Erika surprised me last weekend with not one but two pairs of shoes. ( She even bought them new. 🙂 ) She was tired of seeing my worn-out but very comfortable work shoes. One of the pairs makes me feel like the god Mercury. The other pair? I literally danced and took off running at Academy when I felt how light they made me feel. I already feel that way most days, as if I’m a burning battery and my feet not quite touching the ground. Just at work today, I walked 23,000 steps, 75 flights of stairs, and jumped three railings. For years, I accommodated a huge amount of weight. I try not to think about spending those years not being the way I was always supposed to be. All the picnic tables I did not jump, all the miles I could have traversed in all manner of places, and the energy hidden inside my body but camouflaged by poor eating choices. Don’t get me wrong. I was very active and especially so because of my job. But there’s no getting around I foolishly convinced myself that it was more pleasurable to overeat than to feel the way I do now. As my friend Tammy taught me to say, nothing tastes as good as this feels. I know I won’t always be this way because age has no choice but to rob us incrementally of mobility. So if you see me jumping things I’m not supposed to be… Laugh and give me encouragement. You can laugh twice as hard if I bust my ass. Because one day, I will be like that native American next to the highway littered with trash, a tear in my eye, as I look upon a picnic table that I can no longer jump. So for today and all the days I can, I will pirouette, jump, climb trees, and remember what it felt like when I wasn’t truly me.
“In sickness and health” is a beautiful standard. It reminds us that life isn’t easy.
I’ll leave it to someone whose opinion I cherish to briefly sum up one of the caveats that eluded me: “A cancer diagnosis falls under “in sickness and in health.” Choosing obesity does not.”
It’s also true for alcoholism or anything that is behavior-driven. Overcoming any of these problems is a lot of work. Of course it is!
This doesn’t imply that some people don’t have physical or emotional struggles that make it harder. I’m not discussing the outliers. I’m talking about most of us, the ones who fall into drinking and slowly drive our loved ones mad with concern and consequences. Or those who gain weight and instead of honestly addressing the issue, learn to accommodate the effects of their choices. Their partners might be the most loving people in the world. They might encourage, they might support, and they might also quietly watch the person they love lose sight of their health. But the partner with the behavioral issue is making the decision for both partners.
I’m reluctant to talk about weight for a lot of reasons, one of which is that it impacted me personally, both as the person guilty of it and then the person attempting to get my partner to see that the consequences of choosing to let it get worse were damaging our quality of life on multiple levels. The other thing that makes me hesitant is that we have such a huge taboo against openly and honestly talking about weight. It’s a global problem.
Love is a feeling. It is also action. And reciprocal and mutual action when it affects your partner. When the consequences of your choices rob both of you of the enjoyment of life and each other, it’s no shame for your partner to ask you to do something different. They wouldn’t ask if they didn’t love you.
I only equate alcoholism and obesity because of the complexities of both behaviors. They both require a realization on the part of the person affected by them. And both bring consequences to both partners attempting to lead a good, healthy life.
It shouldn’t be taboo to talk about either one. And if anger results from either conversation, you have a bigger problem. But the anger also acknowledges the severity of the underlying conversation.
I’m posting this because I get frustrated with people. It’s not because they want to see me fail (though some do); rather, it’s because I see them complicate the issue of being the weight they want to be. “Accepting and loving yourself as you are is the best. If you can’t, then DO something. Forget the gym. It’s all on the what-you-put-in-your-mouth side of the equation.”
I LOVE this picture of me. First, it was a fantastic moment in 2005 with my nephew and his friend. It’s not photoshopped. I weighed around 253. They gave me hell and laughter for challenging them to a balloon stomach challenge. Obviously, I won.
I didn’t add any exercise to my life when I dropped almost all my weight. I realized that I was fooling myself by eating way more than I imagined. The math (and results) proved it. I did add exercise because I was afraid my cousin would bludgeon me for not doing so. She was right. Exercise has its own benefits. But I continue to remind people that the best way to lose weight without upending your life is to control what you put in your mouth. It’s a lifelong commitment rather than a sprint. And it can be tough. Food is freaking amazing.
I went from the low 250s to the low 140s. It felt amazing. Now, my setpoint is 165. I’m not self-conscious at all. Because I finally learned that IF I want or need to, I can change the things about myself that are under my control. The rest? IDGAF. Being 55 has its privileges, and I’m so glad to be still alive. I’m not sure that this would be true had a lightning bolt not smacked me in the head a couple of years ago. The same bolt had unintended consequences, that’s true. But not being alive makes enjoying things a bit impossible.
People constantly talk about their weight. Or they needlessly feel self-conscious about it. It’s easy to know when they’ve hit their own fulcrum point because they finally try something different. Talk shifts to behavior. And that makes me happy.
So many beautiful people stress about their weight or how they look. Most of them don’t need to. We have them in our lives because we love them. We don’t see them as they see themselves. People are beautiful because of who they are. If they are unhappy, we want them to find a way to look and feel the way they want to.
Nothing is more astounding than watching someone do the things that give them success. I watch them get confidence – and invariably, they get their huge smile back. This is true about weight, and it’s true when they change their lives in other ways.
While I’m on the soapbox, I wish people would stop being timid about how they look. Especially when it comes to people seeing them or seeing their own pictures. Some of y’all are such tremendously beautiful people the way you are. Most of us do not care if there are extra pounds. We don’t see pounds or focus on the imperfections y’all perceive.
It’s in the eye of the beholder. If you’re not happy, then you can do something. Otherwise, don’t worry about how the rest of us see you. If you’re in our lives, believe me, you’re awesome enough.
Meanwhile, if you feel bad, just look at my picture from 2005 and imagine how many years I continued to make bad choices. And laugh!
Love, X .
PS I welcome smack talk if you want to be snarky. I’m being serious.
I’ve made several of these in the last few months. When I got this absurdly large baking sheet, it was obvious I had to up my game in terms of volume. This one is 20 pieces made on a 16×21 deep baking sheet. Each piece has 30+ grams of protein, fiber, and vitamins, and even though it seems impossible, two or three servings of fruit per square. I experiment with different kinds each time I make it. I’ve discovered that I can omit the oil if I want to. Breaking the alleged rules for baking is half the fun. This one also has raisins, various nuts, high-fiber Cheerios, oats, and probably the kitchen sink. I know my taste buds are wildly weird, but my coworker Carlos absolutely loved them. The first day he ate one, he said it filled him up so much that he didn’t even eat supper that night. And he ate another piece the next two days. Sometimes these nutrition concoctions have unexpected things, such as vegetables you wouldn’t normally expect. I pack mine and freeze them. Yes, I eat them frozen too. I might be biased, but when I eat them every day, there is no doubt that I eat a lot less crap and have even more energy than I normally do. Don’t get me wrong, I like eating even raw protein powder. These squares I make saturate my taste buds and make me feel full. When I first started making them again, they were much sweeter. Now I make them Latino style and could care less whether they are sweet or not.
Most people don’t eat enough fiber. Which is why they should sneak it into ice cream and Doritos. And Taco Bell, not that it would need additional fiber to keep your system moving at high velocity.
Recently, I made a megamix of Rocky theme songs. Though I am not great at it, I made one remix that is impossible to remain immobile while it’s playing. The “Five Minute” rule works great when I’m not feeling it. Because it’s certainly true that motivation follows action rather than the converse. People wait for the urge, motivation, or willpower. It’s the opposite. As soon as the thought hits your noggin, you get up and do whatever it is you were about to put off. Or worse, say aloud, “I need to do so-and-so.” One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given was: “DON’T tell me what you’re going to do. Live it. Show me.”
Most of the time, if you practice doing, telling yourself you’ll spend just five minutes on a task cures your procrastination enough to keep going once you start. That’s true with so many things in life.
The Five Minute rule aligns seamlessly with my Law of Increments. If you do a little consistently throughout the day and days, before long, you will amass much effort – and probably consequences.
I know Rocky is old school. One of the reasons it did so well is because Sylvester Stallone (whose real name is Michael Sylvester Gardenzio Stallone) was a nobody with a story about overcoming odds. He was nominated for an Oscar for his screenplay.
Late in my 9th-grade year, I got pissed off at myself one early spring afternoon and decided to go running. I figured if the violence in the house hadn’t killed me, I could risk a heart attack. We lived on the downside of a hill in Tontitown near 4K farms. To say that I regretted starting that day is an understatement. I ran a mile. My shorts were ragged, and my shoes weren’t running shoes. Poor aptly describes my predicament. But I put it all aside and just ran. I did it every day, no matter the weather and how sore I was. After a while, I was shocked to discover that the exhilaration of barely being able to breathe was an absolute high. At the end of it, I knew I’d have a hill to run down. Over time, I found myself sprinting a half-mile before the incline. I added more and more distance until one day, it occurred to me that even distance wasn’t an issue. Years later, I wondered what it was that first day propelled me to stop yammering in my head about what I needed to do – and just do it.
My brother forced me to do pullups and lift weights in the horrid dirt floor cellar on the bottom level of the trailer we rented. He usually punctuated the necessity of compliance by punching me in the upper arm with enough force to numb it. Months later, I turned the tables on him when he told me I had to do at least a dozen pull-ups. I said, “After you, my lady, after which I will.” He struggled and finished. I jumped up on the bar and did thirty. “How many CAN you do?” The look on his face was hard to read. “I don’t know. I don’t count. Pullups aren’t a normal thing I do in the real world.” My brother Mike was ridiculously stronger than me. I didn’t like weights. But if I wasn’t practicing my French Horn or reading amongst the trees, it was safe to hide somewhere, anywhere, rather than inside, where the violence would erupt. I’d do anything to have my brother Mike around so I could duck, weave, and throw punches at HIM.
Later, I realized that when I didn’t have motivation, I would listen to a couple of the songs from Rocky and Rocky 3 in my head. “Eye of The Tiger” played ad nauseam everywhere back then. You couldn’t go to church without expecting to hear it being played in lieu of old hymns. That song always gave me the energy to beat my immobility inertia.
All these decades later, some of the music still motivates me. I loathe many of the songs on the soundtracks. Anything by that crack-voiced Frank Stallone, for example. The new remixes incorporate more of the wall of brass sound that the main theme personifies. It’s just raw power demanding that I stay focused.
Through the years, I discovered that almost all obstacles were a figment of my imagination. Could I do 1,000 pushups a day? No, but I could do 1,500. That’s a bit excessive, I know. I stopped doing quite so many a few days before my emergency surgery about sixteen months ago. Could I run a mile in under six minutes at age 55? Yes. Can I run as fast as my childhood best friend Mike? Hell, no. I still have mud in my nostrils from years ago when I tried to keep pace with him. (I decided he might be Superman.) Could I walk twenty a day if I want to? Yes.
I’ve failed at so many things. So please don’t read all this as a litany of humblebrags. I’m self-aware enough to understand that I wasted a lot of my time and energy. I am proud to be a Spanish bilingual and to be a liberal as an adult. Not just politically but across the spectrum relating to people.
The gist of it is that if we are focused enough to ask ourselves what our goals are, we probably can get there. If we want to. Regardless of most of the obstacles. Everyone has their obstacles. And yes, I do recognize my own privilege by writing all this. So many people have no opportunities or advantages. Mine were massive on both sides of the scale. I’m not so stupid as not to realize that despite the harsh hand I started out with, things are good.
I wish my life had a wall of horns blasting at key moments. It would drown out the complaining and haters, for one thing. It would help to get out of bed, too, not that I have that problem. I’m lucky enough to wake up rattling the rafters most days.
From “Eye Of The Tiger” to “Pancreas Of The Platypus” might be an ideal title for a book to describe my outlook on life.
PS That dust all over my vest is from rolling around on the floor with my cat. I can beat him wrestling any day.
Something I wrote two years ago: “I don’t look for exoneration, though I want it. There is no one in this world who can be both aware of my actions and the reasons for them except for me. Since I don’t pardon myself, I expect no less from others.” -X
I’m nudging up on the two-year mark of my brother’s death, and the ensuring bell ring/vision in my head. I’m eyeless to some of the underlying nonsense going on in my head. I’m more convinced than ever that had everything not happened in the unlikely sequence it did that I would likely be dead. Weight loss was just one component of it. Two years out, my explanation is the same: I don’t get credit for it. Something broke, and the vision I’d seen of myself would be the end result. It made me rigidly hyper-focused.
I still tell people, “Don’t give me credit for doing it. I should never have let myself go to that extent. It’s like a meth addiction; no one should embark on such a journey. It’s good that I stopped overeating, but terrible I let it go so far.”
I fluctuate around the mid-160s for my weight. I feel lighter than air at 150-155 lbs. That weight requires devout adherence to a healthier diet.
The trick isn’t losing weight. It’s figuring out what works long-term. It’s relatively easy to commit to weight loss for a few months. It’s quite another to develop a different relationship with food. Food is the in-law that sleeps in your bedroom.
Food Satan is always on duty, attempting to pounce on you. When you’re tired. When you want that sublime sensation of buttery smoothness. Or salty starch. At 11 p.m. when you really should be horizontal and not sticking your head inside the fridge.
Delicious food is ubiquitous and calls our name from the other room wearing a negligee.
It pains me to see people struggle with their weight.
I’ve watched many people make a list of ‘the reasons’ they can’t lose weight, even if they desperately want to. It’s eye-opening and mostly rationalizations. Heck, isn’t almost everything we tell ourselves?
When I lost almost all my weight, I added no additional exercise. It was immediately apparent that I was consuming an awful lot more calories than I was burning. My life was already active because of my job. Because of that, I focused all my enthusiasm on eating differently while avoiding going hungry. Being hungry is a sign that you won’t be able to maintain any successes you might experience. Generally speaking, you must eat and eat often.
I’m at the two-year mark. I’m grateful for those two years, even as I’ve had other struggles.
Primarily online, I catch hell for the simplicity with which I explain the weight loss problem. There are exceptions for some people; most of us eat too many calories versus what we burn. There is no escaping the math of it. People berate me by making specious arguments about the complexities of healthy diets. It’s not complicated at all! Less sugar, less fat, fewer processed foods, more fruits and vegetables, smaller portions, and different choices. You don’t need to be 100% militant, but you do need to be 100% vigilant about your choices. Enjoy the allegedly ‘terrible’ foods from time to time, or otherwise, you’ll go bonkers. Especially if you sit and watch your friends and family eat an entire basket of buttery breadsticks or an entire large pizza.
I do enjoy the endless arguments online about the ‘best’ way, goofy supplements, energy drinks, and the myriad ways you can be made to part with your money. Whatever you choose, you must do it for the rest of your life. Find what works. It’s not a sprint. It’s a french fry-scented marathon.
I recently looked into the beer-and-sausage guy. He does a weird diet once a year, every year. He always loses weight because his caloric intake is less. His bloodwork also improves in tandem – no matter WHAT he is eating.
It’s not a comforting idea to know that we can probably only eat 1600-3000 calories daily. If your limit is 2500, a sugary soda contains about 150, which is 1/16th of your average limit. A 2 oz. Snickers bar is 280 calories, well over 10% of your intake limit.
The simplest way to say it: most overweight people eat too many calories.
I don’t blame them. Food is amazingly delicious and brings happiness.
Fresh french fries or pizza? Oh my god. You won’t find a bigger aficionado of some types of potato chips than me. Chips and salsa? Yes, please. Two baskets if you’ve got them.
It wasn’t hard for me to practice “Choose your hard” when I started.
My vision, or whatever it was, took control.
Afterward? Remembering that food choices now bring unwanted results or continued success depends on how strong the siren voice of negligee-clad food is.
As Fat Bastard eloquently quipped, “Get in my belly!”