Best Self Magazine

Against All Odds: A Story of Triumph, Perseverance, Healing and Service

Against All Odds: A Story of Triumph, Perseverance, Healing and Service by Shawn Wells. Photograph of a man with a shadow by Rene Bohmer
Photograph by Rene Bohmer

Once overweight and bullied, a Keto, fitness and supplement expert shares his journey of slaying emotional roadblocks and thriving

Growing up in the small town of Lenox, Massachusetts, I lived in a single-income home, was the son of an enlisted Navy father, and felt like I was often on the outside looking in on the wealthy and beautiful elite. You see, Lenox was a suburban tourist destination in the Berkshires that wealthy New Yorkers would visit to listen to the symphony at Tanglewood, watch plays at BPAC (Berkshire Performing Arts Center), hike at Canyon Ranch, and eat dessert at Cheesecake Charlies. Lenox had an air of affluence… heck, our school name was even pretentious—the ‘Lenox Millionaires,’ and I kid you not, the Monopoly guy was the mascot. 

To make matters worse, I was always the ‘fat kid’.

I was pretty smart, but when it came to sports in gym class and at recess, I was usually picked last. Girls never passed me letters, exchanged looks with me, or whispered to other girls about asking me out; nope, they would whisper the types of things to each other that made them laugh. And, of course, the popular boys would join in. 

I remember waiting at the school bus stop, dreading what the day would bring and the cruel things they would say… ‘Fat ass,’ ‘You fat fuck,’ Sit down fat ass’.

Even teachers would point out my weight and laugh — encouraging, if not instigating the bullying.  

I felt ugly. I struggled to find any self-worth. I was not the alpha male like Glenn Hoff, who was exceptionally good at every sport. I was not the boy the girls were hoping to ask them to dance or to the movies — that was Ryan Thomas, the tall, handsome soccer star and salutatorian.  

One thing I had going for me was that I was funny. Maybe that was my way of coping and deflecting the bullying. I got good at making people laugh, but there was a cost: my means of humor was always self-deprecating. Learning to make fun of myself — before others could was — my way of surviving, and in a strange way, connecting.

Medication of Choice: Junk Food

Deep down, I lived with pain. I didn’t take drugs, watch porn, or drink alcohol to soothe the aching. Instead, just a kid trying to make it in the 80’s,

I self-medicated with soda, candy, chips, junk food, and video games.

You guessed it, this only made my struggles with my obesity worse, and any short-term relief was fleeting, as it compounded the depression.  

Photograph of Shawn as a child
Shawn in his youth

On top of that, I had acne. And when I say I struggled with my weight, let me make something clear: I wasn’t just fat, I had a large rear end —fat ass, as they called me. Scientifically, it’s known as a ‘gynoid fat distribution,’ a ‘pear’ shape that’s more common among females than males. But that was me. Skinny up top, disproportionately fat in the butt and legs — so much so, in fact, that my legs would rub together. And the short shorts they gave me for gym class… well, they took the laughing from snickers to uproariously hilarity. 

I also lived in a chaotic, broken home — my two older brothers ran away in their early teens. I needed my big brothers, but I struggled on… alone. Somehow, I managed to earn good grades — despite little confidence, crappy nutrition, and relentless bullying. 

Fast forward to 1994, where

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