done from home. I pushed her away from me, doing exactly what she asked me not to until she couldn’t take it anymore. If I couldn’t love me, how was anyone else going to? If I couldn’t stand the sight of me, how was anyone else going to? I was alone, just the way I knew I was supposed to be. A life of self-pity was in store for me, and the worst part was I accepted that I was ok with that. My life was done.
So there I was, I had just lost my hope, my lady (who credit to her stuck with me longer than she should have), and lost my will to function as just a normal human. I couldn’t keep a job because all I could think about was how much better my couch was than a work chair. If you’re reading this and thinking how tragic all of this sounds, then you are absolutely correct. I put myself in a situation that was going to take a miracle to get myself out of. It turns out those miracles came in a couple different forms.