I spent twenty years fat

I spent twenty years fat

And if it’s anyone’s fault, it’s my own.

I grew up working very hard and eating very hard. I stopped working hard just as I hit my teens. It didn’t occur to me to stop eating hard until much later. My weight was something I was intellectually aware of, but it simply didn’t register in my understanding of my life. I was blind, not to the effects of being fat, but to the fact that being fat was the cause of it.

My health suffered. My complexion suffered. I lost strength, then stamina. I could no longer find clothes that fit me and looked good. I suffered an exceptionally long dry romantic spell. I struggled to find work, to fit into my car, to keep up with my friends in group activities. I flunked out of school four times, barely finished my degree, quit my first real job job, moved back to a small town, and barely managed to make rent. My world became smaller and less fulfilling. I blamed clothing and car and restaurant booth manufacturers for not building things to fit “normal sized people.” I blamed age and pollution for my inability, at 28, to run a block. I blamed the shallowness of women for not expressing interest in me. I ate an entire large pizza for supper at least once a week, cake when I came across it, sweets and candies when the slightest inclination hit me, and I railed at the unfairness of a universe where someone as sweet and charming and self-­controlled as I was should be inexplicably bound to a body that held me down.

Then, one day, that changed. I attribute the change to God. At 330 pounds, no longer able to fit into even the largest non­specialty pants, it finally occurred to me that I was fat. And it occurred to me that I had done it to myself. And it occurred to me that I (empowered by God) could, at least to an extent, undo it.

The resources I used varied. I used 4chan’s health and fitness board, a site not unlike Reddit I do not recommend for the weak of heart, stomach, or conscience. I used Weight Watchers to some limited success. I used a regional health care initiative aimed at helping the obese to lose weight.

But I don’t want to tell you about the weight loss.

Over the course of a couple of years, the weight loss became incidental. I changed as a person. I started lifting weights. I got a new job. I moved back to my favourite city. Women, to my great surprise, began showing frequent and intense interest in me. It wasn’t because I was thinner. Indeed, I’m still overweight, though to a much smaller degree. My life changed because I had changed. I became confident in my ability to make an impact on the world. I was helpless alone but infinitely capable with God. My physical body, now as then, is an expression of the person I am inside.

That person was shaped by God in extreme graciousness. I don’t think that being fat was God’s will for me, but I do know that God uses all circumstances for the good of those who love him. I can see definite ways that God used my being fat to break down a blindingly intense pride and self­-centeredness that would have destroyed me. In the same way, God has used my losing the fat to teach me about my dependence on him and the benefit of trusting him.

This year I hope to finish losing the last of the weight. I’ve signed up for a public obstacle course race. I encourage my friends to come to the gym with me. I try to show the same patience God showed me when I encounter people in the same position I used to be, who blame everything but their own sin for the state of their lives. I face new challenges daily, but God is with me.

God is using the circumstances of your life in ways you cannot understand to turn you into a person you cannot imagine.

The only thing you need to do is cling to God. Pray. Read the Bible. Worship. Serve. Witness. Consume God with inexhaustible appetite.

Flickr photo (cc) by jorislouwes

Tyler Elkink likes to write, blacksmith, and experiment with homemade ice cream. He has yet to find a combination of these hobbies that is not catastrophic. He recently graduated Briercrest Seminary with an MA in theology, and makes a living in Calgary.