<em>“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”</em>
—Lao Tzu, Chinese philosopher
In October, I will mark the 10th anniversary of my mother’s death. She died of a diabetic stroke at the age of 50. I am 44. This is not going to happen to me.
When I was young, agile and full of gumption, I could eat just about anything and never gain weight. My metabolism was freakish. I played sports and exercised—but really, it was just a matter of being a young, virile man who never gained weight. But all good things come to an end.
In 2001, my health took a turn for the worst and I gained an obnoxious amount of weight. In 2004, I was in Utah. I found a group of guys who played basketball at the Mormon church near my house, and that was pretty much my only exercise. I weighed nearly 300 lbs., and really did not care.
I do not know when I said, “Enough!” I cannot point to the moment of clarity that made me decide that I not only had to lose weight, but must completely change my programming regarding what I put in my body. Whatever happened, for whatever reason my muddled mind latched on to, in November I made the commitment to get in shape.
Tuesday, for the first time in 13 years, I stepped on the scale and weighed less than 250 lbs. I have lost over 40 lbs. in 9 months and I simply cannot contain my giddiness.
Many of us obsess about being overweight. I have always believed that those of us who are obese are not treated–even if only subliminally–the same as those more fit. It is a simple formula for the mind to conjure: if you can’t control your weight, what can you control?
And it is hard to lie to people about being on a diet. People see you eat and they see the results. Think about another problem such an alcoholism. An alcoholic can look you dead in the eye and swear on 50 bibles that they have quit drinking and that they are walking the line. And then they call you on the phone slurring their speech, or are seen five beers into a six pack. But they are not always caught red-handed. Fat people are. All the baggy XXXL shirts in the world cannot hide the effort you make to get in shape.
This is who I was. A guy in denial about how I looked, how agile I was and that it was not that harmful. Put on a big, dark-colored shirt and do not exhale when I was in the presence of someone I was trying to impress.
So, how did I lose the weight? Three factors above all others got me here. Two of them are obvious, the third less so.
Korry Hintze is a professor of nutrition at Utah State University and a good friend of mine. He has scared the cookies out of me…literally! Finding out what most of these junk foods do to my innards has changed my diet forever. If you want to change your ways, befriend a nutrition professor.
But there is one thing that I have shunned in the past few months that I really do believe is actual poison.
Soda. It is absolutely the worst thing to put into our bodies. I used to drink Pepsi like the end of the word was tomorrow. And now, after just quitting cold turkey, the sight of it makes me cringe.
I do not want to come off as a zealous Michelle Obama food Nazi. I do not believe it is the government’s role to monitor what we eat. But soda is Satan’s juice. And when I see overweight people—like myself—drinking it, I know they are probably never going to get healthy again so long as they pour that liquid carcinoma down their throats.
I swim at least three days a week. I am at the pool on USU’s campus so much I have developed friendships with some the lifeguards there. I walk all over Logan. If you drive up Main Street anytime in the late afternoon or early evening, you probably see me out there on foot.
Add to that a new challenge I have started. I am going to walk down and up Old Main Hill at least three days a week for 30 minutes at a time. The last phase is to start jogging.
It is hard for overweight people to exercise. They get winded fast and feel inadequate. I did it. I often found any excuse to bypass a long walk for casuistic reasons. None of them true. I just did not want to put the work in.
In many ways, exercise can be harder than dieting. It is much easier to sit on the couch, crack open a Bud Light/Mountain Dew and fiddle the day away. Why exhaust yourself? All I can say on this is that the feeling of exhaustion after a long walk, or swim, makes me feel great.
This is going to be short. Being overweight is a problem. Get people with problems away from you as best you can. Drug addicts? Don’t call me. Alcoholics? You are dragging me down into your morass. People who lie and cheat? Please drive off a cliff.
I was able to lose weight because I have the best friends a guy can have. They supported me and took glee in my accomplishments. When it comes to those I surround myself with, I am the most fortunate man alive.
I am not going to be a life coach. Do not scour Amazon.com trying to find my motivational book. With brutal honesty I can tell you that outside of fatherhood and friendship I pretty much have screwed up everything I have tried to do in my life.
But I am human. And most of us who are human take pride in personal accomplishments. Trivial or profound, we should pat ourselves on the back when we have done something that is good for us. I now weigh under 250 lbs. Someday very soon I am going to weigh under 225. This is a big deal. And life is great because we are happy when big deals come our way.