The Effect of Weight Loss on My Personality
To make a friend, you have to be a friend. It’s a simple statement isn’t it, almost cliché. But it’s as true today as it was the first time it was uttered. When I think about friendship that is the quote that sticks in my mind closest to the surface. My future wife used to smack me with this quote every time I described myself acting like a jerk to somebody. She didn’t understand why I felt the need to be so doggoned mean to people.
Unfortunately I’m not exaggerating; I used to pride myself on being able to identify the types of comments that would hurt people the most. I would keep them in reserve in case I ever needed them. Yes, I know it’s deranged. It was around this time that I lost my weight. It’s easy to point at it like an event, but it’s really a process. Losing 175 pounds took me roughly a year and half. That year and a half had a profound influence on the way that I look at the world today.
Remember, my starting point was Huge Jerk but over that period of time I transformed into what many people described as a great guy. I can still remember the comments of the friends that I was lucky to have before I lost weight, they were shocked by how different I acted. The change in my personality was even greater than the change in my appearance.
What they didn’t know is that the transformation in how people treated me was just as shocking to me as my change was to them. I remember when people started noticing that I was losing weight. I had lost about 20 pounds at the time and it was starting to show. It’s a funny experience when people start to notice that you’ve lose weight. They start coming up to you and complimenting you. People aren’t shy about it at all. After I had lost somewhere around 40 pounds things got even more unusual. People that I didn’t know by name, people that I had never really seen before would come up and tell me how great I looked. Remember, at this point I was still 390ish pounds, but people couldn’t help themselves. They were effusive in their praise.
When I look back, I think that’s what triggered my change. I hadn’t gotten my life straight with God yet. I didn’t have a girlfriend and I was still huge. But the experience of having multiple people make it a point to compliment me every day was transformational. I have never received so much attention in my life, and this was POSITIVE attention! It’s hard to hold a grudge against people and think mean thoughts towards them when they are all being nice to you.
During this process I was receiving my first real injection of confidence in myself as an adult. The only thing I had any confidence in up until that point was my mind, and I overcompensated in that direction as a result of it. But slowly that was changing. As my body started to look better and with the invariably positive feedback I was receiving there was no longer a strong need to appear to be the smartest person in the room. I was able to break free from misguided defense mechanisms and behaviors step by step as I moved forward.
What came next was probably the most radical part of the change. I started being nice to people. It was gradual at first, but it was real. I think it was a natural reaction to the circumstance. My personal needs were being met. I wasn’t hurting. For the first time in my life I wasn’t hurting. I was happy. You’ve heard the saying that “hurt people hurt people”. I think I was a prime example of the truth of this statement. But I learned that the reciprocal is also true. Happy people make people happy.
Looking back on those days still makes me smile. I was losing so much weight as all of this was happening. I wasn’t just losing weight; I was also transforming my body from a muscular perspective. By the time I got down to 300 pounds I was looking fantastic. I grew to enjoy making people feel good by being nice to them. I loved making pretty girls blush with compliments. A part of me always wondered why I wasn’t angry at them, when I was big they wouldn’t have given me the time of day. But all of that anger just melted away with the fat. I emerged as a new person. A person who realized that the trick was simple, to make a friend I had to be a friend. I also realized something else near the end of the process. All of these people around me hadn’t changed. They were the same as they always were. I was the one that changed. That means that I could have accomplished most of the same things when I was fat if wasn’t so fat headed that I couldn’t see it. Sure life is easier for people who are in shape, but that wasn’t the deciding factor. I was making new friends and loving life because of the change I made in my personality more so than the change I made in my body.
I wanted to dig into why and how friendships are critical in the business world, but I’m afraid I’m not going to get to it tonight. I’ll follow up on it in the next article. Let me leave you by saying this. Right now you are somewhere on the spectrum I described between Huge Jerk and Great Guy/Girl. I hope that you aren’t as bad as I was, but it’s possible. Each of us carries very specific scars and defense mechanisms constructed both consciously and unconsciously as we grow up. It is time to get past them or at least put them to the side. How you are treated right now is not dependent upon your past, it’s dependent upon how you treat people today and tomorrow and every day into the future. Start making the choice to be friendly. Be a friend and make friends of everyone around you. It will be one of the best things you ever do.
Until next time,