I’m Brian Trainor.
I was born and raised in Saskatoon and I’m 60 years old. I was a Policeman for 27 years in Saskatoon and I retired at the age of 49 to start speaking across Canada on preventing people from being abused. I started off with seniors; scams and frauds that targeted seniors, and power of attorney abuse. But I also wrote and drew a comic book back in 2000. I’m an artist, a cartoonist, and it’s about bullying … I decided to retire [from police work] after 27 years, and I started doing that across Canada, speaking to schools, doing 30 1-hour talks a month. It’s also spun off now into obesity. In August of last year I went to an Obesity Action Committee conference … It was in Washington, D.C., and I just wanted to see what it was about. And it was about advocacy and how this group is working hard in the States to prevent fat-shaming and it just struck a chord.
How do you perceive your body?
I view my body as obese. Fat Brian lives [in my mind]. Even though I am now slim - down 170 pounds, at a normal weight and BMI - I view it as though my obesity is in remission. It’s not cured. I still struggle with carbohydrates, I’m a sugar addict - Coke slurpees look out! So that’s my view. I still see myself as fat, I still am critical of lumps and bumps and stuff even though I know it’s loose skin. It’s just that after 57 years of living in an obese body, it’s hard to wrap your head around [the idea] that you’re normal. But having said that, I know society treats me differently now. Back when I was 354 pounds, in uniform, you walk into a restaurant and people would be looking at you and pointing at you, you get snickers. You go to a call and some drunk would call you a fat pig ... And now I’m getting “oh, you look fantastic!” and I’m getting predominantly women looking at me and smiling and my thought is – it annoys me. “Where were you when I was 354 [pounds]? You wouldn’t give me the time of day, and all of a sudden you’re giving me these looks? Bugger off.” So that’s what I’m wrestling with right now.
How were topics of self-image and weight discussed when you were growing up?
I had a Ukrainian mother. Her form of making us feel better was to bake us cookies. So food was kind of given as a reward, or calming or as a soother. That happened all my life. And so I came to associate food with comfort and love. I’ve come up with a saying now that kind of describes what that was; I didn’t get to be obese because I loved food, I was looking for food to love me. That’s kind of where my head was – and probably still is to some extent. I’ve gotten into mindfulness and meditation. I’ve gotten into running, I run 10K a day now, and that’s my form of meditation. I can do an inventory of myself, I can think outside the box, I can think of what’s going on around me. It’s an hour of mental bulletin-boarding.
How do you deal with discrimination and weight bias?
I learned to have a sharp tongue, a quick wit. And sarcasm was my weapon of choice. To this day I have to reign myself in, because I’m very quick at reading people and pushing their buttons if I want to. Mindfulness has taught me to listen twice as hard as I talk. God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason. So, I have to sit back and say to myself: “What’s their issue, why are the coming at me this way?” And then I’m able to step back.
That kind of incident happened throughout most of my career and also within the Police Department. You’re talking about a quasi-military, machismo-driven, testosterone/male-dominated society that loves nothing better than to poke the bear and because it’s a hierarchical society, getting ahead means having someone in the back. And so you’re constantly one-upping everybody and it’s not a healthy environment. If you’re fat, they’ll jump on that in a second. If you happen to make a mistake on the job, they’ll trash you for it. For 27 years, I worked in that poison-filled environment. I always say I should have never been a cop because that’s not me. That’s not my personality.
When you were in that environment, did you use sarcasm as a defense mechanism still, or was it harder when you were working in that space?
Oh totally, I used the sarcasm. It was a case of “a strong offense is a great defense.” So attack first, put them on the defensive, and they’ll leave you alone.
That’s why I got into [speaking about] bullying. Because policing, internally, is nothing but bullying. I hated that constant aggression and harassment. And as a kid, I remember my first foray into the world of obesity. I was probably in grade 5 and they used to weigh us at school, and I was the only kid in grade 5 that weighed over 100 pounds. I was 115lbs in Grade 5 and I remember my mother buying clothing from the Sears catalogue that was called “husky.” Ever since I was in Kindergarten I was “husky.” And so I knew I had something different about me at that time ... It just plays on your self-esteem and just destroys it.
Do you feel like your weight/size has created barriers for you?
Initially it did. For the first 57 years it probably did … But at 57, that’s when things changed, when I had my bariatric surgery. What I do now when I talk to kids about cyberbullying in their schools, is, I start my talk off by saying: “You don’t know me. Describe me.” And they say: “Oh, you’re tall, you’re slim, you’re old, you’re loud, you’re funny, you look like Mr. Clean!” And so I use that to my advantage and say to them “You’ve described [my outward likeness] but you don’t know me. And you don’t know each other. But you go online and you trash each other because something you said or done at school – but you don’t know what’s behind it.” So then I show them a picture of me at 354 lbs and their jaws drop. And I say “You don’t know me. You know nothing about me but in the next hour you will find out about me.” And so I go into [my story] … So in some ways I’ve used my weight to make a point. Quit looking at [my outward appearance]. This means nothing ... Quit judging people by [their looks]. But that’s what we do. That’s why I want to get involved in CON. I want to educate the public that [their outward appearance] is not who a person is.