Wednesday, February 8, 2012

#17 - Super Bowl and other dramatic changes.

-- People who work together will win, whether it be against complex football defenses, or the problems of modern society.
-- Vince Lombardi

Hello sports fans! Welcome to a new world in sports enjoyment!

That crazy Marty. He read that the Super Bowl is America's second largest consumption day of the year. Amazingly, the average American consumes around 3000 calories during the Super Bowl. Let me clarify.... That isn't 3000 calories on Super Bowl Sunday. That is 3000 calories in the 3 1/2 hours that the game plays! What's worse, that 3000 calories is comprised of fatty foods, high sodium foods and alcohol. So, he decided it would be a good idea to change things around.

A group of Square One Clients, Marty and his wife Amy joined together to try and do our part to re-write the statistics on the Super Bowl experience. Instead of eating and boozing our way through the game, we spent the entire run of the game on cardio equipment and other exercise activities (push ups, sit ups, step ups, etc). If we look at the average per person calorie total of 3000, we can show that by exercising for 3 1/2 hours we avoided the intake of 45,000 calories. But the swing is even larger! We burned over 23,000 calories. We took control and changed our collective destinies by over 68,000 calories! That is a combined total of almost 20 pounds!! We were extremely tired by the end but also very proud of ourselves.

-- A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.
-- Margaret Mead

I must speak to another revelation I had during this event. As I get to know my fellow Square One folks, I am constantly brought face to face with the difficulties of weight loss. Most are unhappy with how quickly the pounds are coming off their bodies. They have low opinions of their appearance and are constantly thinking themselves weak because we all have moments of weakness as we succumb to temptation. None of this matches what I was seeing from them on Super Bowl Sunday.

What did I see? I saw athletes. I saw victorious people. I saw people who were leaps and bounds above where they started. Who works out for 3 1/2 hours straight (well, we did stop to watch Madonna, drink water, and have some healthy snacks)? Even people who showed up late simply knuckled down and worked out even harder so their contribution to our total would be significant. For all of you who read this blog, I want you to take a hard look in the mirror. Take a moment to forget the negative things you see. See the successful, hard working person who can do this amazing feat. All you see is the remaining weight and the crazy self image that truly no longer applies to you. For the most part, we started as weak, dying, unhealthy people suffocating in a mountain of fat and self loathing. Last Sunday, you all proved yourselves to be AMAZING, powerful people. There may still be fat on your body but there is clearly a strong, capable person inside those remaining pounds. Use that strength! Continue to work out and melt that remaining disguise off your body so the image matches the reality. And for God's sake, love yourself! Love what you have done! Love what you are becoming! Give you self a little slack so you can begin to believe in the new, healthy person fighting to get out. I could not have been more proud of myself and the beautiful, capable people I with whom I was burning this impressive amount of calories!

-- The "self-image" is the key to human personality and human behavior. Change the self image and you change the personality and the behavior.
-- Maxwell Maltz

This was not my only revelation this week. A common failing of people on this journey is that we fail to see a lot of the progress we are making until something brings it to light. I don't know why this is so surprising to me. On the way up the scale, I would often fail to see how my increased weight was affecting my life because it came on gradually. I would simply make allowances in my life for my heavier self and become "content" with the new restrictions on my life. So it only stands to reason that it would happen in reverse as I go back the other direction.

Today, I was reminded of how far I've come by a simple stock image taken off Google images. Marty was designing a pamphlet to show some of the struggles People of Size face in their struggle to start a health program. He pulled a picture off the Internet of a large man sitting on a park bench. As I saw the picture, I said to Marty "Look at how he is sitting. I know exactly what he is doing." Marty didn't know what I was talking about. It was then that I not only realized what my life was like, but also how I have changed in the past few months.

I explained to Marty that the man was sitting somewhat awkwardly on the bench for several reasons. First, he will not lean all the way back on the bench because he is fearful that his weight will break the back of the bench. It is a common worry for the extremely overweight person. It is humiliating to break furniture in your own home. It can make a person near suicidal if it happens in public. Second, he is somewhat perched on the bench because he is operating under the delusion, as I so often did, that if he feels the bench begin to give way or hears a loud crack, he will be able to quickly stand up so he doesn't fall to the ground with the bench. This is laughable because at our heaviest weights we take several seconds and a lot of groaning just to stand up. We aren't the most agile folks on the planet so it is laughable to think that we could react quickly to this event and "hop" up to avoid embarrassment. Lastly, he had positioned his arms and hands in a very familiar position. I recognized the position from my own history. You try to place your arms in a protective fashion around the belly as if to hide some of the embarrassing girth your have obtained. Again, another laughable concept. It would take one heck of an optical illusion to let your small arms hide your impressive belly. Deep down, you know it is illogical, but in the end, you must try.

It was crazy how quickly I got back into this mindset. I so easily placed myself in his position and understood the discomfort he had by just being in public. He had very few options though. He had to sit. If he was at all like me, it was too tiring or painful to stand for very long and his only recourse was to sit on the bench. In the end, it is another of those things you come to be accustomed to doing. So much so, that many of the thoughts and worries I describe are unconscious. But I do remember the fear. Anytime I was at a friend's house, a restaurant, or any public place, I was so careful sitting on furniture because I knew that I would be absolutely mortified if I damaged the furniture with my tremendous weight. The bigger you get, the worse the fear. It encourages the solitude of obesity. Why go out and be with people if there are so many opportunities for humiliation? Loneliness, worry and fear combine to accelerate our ever increasing feelings of self-loathing, depression and hopelessness.

-- Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.
-- Mother Teresa

I have said before that I wish I could impress upon others how much this journey can help them. It is so easy to not even try because all you see is how long it will take to reach your goal. It is a daunting task to set out to lose 50, 100, 150 or even 250-300 pounds (my eventual goal). But here's the thing.... There is so much benefit along the way if you are just honest enough with yourself to see it. Yes, I am not at my goal. I am not even close. But I can move. I can sit on furniture without fear of destroying it. I can work out for 3 1/2 hours and change my destiny. These are amazingly good feelings. You don't have to reach your goal to change the pattern of self loathing. You merely have to work to go in the right direction. In fact, if I were to break a couch, bench or chair tomorrow, I would not have the same level of embarrassment and humiliation that I experienced in the past. This is because I know I am working to change my life. It is easier to smooth over your own ruffled feathers if you know that you are working hard to make sure that these things don't happen ever again.

-- Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.
-- Winston Churchill