Reliving Our “Wonder” Years?
By Mark Szabo
Many of the thoughts we have, the decisions we make, come from a time in our childhood. A time of pain and trauma. I bet you still remember something from your childhood that brings a tinge of suffering and may have caused some unconscious decisions.
For me, childhood trauma dictated much of my early adulthood. My story is a journey of a scrawny kid that grew into a 240-pound overweight man, who spent years on the diet yoyo to only find the answers by facing my childhood trauma.
I didn’t have the greatest childhood.
Don’t get me wrong here; it wasn’t absolutely awful all the time, but it certainly had its moments.
I learned at an early age that personal value was directly proportional to athletic ability.
And I sucked at sports.
Of course, today I know that this isn’t true. There are plenty of people who are valued for things aside from sports. But when I was a kid, my father tried to teach me how to catch.
Maybe I was too young? I remember it like I’m 4-5, but I’m not too sure. I was his first son, and Dad had been an athlete when he was younger. He was eager to get me started.
Maybe he should have started with something softer than a baseball? My parents played tennis, so we had an infinite number of tennis balls lying around. But no. My dad was more of a Go-Big-or-Go-Home guy, so baseball it is!
I don’t know if it would have mattered though. My eyesight was horrible back then. I remember being at the eye doctor and all I could see was that big E at the top of the chart. Forget about any of the other letters. Even that big E was pretty fuzzy.
With vision like that, you probably remember the glasses I had to wear. This is the early 1970’s we’re talking about. You know, those thick black plastic frames with those coke-bottle lenses?
So I’m wearing those while my dad is trying to teach me to catch.
I didn’t understand it at the time, but those coke-bottle lenses have some serious refraction to them. Like, if you look through any lens on an angle, it bends the image a bit. With the size of those coke-bottles, things get skewed significantly.
I’m crouched down in the front yard, trying to catch my dad’s baseball, while looking though these crazy-thick glasses, and I can’t figure out where my hands should go.
I keep placing my hands where I think the ball is going to be, but each time it got close to me, it would rapidly shoot in any direction. I’d miss it, the ball would hit me, and my dad would get a bit more frustrated.
“Keep your eye on the ball!” he repeatedly shouted at me.
I tried. That last second little zip of the ball would get me every time.
Looking back on it now, I realize that the ball wasn’t really changing direction. It was the glasses skewing the image. But my little kid brain didn’t understand that.
The ball kept hitting me. My dad kept getting more and more frustrated. I started crying. He yelled at me.
“SO WHAT?! Balls are going to hit you!! SO WHAT?! You don’t CRY every time a Ball HITS you!”
At that point he realized that maybe a softer ball would have been better to start with, so he went and found a softball. It kept hitting me too.
“IT’S A SOFTBALL!! It’s SOFT for Christ’s sake!”
Finally he grabbed a tennis ball. When it too kept hitting me he screamed, “JESUS CHRIST it’s a F@$#ING TENNIS BALL!!” then started bouncing off his forehead to demonstrate it’s softness.
At this point I was crying more because my father was screaming at me. Then he had had enough. He told me to sit there and cry about it, and he stormed off into the house.
And that was pretty much it. He gave up on me and cast all of his athletic aspirations onto my younger brother.
So in my little kid mind, I concluded that to be valued, you have to be good at sports. And since I obviously sucked at sports, I must therefore have little value.
From that point until we got our first computer, my dad showed very little interest in me. I think he resented me. But when we got the computer (and I use the term loosely – it was a Commodore 64) he realized that I had some aptitude for the thing.
Then my young mind realized, “AH-HA! There’s ANOTHER WAY to be Valued!
You can either be good in sports -OR- computers!”
Now, obviously there are plenty of other ways to have value in this world, but I was 11-12 at the time. I was working with what I knew.
So I asked him to get me a modem. He responded with, “Who the hell are you going to use it with? You know it has to connect to another modem over the phone line to work, right?”
I convinced him to let me worry about that.
One War Dialer later and I was connected to every BBS I could dial without it being long-distance.
Ok, so to explain a War Dialer: It’s a computer program named after that one scene in War Games with Matthew Broderick where you see the computer dialing phone numbers in sequential order and logging which ones are answered by a modem.
BBS stands for Bulletin Board System. It was actually a lot like Facebook, except all text, no images, and only one person could connect to it at a time.
It was so much fun; I was running my own board within 6 months. I had found a small community of people who also found personal value through computers. Here I could be bold and outspoken.
But I couldn’t figure out how my computer skills would be useful in school, so there I still felt useless.
SCRAWNY BOY TO BIG MAN
Having low self-esteem in a Middle School environment went about how you’d expect it to go.
I got picked on and bullied daily. I hated school. Even the girls were mean to me.
High School was a little bit better. The guys had gotten over the fun of knocking my books out of my hands then kicking my papers up and down the hallway. Now they were into more psychological abuse. Calling me a fag was almost as popular as pointing out how scrawny I was.
My blood boiled, but I never fought back. I just stood there and took it. Over time I developed a very thick skin, but I still wanted it to stop.
I saw how no one ever messed with the big guys. So I decided I was going to be a big guy. If I were a big guy, then no one would mess with me!
My dad was a big guy, his brothers were too. In fact, my dad had been an amateur bodybuilder when he was younger.
I figured I probably had the genetics within me to get big, so I started hitting the weights.
It turns out, you need to be very clear when making decisions. My decision to get big said nothing about health. It also didn’t define what, “big” meant. My brain heard, “get bigger at all costs.”
I graduated High School in 1990 weighing in at 135. When 2000 rolled around, I had already hit 240.
I had put on a solid hundred plus pounds.
But there was way more fat than there was muscle.
I was tagged in a picture from back then and I couldn’t find myself in it. I was dead center. My face was so fat that I didn’t recognize myself.
I hated having my picture taken. When it couldn’t be avoided, I’d stand there trying to suck in my gut in an effort to look thinner. There are quite a few pics of me looking uncomfortable as a result.
I enjoyed tanning when I was younger, so naturally I liked to go shirtless at the pool. But then I started wearing my shirt in the water after a woman made the “ew, gross” face at me while I was talking to her.
I was embarrassed over how heavy I had gotten, and how quickly!
I already had low self-esteem.
Now I had to deal with obesity too!
I knew I had to do something, so I tried eating healthier. Back then, “healthier” meant low-fat everything.
The Doctors told us, “Fat, BAD!”
So I cut it out of everything. What they didn’t tell us is that fat is a flavor carrier, so no fat = no flavor. As a result, all of the low-or-no-fat products were cramming in more sugar to make up for it.
I did low-fat like that for a while, never seeing anything much less than 235 on the scale.
Other diet fads came and went. I’d lose a little then it back. Always fluctuating in the 230’s.
I kept repeating the same cycle: New diet, yay! Lost 5-10 pounds, yay! This diet sucks, boo! I can’t keep this up! >Quit diet< “I’m a failure!” Shame-eat back all the weight I had just lost.
That pattern continued at least once a year until I got into mindfulness. I picked up a book called, “How to Meditate. ”
I had heard good things about meditation, so I gave it a shot.
Up to then, I believed meditation was sitting there cross-legged with your fingers making OK signs on your knees while thinking about nothing.
It turns out, you really can’t not think.
The purpose of the brain is to have thoughts. Even thinking about not thinking is thinking. You can’t stop your brain from thinking.
But you can decide not to attach to the thoughts. Meditation is accepting that thoughts will occur, but letting them go and saving them for later.
It gives the mind time to relax.
Time to not think about all of the stuff that happened before now.
Time to not think about all of the things that will need to happen later.
Meditation is personal “me time.” Not anyone else’s time. It is exclusively my time.
Meditation is appreciation of the now.
The now that is right now.
The now in which the senses are processed.
You can’t experience the feeling of your heart beating in the past. You can only feel it in the now.
The now is the only thing we truly experience. Everything else is either a memory, or a fantasy.
The now is always now.
The previous words in this sentence are already then.
That’s how now the now is.
My mindfulness practice is the study of my Self.
Not myself, that wasn’t a typo.
I mean my personal Self. Not my parent’s expectations of me. Not anyone else’s expression of me.
My own personal me that is me. Truly me. What does it mean to be me? How does it feel to be me? Who is me? Who am I?
My practice is the study of the answers to those questions.
When I started on the path of exploring Self, it naturally led to the path of Self-Development. When we started doing Yoga, I finally broke into the 220’s.
Yoga was a natural for me. Performing Yoga postures is a form of moving meditation. Instead of allowing thoughts to come then float way, you turn your senses inward, feeling the posture throughout your whole body.
What I really love about Yoga is how my body feels after class. It feels like your body is thanking you. I feel good after going to the gym, but it doesn’t compare to a good Yoga class.
My weight bounced around the 220-point for a while there. It wasn’t until we got into personal coaching and I started to explore the basis for my beliefs that my weight really began to drop.
When I was finally able to break out of that loop of self-loathing, the weight started to slide right off.
It was like losing a layer of me that I no longer needed.
Without taking time to focus on my thoughts, I don’t think I would have broken the cycle. Our mind is a powerful tool. Our conscious and subconscious thoughts can either help or hinder us in whatever we set out to do. If those thoughts are negative and self-loathing, we will continue to hurt ourselves, reliving the pain and suffering of the past. It is not until we break that loop, and change our thought patterns, that we can begin to live in a state abundance. A state of happiness and health.
This profound change in my life has led me to helping others work past their childhood traumas. To help those stuck on the diet yoyo. Lead them out of the suffering so that they too can have the life, health, and body they truly desire.
It all starts with the Self. Self-Care as my better half likes to call it! When we decide we are good enough to live the life we desire. We are not that child filled with hurt and pain. We are strong and when we use our mind to change our thought patterns, we start treating our body with respect and love.
If you have been struggling with weight gain, if you’ve been struggling to live the life you dream about, start with letting go of the negative self-talk. Recognize it when it starts and switch your awareness to your breath. Breathe deeply for 5 minutes. Guess what – you’re meditating! That was the start of my journey to health and happiness!
Want to learn a few more secrets of mine? Schedule a Well-Being 101 call with me and discover 3 simple secrets to move beyond the diet yoyo and get on with living a happy and healthy life of abundance!