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SocietyNovember 11, 2018

How a joke tweet about wrestling changed my life

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The first in a series for The Spinoff, Mike Kilpatrick shares how his weight loss journey began with a single tweet. 

Only an idiot would use some off-handed Twitter comments as a signal to transform their life. Only an idiot would decide to try and become a wrestler at nearly 43-years-old while being massively overweight and ridiculously unfit. Only an idiot would think telling the entire world the gory details was a great idea.

That idiot is me.

This series is about how I lost over 50kgs and counting, all while taking tentative steps towards fulfilling a dream of being smashed from post to post in the wrestling ring. What it’s not is a manifesto, nor an attempt to persuade or shame anyone else into making changes in their lives.

Tired after a walk at around 145kgs

The truth is I was always unhappy with my size and weight, in part because of those horrible societal blights of fat and body shaming that tends to dehumanise those who are overweight. That’s why I want to be very careful with how I tell this story – I don’t want to play any part in furthering those stigmas.

But I was hurting, mentally and physically. From the pain in my ankles and knees, the calf-strains, the red-hot strikes in my left arm when I turned my head, the deep throbbing in my back after a few minutes on my feet. I needed to change not because society was telling me to, but because I felt awful that I couldn’t do the things I wanted to do without suffering.

And yet, somehow, I still lacked the motivation to do anything about it.

What wasn’t clear when I woke up on August 22nd 2017 and lumbered achingly out of my bed, however, was just how important a single moment later that morning would become. And not just any moment, but a tongue-in-cheek tweet designed to elicit some laughs at my expense.

I weighed in around 144kgs that day, not quite the heaviest I’d ever been but getting close to it again. I was as far from being a wrestler as possible – the only thing less likely was me writing that novel I’ve been promising for a decade.

A year on, it’s hard to believe just how different things are. Not with the novel, of course. It’s still hanging out in the dark recesses of my mind waiting for my fingers to catch up, but I do have a (slightly) better chance of turning my wrestling dreams into reality.

All I needed, apparently, were those people who took just a few seconds out of their day to reply to my tweet with words of encouragement instead of falling into my trap of cheap laughs.

Asking ‘why not?’ instead of ‘why?’ gave me a jolt and I vowed to make the changes necessary to my life, to give myself the very best chance of doing what I’d always wanted to do. Which apparently meant wrestling. In a ring. For real. And probably getting hurt.

I genuinely hadn’t realised it until that moment, at least not with any clarity. I’d always been a wrestling fan but never to my recollection had considered in-ring action. Because of my size, when I dreamed about wrestling I was a commentator or writer. But this felt right, like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle automatically aligning and fitting together, a complete picture emerging out of chaos.

Me, getting my all-time hero Jimmy Buffett to sign my tattoo so I can get it permanently inked on my skin. I love this photo because I wanted to meet him for 35 years, but also hate how I look.

That didn’t stop me immediately going down to the dairy underneath my work, picking up a sausage roll and pie, a packet of Prawn Cocktail crisps and a king-size Crunchie for lunch, though. One for the road! If I was going to change then I needed a final shot of the shit that helped get me where I was.

And, to the dairy owner’s undoubted disappointment, so it has proved. No longer do his eyes light up when I walk into his shop at lunchtime, my diet of costly trans-fat treats swapped for an occasional sugar-free soda. I hope he’s the only one not overly keen on my transformation.

Of course it’s not always easy. There’s a long way to go and plenty of moments of self-doubt – it’s worth noting I’m the only one who’s ever described my goal to wrestle in negative ways, like bat-shit crazy, everyone else has been ridiculously supportive.

And my now 44-year-old body has definitely taken umbrage at the idea that it should suddenly support a dramatic change in lifestyle after years of neglect, but we’re slowly coming to an understanding.

More on that next time, though, when I can take you through the joys of changing toilet habits, what happens when your routine gets all screwed up and what happens when you tell actual wrestlers you want to do what they do.

Now, if you’ll excuse me I’m off to figure out why the wrestling character I hope to portray, Irn Bruce, is so pissed off with the world that he wants to make everyone suffer. I shouldn’t have to look too far for inspiration – just before August 22nd last year should do…

Keep going!