I sit here writing this, finding it hard to type as my hands are shaking. I don’t know why. It’s not as if the essence of what I’m about to convey is a secret—most of you likely already know, having seen me over the last ten years in various states.
However, part of me is more broken than any of you probably imagine. This part is largely unknown to anyone except my family, and even they, most certainly, only have a throttled understanding. I am continually overwhelmed with guilt and shame. Thoughts filled with self-loathing likely comprise more than half of my prayers. I wrestle with God about this, and my hip has been displaced for years. Still, I don’t submit.
The core of my battle lies in my being fat.
I realize it may not be politically correct to phrase it this way, but I take liberty since it involves me, and I want you to understand the nuances of my internal dialogue.
I weigh over 300 pounds. There, I said it. In the past 15 years, I’ve gained well over 100 pounds. To be precise, the last time I weighed myself, I was at 332 pounds. To some, being over 332 pounds might not seem significant, but to me, it is! Here’s why:
I’m not agoraphobic, but aside from visiting a few familiar public places, I haven’t been out in public for three years. I’m reluctant to let anyone who knew me before see what I’ve become unless I can control the environment. It’s difficult to reveal this transformation, but it’s time to open this casket.
Let me backtrack a bit…
I Don’t Fear Change
I understand that we all age, undergoing changes that may not be aesthetically pleasing. Wrinkles appear, bags form under our eyes, and our hair starts to grey. This is a natural progression, and it’s not what I fear. In fact, I would often tell my wife, even as she plucked grey hairs from the sides of my head, that I looked forward to appearing older—and presumably wiser—as a preacher. My fear of aging is no more intense than the average person’s.
“I’m Too Fat to Do Your Mother’s Funeral”
Due to my weight, I avoid public situations intensely, akin to avoiding the plague. To illustrate this personal predicament, let me share a recent, particularly shameful experience, one that even my wife is unaware of.
A few months ago, my wife, Kristie, lost her mother. Those who know Kristie understand how devastating this was for her. The death of a family member was her greatest fear, far exceeding any other. It’s a common fear, but for Kristie, it was magnified, deeply ingrained. I deeply care for her and wish to alleviate her pain and comfort her in her darkest times. However, as her mother’s passing became imminent, my predominant fear was for myself. I dreaded being seen at the funeral, reluctant for family members I hadn’t seen in years to witness my transformation. It was painfully self-centered—my thoughts fixated on myself when they should have been solely on Kristie and her family.
When the inevitable occurred, Kristie was shattered, and as I held her, my mind was clouded with the thought, “Now, I have to attend the funeral.” Then, my utmost fear materialized—her father, Frank, requested me to conduct the funeral. The terror of facing others and revealing my current self was overwhelming. The sheer shame of my selfishness and pride haunts me, and I deeply regret that my thoughts were not entirely with them in those heartbreaking moments. I extend my sincerest apologies to Frank and Kristie.
Illustrations of My Shame: “I Miss My Dad”
This is my reality in every situation. I predominantly stay at home, avoiding interaction. When a friend needed shelter, despite my financial constraints, I arranged for his stay in a low-cost, unsafe motel to prevent him from witnessing my transformation. Dining out is a rarity, as the prospect of fitting into a booth is daunting, and I don’t want my struggles to be visible, even to my wife. It’s been a decade since anyone, even Kristie, has seen me without a shirt. When my son Zach turned 16, the prospect of teaching him to drive was overshadowed by the embarrassment of barely buckling the seatbelt around my waist. My daughter, Katelynn, expressed her longing for the active, involved dad I once was, her words, “I miss my dad…” echoing in my heart and emphasizing the necessity of expressing my feelings.
These instances are glimpses into my ongoing struggle, reflective of my perceived failures and shortcomings.
Big and Tall
One primary factor keeping me from appearing in public is the persistent issue of ill-fitting clothes. Squeezing into a 3X t-shirt is a feat in itself, though I acknowledge it isn’t considered extremely large, given that Big and Tall stores offer even larger sizes. However, the challenge isn’t solely the size; it seems no article of clothing sits right on my frame. Elevating my pants above my protruding belly is a futile effort, yielding little success.
To avoid unwanted exposure, I find myself obliged to opt for extra-long T-shirts (which are difficult to find). Compounding the issue, it appears none of the weight gain has made its way to my butt. This lack of butt-support results in my pants perpetually sliding off my love handles, leaving them to linger embarrassingly around my mid-butt region. These clothing woes make public appearances a source of significant distress and embarrassment.
My True Fear: Perception Then and Now
I am not saying it is a sin to be overweight. That is not the subject. I am not even saying that 300 pounds is that much. I know a lot of people are overweight. It is hard to define my anxiety. But it comes from fear of perception—the perception of who I was compared to who I am now and what must have transpired to get me here.
“There Goes the Good-Year Blimp”
Let me give you a little history.
When I was 8 years old, I was overweight. I wasn’t this overweight, but proportionally I was. It affected me a great deal. I come from a family that was perceived as beautiful. I hope this doesn’t come across wrong. I don’t mean to sound, in any sense, arrogant. But my sisters were all knock-outs. All three of them! They had guys chasing them everywhere they went. My dad was a doppelganger for Tom Selek. He even drove a 308 GTS Ferrari! Every man on the block stared at my mom. She was stunningly gorgeous. They all had personalities to boot!
And then there was me, the odd man out. Once people would find out I was a Patton, they would always say, without fail, “What happened to you?” or “Were you adopted?”
When I was in 7th grade, I dropped off a note to one of my teachers while he was in class. While I left, he whispered to the class, “There goes the Good-Year blimp.” Everyone laughed. I found out later what they were laughing about.
I was the friend without a girlfriend, deemed “the humorous one,” while my sisters were reluctant to acknowledge our relationship. Tears were frequent, and prayers for transformation were fervent during those years—a period that imprinted on me more deeply than I realized.
Finally a Patton
Finally, when I turned 13, I decided I would no longer accept the nickname “Fat Pat” or be termed the “adopted” Patton. Through growing tall and working out, I lost the weight very quickly. No one ever questioned whether I truly was a Patton.
By the time I was 21, I was fit, even working as a fitness trainer. My heart went out to those who were overweight. I initiated “Shape Fitness,” driven by understanding and empathy. I knew the hurt of being looked at and being asked, “What happened to you?” When I trained people, I gravitated towards those who may have faced ridicule due to their weight. I believed God allowed me to experience that as a kid so I could help others in similar situations (2 Cor. 1:4). I was content, especially since I thought there was no way I was ever going to be overweight again.
I married the most beautiful girl I had ever seen, stunning inside and out. But now, I have a new situation. Not only am I back to feeling like I’m twelve years old, but I also appear as a charity case for my wife when we go out. I feel for her.
“What Happened to You… Again?”
Around the age of 38 or 39, I experienced a significant change; I started to gain weight. It wasn’t just a few pounds that slightly altered one’s definition, but substantial weight leading to stretch marks. My weight had escalated from under 200 pounds to over 400 pounds. “What happened to you?” once again became my prevailing fear. It’s not predominantly about preserving my looks; I believe there’s more to it. It’s about the transformation from who I was to who I am now and, more importantly, what I perceive it signifies to others about my character.
What Others Think Defines You
There is a saying I encountered some time ago that has lingered in my mind and resonates with my current circumstance: “You are not what you are. You are what you think other people think you are.” Please, ponder over this once more. It underscores the erroneous manner in which we perceive ourselves. Our self-perception is not grounded in our true selves but in what we conjecture others think of us. When I encounter someone in public, especially after a significant lapse of time, their gazes seem steeped in astonishment. “What happened to you?” That’s the silent inquiry their expressions betray. I am certain of this as I find myself reacting similarly towards others who have undergone noticeable transformations.
“Poor Guy: He Must Be Depressed”
But it is their deeper, more profound thoughts that keep me at bay. I fear people say in their minds, “Oh, poor guy. He must have gone through massive depression due to the troubles that happened in the Patton family.” Or, “Well, I remember he was “Fat Pat” when he was young, so why should I be surprised that he became “Fat Pat” again?” Or, “Isn’t that the guy who used to train people to lose weight?” Or, “That can’t be the same guy I saw on those videos teaching people to follow God, can it? Would God want him to eat himself to a heart attack?”
Why Did I Get Fat?
The problem is not necessarily what they think. That is not what I am trying to get people to do right now: change the way you think when you see someone has become overweight, lost all their hair, gotten old, or whatever. It is only natural for people to try to figure out what happened to others. We are, by nature, concerned and curious. After all, no one is going to come out and ask, “Why did you get fat?” That would be rude and people are nicer than that. The assumptions they have about why I gained weight may be right. I really don’t know. So let’s briefly get this question out of the way. Why did I get fat?
Probably Because I Was Depressed
The short answer is: I don’t know. I really don’t. Maybe the tragic events that happened to the Patton family caused depression and anxiety. And maybe that caused some kind of chemical problem or hormonal thing. That seems reasonable to me. Or maybe people just revert back to their former selves. If you were fat when you were young, you will eventually be fat when you are older. Or maybe I just suddenly began to eat too much and exercise too little.
My weight controls everything. When you don’t want anyone to see you, you have a very limited social life, not to mention ministry. When you have no clothes that will stay up or will eventually flash your butt to others, what are your options? I don’t want to scare any children or make anyone have to go through the process of trying to be courteous and hold in their laughter.
Why I Don’t Accept Speaking Engagements
Why does it have to be so hard? I have been trying to lose this weight ever since I started gaining. I have read book after book on why we get fat. I have learned everything I can about this subject. I could teach a course on what the current understanding is of obesity and how to overcome it. I have been on every diet there is in the book. Eventually, I will figure it out or die trying. But being overweight is not the issue right now. The issue is how much it controls me when it should not. The issue is that I am completely controlled by what other people think of me. I am a Christian theologian who is supposed to know a lot and help people through their problems. Yet I sit at home all day, avoiding friends, family, and people at church just because I don’t like what they will think about me. I don’t accept teaching engagements because I am scared I won’t fit in the airplane seat and afraid they won’t recognize me when they pick me up from the airport (yes, that has happened).
My Prayer for the Last 6 Years
“Lord, please help me to lose this weight. But if you are not going to do this, why can’t you help me learn what you want me to learn in my current situation? If I am not going to be able to lose the weight, at least give me the strength and courage to live with it!!! Help me not to care what anyone thinks of me in this area. It is not about me. It is about You. Let them see my faith in You, not my timidity in myself.”
That is the essence of my prayer I have prayed a thousand times. This is the advice I would give to anyone in a similar situation. My hypocrisy is why I write this blog post. Not to admit I am fat and I hate being seen. But to admit I can’t even follow the Lord in this most basic way and put the Lord above the shame of myself. When I preach or teach, it is not about me. If I gained 500 pounds or set the world record for being overweight, what matters is who I am inside. And who I am inside right now is obviously not too great.
Pray for Me
Maybe this is part of the process. Maybe this is a good step. It is certainly a difficult step. I love the Lord and my aspirations go much further than this pride that you see represented here. I am not even close to letting up on my will to get in shape. I need to because it is right to be as healthy as one can. I don’t want to let myself go. Though my wife has been so kind and supportive of me, and my kids and sisters could not love me any less, I need to do this for them. I hope I change. Even if it is some divine miracle that I am staying fat (which I do not believe it is), I aspire to have my confidence be placed in who I am in the Lord and what He can do through me in spite of my weight and for that to be my first thought in everything. I see how prideful I am. I hate it. But I cannot stop trying to lose weight.
My Current Recent Progress
I have started a YouTube channel hoping that it will motivate me to not give up. I think I want you to subscribe to it. I suspect that if I acquire around 100 subscribers or so, I’ll feel more compelled to overcome moments of weakness. I inaugurated it a few months ago but haven’t been very active lately. I refrained from sharing it due to the perceived obligation it would impose. It’s somewhat ironic, as you’ll observe if you visit.
This year, I began using a CPAP machine, which has significantly helped, as I have lost nearly 100 pounds quickly (I had reached 420!). I had hopes that it would facilitate the shedding of all the excess weight, but it appears the remainder will require more rigorous effort.
Thank you for reading, and, albeit selfishly, I ask for your prayers that God guides me to transform into the person He envisions. I’m far from reaching that state.