I vaguely remember being normal. I was 7 years old and in the second grade. That is the last time I remember being normal. Since then, I’ve been me. So exactly who am I? I am someone who has never taken a bite of food without placing a label on it – labels like “I shouldn’t be eating this” and “I can’t let mom know” and “I’ll just skip the next meal to make up for it.” Yea. I’m that guy.

Many of you know exactly what I’m talking about. Many of you know of people like me, but you just can’t relate. Every bite of food, every meal, every treat, every drink – they’ve all been my adversary. I’ve never been able to truly enjoy a meal like others I know – without the guilt and shame that come with it. And every meal is a pound that will show up on my body. Guaranteed.

A Taste of Victory

I was 15 years old. I hadn’t had a girlfriend in almost 4 years. You know why? Because of my weight, of course! Who could love a guy like me? OH! Just a minute…mom brought home some Doritos! OH NO! I did it again! Ate the whole bag! I’ll never have a girlfriend… 🙁

Wait! I’ve got it! “Mom, will you buy a large jug of that low-calorie Italian salad dressing from Sam’s Club? I know it’s eight dollars, but it’ll be so worth it! And bring home 4 heads of iceberg lettuce, too. Thanks!” Now I’ve got to run that mile around the block. All I have to do is go out my door, run up the street, down to 3rd street, around the park to Crosby, then back home. That’s a mile. I’ll do that every morning and every evening. “What? Did I put anything on the salad? Yea, sure mom! I did.” There is no way I’m putting cheese, or anything else on my salad! That’s extra calories! I’ll just tell them I did and they’ll never know.

“What mom? All of the Diet Coke cans in my room? I’m only drinking 1 or 2 a day, I promise!” Ha! She’ll never figure out that I remain full of Diet Coke and have no room for food. And it’s ZERO calories! A win-win, right?!

What you’ve just read above was a picture of the summer between my 10th and 11th grade year. I left school at 240 pounds, and came back to enroll at 165 – I had lost 75 pounds in three months! As I walked through the gym, I could hear the voices whispering,”Is that Danny Cahill? WOW! He looks GREAT! I never knew he had it in him! Maybe he’ll ask me out on a date!” I felt worthy for the first time in 9 years. And it came with my weight – a connection I would never, ever lose.

The Oklahoma 500

Soon after getting married, it began again – the weight gain. 200, then 250, then 300, then 400, then almost 500 pounds! I was a wreck! I just couldn’t stop eating! And please, don’t ask me to do anything. I just want to sit – it hurts too much to stand!

That’s when I felt that same urge I felt at 15 years old again – I would find a way to lose the weight! And along came The Biggest Loser. I made it on the 3rd show I tried out for, lost 239 pounds (by burning 8000 calories daily while eating somewhere in the realm of 800 calories) and popped out of the paper at 191! I had lost 239 pounds! I felt like that guy in the gym, walking across to enroll in my junior year. I could hear the fans, my family, the press, everyone talking like they did that day 23 years before when I disappeared fat to reappear thin! Even Meredith Vieira and Ann Curry flirted with me on the Today show! I had it made, right! WRONG!

Here we go again

So fast forward 5 years, and the weight is creeping back on. The food is calling my name again and the bites are shameful, the meals are threatening, and my life is still in a shambles! It’s like nothing has changed!

This is the struggle many people have. The battle with the scale goes on and on, and no matter how hard we seem to try, nothing works! The weight comes back with a vengeance and we fail over and over again. The shame gets even more magnified with each failure and the guilt is so heavy it makes it hard to live. But wait! There’s another fad diet right around the corner for me to try – and lose – and eventually fail at.

The truth

The truth is that there are more things at work than simply one thing. There are many perspectives to why we cannot keep the weight off. First and foremost, our worth cannot be tied to our weight. God isn’t more proud of us if we are 175 than if we are 400 pounds. He loves us the same. He wants us healthy, but more than that, he wants us happy. And that’s a good start. No matter where you are, the “WHY” to get healthy cannot be only aesthetic. And we have to learn to love ourselves regardless of our failures and victories.

Second, we are ALWAYS on a diet! The definition of DIET is “the kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats.” Guess what? You can change your diet, but you are always eating a diet! The real question is what diet is the healthiest and best for you? What is sustainable – that you can live with for the rest of your life? Can you really eat all protein for the rest of your life? Are you really going to drink shakes for your meals 3 times a day forever? Are you really going to eat iceberg lettuce with Sam’s Club low-calorie Italian dressing and drink diet coke until you die?

Third, there’s bodily science. I learned this the hard way after damaging my metabolism by the large deficit of energy I expended vs. eating those 7 months on The Biggest Loser. My Leptin levels (a hormone that controls your hunger) were completely depleted and has barely made it back to 50%. My brain says I’m hungry after eating a full meal!

There are lots of reasons it’s hard to keep weight off long term. I am in the process of finding my balance, and after all these years I think I might be as close as I’ve ever been. The difference between the 8 year old Danny and the Danny of today is clear. I know my worth – regardless of my weight. And I know God loves me the same. So my “WHY” isn’t to be loved any more. My “WHY” is to be healthy and happy and live a long life. And I can’t think of a better “WHY”, can you? And I know one thing for sure. My past failures don’t predict my future – and I know there is hope for me yet!

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