Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Entry #10 - Remembering the Past

-- In this bright future you can't forget your past.
-- Bob Marley

Throughout this week I've been flooded with memories of the past. In some cases, they were fond memories of days gone by that are suddenly becoming a modern reality. In other cases, they were memories of where I was and where I never want to return. I find it interesting how the past can be motivating both as a goal and as a memory of what to avoid.

Last Saturday, I was watching the Husker football game with my family. During halftime, my nephews, my friend Brad and I all went outside to throw the ball around. In the past, I would go outside with them and sit in a chair to watch them play. I told myself that it was fun to sit there and watch them have fun. And on some levels, it was. I love my nephews and it is always great to see them playing and having a good time. However, I was also dying inside because I wasn't able to play WITH them. I desperately wanted to be one of the people running around, laughing, playing, and enjoying all the fun. Instead, I was a spectator. I was trapped in a prison of my own making. I was forced to look out from between the bars watch the world pass me by. I laughed and cheered and tried to be a part of it from the sidelines. However, the common theme of my life at that weight is that I laugh and cheer so that I don't cry. I delude myself into believing that I am a part of it so that I don't get even more depressed about my circumstance.

It is a depressing history, but it adds importance to the victory. On this day, I was able to play with them. I wasn't NFL material, but I did get to throw the ball and be a part of the fun. After the second half of the game, we went back outside. This time, my dad joined us. Again, I was a part of it! I was playing along with them. At one point, Mike had Jake covered like a blanket and Brad turned his back on me, so I ran. Ok, this was overly optimistic on my part because my 40 yard dash time is roughly three hours. However, it was more about showing that I could run. Needless to say, Brad caught me after about a yard or two. :)

Aside from the simple positive that I could participate, I experienced two other positives related to this event. The first is that I could finally be a positive example for my nephews. They may never think of it this way, but I was able to show them that with hard work a person can improve their circumstance. Instead of being a bastion of laziness and sloth, I was a person who had managed to improve his health. I don't know if I can ever impress upon them the magnitude of how hard it is to be overweight. But maybe, I can show them how much happier a healthy lifestyle makes me. Maybe I can show them that active Kevin is a lot more fun than lazy Kevin. If nothing else, my nephew who is a TV and video game addict was able to realize how much fun playing outside with everyone could be. Perhaps he will learn that he doesn't have to give up those other diversions completely, but the addition of the active pastimes (sports, walking, jogging, etc) can give him a much happier, healthier life.

-- Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.
-- Albert Schweitzer

The second positive nearly brought me to tears. I didn't think about it until several hours after we stopped playing. I realized that the fun I was having with my family during the Husker game was not without precedent. I have extremely fond memories of going to Lincoln for the Husker game. Some days, I actually got to go to the game. Other days, Dad would take someone else. In either case, we ended up at my grandmother's house (Mamo to those who know her). Nearly every time, we would go in Mamo's backyard to play football. Usually, it was an opportunity for my brother to send me on pass patterns into the nearby pine trees. Naturally, he wouldn't throw the ball until after a tree limb had clotheslined me. :) Despite this, I loved every moment of it. I may be romanticizing it a bit, but I remember really enjoying this time. Now, some 15-25 years later, I am able to enjoy this activity again. How did I let myself go so wrong? I lament the years I've wasted because of my weight. But at the same time, I rejoice in the positive strides I am making towards a new lifestyle where these things are once again possible.

-- Fond memory brings the light of other days around me.
-- Thomas More

Memories of my past floated to the surface again today at bootcamp. This whole week, I have been pressing myself harder in my workouts. I have been pleasantly sore in new and different ways after each workout. It lets me know that I have done good work. As I was doing my best impersonation of a jog at tonight's bootcamp, I suddenly had a flashback to my first workouts with Marty. I remembered that some of those first workouts were just him talking to me as I tried to walk the length of the gym and back. I remember how hard that was for me to do. Before I'd even reached the opposite side of the gym, I would be hurting in my legs and back. My brain would be trying to talk my body into completing this simplest of tasks. Now, I am jogging back and forth as part of my workout. I am participating in nearly all the activities. I am able to see how close I am to participating in everything they do. I see how close I am to being able to not just walk, but run. So many of the things I had never dared to dream possible are beginning to seem attainable. It makes me believe I can do it. It motivates me to continue.

My past reminds me of why I am doing this. It motivates me to continue so I don't relive the dark days of my past. However, it also motivates me to be able to relive the happy moments of my past that have long been denied me by my own actions (or lack of action). How do I express in words what this means to me? So many phrases are returning to my vocabulary. "I can't" becomes "I can". "I won't" becomes "I will". "Nah, I don't want to" become "Sure, I will". How is ANY temptation worth switching those phrases back? I can't believe how far I've come. I can't believe what I am able to do. Oddly, I can believe in my potential for the future. And that is an incredible feeling.

-- Powerful Dreams Inspire Powerful Action.
-- Jonathan Lockwood Huie

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Entry #9 - Focus

-- Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising every time we fall.
-- Confucius

Why is it so easy to fall off track? I have not been truly naughty with my nutrition and I have been faithful to my workouts, but things aren't as tightly controlled as they once were. I can't let this continue because I know how my mind works. This gap between what I should be doing and what I am doing will be wider tomorrow. It will grow until I am completely derailed.

The odd thing is that I still don't know of any catalyst that moved me off course. It is like my body has what it thinks is its natural state of being and if I let my mind wander, it tries to revert to that state. So the trick is clearly to not let my mind wander. At least, I cannot let it wander until such time as the new habits create a new natural state of being and perhaps a new standard operating procedure can be maintained. I'm not sure that can happen. My relationship with food is such that there may always be a need for a thoughtful reflection on diet and a healthy dedication to exercise. In the end, it will be worth it, even if it is an everlasting struggle.

-- If you believe in yourself and have dedication and pride - and never quit, you'll be a winner. The price of victory is high but so are the rewards.
-- Paul Bryant

That is an interesting notion. Work for the rewards. Have any of us on this journey really thought this through? Do we really think there is a magic number on that scale where all our problems evaporate and we are forever changed? In truth, we are not ever going to be skinny people. With effort, we can be fat people in skinny bodies, meaning we will always struggle with the food/exercise ratio. This effort will get easier, but never easy. At first blush, this seems a very self-defeating and depressing thought, but there is more.

Will all this effort for now and forever be worth it if I can live a few years longer? Yes! Is it worth it if I am better able to work, move, play, sing, and dance? Without question! Is it worth it if I am able to be more active in the lives of my loved ones, be a positive role model to my niece and nephews, and able to live long enough to see them grow, graduate, love, marry and make me some new playmates with whom I can share an everlasting love of all things Muppet? Absolutely! It is so easy for any of us to say that there is no amount of money we would accept to give up life, love, children, and family. These are the priceless things in life. If that is so, then the cost of the effort we must exert to lead this healthy lifestyle pales in comparison to the enormous value we place on these other things in our lives. The effort is great, but the rewards are greater.

-- Even if you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there.
-- Will Rogers

Thanks for letting me go on that tangent. Back to the problem at hand. I wouldn't say I am off track, but rather I am stalled out on the track. And as the quote above mentions, I better get back to moving. While I do not know the catalyst for this problem, I know many of the symptoms. I realize many of them have already been pointed out to me by Marty and Torri in our bootcamp classes, so please save the "I told you so." :)

  • I need to rededicate myself to the healthiest of foods. I need to eat more at home and less at restaurants. If I do go to a restaurant, I need to make sure it is one of our established "good places" and not one of my "close enough places."
  • I need to focus more on the nutritionally significant foods and meals. Simply keeping it within my calorie level is not sufficient. It still needs to be good food. As Marty so eloquently put it when discussing 100 calorie packs of Oreos, "A hundred calories of crap is still crap. Don't put it in your body."
  • I need to get back to drinking my water each day. It really does help to keep that full feeling and it does make your body feel better. I just wish it didn't require so many bathroom breaks.
  • My most thought provoking revelation is that I need to decrease or eliminate my diet soda intake. I have read all the literature on the hazards and I am beginning to believe. I can honestly say that I notice a difference in the strength and direction of my cravings when I am "on pop" or "off pop". I don't think eliminating soda will eliminate my cravings, but I have noticed that when I am drinking soda, my cravings tend to lead more to the fatty or high-carb foods. I can crave veggies or steak or a certain recipe at any time, but when I am drinking pop, the cravings primarily focus on Mexican food, pizza, burgers and other no-nos. (sorry if that awakened your glutton monster, go back to bed ugly monster). Decreasing pop consumption also has the added benefit of allowing me more opportunity to drink more water.
  • Lastly, I need to push myself a little harder in my work outs. I really don't have a major problem in this area, but I am anxious to get this train rolling a little faster and this will help. I can also commit to more exercise between my times with Marty. All movement helps, so let's move it baby!
I will dedicate myself to making this changes. And thankfully, any of y'all reading this are my witnesses to this vow. So you can keep my feet to the fire (please not literally).

-- The greatest mistake a man can make is to be afraid of making one.
- Elbert Hubbard

I know that I have been less focused, so stepping on the scale tonight worried me. I was honestly expecting a zero loss or even a small gain. So by comparison, a two pound loss in a week and half sounds good. However, I think it stinks. That rate of loss will mean I will get to my goal around the time I'm a hundred and two (might be a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the point). So, I will use this as motivation.

If it depresses me to think of how far I still have to go, then the logical response is not to stop moving or to slow down. It makes more sense to get determined, possibly even speed up the process. This means that distance between here and there will continue to shrink and, with effort and focus, shrink faster. That will combat the sadness. That will replace despair with hope. That will turn victimization into empowerment. That will allow me to be more self-assured of my inevitable success rather than always worried about my potential failure. Actions breed habits. Habits build the lifestyle.

-- Confidence doesn't come out of nowhere. It's a result of something ... hours and days and weeks and years of constant work and dedication.
-- Roger Staubach

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Entry #8 - Pride and Embarassment

-- Honor and shame from no condition rise. Act well your part: there all the honor lies.
-- Alexander Pope

Mixed feelings today. Pride and embarrassment. How does one deal with this? I choose to focus on the positives because in those I will find motivation. If I focus on the negatives, I will find myself less likely to continue.

I've been fighting the onset of a cold. I wasn't feeling up to par so I gave serious thought to skipping bootcamp tonight. However, the closer it came to time to go to the gym the more agitated I got at the thought of skipping. In the end, I decided to go and that makes me very happy. I don't know where this inner fire is coming from. Where is the motivation coming from? In the past, this little excuse would have given me license to miss the workout I so desperately need. I am not sure why it is different this time, but I hope this doesn't change.

-- Adversity and perseverance ... can shape you. They can give you a value and a self-esteem that is priceless.
-- Scott Hamilton

Well, Marty came to bootcamp tonight ready for business. Holy cow! He beat us up and down and every way possible. There wasn't much new, but there seemed to be more of it. It was fun, but it was hard.

Starting with the positive. I did my first legitimate plank tonight. For those who don't know, a "plank" is where you get in the "up" position of a push up and hold it for as long as you can (or as long as Marty tells you). Sadly, I was only able to hold it for 30 of the 90 seconds Marty was asking, but it was a good first step. I was also happy that I was able to do most of the exercises. About the only adaptation I did was to do squats instead of walk-outs. We even did a bridge (hands and feet on the ground, forming a tunnel that someone can crawl through) and I was able to do that .... once. I may have been able to do it more, but it was hard on my shoulders and hands. So I adapted the rest of those.

Now the negative. We were split into two teams. I am the slowest person on nearly every exercise. I felt like a great liability to my team and that I was the reason we lost nearly every challenge. I hope that my teammates didn't feel that way, but it is hard to see it any other way. If the challenge involved running, my little trot is not nearly fast enough to keep us in the race. I did my best to keep it close, but in the end, it fell short more often than not. I try to put this in perspective and keep my spirits up. I long for a time when I can not only keep up with the rest of the group, but when I can be a leader and superstar for the group. Darn that nagging competitive spirit.

If I am honest with myself, the negatives for today are less about what I wasn't able to do and more about what I want to be able to do. I can see the challenges before me and I am frustrated that I am not yet at a point where I can do it. I want to be able to run. I want to be able to drop to the ground and hop back up when needed. All my negative feelings from today stem from a realization of a goal that still seems so far away. I can give credit to myself for the great distance I have come, but I still see a long road ahead of me. I can't travel fast enough to suit me.

-- Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success.
-- Dale Carnegie

Like I said before, I am refusing to dwell on the negatives. I made it to bootcamp when I had nearly given myself license to skip. While at bootcamp, I did many things I had never done before. This is progress. This is growth. These are signs that things are getting better. I need to think of it this way to spur myself to further growth. And of course, my father's reaction when I got home was priceless. I told him that it was a really tough workout and Marty had worked us like dogs. He just laughed and said "Good". Typical. :)

It seems like motivation is the word for today. I find motivation to be a tenuous idea. I hear a lot of my bootcamp friends talk about motivation. They list a lot of external reasons why they are losing motivation. I can totally relate to this idea. Motivation can be lost because you do better in competitions, life is getting busy, or something is making you really emotional. But, I am beginning to realize that motivation is completely internal. Now stick with me because I am just throwing this together as I think of it. :)

External influences serve as reasons to become less motivated, but it is within our power to decide whether or not to be de-motivated. My life is getting busy, but I choose to put aside time for workouts or diet planning. I am stressed or emotional, but I can choose not to seek solace in food. In the end, I am the driver of this car and it will go where I point it. Just because I come to a fork in the road, doesn't mean I have to take the less motivated road. I need to believe this because I cannot allow myself to be a victim anymore. That is what put me in the obese and depressed state in the first place. No longer will I allow my environment to push me around to a way of thinking. I have the power. I can choose how to respond. Raining? Grab an umbrella and keep walking. Roadblock? Take a detour.

-- In my experience, there is only one motivation, and that is desire. No reasons or principle contain it or stand against it.
-- Jane Smiley

I think success is about breaking the Stimulus/Response mentality. For example .... Stimulus: delicious food present, Response: eat it. I want to adopt an Action/Thought/Reaction mentality. Action: delicious food arrives, Thought: this food is counterproductive to my goals, Reaction: walk away or eat something healthy or go punch a pillow (anything but eat it!). Marty taught us something about this in our classes. I think the most important thing is putting that thought in there. Once you stop and think about it, it is less easy to fall off the wagon. Well, you have to put correct thoughts in there. Don't think about how it is just a small thing so I can make up for it tomorrow. Instead, think about how genuinely evil that item is. It is trying to break me. It is the enemy. It is an evil devil trying to lure me back to my gluttonous life. Be gone foul demon!

Ok, ok, brain dump over. Sorry about all that. My brain goes on a tangent and I ride it like a surfer rides a wave. At least, this time it seems I landed near shore rather than out to sea. :)

-- The self is not something ready-made, but something in continuous formation through choice of action.
-- John Dewey

Monday, October 10, 2011

Entry #7 - Victories and Payback

-- Accept the challenges so that you can feel the exhilaration of victory.
-- George S. Patton

What can we accomplish if we just try? Marty announced at a bootcamp session that he was a featured speaker at the Ted E Bear Hollow 5k/10k run/walk. The bootcampers were always announcing on the Facebook page all the races they were going to join. It felt right. I was a bootcamper. I should support Marty. So I signed up to do the 5k walk.

I would like to say that I was completely confident and ready for action. But as previously noted, a 2 mile hike took me 3 hours and I nearly died in the Colorado wilderness. Now I was signed up for a 3.1 mile hike and feared that even if I finished, it would take so long that everyone would have gone home before I returned to the finish line. It was just like a million other times where I would have talked myself out of going. I would have found some excuse (or made one up) and stepped away from the difficult task. I don't know what drove me to try. Perhaps it is just a part of my changing attitude. I figured it was better to try than to never show.

Despite this "give it a go" attitude, I arrived at the event scared and nervous. I sat on a bench before the race and merely tried not to throw up. Again, I thought about going back to my car and giving up. For once, I used my stubborn attitude to drive me forward instead of hold me back. Then, the announcer said the walkers could come to the starting gate and before I could think too much about it, the walk had started.

-- You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.
-- Eleanor Roosevelt

There are times like these where I wish I didn't have a competitive spirit. It rubbed me wrong as I watched everyone in the race pass me by. Deep down, I knew I would be the slowest person there, but it still rankled to watch it happen. But I had my music playing in my ears, so I put my head down and kept walking.

The path of the walk was a simple "out and back", so pretty soon the fastest people were coming back the other way. It was moving to have people I didn't even know encourage me as they went by and the bootcampers made sure to do high-fives as they went by.

I noticed that this didn't seem to be very difficult. I was feeling pretty good and it got me to thinking. Yes, I was in better shape than I was in Colorado. However, I also had to chalk up a lot of the difference to a flat terrain and smooth sidewalk rather than rough terrain at high altitude. Maybe I could do this!

Eventually, bootcampers who were passing me on their way back were telling me that I was almost to the half way point. I don't know what they were smoking. :) It was still a ways to go (in my eyes). However, eventually I ran into what would be the last group of bootcampers coming the other way. They showed me that I could see the halfway point from where we were and offered me the opportunity to turn around and finish with them. I declined. If I was going to do this, I was going to do ALL of it. One of the bootcampers, Angie, peeled off and decided to walk the rest of the way with me. I am so glad she did. Her conversation kept my mind off the challenge of the walk. My heart and lungs were not being challenged but my legs and feet were beginning to feel the effects of walking this far.

I remember thinking, as I passed the 2 mile point, that I was now into new territory. This was the farthest I had managed to hike in almost 20 years! I would have been really excited, but I was thinking more of the next 1.1 miles. I started walking on the grass/dirt along the side of the sidewalk. It felt (slightly) better than the sidewalk because it was a little softer. Pretty soon, I could see the last turn towards the finish line.

-- The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, nor the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when he discovers that someone else believes in him and is willing to trust him.
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

About 20 yards from the finish line, my heart swelled with love for my fellow bootcampers.
They had come out to walk the final distance with me. I was tired, sore, but filled with pride. Not only was I about to finish this race, but I had a great group of people who were encouraging me to finish and celebrating this new milestone. Really, who could ask for more?

As I approached the finish line, my friends began to clap and cheer for me. I looked up a couple of times and was shocked to see that
it wasn't just the bootcampers. Other people who had come to attend the event were also cheering me on. I don't know if I can put into words what this all meant to me. I was exhausted yet invigorated. I was swelling with pride, but near tears at the signs of love and support.

Just before I crossed the finish line, I saw Marty grinning and clapping for me. He said, "Come on Kev! You can run the last 5 feet!" I could not. I gave him the only response within me and shook my fist at him as if to say "why I oughta ...." (see pic).
Marty's wife, Amy was walking backwards away from me snapping pictures (the ones included here) also smiling from ear to ear. Did I deserve all this support? I better be sure I earn it! :)

Funny story: I cross the finish line. Amy and Marty come up to congratulate me. Amy has brought a cup of cool water along with her. Marty takes it from her and is about to drink it when she says, "I brought that for Kevin." Marty says, "Oh. Well geez Kev, it has been really hard for me sitting here working the booth." That's alright. He is the one who had pushed me to this point. I suppose I can forgive him a little water theft. :)

The picture to the right shows what a tired, but elated man looks like. That is Marty and Angie. Angie, I am so happy you walked with me through the second half. You really helped me. However, next time, you can make me even happier by taking off and going as fast as you possibly can!! You have so much more strength than you allow yourself to use. Tear it up!

I am so happy I did this walk. It signified a new level of achievement. Someday, I'll be running these races. But for now, I will revel in the fact that I am so far from where I once was. I am so much closer to where I want to be. And maybe, just maybe, I will succeed where I have so often failed. Pride, joy and hope are now the feelings of the day. They feel so much better than the emotions of old.

-- There is a destiny that makes us brothers: none goes his way alone, all that we send into the lives of others comes back into our own.
-- Edwin Markham

So, how does one thank someone for helping them be alive? Is it possible? What can one do to give back even one tenth of what they have received? I can help others on their journey. I can try to convince others that they could do it as well. And I can help my friend and mentor to grow his business so others will receive the same benefits that I am enjoying.

For this reason, I went to the Omaha Marathon to help work the Square One booth. Square One
is the future home of Marty's new gym. It will be designed specifically for people of size. Designed to help combat one of the biggest (pun intended) problems in America today. It was a really good time. The bootcampers and I passed out plastic leis and spread the word about the gym.

Eventually, I had to quit the booth and sit down because I was experiencing an odd pain in my stomach from all the standing around. At first, I was really disappointed by this. Where was this new body I was building? Why had it failed me? It really, really bothered me that I wasn't able to continue. However, when I got home, I put it in perspective. As previously noted, I was unable to walk for a few minutes in a grocery store. Here I was getting down on myself because after 4 hours of being on my feet, my body was telling me that it was having difficulty with all the weight I was still carrying. 4 hours! This is a huge improvement! I have to look at it as a victory even though it was disappointing. It just serves as a reminder of why I need to keep going. Disappointment aside, I was happy that I was able to do something to help get this gym off the ground. I am hopeful that it will help a great many people.

As I wrap this up, I can say we have finally caught up to the present. Now I will simply add entries as events or thoughts warrant. But the question still looms .... How much weight have I lost?

In one respect, Marty and I are cut from the same cloth. We are easily distracted or diverted. Thoughts or ideas can intrude on our plans and derail them. For weeks, at the beginning of a workout, we would remind ourselves that I needed to weigh in. And every time, we would get busy talking of other things and forget. Plus, there was the added difficulty that there was really only one scale available that was giving accurate measurements and it was at Torri's house.

Based off the amount of time that had past and my usual rate of loss, I knew I was probably getting pretty close to a big milestone. Finally, we had the scale in our possession and we remembered to get my weight. 98 pounds! While this was a huge success, I have to admit that I was hoping for the milestone. But I only had to wait 4 days. Marty weighed me again and I was down 101 pounds since I started. This officially makes it the most weight I have lost on any of my attempts to become healthier.

I don't know that I have the words to say how great this first 100 pounds has been for me. I feel better physically and emotionally. I have achieved so many successes and gained so many friends. There is so much more I want to do and so much more weight I want to lose. But it is clear from the results so far, that I can do it if I just keep at it.

-- Success is dependent on effort.
-- Sophocles

Since I have caught you up to the present, I suppose I should take a moment and thank the key players. Hey bootcamp family! Thank you for all your support, encouragement, and the inspiration of your example. It means the world to me (even if the parties are scary). :)

A HUGE thank you to Mom and Dad for financing this journey. I literally couldn't do it without you. Love you! If only I could get Dad to quit cleaning me out of the healthy food! Even healthy food isn't good for you if you eat 4 or 5 at a time! :)

Erin, you sparked this whole journey. I don't know what would have happened to me if you hadn't invited me to that dinner. Thankfully, I don't have to find out. Thank you! (I suppose I love you too, but you are still my twerpy little sister)

Marty ... I can't thank you enough. I know, I know .... I can hear you doing the same thing you always do when I try to give you credit for the things you do. You deflect and say that I did it myself. That isn't true. I did a lot on my own, but I wouldn't have done it without you. You are the catalyst to this change and I can't thank you enough. As we continue down this road together, I hope you know that you are saving my life and that is more than any person should be expected to do. Thank you for taking that burden upon yourself and pushing me to greater heights.

Now let's look to the future and see where it goes. It is easy to focus on the positives in hindsight. So much has improved that it seems impossible not to be ecstatic about what I have accomplished. Future posts may not seem as positive. If I am having a hard time, I will type it here. I simply can't be all happy-go-lucky about it. I want to remember the good and the bad. The ups and the downs. I want to remember what I overcame to be where I am. Someday, it will be a great way to relive what I am sure will be one of the greatest challenges of my life.

Thanks for reading. Comment if you like. I promise to respond. I was hesitant to share this with others, but I am so glad I did. It is easier when you know that you have people who will support you rather than judge you. Perhaps this will help others. I sincerely hope it does. Let me know if I can help, because if writing this has shown me one thing, it is that I owe. I owe for all the help I've received. And I intend to pay the debt by helping others. It seems to be the only logical way to pay.

-- While I take inspiration from the past ... I live for the future.
-- Ronald Reagan

Entry #6 - The Mind of a Fat Man.

-- Success is not a place at which one arrives but rather the spirit with which one undertakes and continues the journey.
-- Alex Noble

Ok, thanks for sticking with me. I think I can wrap up the rest of the back story in two more posts (maybe). However, I will be glossing over a large number of weeks. This is the problem with starting so late in the process. I can't remember everything that happened during this time. I know that I had made some dramatic strides in my development, but I don't remember when it occurred. For example, somewhere along the line (I believe it was after Colorado) Marty decided I could start participating in bootcamp. This was great! No longer would I sit on the sidelines and watch. I could be a part of this group I admired. But since dates and events are lost to the past, I will stick to the big events and what I can remember.

It should come as no surprise that someone who weighs 500+ lbs has a bit of an addiction to food. An unfortunate amount of thinking is spent on what to eat or what could be eaten. Paradoxically, there is also a lack of thinking and eating on impulse. One seems to waver between thinking obsessively about food and reflexively eating whatever is present.

This is not the first time I have attempted to lose this weight. I have tried Weight Watchers a couple of times and worked with personal trainers a couple of times. The end of at least one of those attempts came as a complete surprise to me. I was simply eating a large amount of something unhealthy and I thought to myself, "I must be off my diet." I tried to think back and identify the moment I went off the wagon, but I couldn't identify what went wrong. This haunts me as I make yet another attempt. If I can't even identify why I fell off the wagon, how can I avoid whatever it was that tripped me up? I'm sorry, it doesn't just haunt me .... it scares me to death.

-- What I am looking for is not out there, it is in me.
-- Helen Keller

This is why I was excited for Marty's next leg of this journey. He was starting bootcamp classes designed to get us into our heads. He wanted us thinking about the mental side of our relationship with food and eating. It required a lot of personal reflection and self-analysis. This was both helpful and difficult to face. It cast light on things I had intentionally stowed in the dark. But in the end, it is really helpful in getting us to think, not react. I don't want to go into this in more detail because it is Marty's program to share with whomever he wishes. Suffice it to say that I think it can help a lot of people.

Armed with what I had learned from Marty, I began soul searching. Were there foods I could eat in moderation if I so chose? Were there foods that were simply the beginning of a slippery slope that ends at failure? If I am craving a particular food, what triggered the craving? How can I avoid it? I wanted to be proactive on this side of the weight loss issue, almost obsessively so. I am so scared of regressing while I look the other way. I don't want to be caught off guard. So I am trying to do all I can to arm myself against that.

-- People only see what they are prepared to see.
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

On a happier note, I started to get into golf this summer. At the risk of repeating myself like a broken record, it is not a sport available to the man who can't move. And let me tell you ... I am a gem on the golf course. I can complete 18 holes at a par 3 course in just under 300 strokes. I am TERRIBLE!!! But golf is an insidious opponent. The golf gods give me one or two fantastic moments in every round of golf. It is just enough to make me want to play more. Why do I put myself through this? Honestly, I could give up golf and never look back, but it has given me time to be with friends who are often too busy to get together. And for that reason, I will practice for hours on end just to make myself the most average golfer you've ever seen. Oh, who am I kidding. I'll never make it to average. :)

-- While playing golf today I hit two good balls. I stepped on a rake.
-- Henny Youngman

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Entry #5 - Colorado

-- It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.
-- Edmund Hillary

For those of you who don't know, my family has a cabin in Estes Park, Colorado which is a nice retreat in which we can relax and enjoy the mountains. This location is becoming a yardstick for measuring my progress.

I went out to Colorado with Erin and her family the week before I met Marty. This trip typified years of Colorado vacations I enjoyed. The term "enjoyed" is relative because, in truth, I was not getting the full experience because of my limitations. Again, bear with me now as I list them. Once again, I am trying to make a record of what it was like so I can remember more reasons why I never want to regress.

I thoroughly love the mountains. I think it is in the Riley DNA. We have been taking annual family vacations there for my whole life. It is a part of our history. I don't think there are many trails in the park we have not traveled. We have climbed several of the mountains. So my enjoyment of our trips there is partly nostalgia and partly a "coming home."

Being overweight and unable to hike, climb or breathe made it so I was unable to get the full experience. Hiking with the family was definitely out. Hiking the shops of Estes was extremely difficult and I was forced to go from bench to bench just to be with the family. Most days, I simply stayed at the cabin and tried to convince myself that seeing the gorgeous views of the mountains out the windows of the cabin was sufficient for me. The shower in which I was the most comfortable was in the basement. That meant stairs. What a catch 22! I was unable to unload luggage or groceries. I would constantly ask my nephews to fetch things for me because it was too difficult to move. The family always wanted me to feel involved so they would invite me to go with them on the shorter hikes. But I hated this! I was forced to face my inability to do the hike and then sit at some location for long periods of time and wait for them to return, laughing and joyous, from the entertaining hike they had enjoyed. Picnics are also popular but since sitting at a picnic table was out, so my weight problems were once again brought to the fore front. Fun events like Go-Karts and the Big Slide were impossibilities. I was the watcher of purses. Plus the rickety benches at these locations were always in danger of being crushed as I sat on them and waited for the family to be finished. Most times, I would simply get mad. Mad at myself. Mad at them for making me think about it (unfair and irrational). Mad at life in general. However, this particular trip was during the height of my depression and I spent a lot of time weeping and wallowing in my "poor me" attitude.

I could still carve out fun. I tried to tell myself that seeing them enjoy themselves was a blessing. Playing with the kids is also fun. But in the end, I was simply a spectator. I had to sit on the sidelines and observe the fun and try to remember how fun it was when I could participate.

-- Keep close to Nature's heart ... and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.
-- John Muir

After a few weeks of working out, we went back to the cabin and I was eager to see if anything had changed. Granted, many things were the same. One can't make a complete turn around in a few weeks. It took me years to get this big, so it will take time to recover. However, I found many victories in this trip. I had the stamina to help unload the car. The stairs at the cabin were no longer a big deal. I was still winded after climbing them, but I recovered quickly. And most important to me, I was able to participate in some of the hikes. Several days, I climbed the mountain on which the cabin sits. The handicap accessible trails were easy to do. I even managed a long hike around Bear Lake. It isn't particularly challenging in terms of hills, but it is at 9000 ft above sea level so oxygen is scarce. I'm surprised my family survived with me sucking up as much of it as I was. I was ecstatic! This was the kind of progress that could really motivate me.

I returned to Omaha on a Rocky Mountain High (so to speak). I was eager to tell Marty the
stories of how things had gone. I was still a long way from where I wanted to be, but so much more was possible even after this short amount of time. I was so excited that I wanted to share my fortune with others. I wanted to help others start their own journeys towards better health. I am sad to report that none of the loved ones with whom I spoke have started this process.

This leads me to one of my biggest dilemmas. How can you get someone to understand what this can do for them? How can you get them to understand the amazing feeling of accomplishment one gets? I know that if I could get them to understand how it feels and how relatively easy it is (difficult, but not impossible like many of us large people think before we try), they would eagerly begin their own journeys.

I have to temper myself because I feel a sense of urgency to get them started. I think to myself that if I had just started my own journey 3 months, 6 months, or a year earlier, I would be much farther along. This makes me wish I could get them all to start now. Time waiting is time wasting. However, I must understand that no one can start until they are ready. All I can do is let them know it is possible and hope they find it within themselves to try. Perhaps this blog can help. Maybe reading about how much it has helped me will allow them to see what they could achieve. That a few weeks of effort can change their entire life for the better. This is my fervent hope.

Oddly enough, we were only back in Omaha for a week before we went back to Colorado. I know, I know, I lead a rough life. :) But this time, I went to Colorado with a cocky attitude. This time I was going to rock it. This time I was going to really push myself. This attitude lead me to participate in the great Death March of 2011. :)

We were there a week and I was still pleasantly surprised with my progress. I loved being able to participate in 60-70% of the activities where I used to only enjoy 10-20%. In hindsight, it is rather humorous to know that I was actually getting mad at my father for the way he was planning the hikes. He knew I wanted to hike to the Pool, but he kept putting it off to later in the week. I was eager. I wanted this to be the new start of my hiking career. An actual hike on a non-handicap accessible trail that went somewhere scenic. I was getting frustrated because I was sure I would just knock it out of the park and be ready to do other hikes. So, every hike my family took without me was a hike that, in my mind, I was not getting to enjoy. As it turns out, I am glad I didn't.

So Dad finally planned the hike to the Pool on the day before we were to return to Omaha. I was so excited. Dad, Rich, the kids and I set out on the trail. I set the pace. My pace was really, really slow, but I was not discouraged. Slow and steady wins the race. I was going to do this! After a good chunk of time, I was starting to get really tired. My feet were beginning to feel the effects of all the rocks on the trail. My legs were feeling the effect of carrying 500 pounds around at high altitude. So I asked Dad how much farther it was to the Pool. He said about another mile and a half. No problem! One foot in front of the other! I would go slow and would be tired, but this was still a possibility. Then ... I hit the wall.

Once again, I asked him how much farther. He told me it was only a bit farther to the Arches (a beautiful rock formation along the trail). Then it would be another half mile from the Arches to the Pool and that half mile would have the steepest elevation gain of the whole hike. Dad suggested that we not go to the Pool and turn around at the Arches. My legs said "The man speaks sense. Listen to him." It was shortly after this moment that I made a frightening revelation. Even if we turned around at the Arches, that would represent the halfway point and I knew for a certainty that I was more than halfway tired. At this point, I was taking many breaks. I would hike several yards but then find a rock to sit on to rest my legs and feet. Finally, I said to Dad, "I think I better turn around now." Dad said that I was really close to the Arches and I should press on. I am so glad he did because I think I would have considered it a bigger failure if I hadn't made it to a scenic location. Dad sent Rich and the kids ahead to find out how much farther it was to the Arches. As I continued to plod on, I kept thinking to myself, "why aren't they back yet? That means it's far." But just as all hope was almost lost, Jake came back and said we were almost there. About ten minutes later, I was at the Arches. I had made it! Half my brain was jumping for joy, the other half was saying, "How are we going to get back?"

I allowed myself to enjoy the moment. It really is a gorgeous location. I sat on a rock and ate a granola bar and drank some water. I marveled at the kids running around on their young, spry legs. I guess my pace had not challenged their youthful bodies (big surprise). Eventually, it was time to start back towards the car. It wasn't long before my pace was so slow that Dad had Rich take the kids ahead at their own pace while he stayed with me.

I was really beginning to think I wasn't going to make it. Every part of me hurt. I was now going only 4 to 6 yards between breaks. I began to hate the moments where the sitting rocks were really far apart. That meant I had to trudge longer before the next break. I kept
apologizing to Dad because I was going so slowly. To my surprise, he was loving it! I was moving so slowly that he was able to really soak in the scenery. He said he was seeing things he had never noticed before because he was normally trekking on through at a normal pace which didn't allow him to really admire all the beauty around him. It is a good thing my father is the kind of man who, in the words of John Denver, finds grace in every step he takes. He gets invigorated by the beauty of the mountains. And I was certainly giving him every opportunity to really commune with nature. We had perfect weather. It was an absolutely beautiful day for a hike.

At some point in this death march, I pointed out to Dad that I was unsure if I could make it back to the cars. He pointed out that I had no choice. They couldn't carry me out. We were silent for awhile and then Dad chimed in with the quote of the trip. "Well Kev, you picked a beautiful day to die." If I hadn't had one foot in the grave already, I would have died of laughter. Now I am going 3 or 4 feet between breaks. All of a sudden, Jake shows up. He told me that I was almost there. Jake, you have never looked so beautiful to me. You were an angel of mercy. To wrap this up, I did make it back to the car. 2.1 miles in 3 hours. Not exactly a rock star pace, but one that completed the hike. I promptly sat down in the passenger seat and started mentally evaluating the experience.

At the Arches, I remember being really disappointed that I would not make it to the Pool. I was not delusional enough to believe I should have pressed on, but it felt like a failure. However, after the hike, I realized this was a huge accomplishment. I was the guy who had a hard time walking from the car to the couch and now I had just complete a 2 mile hike across rugged terrain at high altitude. It wasn't the return to greatness that I had hoped, but it did show me that I was well on my way. Soon I would be able to hike all my favorite trails again. All I had to do was keep at it. I really thought I would pass out into a long nap when I returned to the cabin. However, I was so jazzed about what I had just done that I was high as a kite. I wasn't moving much, but I was really awake.

-- I feel like I'm on top of the world. Honestly, I feel like I've climbed a very giant mountain, and I'm just standing right on top with my arms wide open and breathing rarified air.
-- Shania Twain

I look forward to my next trip so I can further check my progress on the Colorado scale. Maybe I can make it to the Pool. Maybe there are other hikes I can do. All the possibilities are there as long as I continue to make progress. Perhaps one day, I can do some things I've always wanted to do like climb Longs Peak. That is a far off goal, but a worthy one.

-- Well Kev, you picked a beautiful day to die.
-- William Riley

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Entry #4 - Progress

-- Progress lies not in enhancing what is, but in advancing toward what will be.
-- Khalil Gibran

In the next 6 weeks, I lost 340 pounds, finished my first marathon, got me the perfect wife and a job with a 6 figure salary. Ok, maybe that didn't happen, but it would've been nice.

So, on a long journey like this, how does one measure progress? How does one measure accomplishment? Does a marathon runner internally cheer every mile? Or is it every 5 miles? 10? Or is each step a step closer to their goal? (Note: using a marathon analogy, not one involving a buffet) :)

I believe it changes with experience. At the beginning of this journey there were a hundred little signs of progress I could see and feel. But as time goes on and routine sets in, they become fewer and farther between. Fairly quickly, I realized that I was moving better. My back stopped hurting. I was able to get out of my car or out of chairs with greater ease. Showers did not require a rest break (thank God!).

I do not want it to sound like it was all peaches and cream. I did have several days where I was incredibly sore after a workout. But only the first few times produced a painful soreness. Once my body accepted that it would need to be prepared for more than a long sit on the couch, it was better able to adapt to the demands I was placing upon it. From then on, the post workout soreness was merely an oddly pleasant tightness that let me know I had done some positive work. That the muscles were in the process of rebuilding and I would be all the stronger for it.

At this time in the evolution of Marty's bootcamps, we were having weight loss competitions. At the end of the competition, we would have a party to celebrate our successes. I would like to say I won this competition, but the bootcampers are tough competition. I don't think I even placed! But the party was a tremendously good time. It was the first time I was able to interact with my new friends in a more personal setting. I realized almost immediately that I would enjoy the company of these folks because they were my kind of people. They were fun and quick to laugh. Though I played the innocent flower being corrupted by these crazy ladies, I was, in fact, enjoying a sense of belonging because we shared a similar sense of humor and love of music, fun and camaraderie.

I know I continue to go on and on about the amazing qualities Marty has as a friend, mentor and trainer. I know that I risk a number of jokes that question my sexuality. :) But it is important to me that I remember the moments that showed me his commitment to me and to his mission of helping people of size become people of health. Only a few weeks into the process, Marty and I arranged to have a couple of training sessions at my home. This was a tremendous help to me because he was able to show me things I could do around the house. He showed me exercises and stretches I could do with no more equipment than an exercise ball and a stretchy band. My parents live on a lake and we walked around the lake. I remember that I had to stop at each bench to rest. That meant I had increased my walking stamina from 20 feet to almost a quarter of a mile. That is progress! Marty was impressed with the beauty of the lake and said I should walk it every day. I had to agree that I had no excuse not to do that because the lake is so close.

In a fit of optimism, I sent a text to several of my friends to let them know of Marty's instructions. I asked them to let me know if they were available and wanted to take a walk with me. I figured it would be good company and nice conversation. This could turn a work out into a social occasion. Two minutes after that text was sent, my friend, Nathan, sent back that he would love to join me and that he would be there in 5 minutes. We walked that lake, catching up on each other's lives and enjoying the beautiful day. It was a pleasure!

-- Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.
-- Albert Camus

This story about Nathan makes my eyes water as I think of all the wonderful support I have received from friends and family. These are people who have always loved and supported me even while I seemed to be eating myself into an early grave. They never made my weight an issue or hurt my feelings by making me feel bad for what I was doing. However, they also did not enable my bad behaviors. If I brought the subject up, they were always quick to point out that they desperately wanted me to do something about my weight. They loved me and they wanted me to be around for many years to come. Now that I have started a journey to health, they are quick to ask me about my progress, congratulate me on my successes and support me as I change my old habits to better facilitate the journey. For example, I have long been a person who goes out to the bars with my friends. I have always enjoyed drinking alcohol and getting silly with my friends. Once Marty showed me how counterproductive alcohol was to my journey, I switched my habits. We still went to our regular hangouts, but now nachos and rum had been replaced with veggies and water. Not only did my friends avoid calling me out on it, they made a point to say how much they admired the changes and progress I was making. It is easy to say that this is just how friends should act, but I think it is a sign of what quality people I have in my life and I will be forever grateful to them.

As wonderful as these friends are, there are few that have even known me at a time when I wasn't large. They don't know the Kevin who could be a dance machine (no, I didn't say "talented", just did a lot of dancing). They only know a Kevin who spends all his time on the couch observing the fun and laughing along with everyone. I can't wait to be an instigator again rather than an observer. I want to regain some of my old swagger. I remember my old confidence (borderline arrogance) with new people and new situations. I could walk into a group of people and know that if I was just myself, I would be fine. As a fat man, it is much more difficult. There was a lag time between the first time I met someone new and the moment they would look past the weight and enjoy the company of the person I am. When new people would find their way into my circle of friends, I could see the questions in their eyes. Why are they hanging out with him? How can I keep him at a safe distance? As if being fat were a disease they could catch.

Perhaps that isn't fair. There was definitely a hesitancy to be my friend and it was clear that I had to "win them over" because I was not someone they would normally connect with. But I could be reading too much into that reaction. Obesity has an insidious affect on personality. You project your own disgust at the state of your own body onto others. Oftentimes, you may be correct in assuming that people only see a fat person, but in truth, there is no way you can know that. You simply believe that your own negative thoughts about yourself are the same that others will have about you.

Progress is an elusive thing for me. It is interesting to note that I can see the progress in others with much more clarity than I can see it within myself. It is as if I hold myself to different standard or I am too close to the situation to see the big picture. That is one of the goals I have with this blog. I want to keep track of the many things I notice from day to day. For example, I don't remember when I first was able to complete an entire workout without back pain, but it happened. I don't remember when I first was able to do a flight of stairs without being winded, but I can. I don't remember when I first was able to get down on the ground with my niece and nephews to play without wondering if I would be able to get back up, but I do. Those moments are fleeting. I want to record them. I want to revel in them. I want to use them as my own internal motivation to continue. These are the reasons why I want to succeed. These are the reasons why it is important to succeed.

Life is the greatest progress I have achieved. Somewhere in this time frame, I made the realization that I no longer felt like I was dying. I felt alive. I could feel myself adding years to my life instead of subtracting them. I remember one night where I literally burst into tears as I realized that it had been months since I had thought about my own mortality. I couldn't believe that such a short period of time was needed to completely alter my mindset. No longer was I looking at the inevitability of an early demise. I was able to see a future of possibility. I had hope for tomorrow. This progress was the most meaningful to me because it no longer mattered how long this journey would take. I still wanted it to go quickly, but whether I was travelling at 10 miles per hour or 70, I was still going forward. I was still cutting the distance between now and my destination.

-- We all want progress, but if you're on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road.
-- C.S. Lewis

So, amid my tears, I simply took stock of all the people who helped make it possible, including myself. I thought to myself, "How do I repay them? How can this debt ever be repaid?" The funny thing is that those people don't expect repayment. Or rather, they do expect repayment but the currency is my effort. They want me to continue. They want me to be dedicated. They want me to succeed. I use this as motivation as well. I will not dishonor their efforts by allowing myself to fall back on my normal habits of sloth and gluttony (I'll work on the other deadly sins later. :) ). And if future Kevin is reading this entry at a time when the journey is difficult or the cravings are calling, do not succumb to those weaknesses! You are better than that. You owe Dad, Mom, Erin and Marty more than that. You deserve more than that. Stick it out! Work hard! It is one of the few moments in life when the selfish benefits you gain will also benefit the people who care about you. Help them, by helping yourself.

-- There are no constraints on the human mind, no walls around the human spirit, no barriers to our progress except those we ourselves erect.
-- Ronald Reagan

Entry #3 - Baby Steps

-- Nothing in life is more remarkable than the unnecessary anxiety which we endure, and generally create ourselves.
-- Benjamin Disraeli

It would be an understatement to say that I was nervous, scared and anxious about my first workout with Marty. For many years, everything about my life had been about limitations. I can't do this because it hurts. I can't do that because I am too heavy or it requires too much effort. My brain had ceased to operate on the ideas of hope, possibility, and promise. Instead I was living in a world of resignation, passivity, and regret. So, my mind could only hover around the idea that this workout was going to hurt. It was going to be too hard. It was probably something I couldn't do.

My fears were unfounded. Yes, it was hard, but not too hard. Some things hurt, but when I pointed that out, Marty would adapt the exercise so it didn't hurt. And to my utter surprise, I could do it. We spent the first workout simply walking, talking, and trying the various pieces of exercise equipment to see if I could use them. Yes, when you weigh 550 lbs, you are a danger to treadmills and elliptical machines. Many of the weight lifting machines have seats that are too small or apparatuses that are too restrictive for a large belly to fit in. Well .... I guess I just announced my starting weight. It is an estimate because at that size, we had trouble finding scales that would accurately measure me. Perhaps we should have gone out to the semi-truck scales on the interstate. :)

I can tell you that watching the Biggest Loser made me think that Marty was going to beat me to a pulp on the first workout. He saved that for later. :) I think it was brilliant of him to ease me into the exercise. Mostly, he just found ways for me to keep moving. We started small. Accumulating minor victories each week. It kept my spirits up and didn't make me dread my next work out. In the first workout, we didn't have any victories yet to cheer, but Marty kept letting me know how happy he was that I started this journey with him and how great things were going to be when I could move better. It seemed like a far off dream, but he made it sound real. He made it sound possible. Little did I know, it wouldn't take very long at all.

We added basketball to my workouts. I was shooting around before bootcamp one day and I noticed that I was out of breath and my heartrate was up from shooting two or three baskets (sad, I know). I told Marty this and to my shock, he was excited to hear it. This became my new warm-up activity. I would play around-the-world, shooting until I made the basket at each of 5 stations on the court. We also spent time simply passing the basketball back and forth, but I was supposed to slam it onto the ground has hard as I could. I also added this to my bootcamp experience. Instead of simply watching the others work, I would, at times, slam the basketball on the ground repeatedly. Thanks folks for putting up with my chorus of thuds during your workout. :)

I was astounded by how creative Marty could be. He knew the muscle groups he wanted to build within me, but we were limited on ways that we could work them. Many machines were too restrictive, but he always had an alternative. Something that just got those muscles moving. We took a lot of breaks during these first weeks. My sore back and lack of cardiovascular conditioning gave us about 5 or 6 minutes of continued exercise before I was needing a break. Ever productive, Marty used this time to talk. Teaching me about the nutritional/dietary requirements. We spent the time getting to know each other. Each week, the workout time got a little bit longer and the rest periods a little shorter. Progress was being made.

-- Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.
-- Benjamin Franklin

All through these first weeks, I was attending the bootcamp sessions to watch them work out. Marty had suggested that I do this, but I was pretty nervous about that too. Who wants to be the fat kid on the bleachers, unable to participate? I was worried it would be a de-motivator. To my surprise, it was a motivator. First of all, it was never awkward for me. The people were still accepting and happy to see me there. And while I did not like being on the sidelines, I thought the bootcamp looked like fun and I was eager to join. That drove me to be more interested in my individual workouts because those were the efforts that were going to make me able to "play with the other kids". I couldn't wait to play dodge ball and basketball and run Marty's little obstacle courses.

It is a good thing this lovely group of people were so accepting, kind and caring. Otherwise, the supermarket walk-through would have been even more awkward than it already was. As you may recall, I was unable to walk the supermarket without significant pain, so Marty told me I could use the little motorized cart to follow along with them. It ended up being a perfect solution. I was able to take in all the information he was giving me. Had I tried to walk it, I would have been distracted by the pain. So, a chosen few of the bootcampers, Marty, and Brad were privileged (?) enough to have the opportunity to see me tool around the store like Mrs. B at the Nebraska Furniture Mart. I won't lie. This was humiliating. I couldn't have asked for a more glaring example of how bad things had become. Being unable to walk is a morbid fear of the 500+ pound man. No one wants to be that guy they have to lift out of bed with a crane. Marty and the others just treated it as a non-issue and moved on with the lesson as if I was just another member of the tour instead of "scooter boy". This made it much easier on me. That and running over Brad's foot from time to time.

These beginning steps were tiny ... nearly unnoticeable. But, they were MY first steps. They were my first steps into a new life, a better world, a happier time. It was amazing how these simple steps affected my emotions. The depression was going away. Hope and happiness were replacing all those bad emotions. I was doing something about it. I was moving forward instead of backward. I was moving instead of sitting. A possible future was beginning to unfold in my mind. Far away, to be sure, but attainable.

As the old philosopher pointed out .....

-- (The) journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
-- Lao-Tzu

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Entry #2 - The Beginning

-- The beginning is the most important part of the work.
-- Plato

So we left off at dinner with my sister. She managed to impress upon me how worried the family was about me without depressing me further. No easy feat. But more importantly, she came to me with a plan of attack if I was willing to accept it (insert Mission Impossible Theme). She let me know that Dad and Mom were willing to allow me to move back in with them to reduce my expenses AND they were willing to pay for me to get help with weight loss (bless them). Dad had talked about sending me to the Biggest Loser Spa and Resort to kick start this effort. It is REALLY expensive and I was very worried about that plan. I had failed so often at weight loss that I thought this costly plan would yield no long term results. Erin, however, had a different plan.

In the past, Erin had attended bootcamp workouts with Marty Wolff, a former Biggest Loser contestant who does personal training in my home town. She suggested that I start working out with him. She said that he has a unique perspective on personal training because he understands what it is like to be an overweight person. He has more empathy for the difficulties of large people. I agreed to meet with him. Here starts the journey....

-- Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.
-- Henry Ford

I met with Marty at a local gym and was immediately, pleasantly surprised. To put this in perspective, I had been to trainers twice before. In both cases, when I walked into the first meeting with them, I could see the disgust/disappointment in their eyes as they first saw how large I was. It was as if they had just seen the enormity of the project before them and they did not relish the amount of work that was going to cause them. Marty, on the other hand, immediately and cheerfully greeted me as if I were a new and dear friend. This first meeting was simply an opportunity for us to get to know each other. So he suggested we walk to a nearby park and talk along the way (anything to get me moving).

It became clear very rapidly that I wasn't going to make it to the park. I was embarrassed because I was so out of shape that I couldn't even walk a few blocks. To be honest, I didn't even make it one block. Marty didn't even blink. He just suggested we sit down on the curb and keep talking. I told him he would have to help me up. Again, he didn't even blink. "Of course, I'll help ya up."

I don't remember the details of all the things we talked about, but I was struck by how friendly and positive he was. It was if he had zero doubts that this was something I could do and would do if I just let myself put in the work. Again, this is VERY different from the other trainers I had. They had the attitude that I was a losing project that was going to quit on them long before success was achieved. Sure, that is exactly what happened, but that is beside the point. :)

Marty let me know that as a personal trainer he couldn't offer me anything more than any other trainer in town (not true). But what he could offer was the understanding of the plight of the big man. Having been an overweight person who successfully adopted a healthier lifestyle, he would understand my difficulties and could serve as an example of the results a person could achieve if they put in the work. Additionally, he let me know that he had a group of people who were at various stages of their own weight loss journey and they could help support me in my journey. In fact, this group was meeting for a bootcamp workout an hour after our meeting. He asked if I could join him over there to meet them and see them work out. I agreed to do so.

He was telling me the plan for the dietary changes I would need to make and suggested that I attend a trip to the supermarket that was occurring that Saturday. This is where he would take everyone through the store and show us what was good to buy and what to avoid. I was excited to get this information but I told him two problems with these plans that were related to the fact that I was unable to walk for more than a few minutes without intense back pain. First, I would not be able to walk through the supermarket with everyone and second, I would not be able to buy food that afternoon to start the diet.

And then, he proved to me the loyalty that I would come to find as one of his greatest assets. He said, "let's go the supermarket now!" I couldn't believe what he did. It showed a dedication to my cause that not even I had adopted yet. It showed a caring for me and an intent to help me that I also had not felt yet. He took my credit card and ran into the store, bought me enough healthy food to last me until the weekend and brought it out to my car for me. While in there, he also looked to see if they had the little motorized shopping carts that are usually reserved for the elderly or handicapped. He told me that they had a couple of them and said I could drive around the supermarket with the group. Problem solved. I still tear up when I think of this. Here is a person who has known me for less than an hour and he is so invested in helping me that he goes out of his way to make arrangements to include me in things and make sure I am set up for success from the very beginning. After this amazing gesture, we went to a second gym to meet and witness the "bootcamp crew".

-- Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.
-- Helen Keller

I walked into the gym and first met a girl named Becca. She said she saw me walk in but didn't immediately come up because she didn't want to assume that because I was there and I was large that I was there for the "fat people workout". I laughed and introduced myself. As the rest of the bootcampers arrived, I was struck by the wide variety of body types that were there. Some were big (none as big as me). Some were quite thin. All were very kind, very welcoming and very happy to be there. Marty explained to the group that I was there to meet everyone and observe the workouts because it was going to be a few months before I was able join them. Again, my jaded mind expected comments, eye-rolling or jokes or some kind. To my surprise, no one even batted an eye at this news. They just welcomed me into the fold and let me know if there was any way they could help me, to let them know.

The workout started and I was absolutely stunned. All of them, the big and the small, the young and the old, were attacking this work out with passion. They all worked at their own paces but still managed to create a challenging workout with Marty's direction. And they were so cheerful about it! They were happy to be there with each other, striving for a healthier lifestyle. It struck me that these people were not just workout partners, they were friends. They didn't just talk at the gym, but they supported each other. I now understood why Marty listed this as one of the greatest benefits he could offer me.

They told me they would add me to their bootcamper-only page on Facebook. This is where they can commiserate with each other, support each other, and joke with each other as they struggle to obtain a healthier lifestyle. When I was added to this page, it was a joy. Here were people struggling with the same issues I have. They understood my struggles, shared them, and had ideas of how to overcome them. And they had pictures of events where they all go out together as friends and have fun. It was the pictures that really impressed me. These pictures showed where these people started. Even the largest person I had met at the bootcamp was considerably smaller than when they started with Marty. And the skinny people at bootcamp? They were not skinny when they started.

It showed me that it works. It showed me that there was hope. It showed me what could be achieved. And many of them had done it in a year or less. I couldn't believe it. For the first time in years, a little flame of hope was kindled within me. It is so strange to do a 180 degree turn in a moment. My life before that moment was all about hopelessness, an acceptance that I was a fat man, I would be a fat man, and soon I would die as a fat man. In weight loss attempts in the past, one of the huge difficulties was depressing thoughts about the enormous amount of time it would take to achieve any meaningful (in my mind) results. I lamented at the amount of time it would take me be thin enough to look good. But here were pictures of people who had lost amazing amounts of weight in less than a year. A split second of understanding and suddenly I shifted from that oppressive hopelessness to a liberating sense of hope. If they had done this, could I?

Marty said success would come if I met him halfway. I put forth 50% of the effort and he would give me 50% through his training. Even as he told me this, the sad little fat man in my head said "yeah sure", but now I am seeing evidence that he may be right. Is it possible? Can I actually achieve the results that I desperately want? Can I succeed where I have so often failed? For the first time, I actually believed I could.

Next time: Baby Steps.

-- A whole stack of memories never equal one little hope.
-- Charles M Schulz

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Entry #1 - History

I wish I had started this blog back when I started, but that point is now moot. So you will have to excuse me if I send us back in time for a short while.

This post is going to cover the events leading up to April 12th, 2011. Not every event of my life (thank goodness), it will merely be a summary of the relevant events that tie to this narrative.

-- What is past is prologue.
-- William Shakespeare

I wasn't always a large man. I was never a skinny person, but there was a time that I was a swimmer, I was attractive to women (please don't call me arrogant, I just mean that I had a girlfriend or two), I could dance, jump, and run. I won't go into all the possible reasons why I gained weight. They are intangible and I am still poring over them in my mind, so I know of no clear event or events that set me on my path to obesity. However, from about 1992-2011, I marched my weight right up to hideous amounts.

It came to a head after losing my job to outsourcing and trying to find a job in a market that views obese people as lazy and incapable, regardless of their qualifications. Though never diagnosed, I am positive that I was in a clinically depressed state as I faced my ever-decreasing bank book and lack of prospects. I spent months sitting in my recliner, eating pizza and Jimmy Johns while watching TV. I think this is where my weight really took its largest dramatic increase.

It is funny how much you can lie to yourself. I knew I didn't like being overweight, but in some fashion, you try to carve out some happiness and make allowances for the weight. There are many reasons why my life sucked at that weight. Like many people I was out of breath at the smallest exertion, not able to sit in a booth at a restaurant, and had low self esteem. However, I wanted to list some things that might not be as widely experienced. The things that could be a problem for someone who has gone far beyond the simple term, "fat". Please bear with me. I am not proud of these. It is merely "record keeping" so I know from whence I have come. Not to mention, remind me of where I never want to return.

  • Unable to put on and tie my own shoes without propping that foot up on the bed. And, when I do tie the shoes, I am out of breath because I had to crunch myself up to
    do it, thus restricting my ability to breathe.
  • Being stared at by children (and some adults) because I am clearly the largest person they have seen in real life.
  • Oh this one is sad .... Taking a break during a shower because I am too out of breath from the effort. Ugh.
  • This one is worse .... being unable to reach around my body to clean myself after a bowel movement. So, in order to make life livable, "dumps" were planned and executed directly before a shower so a better cleaning could be achieved. This does not help the self-esteem.
  • Being frightened to sit on the furniture of friends and relatives because there is a better the 50% chance I would break them in some fashion. Not to mention the humiliation when you do.
  • Unable to ride in the cars of friends because I didn't fit in very many cars. Plus, seatbelts are not long enough to get around you.
  • Never being able to take a plane anywhere. At least not without buying at least two seats.
  • Inability to walk or stand for any period of time. It would cause too much back and leg pain.
  • Missing out on sporting events, movies, and family/friend outings because those things would require too much walking. I have actually planned to meet people for a movie and then left when I couldn't find a parking spot close enough. I cried all the way home, but that was my situation.
  • Inability to do very simple things that mean too much. My heart breaks for all the times I was unable to accompany my nephews and/or niece upstairs to see something in their room or go outside to play or get down on the floor to play. I can't get those moments back.
  • I am haunted by the idea of the lessons those children may have taken from my example. I can only hope that I can write new lessons with my current and future example.
If I think of more, I can add them to future posts.

Let us not discount the solitary life that is created by this size. So many moments would brazenly show me that other people were finding romance, love, and companionship while I was not. Going out with friends who all had girlfriends or wives. Or even worse, going out with single friends who all find "hook ups" while I sit alone. You put on a brave face and act like the fun-loving, ever-happy guy, but in the end, it is only an act. But most recently, I was made aware of it at my grandmother's funeral when I was able to simply assess my family. My sister had her husband, my brother had his wife. Mom and Dad consoled each other while I was alone. Sure, there were friends there and my family did not ignore me, but that isn't quite the same thing.

-- Depression is a prison where you are both the suffering prisoner and the cruel jailer.
-- Dorothy Rowe

Then things even progress to a point where you can feel yourself speeding closer to death. There are factors that make this happen. For example, you are aware the fast food/delivered food is bad for you, but your body is so out of shape that you are unable to walk a grocery store without crippling pain in your back. You are depressed because you are fat and eat too much. You eat too much and get fatter because you are depressed. Everything on your body hurts most of the time. You are out of breath most of the time. You can feel death coming. It is like you are spinning around the toilet bowl of life and look out ... the water's moving faster and faster.

I would like to say that I saw all this happening and took action on my own. This isn't true. I just got more and more depressed. I was crying at the drop of the hat and for the stupidest things. My family was worried about me, but weren't sure what to do. Dad wanted to stage an intervention type meeting to force me to get help. God help him, he means well and it is because he cares and worries about me, but this isn't the best way to approach a depressed person and certainly not me. I've never been one to deal well with ultimatums.

So, the heroine of this story is my sister. She knew that I would not react well to the intervention, but came up with an alternate plan. She took me to dinner and laid it out for me. She told me how worried everyone was. And offered a solution if I wanted to take it. In hindsight, this was a brilliant plan. Instead of beaning the drowning man in the head with the life preserver, she threw it within arms' reach and said "take it if you want it." I will always owe her a huge debt of gratitude for this. It won't stop me from teasing her, but the debt is still there. :)

In my next post, I will detail my sister's plan and the beginning steps on this journey.

-- A lot of what passes for depression these days is nothing more than a body saying that it needs work.
-- Geoffrey Norman