Commentary: Growing up husky

I was born chunky. I grew up chunky. The first time my mother took me shopping for school clothes, the salesman took one look, pulled the toothpick from the corner of his mouth, pointed at me, and said, "We better take this guy to the Husky Department."

I've been in the Husky Department ever since. It's who I am. It's who I always will be. Now and forever, whether I diet my way down to 190 or balloon up to 260, I have a fat man's soul.

So when I hear a term like "obesity epidemic" I have trouble staying focused on the big picture--on trends, numbers, behaviors and so forth.

Instead, I see tens of millions of individuals--people like me--some fat, some formerly fat, each consigned by society and that inner sense of self to his-or-her own private Husky Department.

To be fat is to live outside the norms. And while well-meaning people, including obesity epidemiologists, may want you to lose weight, modify your behaviors and change your eating habits--to get out of the Husky Department, if you will--they don't seem to understand you are rooted there.

When you lose weight, you lose part of yourself too. You might feel healthier, but you don't feel right. You're not who you were before, and that little voice within keeps saying, "This isn't really us. We belong over there. Outside the norms. In the Husky Department. C'mon. Let's go."

The callous, the unenlightened and the just plain simple-minded like to think it's all a matter of will power. The sociologists, the actuaries and the scientists talk trends, numbers, genetics and brain chemistries. The dieticians talk food groups and carbohydrates

"Carrot sticks good. Donuts bad."

But maybe, just maybe, the solution to the epidemic is to be found in the Husky Department--in the part of yourself that's still there. The part you dieted exercised and "behavior modified" away, and the strong, steady urge--call it a compulsion--to go back and reunite with it. To reunite with you.