Open Modal

I’m 2/3 The Man I Used to Be

I was sitting at my desk, doing what I typically do when I’m fresh off the air… cruising Facebook. I saw a post headlined How to avoid drive-thru lines and I LOL’ed. I’ve been successfully avoiding drive-thru lines for the last six months. It’s easy, foolproof, and I absolutely 100% guarantee that you can do it too:

Don’t eat fast food.

Now, believe me, this isn’t one of those lectures about how your health will be better and all that crap. No, I feel that you should be free to make your own decisions about what you eat and drink. All I can tell you is that for most of the last 21 years I’ve indulged in all manner of junk food, and for much of that time I felt bad physically. Was it because of the junk food?

Partially. It’s also because I was prone to overeating. Why have one burger when you can have two? Why have 6 chicken nuggets when you can have 20? But hey, I always had a diet Coke with it [eyeroll emoji].

Towards the end of this past summer, I went on vacation. And when I saw pictures of myself from that vacation, not gonna lie, I was kind of disgusted. I knew I was overweight, but wow… so just before Labor Day I stepped on a scale for the first time in close to a year.

267 pounds. That’s the most I have ever weighed in my life. I knew I had to do something. Not tomorrow. Not next month. Not next year. Immediately.

I started taking a walk every day. First it was just to the end of my neighborhood, about a half mile. Then I started walking to the next development over. Then I started making loops in that development. Then I went to a park with a walking path. The distance grew and grew. Yesterday I walked six miles. In 29-degree weather I might add.

I also started tracking my food. Suddenly I was aware of every single thing I ate and drank. I had a daily caloric limit I had to remain under in order to meet my goal of getting to 165 pounds by August 30, 2022.

It’s now 135 days later. Only once have I gone over my calorie limit. And I haven’t starved or deprived myself, either. I’ve eaten many of the same things I did before. Deprivation, at least in my case, leads to overindulgence. So I resolved not to deprive myself, but to enjoy the foods I like in reasonable portion sizes. So when I said above that I didn’t eat fast food, that was a slight exaggeration. I’ve eaten fast food four times since then, so I’m averaging once a month. And even then, I watched my portions and counted the calories.

In November I started working out weekly at Functional Fitness 4U in Chambersburg. I never embraced workouts before but this time I found the right place and the right methods, and it got through to me.

But like I said, this isn’t a lecture. I’m not telling you what to do; this is my story. For a long time I felt I was doomed to just be fat the rest of my life, and now I realize that’s not true.

This morning I stepped on the scale: 199 pounds. It is literally the first time this century I’ve weighed under 200 pounds. The last time was in 1998. I told Nitty Gritty, and she said, “I hope you’re proud of yourself.” The comment gave me pause, because like a lot of people I don’t always give myself credit when I’ve accomplished something. So I took a minute and allowed myself to feel some pride. I did accomplish something. I should feel good about that, even if just for a moment before I get back to work. After all, I’m not there yet, but I am over halfway.

Again, this isn’t a lecture. I’m not here to judge anyone. If you’re happy with the way you are, I think that’s great. But if you’re not happy with the way you are and you want to make a change, I’m here to say that if I can do it, just about anyone can. You certainly can.

One thing I learned, or rather, a lesson I re-learned, was that change is impossible before you’re ready. I smoked cigarettes for around 20 years. I quit about ten times before I quit for good. Why did the 11th time stick? Because by then I was really ready. I was wheezing like an old steam train engine, coughing my brains out constantly, and breathing raggedly at all times. I listened to a recording of myself on the air, and there was about a ten-second pause before I started talking. So I was just sitting there waiting to start to speak, and I could hear the sound of my breath. It was a loud, ugly rasp. If I could hear the sound of my breath on this recording, I promise you anyone listening at the time could have heard it.

I remember sitting there afterwards thinking, “That just won’t cut it. I am sick of this.” Maybe that’s just the way I’m wired; I have to get sick of something before I do something about it. In any case I came down with the flu soon after. This was Thanksgiving 2017. I missed Thanksgiving dinner, black Friday, and that whole weekend. I barely got out of bed for three days; I certainly wasn’t going out for a pack of cigarettes. I started feeling better, and eventually I went to the store for supplies. I passed the convenience store where I usually bought cigarettes; I didn’t stop. I figured I’d get some when I was ready. A week passed. Two weeks passed. A month passed. I realized that quite by accident, I had quit. Now the thought of smoking again seems ludicrous to me.

It was the same with my weight. I tried to lose weight many times before, but I just wasn’t ready to give up those bad habits. This time I was ready. Perhaps the best way to learn to do something well is to fail at it a few times. Now, four months in, the way I think has changed. I worked hard to feel better; I don’t want to feel bad again. And there have been other benefits that I didn’t expect. The first eighteen months of the pandemic, for me, were more or less one big, protracted panic attack. The increased physical activity has been a huge relief to my anxiety, and the focus on improving my daily diet has given me a much-needed distraction from the things that were causing me to fret.

One of my biggest concerns was that I would backslide and gain the weight back. After all, this is a common scenario, and it happened all of the other times I tried to shed pounds. I’m not as worried about that as I was. In the past, I’d slip up, overeat, and think well that’s it. I’ve blown it. And I’d go right back to eating two burgers at a time, or a whole pizza, or 20 nuggets or whatever. This time when I overdid it, I wasn’t concerned. I knew tomorrow was a fresh start and a new opportunity to stay the course. The whole mindset is different, and that’s not something I could have chosen to do. It has stuck because I was finally really ready to put the work in.

So that’s my story. I had an intractable problem, one I struggled with in vain for more than two decades, and now I’m finally making some headway. Perhaps you’ve got something you’re struggling with too. If so, I encourage you to keep at it; you might surprise yourself. And don’t forget to listen when someone encourages you. My automatic response to praise was to deflect it, so for a very long time I denied myself the satisfaction of my achievements. I’m getting past that one too… more slowly, but surely.

OK, I’m done getting real on you for now. Tomorrow the sarcastic lists return.

Oh, and the actual foolproof way to avoid drive-thru lines? Go inside and get your food to go. Do this and I promise you’ll never wait in another drive-thru line.

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