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

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