I have worked on organizing my thoughts with the anniversary of the start of my Journey upon me.
So many things to reflect upon, comment on, ponder some more.
I may as well start with a tale of the tape:
December 27, 2011:
Weight: 305.6 pounds
Waist: 46/48 inches
Jacket Size: 56
Neck: 18 inches
Shoe Size 11.5 EE
Blood Pressure (medicinally regulated): 125/85
At rest Heart Rate: 85 Beats Per Minute
Body Mass Index: 39.8 (morbidly obese is 40.0)
December 27, 2012
Weight: 201.2 pounds
Waist: 34 inches
Jacket Size: 44
Neck: 15 inches
Shoe Size 11.5 D
Blood Pressure (medicinally regulated): 116/65
At rest Heart Rate: 65 Beats Per Minute
Body Mass Index: 26.2
Those number don’t even begin to tell the story.
I knew from the first that I had to do much more than go on a diet to lose the weight. It is rare that one gets to more than 100 pounds overweight without having dieted a time or two (or three or four…). I knew from the first that for this to have a lasting result I would have to learn why I overate, why food was so central to my personality, why being overweight had become central to my identity.
Long before I started calling this “My Journey” I understood that I was embarking on a course of discovery. I also understood that I would likely not like what I would discover about myself.
How it all Began.
I tended towards HUSKY as a boy. That is what they called a boy who was a little wider than average back in the day. I wasn’t fat but I was big. Pictures of me from my childhood show a solidly built kid but no belly, no pudgy face. I was bigger in build than my two brothers, both of whom tended to thin. They were both more athletically gifted and inclined than I was. I was built more along the lines of the men on my Father’s side of the family. The oldest brother took after my maternal Grandmother’s side. The other brother took after the maternal Grandfather’s side.
By my High School years I was actually thin. From 15 years old until 18 I was best described as skinny. Nearing my full adult height of six-foot, two-inches, I weighed between 160 and 175 most of the 4 years in high school and due to my very high activity level I was able to eat like any three people you might know.
The weight gain began towards the end of my senior year of High School though I can’t say why. I was working as a waiter in the Catskill mountains on weekends and that may have been a part of it. Access to food nearly 24-hours a day… Not much to do during down time but eat. I was 210 pounds and 36 waist when I had my pre-college physical in July of 1979.
I lost weight briefly at the end of that summer due to illness but I made up for it at the all you could eat breakfast and dinner service on campus and the nearly lethal “Roger-Burger” at the school snack bar. Three burgers, bacon, cheese, lettuce and tomato served on a sub-sandwich roll.
From college on my weight would not drop below 200 pounds again for 33 years. I would see my weight rise and fall between 225 and 250 for a number of years and then begin the nearly uninterrupted climb to 300.
The how is really very simple. I ate much. I moved little.
The why is much more complicated.
The Failed Efforts
I was about 310 pounds in 2003 or 2004 when I was told by my doctor that I was pre-diabetic and that if I wanted to avoid diabetes and stay off the medications I would have to lose weight and change my diet. He gave me a copy of “The Diabetic Diet” and I followed it religiously. I lost 60 pounds. It was almost effortless. At 250 I looked better, felt better, and the pre-diabetic condition had gone away, all my numbers were good. In less than a year all the weight was back and then some. I passed 300 pounds again less than a year later.
In 2009 I again went on “The Diabetic Diet” and I added cycling back to my life. I lost 50 plus pounds, did the 42 mile Five-Boro Bike Tour in 2010 (Meeting NI in the process) and did a couple of other rides. A muscle tear in my right calf was all the excuse I needed to stop exercising and start eating wrong again and the weight climbed back over 310 pounds by the summer of 2011.
I had lost, gained, lost and gained 100 plus pounds over the course of a few years.
I thought I knew how to lose the weight. I had no clue how to keep it off. I was right only on the later. I was wrong about knowing how to lose it.
The Moment of Painful Recognition
Our emotions lie to our brains.
We don’t see our physical self the way others do. I never really understood the jokes about my size. I didn’t think I was really all that big. My body language, trained over years of acting, lied to others and to myself. My face hid the pain of the comments behind crinkle-eyed smiles and jovial laughter. Mostly I was hurt because I didn’t understand why the jokes were being made. I knew I was big. I didn’t think I was THAT big, the kind of big jokes are made about.
I didn’t fit in diner booths. I blamed the diner for having small booths. I was a tight fit in airplane seats. I blamed the airlines for being cheap.
I simply didn’t see myself with the clarity that other did.
I didn’t really see myself at all.
That all changed on December 24, 2011.
I saw my reflection and, before my mind could switch to denial mode, I recognized myself as the man a split-second before I had seen in my mind as HUGELY FAT. The denial phase had been trumped, bypassed, circumvented.
I was forced to admit that I was not merely big. I was fat. Hugely fat. Obese.
It was a stunning revelation to a stubbornly in denial man. I couldn’t hide from it. I couldn’t deny it. I couldn’t blame it on the camera, the shape of the window, the angle of the sun, the amount I had to drink.
I spent the rest of the night in a funk, avoiding looking at the window again, eating all night long, trying to figure out how I got so fat.
I am slow on the up-take…..
The Start of the Journey
So that was the start. Right there in that moment of shocking recognition. Three Spirits dragging me around Dickensian London could not have had as great an effect on me.
I decided to begin the weight loss right after the New Year. Not a “resolution” but resolved to eat right, exercise more.
I planned our usual New Years Eve with our friend MR and didn’t want to give up the special treats and dinner I prepare. So not a New Year’s Resolution at all. Just a practical delay to the start….
I cannot tell you why. I really do not know. I have thought about it and thought about it but I do not have an answer. I just don’t know. Even after a year of wondering, pondering, questioning, I cannot tell you what happened the morning of December 27. I can only tell you that as I sat on the edge of the bed, having just taken my blood pressure medications, I turned to Missus and I told her I was starting the weight loss effort that day and she mumbled OK.
I had a light breakfast, a light lunch, a moderate dinner and a light snack and I was on my way. The Journey had begun.
Creating the Plan
I understood two things when I started that day. One: I had to eat less. Two: I had to move more.
Beyond that, I had no clue what I was doing. I thought I understood how to lose weight. I had done it so many times before… I knew I had no idea how to keep it off because I had never done that before. I also had never followed a diet for as much as a year or lost more than 60 or so pounds.
I started by loosely following “The Diabetic Diet” given me so many years before by my doctor. It was a way to start but I knew that I could not follow it forever and I knew that I would drift away from it as I had the times before.
I searched on-line for ideas and came across so many contradictory concepts that I was frustrated to the point I decided I would have to go with my own plan, follow my own instincts and learn as I went along.
The first thing I did was recreate the spreadsheet I had made several years earlier for tracking my weight.
The second thing I did was toss out the idea that you should not weigh yourself every day. I weigh myself every day. I even travel with a scale so I can weigh myself when I am out on the road.
Next I found a website for recording my food and calculating my calories.
On January 5 I started this blog as a means of keeping my focus on the weight loss and perhaps get a little support if anyone ever decided to read it. I have to say that this part of the blog has worked our far better than I ever dreamed, the support of the readers has been wonderful, inspiring, affirming and energizing.
By the end of January 2012 I had the plan pretty well-formed. I was walking almost every day, eating a good yet light breakfast, a small lunch and a healthy and filling dinner. I had started to call this “the Journey” and was coming to understand that I needed to get a grasp on why I overate and what part of my life food occupied if I was going to be able to continue to lose the weight and then keep it off.
That part of the Journey would be the hardest and would reshape me much more than the weight loss.
Lessons Along the Way
It took me 50+ years but I finally began to understand that there was more to my overeating than bad habits and a love of food.
There are emotional issue at play and I had to understand them beyond the “mom will love me more if I eat” scenarios. Certainly that was a part of it, still is, but there had to be more even if the reasons spring from the same emotional roots.
I understood early on that this was not going to work if I didn’t define, confront and conquer those issues.
I am introspective by nature. I have spent a life time exploring my emotions and putting them to paper as blank verse. I have also spent a life time dealing with a certain emotional volatility that makes any trip in to my psyche an adventure. While I have explored much of my mind,I never went down the paths that would help me understand the food thing.
Here is what I learned:
My mother expressed her love for people by cooking for them. Expressing love to my mother was as easy as eating what she served.
I express my love for people in the same way. I cook for them. When I want someone to know they are my friend, I invite them to a meal at my home. Acceptance of that invitation is acceptance of my friendship.
I am comforted by food: the consuming and the preparing.
When I have a home full of dinner guests I am really just channeling Sally Field. Inside I am saying “You Like me, You really like me”.
A great deal of who I self-identified as was wrapped up in being the big (fat) guy who loves to feed everyone.
This is a recipe for getting very fat….
And I did.
I also learned that I channel my anger in to my focus on food, mostly cooking oddly enough. One would think that anger would be expressed as hunger but instead I am motivated to cook. Then eat.
I also learned that all the above became a social crutch. Insecure in the value of my friendship to others, I found my niche as the one who cooked or the one who suggested evenings out with the friends. Hiding behind the proverbial stove as well as the real one. As long as I was feeding people, the (il)logic went, I was a part of the crowd. A declined invitation was a crushing blow to my emotions.
I wrote several times about this particular dynamic. It is something I am still working through but at least I understand it a bit better now.
At social events, be they business lunches or dinners or parties at a friend’s, I could hide behind the plate of food. With food in hand and mouth I didn’t risk talking to much (a known trait of mine) or saying something that might sound ignorant to those more intelligent than me (most if not all of my friends). Again, food as a mask for unfounded insecurities.
Getting the body and mind moving
As soon as I started this Journey of mine I started working out. First it was walks at the high school track. I would drive the half mile so I could walk a mile…. I remember coming home from that first mile. I was exhausted. I was also embarrassed. When I walked two miles for the first time I thought it was a cause for celebration. I also started walking up the bleachers. I called them Bleacher-sets: 18 steps up, 18 down equaled one set. The first time I did it I did five and spent a full 10 minutes on the bottom step thinking I was having a heart attack.
I walked nearly every day and then I set out a course in the factory where I worked and started doing laps during lunch break at work. First a mile and then soon I was up to 4 miles, then 5. At the High School I was doing a mile and then ten bleacher-sets. Then another mile and another 10… Soon it was 5 miles and 50 bleacher-sets. Only the coldest weather or rain would keep me from my walks.
This is when the good things really began to happen.
I wasn’t exhausted going up stairs anymore.
I wasn’t too tired to walk the dogs, or goof around with my sons.
I wasn’t too tired to hike with friends.
I found it easier to address the demons. I found my energy level and my attitude improved. The more energy and positive attitude I had the easier it was for me to confront the issues.
My first little victory was that first 5 pounds.
Then came the bigger victories, the signs that I was moving forward.
The ten-mile bike ride in early March on my birthday. I was gasping for air when I was done but I had done it. The first five-mile walk and the first time I did 50 bleacher-sets.
The Ride in June to raise money for Autism research. 50+ miles (plus a few extra when I missed a turn).
Finding a way to keep it going after the knee injury, not losing focus, not giving up.
Climbing the nearly vertical section of the Hike in Harriman and not being winded, tired, worn down… The tears in my eyes were not from the wind.
Passing the original goal of 210 pounds
Passing the 100 pounds lost marker…
Reaching the one-year anniversary still on the Journey
Where am I now?
I am now hitting my stride. I may stumble a little but I am able to recognize it and take the steps needed to right myself.
I am dedicated to fitness. I walk and hike and make sure I stay active.
I am still planning, still focused on the goal, still traveling this Journey of discovery. I am discovering new bits about me daily.
I am most proud of the fitness. Losing the weight was one thing, getting myself fit was quite another. One required eating less. The other required hard physical work and a dedication to it that I expected to lack.
I am more comfortable in my skin but I still have fights to wage and to win. The mind still wants to lie to me and I still have to fight the lies.
The best way I can think to say this is I am right where I should be.
Some years ago I developed a saying:
Where you are is where you belong.
Everything that has passed in your life has brought you to this place at this time.
It is where you are going that you can change
It took me a very long time to listen to my own words.
Friends along the way
Encouragement from my friends, some of whom I have grown closer to because of this Journey, and some I know only through this blog or theirs, and some whom I have met on the Journey, has been of incalculable value.
I have been very out there and open about this trip I am on. I talk about emotions and fears and insecurities. In written words and in conversation I have opened up long closed doors and allowed anyone who knows about the blog to read about the bumps and brick walls, detours and blind alleys of my Journey.
Without the advice, the ideas, the pats on the back and the hand up I might well have come to a stop or retreated back to the beginning.
If you have ever posted on my blog with a word of advice, commiseration, or a firm GET OVER IT, I thank you deeply.
To the friends in my life who have offered me ever more challenging hikes, a boot in the butt to set my sights higher, put the hand on my back and help push me up a hill on a bike ride, waited patiently a the top of the hill as I slogged my way up or shooed the snake off the trail, or carefully calculated the calories of the homemade snack you brought along, I thank you.
I keep going. I keep the focus, I keep the plan and the goal and the Journey going.
I have so much more to learn, to do, to plan and to dream. Many more mountains to climb, rides to make, miles to put under running shoe, mountain boot, bike tire…
I have much to learn about how to maintain the weight, improve the fitness, build lean muscle.
I have much still to learn about me. I am still peeling away the layers. Still so much I need to understand about the things that move me along in life.
I will continue to write. The blog will continue as long as I think I have something to say and there are people stopping by. Even if I am the only one that reads it I think I will continue to post in my blog.
It is impossible for me to quantify how much the blog has helped me. The place to open up about all I was experiencing. The encouragement. Knowing there were people reading it from as close as down the road and as far away as Australia and that they cared how I was doing on this Journey has been a tremendous inspiration for me.
And to Wrap This Up….
I know this posting is long and I know it travels over roads long ago explored.
I wanted to see the Journey over my shoulder, to look back with the perspective of a person that has come a long distance. How would the road traveled look to me after the fact? I hope you don’t mind terribly.
I see the victories more than the defeats. I see more of the good days than the bad. I remember the days of success and the feelings of exultation more than the difficult days and the feelings of despair.
Mostly I look back and see the work paying off more than I can see the work itself.
That is both the blessing and the curse of this. I must learn to enjoy the victories but I can never let myself forget just how hard I fought to win them.
Peace and Love.