Being a Fat Kid

I’ve always had issues with my weight. They date back to one of those moments you didn’t realize at the time was going to be a life-altering, neurosis-creating, life-shit, but became one because life is what it is. I was ten years old, playing basketball for the elementary school team and for some reason the coaches decided to play shirts vs. skins. Why it was appropriate to have ten years old strip down, half-naked to determine teams is beyond me – we usually used little mesh jerseys to go over our regular ones for that purpose, but maybe they couldn’t be accessed.

I was dubbed a “shirt” – thankfully – and while I was only ten, I remember looking at the bodies of the other boys on the basketball team and suddenly realizing that they weren’t like mine. It wasn’t the first time I had ever see another boy with their shirt off, but it was the first time I realized that my body was different. I noticed how you couldn’t see my ribs – even when I sucked in. I was suddenly aware that I had tiny man-boobs. My stomach jiggled when I ran, it pooched out over my gym shorts. It was the first time I realized all of the imperfections of my body, and it all became that much more emphasized when the coach told me to change teams and become a skin.

I did it. To my goddamn credit, I took my shirt off and ran onto the court, trying to ignore the self-conscious voice inside me that begged me to run and hide. And I practiced, I practiced hard. I practiced in that breathless way that little kids do, pushing their energy the whole time because they don’t know any different. I wasn’t good, but I loved to play.

But that was about change.

After practice, a coach took me aside, and said these words to me: “Kid, you need to cut back on the gut [inaudible mumble as my world crashed around me].” I had tried to pretend that no one noticed I was a chubby kid. I tried to pretend that the older kids hadn’t been snickering at my big belly, jiggling up and down the court. But now I knew for sure, because I had just been told.

Throughout the years I’ve tried to recall this moment. I’ve tried to justify what that coach had said. I even once concocted an elaborate ruse in my memory that maybe I had been complaining during practice and he had said “bellyaching” instead of “gut”. I don’t think that’s right though, because I wasn’t the kind of kid who complained, I just loved to play the game. I never wanted to start, I never argued with the coach. I just liked being on the team. I definitely remember telling my mom in tears what had been said to me and never seeing that coach again.

People Never Forget

The coach was gone but the weight issues never left. They only found new ways to manifest themselves. I remember standing in front of mirrors in high school, looking at my gut and thinking how fat I looked. Nicknames followed me my whole life. I was an active kid, I didn’t play organized sports, but I played pickup basketball in the alleys of my dad’s house and touch football with the neighborhood kids. But people still called me fat. When I ran people called me a “bowl of jello”. When I outran other kids, they were mocked for losing to the “chunky kid”. While my friends took of their shirts on hot days, I fearfully kept mine on, fearing what name-calling would ensue.

You are fat. You are a fat fuck. Everyone can see it, everyone knows.

It was common verbiage amongst my high school friends to make fun of each other for how fat we were:

“Hey, fatty!”

“You fat fuck!”

“It’s impressive how you can be so fat!”

We directed this to each other constantly, with varying forms of truth – some of us were pudgier than others – but for the most part we didn’t mean it. None of us were obese. Looking back now, we all looked like we were in pretty good shape. But they were words, and words still sting. You have enough people tell you that you’re fat day after day, and you start to believe it – even if you remind yourself that it’s just a joke. It’s funny how I can hear these words as if they were spoken yesterday. They still make my blood run cold with the inescapable truth: You are fat. You are a fat fuck. Everyone can see it, everyone knows.

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My friends and I in High School

My weight is the center of my self-consciousness. In many ways, it can define me. The smallest comments can completely destroy my self-esteem. A comment like, “looks like someone likes their cake a little too much,” leaves me totally crushed. Trying on clothes is definition of hell. Every suit has to be altered to make up for my short arms and big gut. I feel like a short, fat hobbit. I’m fucking Samwise Gamgee.

There was a point after college where I worked out consistently, a point when I got in shape. I could hold my own with my friends while hiking, I ran a 5K where I was chased by zombies, but even while doing that I still compared myself to the lanky runners around me. I would look at my tall and thin friends and think about how clearly I stood out as the fat one. When we went out to bars I watched my friends – both boys and girls – get hit on, flirted with, and hook up, while I occupied the “fat friend” seat.

How do they look like that? I would think to myself. Did they just luck out and get thin torsos in the “create-a-human” assembly line?

 

Rock Bottom and Video Games

Eventually, about five years ago, I just fucking gave up. I was just going to be fat. If I was always always going to be fat, I might as well lean into and be fucking fat. I felt unlovable, I felt like a my body was the first thing people noticed. What was the point of trying to be skinny when I was always going to be fat? Who was going to care if I put on another fifty pounds – fat was fat and I was fucking fat.

The world of video games is a strange place when it comes to weight. But one of the people who helped me with body image was Greg Miller, the head of TEAM FAT. You likely know who Greg Miller is, but if you don’t, he is an ex-IGN personality who currently is part of the YouTube sensation Kinda Funny. More importantly, he is someone who talked about body positivity when I found myself at my lowest points. Miller has always championed being a part of TEAM FAT – eating what you want and doing what you want and being proud of your own self-determination. In a world where it’s hard to find men who tell you it’s okay to look the way you do, Miller speaks the words like he is on a mission. TEAM FAT doesn’t have a motto, it doesn’t have an enrollment process (at least, not that I’m aware of) it’s just Miller and his fans telling people that being heavy doesn’t make you irrelevant.

While there are personalities in games preaching body-positivity, it was impossible to escape a simple fact: writing about games helped construct a sedentary lifestyle that contributed to my weight. My day job consists of sitting at a computer, much like my work at Indie Haven does, much like playing video games does. I spend roughly sixteen hours a day sitting and looking at screens and the other eight sleeping. It’s a recipe for disaster and it sucks. Here’s the worst of it: playing video games is better than exercise. You can swing it however you fucking want, but if I could lose weight playing Uncharted you better believe I’d never climb aboard another elliptical machine for the rest of my life. Healthy people can talk about how great it feels to work out, how an early morning sweat helps you focus in the day – I’ve always found this to bullshit. I’m not a person who loves to talk about kettle bell workouts, I love talking about video games.wario

The other problem with games is cultural. “Gamer food” (if you know anything about me, you know how I fucking hate that word) is largely considered to be pizza, more pizza, hot wings, Doritos, Mountain Dew, more pizza, more hot wings, gas station taquitos, beer, more pizza, chinese food, and more hot wings. Not only is this the food you’re supposed to eat, but you should be eating it in quantities that could feed a fifth grade birthday party.

When it comes time to pull a couple all nighters to play something for review, or roll through a few days of a conference – I’m sure to have a stash of Swedish Fish and Sour Patch Kids in reserve with a couple Red Bulls. It got so bad – and so fucking predictable – that my roommates would see the stash of candy and ask me what I would be reviewing.

I can only speak for myself, but when I plan to spend a day on the couch or sitting at my PC playing games, I always picture a pizza at my side or a break for an order of hot wings. I’m not saying people who play games have to live this lifestyle. I’m saying that this lifestyle is presented as part of video game culture. There are plenty of people who buck the trend (yay!) but when a culture so aggressively tries to shove a personality down your throat, it can be difficult to resist.

Video games largely consist around the idea of rewarding play. When you beat an enemy you gain XP, when you beat a level you are rewarded with stats. It was easy to treat junk food the same way. I would like to meet the person who pulls an all-nighter of The Witcher and celebrates finding Ciri with grilled chicken and brussel sprouts (just kidding, if this person does exist, I do not want to meet them).

 

Revelations – But Not the Assassin’s Creed Kind

I want to make it clear that I don’t blame video games for contributing to my weight issues. My weight is something that is intensely personal and the product of a body-shaming culture that stretches far beyond games. But games contribute to this – because in a melting pot of cultures everything contributes to everything else.

Last year I hit the bottom of the bottom of the bottom. I looked at a picture of myself and couldn’t believe what I looked like, how much I had ballooned out. But even worse was the frustration I had when doing simple tasks. I would lose my breath when bending over to tie my shoes. I would be gasping after taking a flight of stairs too quickly.

But here’s the thing – I didn’t want to lose weight. I didn’t want to be someone I wasn’t. I didn’t want to have my life be dumbed down to a before and after picture. I just wanted to take back control of my body. I just wanted to not hear another joke about how fat I had become. And I wanted to keep playing games.

Fat people – truly happy fat people – have it all figured out.

Losing weight can change you. Your conversations start becoming about calorie intake and weight lifting schedules. In the same way a sedentary lifestyle breeds conversations about pizza toppings and favorite candy – working out breeds conversations about protein and gym routine (ugh, I’m already bored).

I did lose some weight. I go to the gym more often now and work out. Not because I wanted to lose the weight, but because I wanted to take back my health. Because I want to define my weight and not have my weight define me. And I do it ridiculously early (hooray for 6AM wake ups) so that I still have plenty of time to fill my days with video games, movies, and junk food.

I’m starting to learn how to love my body, but it’s hard. I still find myself looking in the mirror and scrutinizing my stomach – sucking in to see if it can improve my figure. I touch my stomach constantly to see how jiggly it is. I do this every day because there isn’t a day I don’t think about my weight. My victories come in the form of surprises. Days when I learn to accept how I look and smile because today is a good day. Seriously, Tuesday I might see myself as a cow and Wednesday I think about how happy I am in my skin. It’s a constant struggle. I still feel fat all the time. Going into the pool is terrifying and my taking off my shirt is still embarrassing – but I do it now, just like I did when I was that pudgy kid running on to the basketball court. I do it because I shouldn’t have to hide my body.

 

Who Fucking Cares?

So you’re probably thinking: Okay, Josh, but what does this really have to do about video games? Why’d you bother writing this in the fucking first place?

Good questions. I wrote this because I think there are plenty of people who play games who can identify with the issues I had. Maybe they were fat-shamed at a young age, maybe they love celebrating midnight releases with some deep-dish action. I believe they just want to lead a normal life, but they’re scared because we live in a world where being fat is a crime against humanity. They’re tired of seeing overtly muscular gods grace every screen this side of Skyrim and want to know why they don’t look like that. Maybe someone somewhere is just flipping through the internet and is desperate to be told, “It’s okay to look like you do. You’re going to be okay.” Because I know that feeling, I’ve been that person.

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My regular-size brother and me, the fat hobbit.

For those people, I’m trying to tell you that you’re not alone – and it is going to be okay. Previously I wrote about how I hate the word “gamer” (because it’s a fucking ridiculous and dumb word), but in that same sense I hate the word “fat” (even though I use it myself). Fat is a word we use to lump everyone who doesn’t have a six pack into the same category. The way my friends did back in high school. Ask any dietitian (who isn’t a scam artist) or any living human being – there’s nothing wrong with the occasional pizza. If you love gas station taquitos, you’re not alone. Throwing down on some Black Forest Gummy Bears while you’re constructing your perfect metropolis in Cities: Skylines is totally okay. It doesn’t make you different, it doesn’t make you unloved, and it doesn’t define you. Don’t let some shitty gas station clerk give you side-eye when you grab two bags of jelly beans – or anyone else. Fuck. Them.

But most importantly, does playing video games make you fat? No, it doesn’t. The stereotype of the fat “gamer” (fuck!) is a stigma perpetuated by media and it’s time to let it go the way of the dinosaur. And it is the stigma that we should blame. Because if enough teenage boys see fat, pot-smoking video game nerds on TV, that’s what they believe is true. We see “gamers” on TV portrayed as go-nowhere, do-nothing, fat fucks and the message becomes “Welp, since you like Overwatch, you better gain twenty pounds.” Fuck. That.

When I started to gain weight, it seemed like a zero-sum game. I was working a sedentary job with a sedentary hobby and I felt that meant I was just going to balloon out to be a Macy’s Day float because that’s what fucking happens when you become a “gamer”. But that isn’t true. You choose your lifestyle and you choose the value it has. If you want to keep some extra pounds, be fat and be happy. Fat people – truly happy fat people – have it all figured out. They’ve shredded that image of the six pack and that weird v-shape pelvis men get (like a triangular dick frame) when they have “perfect” bodies. They don’t give a shit about their ass or how they look in a two-piece. They could fucking care less – and I think we should all strive for that happiness. Games don’t define you and they don’t define what you look like, because you look fucking awesome. I promise.

About The Author

The Glorious Predecessor

As I write this, I am listening to Striking Matches and eating a blueberry muffin. The music is good, the muffin is even better. I dance when I drink and have been known to occasionally free-style rap, none of which benefits society.

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  • Thinking about “losing weight” is the wrong way to do it. There are many problems with “our” overextended lifestyles today, and there may well be factors in the food supply chain that are stacked against people, because fat is becoming the norm as fast as you can say “fat.”

    The worst thing about being fat, is not self-conscious thoughts. It’s that your body is very uncomfortable. Even on a desert island, or if you are completely self-absorbed, you’ll still be uncomfortable. Very often obese children are fortunate, because they tend to learn the lesson in childhood, and resolve to change their situation, sometime before late adulthood. Whereas the other children, tend to grow into obese adults, and by that time, they don’t know what hit them, and are psychologically unprepared to change course as adults.

    Using your brain (thinking) actually burns more calories than exercise. Just being awake does as well. Being fat does also. Your body must burn more calories to carry itself. Don’t be sedentary, get up and walk around, but don’t think about exercise, and don’t exercise. Exercising causes you to overcompensate, it will not help you lose weight.

    Don’t eat “diet” food, and don’t eat “lite” food, and especially don’t eat anything that calls itself diet food but doesn’t use the “lite” label (in the U.S. at least) because all of that is straight out of Frankenstein’s lab, and will probably have greater health effects than gaining weight.

    Also don’t eat rabbit food. Like exercise it will cause you to overcompensate. It will not help you lose weight.

    Eat regular food. Figure out your favorite foods. Ideally eat the same food every day, or semi-daily. Eat your favorite food, every day. Don’t eat three meals. If you eat three meals, the serving sizes are so small, that it isn’t worth your time to prepare the food.

    Don’t eat before bed. Ideally don’t eat 12hrs before bed. Eat breakfast as soon as you wake up. Eat a very big meal 4hrs later, before you begin your day. Or if you have to eat at night to meet an engagement, eat a small meal, or no meal. You’ll be starving when you wake up. Eat a small snack if you’re so hungry you cannot sleep. Big meal 12hrs before bed, plus 8hrs of sleep, is 20hrs without eating, 8 of which you’re unconscious.

    But you can only eat 2000 calories. At the end of the day, you eat the calories that your body uses, and if you are not doing manual labor all day, then you eat something around 2000 calories. If you find your weight going up, then pull a little of this or that off the daily menu. Don’t do it for any other reason than your body will be more comfortable, and you won’t be contributing to the overall perception that we are hurdling toward a world where 9/10 people are shaped a particular way, that is probably not and never will be the ideal.

  • Drenka

    I love this. Thank you.