My Fat Picture Hit the Front Page of Reddit

and it almost ruined me…

It was my first time back at the gym in years. Saying I had let myself go would be a massive understatement. heh…massive. I walked into the gym a hot mess… 430 pounds of hot, sweaty, disgusting mess.

I had finally gotten to a good place in my life mentally. I was killing it with my new career (a budding professional Stay at Home Dad), my blogging star was on the rise, and my wife and I were in a very good place. The missing ingredient of course was my weight. That old thing.

I’ve struggled with self image problems and weight problems since middle school. I still remember the first time someone pointed me out loudly in front of the entire school bus line. “LOOK AT HOW MUCH WEIGHT JUSTIN GAINED THIS SUMMER!!! HAHAHAHAHAHA.” It’s funny how moments like this have a way of sticking in your head forever.

One of my most annoying features is how introspective I can be. I can turn a simple photo into a flood of overthought words and emotions. So on this day in the gym I did a set on the pec fly machine and then caught my reflection in the mirror. There I was. Fat, ugly, sweaty, gross. All of the ingredients for a great before picture. I snapped it. It looked something like this:

I immediately posted this photo with a long caption about how I was going to slay this and a year from now you wouldn’t even recognize me. A bunch of sentimental blog speak to get people to praise me.

The next morning I woke up to my phone going crazy. When I say crazy what I really mean is buzzing every 2 seconds to the point where you have to shut it off.

Let’s pull back from this story for a moment. If you have never gone viral there are a few things you need to realize about it:

  1. Your phone basically explodes with notifications.
  2. You can’t control it.
  3. It’s addicting.
  4. You read every single comment. every single one.

5. It brings a wave of emotions and you are never ready to handle them all.

6. Everyone has an opinion…and they share it.

(there are probably more things but this is getting boring so let’s move on)

I had no idea what was happening but I got a text from a friend and the words in it blew me away “DUDE YOU’RE ON THE FRONT PAGE OF IMGUR AND REDDIT!!!!!”

I’m not sure if you’re aware but making the front page of reddit is a pretty big deal. It wasn’t long before all the huge weight lifting Facebook pages started picking it up. UNILAD, Gym memes, the entire community began lifting my picture and posting it. To date it has been seen almost 5 million times and has gone viral again on a few occasions through the last couple of years.

At first it was exciting. I mean who doesn’t want to go viral? But slowly as the comments poured in it started to chip away at me.

“This guy hasn’t even done anything yet and we are celebrating him?”
“The chances of him losing weight are very slim. He will always be fat”
“WHAT IS HE DOING SITTING AT A MACHINE? HE SHOULD BE DOING FREE WEIGHTS!”

and on and on and on.

Then it it hit me… My fat picture was on display for the world. Everyone knows my story now. They are looking at me, judging me, talking about me. It was a very isolating and alone feeling.

As my fat picture circulated the web I began getting follows on instagram. Over 2k new followers in the first day. Many of them excited to see my journey, craving my next fitness post. I had thousands of people in my corner.

But then something changed. People began to share their opinions with me. They started to tell me when I was doing things wrong, correcting my form, telling me what to eat, what supplements to take, and what clothes to wear. Brands wanted a piece of me. My gym lifted my photo and used it in a marketing campaign without my permission. A clothing company wanted to dress me. It was too much.

It made me fall back into the shadows. When I didn’t post about fitness I got ridiculed and told to get back into the gym. A pic of my kids would lose 40 followers. If I talked about food people treated me like I was falling off the rails. Slowly and surely it drove my anxiety up and my drive for losing the weight down. I just wanted to hide.

I walked away from the gym shortly after because I began associating it with my new found anxiety and a selection of other self-image problems that comes from having your fat self plastered across the internet.

This is where my holding pattern began. I just stayed fat. I didn’t gain, but I didn’t lose. I sat in my house and cut my friends off. It started having major affects on my relationships and I wanted to do anything but go out in public.

It’s funny that when we post things on social media we always kind of want them to take off. It’s even funnier how we are so surprised when the world is actually watching and it does.

It is now a couple of years later. I am still 400lbs but I am in a much better place mentally. I was recently thrown into a life restart and I decided that part of this new journey would be finally tackling my weight. This time it won’t be public. I had every good intention but I just couldn't handle the attention and advice from the random people watching.

The difference this time is that my intentions are not for social media clout or for anyone else but me and my kids. I want to be there when my kids get married. I want to shake their hands when they walk across the stage and get their diploma. I want to travel. I want to fit in the airplane seat. I don’t want to get “OH MY GOD IS HE GOING TO BE SITTING BESIDE ME?” stares in the terminal. I want to fit on rides. I want to not be stared at. I want to not have people look at my stomach. I want to be able to order an ice cream and not have people judge. I want to wake up and not be in pain. I want to be able to play outside. I want to take my kids hiking. I want to be alive.

Just. Be. Alive.

Right now in my personal life I am going through the hardest life moment I have ever gone through and the largest obstacle that is holding me back from moving on is my weight. It’s time. I’m ready for it to stop holding me back.. one day at a time. Just not in front of 5 million strangers.