Looking through the 4-H Record Book I compiled from 1977-1986 left me with two conclusions about me as a teenager:
- Man, my cursive handwriting used to be really good. I don’t know what the heck has happened to it over the past 35 years, but those teachers at Williamson Elementary School did a fine job of teaching it. They are not to blame for the scrawl I use today.
- Look at how skinny I was as a 16-year-old.
I don’t remember seeing myself that way at the time, which may only illustrate that at least some boys are susceptible to a negative self-image. This isn’t just a problem for girls.
According to the Google research I did before writing this, girls are three times more likely than boys to struggle with a negative image of themselves. But I also read that 45 percent of Western men are unhappy with their bodies.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve never been happy with mine. As a kid, I worried about being fat. But that’s not a fat kid I see in that photo — especially compared to some of the overweight kids I see today.
And that’s a topic that worries me. I sat recently in a public place — somewhere where it really wasn’t appropriate to eat — and watched two extremely heavy children snacking on potato chips under the watchful eye of their parents, who were also large. In a way, it broke my heart because what kind of chance do those children have?
I grew up in a farm household where we ate three daily home-cooked meals — meat and produce we raised, milk we bought from a neighbor. We hardly ever ate fast food or drank soft drinks. And yet, just a few years after this photo was taken, my struggle with weight really began. It continues to this day.
In the past, I’ve lost lots of weight only to eventually regain it. Just as I would turn a corner, I would move or something else would change and I’d fall back on old bad habits.
But as I think about it, there is much in my life that is good — better than ever, in fact. I have the home life I’ve always wanted and a real reason to want to live for a very long time. Most of the debt I’ve dragged around for years I have nearly repaid. I am wealthy with good friends. Who those friends are has become very clear in the past few years.
But I’d really like to see how that skinny 16-year-old who thought he was fat was supposed to look after he grew up. I guess there’s no time like right now to start looking for him. Along the way, maybe I can also improve my penmanship.