The Whale; The perfect example of my living hell.


This year, Andrea and I managed to watch almost all of the Academy Award Nominated movies. There was one movie that I really didn’t know how I would feel about when I watched it, and that was The Whale. I knew that I was excited to watch it because of Brendan Fraser, having heard that he was absolutely amazing in it. But I was also nervous to watch it because of the subject matter.

For those who don’t know, this movie focuses on someone who is a recluse. He is extremely obese and struggles to live out his daily life, having difficulty standing, walking, showering, bathing, etc. Many things that most people just take for granted. He works from home and never shows himself on camera. He only interacts with a select few people in person.

I want you to know two things up front about my feelings for this movie.

I loved it, and I hated it.

It is a remarkable movie in that it captured a lot of the emotions I have felt in my life from before I lost 250+ pounds, to even now with some of the emotions I still have regarding my weight and my body.

This movie portrays a life I once lived. I was over 500 pounds, I rarely saw people or friends much of my days, and honestly I had a difficult time standing up, walking, exercise of any kind, and even laying down or rolling over in bed was troublesome and took way more effort than it should have. People always told me phrases like “you carry the weight well”. Well I certainly did carry it, but those platitudes only served to remind me that people were constantly evaluating my body, as if I needed reminders.

Every single time I sat down in any chair, I needed to perform a structural analysis of it to make sure that I could sit on it without breaking it entirely. I have definitely broken many chairs in my lifetime just from sitting gingerly upon it for a short time, even while trying to hold most of my weight on my legs instead of the chair itself. I was never comfortable, I could never relax, and I most definitely could never plop myself down anywhere – that would easily be asking for trouble.

I have even broken a solid wood picnic table before. Just my fat self and I trying to read a book and have a pleasant conversation with someone nearby. Suddenly the whole thing collapsing under my weight and I am forced to live out the sheer embarrassment of that moment.

In the movie, this is his reality too, and I feel it. I feel every last bit of it.

I am glad I don’t live that too often anymore, as I have lost a lot of weight and am able to sit down without too much thought of the structure and material of the seat beneath me.

But there’s something he lives out during this movie that I still deal with every single day of my life.

The mental aspect.

I am still fat, I know I am. I work out regularly. I do cardio, weight training, weekly barre class, count my calories (except on weekends) and honestly I feel like I am in the best physical shape of my life. I still get winded as I certainly am not in “good” shape. But I have more muscle than I ever did. I recover faster, I tackle harder things, and I see my shape changing slowly as more fat turns into muscle (ever so excruciatingly slowly).

But I am still fat, and people still stare at me. I see it every time I go anywhere. I see people analyze my body and they always stare at the same places. I see it every day I am in public around strangers. They always stare, and I always feel horrible about myself. They don’t know what I used to look like, they don’t know that I exercise regularly at the gym 3-4 days a week. They don’t see my life. But they do see my fat.

Another thing that I experience that is mental and honestly so much worse is the sheer desire to eat, and overeat. In the movie, he eats an extreme amount of food on a regular day, which I have been known to do in the past (thankfully the stomach has indeed shrunk along with my body and it’s physically impossible for me to eat what I used to….I often now share a meal at a restaurant with my wife and it’s more than enough.

But one day, in one moment, he reaches a very stressful point where he binge eats. He eats everything he can find, it’s a sudden compulsion to drown out the feelings, the stress, and the voices in his head. It’s a shocking scene to anyone, I’m sure. It probably draws out feelings of disgust or revulsion from many watchers, causing others to feel incredibly unsettled.

Well guess what? That feeling that he experiences? I feel that all the time. It’s not weird to me. It’s how I live. I see food and I want all of it. The desire to eat everything in my cupboard or fridge fills my mind every time I open the door. I see it all; I want it all. My mind wants to start eating and never stop. I don’t just want a handful of chips, I want the bag. I don’t want one chocolate. I want the package. When I have had a fulfilling decent portion size meal and take my dishes to the sink, I want to stand there over the pot and eat the leftovers. All of them, even if I am full.

It takes an incredible amount of willpower NOT to do this. My willpower used to break all the time when I was bigger and constantly binge eat at the slightest feeling of discomfort, sadness, stress, etc. At this point, it almost never happens and when it does, it’s controlled (Like I will plan to eat a bag of chips and not feel bad about it once in awhile), but the feeling….

The feeling of wanting to binge eat never ever goes away for me.

That binge-eating scene destroyed me inside. I cried and was repeating “I hate this movie, I hate this movie” out loud to my wife. But I don’t. I just hated seeing the physical representation of my mind being acted out right in front of me. It’s not pretty. It’s horrifying, and that’s what it looks like inside my brain in those moments.

I am so proud of my weight loss, to have changed my life and the way I approach food, and the willpower I have to control myself and continue to make an effort to exercise and workout regularly. I’ve even had my doctor tell me throughout my recent infertility experience that according to every extensive test that’s been done on me, I am actually in excellent health.

But those moments, the hard mental moments surrounding weight and fat, food, calories, stress, etc etc. Those will never go away and I will have to live with them forever. I have even experienced the complete opposite. When I controlled everything so much so that I obsessed over only eating a certain number of calories in a day and became unhealthy in the opposite direction, losing too much weight for my body type, looking gaunt and boney in places, and my mental health was a complete wreck.

Watch The Whale. There’s a reason he won Best Actor for this role. It’s real.

Welcome to my life and my personal hell. Welcome to obesity. It’s a disease that never stops.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Tracey says:

    Thanks for sharing this Nigel. I haven’t seen the movie yet but the way in which you describe your mental battle – I’m feel it. I feel the same. I’ve learnt that there are some things I just simply can’t buy at the grocery store because they’ll be gone the same day. The struggle is real and makes taking that first step an even greater achievement!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nigel says:

      So very true. I have done the same – cutting things out is easier when they just aren’t in the house.

      Some days we may fail, but as long as those days are in the minority, we’ll be alright.


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