Fat. Overweight. Morbidly obese. Those were just a few ways to describe me as I walked into my first undergraduate class at the University at Buffalo.
It's not as though these thoughts did not pass through my own head as I walked into that first strange room. There were kids I had never seen that I was already making assumptions about based on their looks. Based on how I looked, I would not blame them if they wanted to hide anything moderately edible from my sight. I stood under 6 feet and weighed 325 pounds.
That first semester I was fairly successful with my studies, but I was becoming a bit depressed. My dorm room had four mirrors in it, some placed strategically by my roommate from Albany so he could get a better look at how pleasing his figure was to himself. Occasionally catching a glance at myself in those mirrors only gave me a strategic look at the vast expanse of my backside, and come to think of it, my front side, too.
The depression of being myself soon began to be a bit of a nuisance. I did not look forward to going shopping for clothes. A T-shirt accompanied my swim trunks. I never felt like a part of the presentable human community, and my mother sensed that. Yes, I suppose a mother always knows.
One December morning after returning from school, I was eating my third bowl of cereal when my mother suggested a radical diet -- even more radical than Jared and his Subway diet. Following this diet meant I would have to endure an extended period of chicken wings, cheese-covered scrambled eggs and thick, juicy steaks.
That's right. Dr. Atkins saved me. It began as a New Year's resolution. Over the first month I lost 20 pounds, and the next I shed another 15. For the first time since high school, I was 290 pounds, but I did not want to stop there. My goal was 165. I wanted to be slim and trim.
The next four months were filled with the Atkins-friendly foods and a newfound love: exercise. At first, the 20 minutes on the elliptical machine were nothing but a sweaty hell, but then a funny thing happened. As I was losing weight, I was having better workouts. In a sweaty T-shirt I felt like an Adonis.
I soon began to grow tired of having chicken wings for dinner five nights a week. The thought was pure heresy for a lifelong Western New Yorker, but I believe everyone has limits.
My diet turned from deep-fried meats to veggie burgers and wheat bread. Working out became a part of my daily routine. Each and every day I would take my iPod crammed with every Beatles song known to man and sweat to the oldies. I could have easily changed my mailing address to the Southtowns YMCA.
A year and a half after listening to my mother and making that daunting New Year's resolution, I had reached my goal of 165 pounds. After losing nearly half my body weight, I was able to look back at pictures and realize I had achieved the goal of a lifetime.
The morning I stepped on the bathroom scale and saw I had reached my goal weight, there wasn't a burst of confetti and a check for a million dollars, like reality television would have the world believe. But there was a mirror -- a mirror strategically placed to show me what I had achieved.
Through hard work and persistence, I became exactly what I wanted to be: Someone I was comfortable being with for the rest of my life.