What a Waist
I yanked the jeans off the rack, my eyes glowing with anticipation.
“Mom!” I called. “I found the ones I want!”
She wandered over and picked them out of my hands, eyeing them with incredulity. “A forty four inch waist? That’ll never fit you. It’s a waste of money.”
“No,” I argued, “trust me. I know they’re big, but they’re going to be awesome! Baggy’s in!”
My belt caused those jeans to bunch and cinch between the loops, but I felt more free than I had in ages. The pants hung off my ass like a climber dangling from a cliff. They sagged and billowed in all the right ways, and, in a fit of unexpected narcissism, I enjoyed watching my reflection in store windows as I trolled the streets in my new found stylistic glory.
Only a few years before had I made the transition from briefs to boxers, allowing an unrecognized breeze to caress my pubescent parts. With these giant jeans, it was almost daunting how amazing that breeze felt.
Little did I know that these jeans wouldn’t hang at irons forever.
I’ve always been a big guy.
Until middle school, that size was mainly height. I was 5’8″ in fifth grade and towered over most of my classmates. I was athletic and a voracious eater, in love with loading up with food, shocking my table mates at sports camp, yet maintaining an amazingly healthy body.
In 6th grade, my metabolism began to slow. I stopped growing upwards and began growing outwards. Though I was still tall and athletic, I grew muscled and pudgy just in time for puberty. Girls began to notice me at about the same time I began noticing them, only I couldn’t tell what about me they were noticing and it drove me mad.
I was nearly 6 feet tall and over 220 lbs by my Freshman year of high school. When my jaw was broken my junior year of high school and I went on a liquid diet for a month and a half, I dropped to a paltry 185, a weight that felt and looked strangely unhealthy, yet still hovering significantly over the proper BMI for my height. For all intents and purposes, I needed to starve myself to even come down to what seemed a normal weight to the powers that be.
Once I was back to a normal diet, my weight slowly climbed back over the 200 mark. I joined the wrestling team to keep in shape, and was able to drop from just over 200 to just below 190 in a day, simply from fasting and dropping water weight. I wrestled in the 191 weight class, and I knew that this was not something that was healthy, but for the time being, it was how I had to do it.
My Freshman year of college, I ran every morning, played basketball and lacrosse with regularity, and generally kept in good shape, yet my weight climbed and maintained around 220. I felt better than I had in years, my waistline maintaining around 38, my baggy jeans still joyously baggy.
It was difficult to maintain this lifestyle after moving out of the dorms. A combination of adopting pot culture–the munchies a symptom along with it–leading a more sedentary life, and a cheap and unhealthy diet meant I watched my weight rise to around 240 for the first time. I still looked healthy enough, and I could compete athletically with much better conditioned people, but I began to dislike the fact that I was getting fatter, my size 44 pants suddenly not quite as baggy.
Only a few years later, it was much to my dismay that I found myself wearing these huge jeans as one of the few pieces of my wardrobe that still fit. I had packed on nearly 100 lbs between my senior year of high school and the end of college, ballooning to a size 42 waist and closing in on the 300 lbs mark. My baggy jeans were still slightly baggy, but only just enough to let me move.
I participated in a study in which they needed overweight people to test a vascular dilation drug which might help with heart disease. Part of the study had me run on a treadmill while the tested both my heart health and pulmonary health. Another portion gave me a full body scan which measured bone density, fat content, muscle make-up and more. At the end of the study, they explained that I was abnormally healthy for my weight. My pulmonary and heart health were off the charts for their expectations given the percentage of fat on my body, but that if I didn’t change my lifestyle, the odds were against me.
I didn’t change my lifestyle. It just wasn’t in me (or my wallet) at the time.
About a year before I went on my world tour, I began to explore the outdoor lifestyle Boulder has to offer. I tried to hike and bike more than I had. I swam with regularity and began shooting hoops again. My diet improved very slightly, as I began to cut back on meats, cheeses and carbohydrates and started adding more vegetables and salads into the mix, primarily because, for the first time, I felt I could afford it. I probably dropped about 20-30 lbs just going through my daily routine trying to enjoy Boulder while I was still here.
Traveling helped further, eating more exotically and in better quantities. I walked large amounts every day and swam, hiked and climbed all over the place. Without even attempting to change my lifestyle, I had. My diet changed not because I wanted to eat differently, but because I wanted to experience these other lands to their fullest. During my two weeks in India, I remained completely vegetarian without ever realizing it. Turkey’s diet high in fresh fruits and veggies was also peppered with lamb kebaps and meatballs, but in much more moderate quantities.
When I arrived home, I was back down to 230 and needed new suits for job interviews. As it was in high school, my size was a detriment in the strangest of ways. My shoulders are so broad that suits tailored for my build come with waists in the 60s, a huge difference even from my ginormously baggy jeans. Tailored down, I was, for the first time since my freshman year of high school, able to squeeze into a 38 waist.
I haven’t kept a scale nor worked hard to maintain my weight. The changes that have happened have been organic and unintentional.
On Sunday, I went to see the Nutcracker with friends, pulling out our finest for a night of dress up and ballet. My suit, so perfectly tailored only two years ago, now hangs baggy on my hips. A small portion of me is proud, but another knows better.
No matter how skinny I get on the outside, I will always fill my baggy jeans on the inside.