A Fat Man's Journey (Working my way back…)

An Attempt to Journey from Fat to Fit in a Lifetime. Eat right, Eat less, Move more


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The Black Dog Won


Not the Weekend I Wanted

This was the weekend of the Five-Boro Bike Tour.

I look forward to this ride for one reason: Riding with my friend NI.

The rest of it is OK.  Thirty-two thousand riders make for quite the spectacle.

The ride was Sunday.  I had a good time on Saturday.  I met up with NI and a friend of his and we traipsed around the city, had a good lunch, did the registration thing…

It was Sunday that The Black Dog took his bite and I couldn’t, or didn’t, fight back.

I awoke at 4:00 AM, got ready for the ride, loaded up the car and drove in the New York City.  By 5:30, I was approaching the area where I would meet NI.  Then it happened.  The stress?  A stomach bug?  I am not sure.  I pulled over to the curb on a side street in lower Manhattan.  There and then, I lost what little breakfast I had.

I contemplated this.  Thought about what it was all about.  What caused this?  I turned around, went home and went to sleep.  I didn’t do the ride.

I never really felt any better yesterday.  I thought I would ride in the afternoon if I did but I didn’t  I didn’t feel much better and I didn’t ride.  Riding might have been the best thing for me.  Doing the tour might have been the best thing for me.

I simply couldn’t fight The Black Dog.

I sat on the sofa speaking to no one, doing nothing.  I wanted to climb into a hole and pull the earth back over me.

I don’t like when this happens (no kidding, right?) and I am not sure why it does.  I wish I could understand what is happening in my head a little better.

If I did understand it better, then maybe this would have been the weekend I wanted.

Guilt

I am not living the life I imagined I would have when I was a teen and well in to my twenties and even my early thirties.

I didn’t expect to need two jobs.  I didn’t expect not to be able to afford a vacation once a year or to have the difficulties I have.  This is not what I expected at all.  I really don’t like my career.  I am good at it.  I just don’t like it.  I don’t have time to do the things I like.  I work seven days a week.  I take off a weekend and I feel guilty.  I am taking money out of the family pot and I am leaving the shop shorthanded.  I don’t get to do the activities I so enjoy: hiking, cycling, spending time with my family and friends.

It is the guilt that cripples me.  If I work all seven days, I feel guilty for taking time away from the family.  If I don’t work the weekend, I feel guilt over not making the money.

This is not a way to live.  This is a way to die.

At this time there is little I can do to change all this.  I have to keep pushing.  I am not sure where this pushing will get me but I have to.  There is no other choice.

So I deal with the guilt.

My weight

I am the heaviest I have been since the middle of the summer of 2012.  I am up to 217.  This is not a good thing.  I have no excuses.  I have given in to the depression and the stress and I have over-eaten.  I have not pushed past the depression to get on the bike.  I have walked.  HUGE amounts of walking.  I have set a course in the factory and I make sure I walk it throughout the day.  It is great for fitness.  I am fit.  But I have out-eaten the calories I am burning and that is no one’s fault or responsibility but my own.

217-pounds. Pants are getting a little snug.  T-shirts are getting a little tight.

I have to get back to what I know works and I need to stay there.  I have indulged.  Cookies.  Buffet.  Not what, who or where I want to be.

It will not stand.

Getting it back together

I will take some days off work in the next couple of weeks. Take a few vacation days.  I will get on my bike and ride.  I will get out and hike.  PGB is sometimes available mid-week.  Perhaps he will be able to join me for a hike in Harriman.

If I don’t get my mind cleared and my heart right I will surely end up either insane or fat.  Insane I can accept.  Fat I cannot.

I understand the expression “a life lived in quiet desperation” now.  I didn’t always.  I do now.

Things have to change.  I need to make them change.  I need to get my heart and mind back on the same page, focused on the same goals, the same life plan.

I cannot accept what I am doing to myself with food, with stress, with life in general.

Getting it back together is must happen.  It has to start happening now.

Is life a constant battle for everyone? So many people I see seem to have it together.  I sometimes feel I am a single step away from the abyss.  Stepping back from that fall is the hardest thing to do when the Black Dog seems to be standing behind me baring teeth and growling.

Cycling, and time with friends, has been my escape from The Black Dog.  This weekend I didn’t fight hard enough.  I let the Black Dog win.

I have to find a way to fight harder. Or maybe I just need to be smarter than The Black Dog…

 

Peace


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I Needed a Break


Hi, remember me?

I haven’t posted in 12 days.

I needed a break.

From everything.

I couldn’t do that so I took an unannounced break from writing the blog. I hope I didn’t disappoint anyone or lose to many followers.

I have to admit I am a bit worn down.

Work, work, family, stress….

Just tired.

So I put the blog aside for a couple of weeks and now I am feeling a little more energetic and ready to write again.

I really enjoy writing this blog but I wonder sometimes if I actually have anything to say.

Well, I will keep writing anyway. I write for me. I have always liked to sound of my voice….

Something I wrote

I wrote this a couple of months ago. A little poem in shadows and dreams:

Autumn..

11/19/2013

It was the breeze, the rustle of leaves. A hint of winter in the air, hiding under the warmth of the late Autumn sun. Low angled light passing through trees, long shadows along the path, the quiet crunch of steps on the dry leaves.

It was the view, the far off mountains. A hint of color left on distant trees, the river below framed by the bridge, the sound of the train heading north. A distant horn, a hawk circling above. It was the winding path through open fields and dense woods.

It was the whisper, the murmur of a soft voice. A hint of laughter in the voice. A soft giggle and a shy look. It was soft hair hanging in bangs across the eyes and a slight blush. It was a soft touch, lightly with gentle finger tips.

It was the kiss, lips lightly touching, softly brushing. A hint of quivering in the touch. A deep breath and a stiffened back, and arms held at length. It was a moment, sweet and passing, eyes meeting eyes and tears met with tears.

It was the coffee, warming cold hands, giving cover for the quiet. A hint of confusion, small talk, hesitant words. It was promises made and meant to be kept. Sad goodbyes, warmth inside and plans to meet again.

Winter

We have been dealing with a nasty winter here. Cold. Snow. When it isn’t cold it rains. When it is cold it snows. Riding my bike has not been an option. Walking has been difficult. I have been riding the bike on the rollers and the trainer but it isn’t the same and when I get home at night in the cold and dark I just have little motivation.

I look forward to the weekends but the weather has been awful.

Maybe next weekend…. Forecast is for mid thirties. We can but hope.

The winter I started this Journey the weather was good. Very little snow. Warmer than normal temperatures most days. I was able to get out and walk most days. I wonder if I had started this Journey during a winter like this one if I would have had the success I have enjoyed.

I wish I could at least get out and cross-country ski but my schedule just does not allow it. This past weekend I was down with a cold so nothing was happening for me. Love cross-country skiing. I am really bad at it. I love it anyway.

Remembering Mom

Surrounded by family... Mom in her glory

Surrounded by family… Mom in her glory

This past Thursday was my Mother’s 75th birthday. Well, it would have been. Mom has been gone more than 20 years. She was 54 years old when cancer took her from us. I am still shocked. She was a force of nature. Tall, attractive, strong, brassy, loving, hard, compassionate, tender, quick to anger, quick to love. She could have dominated a convention at Madison Square Garden. People were drawn to her. She was drawn to people.

Each of her four children can remember tough times with Mom. She was demanding. She was unforgiving. She formed opinions and it could be nearly impossible to move her.

Each of her four children can also remember wonderful times with Mom. Moments when her softer side would pour out to us. Moments of deep compassion and love.

Mom was capable of incredible love and kindness. She was the friend who would never leave your side when you needed a friend most.

I remember when Mom became friends with June. My folks had joined a community club and had met a husband and wife. June and my mother hit it off right away. What Mom didn’t know when she met June was that June had cancer. As June became more and more ill my mother became the friend who sat with her late in to the evening, reading to her, mopping her brow, feeding her ice chips. June’s other friends had run. Seeing a friend dying is hard and they couldn’t take it. Mom took it. She didn’t have to. She was the new friend. No one would have thought anything about it if Mom had simply drifted away. That wasn’t Mom. She was never one to drift away. Mom was with June as she began to fade the last time. Her husband, her daughter and son sat at her side and as Mom quietly left the room they called her back in and asked her to stay with them, asked her to share the last moments with their wife and mother.

Mom was slow to get over the loss of June, Just as she had been slow to get over the loss of other friends for whom she had been there. Mom knew she would be hurt. She also knew that her friend needed someone and that she had the strength to be that someone.

When Mom was diagnosed with cancer I cried like a young child. I thought she would win. Mom always won. I was scared for her, for me, for the family and so I cried but I thought she would win. Even when I came to understand that it was a cancer no one beats. I thought Mom would be the one.

I was thirty-one but I had the hope of a child.

When Mom lost the fight eleven months later I sat in my car and I wailed. It was a sound I didn’t know could come from me. Pure grief expressed.

Twenty and a half years later I am still in pain. I still miss my Mom. I am the most like her of her four children I think. I am quick to temper, quick to love. I take things to heart, I am the friend who will be there when you dearly need a friend.

I express love the same way my Mom did. I cook for you. I visit you, I invite you in to my home. I share my life with you. That was Mom.

I tell my children about her. Danny knew her but he doesn’t remember her. He was only two when she left us. We named Kyle for her. His Hebrew name, Chaim, is the masculine form of my mother’s Hebrew name, Chaia. The name means Life. Somehow fitting for a woman who had four children. Even more fitting given her inner force.

I miss Mom. I always will.

Peace


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Reflection


I am tired.

I so want to relax

I can’t

But I want to.

I think about this Journey all the time. I never seem to stop. I never have a day where I am not thinking about the plan, the goal, the Journey.

I am tired.

There are times I just want to let go. I just want it to be easy. I want a day where I eat with abandon, I don’t walk, count my step, count the calories burned, the calories consumed. One day.

But I know.

One Day… It is never one day. It never has been one day. It will not be one day.

One day becomes two.

You know.

The dominos fall.

Three days.

Five Pounds

Ten Pounds.

A week.

A Month.

20 Pounds.

But I am tired.

Working 7 days a week.

Riding

Eating right

Eating Less

Moving More

Every day.

Counting

Measuring

Every Freaking Single Solitary Day

I am tired.

I am staying the course.

Following the Plan

Focused on the Goal.

Traveling along on this Journey of Mine.

But sometimes I think…. One day… One day of eating with abandon, sitting around the house doing nothing, a glass of milk and some of Missus delicious Chocolate Chip Cookies…

But It is never one day. It is never just a few chocolate chip cookies.

So I stay on the Plan. Eyes on the Goal. Travel the Journey.

Because I saw my old self today. A man my age. A man my height. A man the size I was once not so long ago..

I wanted to tell him. I wanted to show him a picture, tell him how I did it. I couldn’t. I didn’t.

It was my old self. A reflection in life.

Like looking in the fun house mirror. There was no mirth. No laughter.

A memory stirred.

I am tired.

But I saw my past reflected back at me today.

No

Focus.

Concentrate.

Don’t give in

Stay on the Plan

Stay on the Journey.

Peace.


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Joy


The Truth is…

It is rarely easy for me to express in writing happiness as well as I express angst, depression and fear. This is true in my blog and in my verse. When I am truly depressed, going through a dark stretch with the Black Dog, I am a prolific writer of blank verse. Not always good mind you, but I write a great deal when depressed.

When I started this blog I very often had tough days, depressing days, stretches of uncertainty. I wrote every day at that time and I wrote a great many poems.

As I settled in to the Journey and passed milestones and landmarks, the tone of my writing started to shift and I started to not write every day. I also wrote less blank verse.

If you read this blog with any regularity you know that my moods swing like the doors to an old west saloon. But the truth is they don’t really. It is just that I tend to write from the darker side of my moods.

With all things measured out (and I am all about measuring) I am happier in my skin than I have ever been. I am moody. I always have been. This I cannot deny but the fact is I am not any more moody now than I ever was. I am, I believe, a happier and more content man then I have been in many years if ever. I am less at war with my internal self. More at peace with my world.

In cycling and fitness I have found the focus for my runaway energies. IN taking off the weight I am able now to focus more on the inner me. If I am obsessive about the weight and fitness it is because I ignored it so completely for so long. If I am taking a long time to adapt to the new reality of me it is because I spent so much time being the old me. I am still getting to know who I am.

I am not a person accustomed to reinvention. I have a friend, a very dear friend, who has reinvented herself a dozen times over. She has blossomed to greater beauty with each reinvention. I admire this (and many other aspects) about her.

I have never been good at reinvention. I have been a person who retreated back to the comfort of the familiar even if it was ultimately a negative. I tended to allow myself to be swept along with the current. Even my career was one I came to by default rather than design.

Now I have reinvented me and it has not been without fear, stress, and drama. I am fit. I am lean. I have taken my eating habits and turned them upside down. Where once I was an unapologetic carnivore I am now nearly a vegetarian. A former couch slug, I am now dedicated to cycling, hiking, walking…

As I learn to be me I have focused to a nearly compulsive degree on recording my foods, my weight, my activity. I use not one, not two, but THREE apps to track my cycling. ALL AT ONCE. And of course there is the cycling computer on the bike itself. I record my weight every day. I record everything I eat.

I do this to remain focused. When I lost focus in the past I gained the weight back. I won’t let that happen again.

Reinvention. Like all things new, I need some adjusting and fine tuning but that doesn’t mean I am broken. The truth is… Things have never been so right.

Peace


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I’m Still Standing


Ride For Autism

At the Rest Area.

At the Rest Area.

This past Saturday was the long discussed Ride for Autism. After worrying about the weather and the dealing with drenching rains on Friday, Saturday dawned overcast but dry. The road dried quickly and by the start of the ride at 8:00 AM the roads were in good shape and ready for the riders.

Though I had planned on riding 62 miles, we cut it short to 55 when threatening weather convinced my riding companion and I that discretion was the better part of…. Well, staying dry. As it turned out, the threatening sky gave up only a few drops of rain.

It was a fun ride and the company was great. There were many enthusiastic riders, all doing their part to raise money for Autism research.

A personal note: thank you to all who donated to the cause. I am truly grateful.

The nice thing for was that come Sunday morning I was in great shape and felt no effects from the ride.

On the left: Last year Ride for Autism On the right: This years Ride for Autism.  Even 30 pounds make quite a difference.

On the left: Last year Ride for Autism
On the right: This years Ride for Autism. Even 30 pounds make quite a difference.

I am now certain that I am ready for my first century ride and I am looking for the right opportunity.

For no Particular Reason: A True Story from my Youth

I was seven years old.

My brothers and I went down to the river that winds its way through town. I was not then (nor am I now) a strong swimmer. We all took turns swinging from a vine out over the water, letting go and splashing down in to the water. Great fun on a summer day.

My brothers, bigger and stronger than I was, were able to swing out further and higher and were able to make bigger splashes. Being the competitive little fellow I was I gave it my all and with a great running leap and grab I swung out over the river just as high and far as my brothers had. I made a great splash and started to swim back to shore. It was then that the current decided to take a hold of me and pull me along down the river. I was not a strong enough swimmer to overcome the pull of the river as my brothers could. The river was taking me and I began to panic. I can still remember my oldest brother running along the shore trying to figure out how to get to me as the river pulled me further away and out towards the middle.

I remember thinking that I was going to die. I was 7 and I was sure that death had me. And I was frightened.

And then, very suddenly, strong arms lifted me out of the water. I remember my arm being grabbed and I remember flying out of the water and landing in a canoe in the arms of a man with a beard. He and his canoe mate had seen me, paddled over and saved my life. A simple act with profound ramification for my family, for people I would not meet for decades, for my children yet to be…

The canoeists paddled me over to the shore and I climbed out. Wobbly knees and still frightened and confused I thanked him and my brothers thanked him. He scolded us for playing in the river that way.

We walked on home with my brothers eliciting solemn oaths from me to NEVER tell our parents. Too late. The canoeists beached their canoe and followed us by car up the hill to our home and told my mother what had happened. I remember my mother thanking him and his friend with hugs and teary eyes.

I thought my mother would finish what the river started. I was wrong. She hugged me tightly, more tightly than I can ever remember being hugged before and rarely since. Of course she also grounded me for a week…

I don’t know The canoeists name. Never did know it. If my mother knew it she took the name with her when she passed away

I would like to thank him. I hope he has told the story and received approving comments and pats on the back from those listening.

Climbing Out

This Journey of mine…

This has all been painful. Holding myself out to anyone who happens across this blog. Exposing my scars, my bleeding wounds. The traumas of 52 years of living a hairbreadth away from spinning wildly out of control. Ripping open barely healed scar tissue.

I have pushed myself in ways I could not have imagined two years ago. I have sat at this computer and dug deeply to find the reasons I became fat, lazy and detached. I have sat here and tried to understand what happened to the 17-year old with boundless energy and untapped potential. I looked hard to find the remnants of that boy in the man starting the journey.

I started in a deep depression. I consciously and aggressively fought the depression. I forced myself out of the hole. I forced myself, one step at a time, literally and figuratively, to climb the mountain.

I got up there. Battered, exhausted and in pain but I got there. I climbed the hills with PGB and MT and I climbed my emotional mountains each and every day. I tried to keep a positive outlook and I tried to write about this journey in an uplifting way to keep my spirits up.

This has been a fight. A fight I was never quit sure I would win or even be around for at the end.

When I was 35, one week before my 36th birthday, long before I reached my heaviest, I was lying in the hospital with an out of control heart beat. My blood pressure was sky rocketing. My heart was throwing in extra beats and I the doctors were certain they would find blockages when they rushed me in for cardiac catheterization. Nothing. Wide open arteries. Lose weight, get fit, take these pills and start taking care of yourself.

Fourteen years later….

So I started the Journey a little late.

When I started it I went all in. I stripped naked to the world and said HERE IT IS.

Pain.

Fear

It all factored in. I wanted to have the wrong foods. I wanted to have a PB&J. I wanted to throw in the towel more than a few times. I wanted to go back to my comfort zone. As much as I hated being fat I know HOW to be fat. I was me. It was who I was. I could hide. I could be that person. I was easy. “no, would love to but I am so out of shape…” “Yes I will have that extra helping. See how easy it is to have me as a guest/ I will eat anything and everything and in large quantities.”

Do you understand? Being fat was physically uncomfortable but emotionally familiar and safe. I hated being fat but it was easy. It was safer to stay fat then risk failure (again) trying to become lean.

Do you know? Do you see what a risk this blog has been? I am out there. If I failed you would all see it. You would see ME. The failure. ME. It would be so easy to stay hidden. Stay fat. Stay behind the wall.

I have climbed a mountain here. I did it in full view. I climbed El Capitan on Wide World of Sports with Jim McKay breathlessly describing every misstep.

I don’t say my Journey has been unique or for all that it is, all that impressive when there are those who have lost twice as much weight or more than I have and have done it in the public eye.

But it has been MY journey. All mine. My unique issues and tribulations. My fears, my pain, my anxieties and my insecurities.

And tonight, as I fought the temptations that I fight almost every day, I remembered that I am still climbing this mountain and I held on. I gripped the rock and the rope while Jim McKay described the howling winds.. Soon the wind died down and soon it calm again. And I was fine. I didn’t give in. I didn’t have the extra serving or the large snack or dig in to the jar of peanut butter.

This is it. See? It never gets easy. It never passes completely.

So I write about it. I talk about it. I put it out there and I ask people to pass judgment on me.

Today I am 203 pounds.

Tomorrow maybe more. Maybe less.

By the weekend probably 200. Then who knows. And every day I will step on the scale. And every day I will record the weight in my spread sheet. And every day I will record every calories, every bit of food.

And I will keep climbing the mountain.

Thank you for reading this wild, rambling, stream of consciousness ramble..

Peace


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The Journey at One Year


I have worked on organizing my thoughts with the anniversary of the start of my Journey upon me.

So many things to reflect upon, comment on, ponder some more.

I may as well start with a tale of the tape:

December 27, 2011:

Weight: 305.6 pounds

Then

Then

Waist: 46/48 inches

Jacket Size: 56

Neck: 18 inches

Shoe Size 11.5 EE

Blood Pressure (medicinally regulated): 125/85

At rest Heart Rate: 85 Beats Per Minute

Body Mass Index: 39.8 (morbidly obese is 40.0)

December 27, 2012

Weight: 201.2 pounds

Now

Now

Waist: 34 inches

Jacket Size: 44

Neck: 15 inches

Shoe Size 11.5 D

Blood Pressure (medicinally regulated): 116/65

At rest Heart Rate: 65 Beats Per Minute

Body Mass Index: 26.2

Those number don’t even begin to tell the story.

I knew from the first that I had to do much more than go on a diet to lose the weight. It is rare that one gets to more than 100 pounds overweight without having dieted a time or two (or three or four…). I knew from the first that for this to have a lasting result I would have to learn why I overate, why food was so central to my personality, why being overweight had become central to my identity.

Long before I started calling this “My Journey” I understood that I was embarking on a course of discovery. I also understood that I would likely not like what I would discover about myself.

How it all Began.

phil and markI was not always fat.

I tended towards HUSKY as a boy. That is what they called a boy who was a little wider than average back in the day. I wasn’t fat but I was big. Pictures of me from my childhood show a solidly built kid but no belly, no pudgy face. I was bigger in build than my two brothers, both of whom tended to thin. They were both more athletically gifted and inclined than I was. I was built more along the lines of the men on my Father’s side of the family. The oldest brother took after my maternal Grandmother’s side. The other brother took after the maternal Grandfather’s side.

16 years old

By my High School years I was actually thin. From 15 years old until 18 I was best described as skinny. Nearing my full adult height of six-foot, two-inches, I weighed between 160 and 175 most of the 4 years in high school and due to my very high activity level I was able to eat like any three people you might know.

The weight gain began towards the end of my senior year of High School though I can’t say why. I was working as a waiter in the Catskill mountains on weekends and that may have been a part of it. Access to food nearly 24-hours a day… Not much to do during down time but eat. I was 210 pounds and 36 waist when I had my pre-college physical in July of 1979.

About 22, about 220

About 22, about 220

I lost weight briefly at the end of that summer due to illness but I made up for it at the all you could eat breakfast and dinner service on campus and the nearly lethal “Roger-Burger” at the school snack bar. Three burgers, bacon, cheese, lettuce and tomato served on a sub-sandwich roll.

From college on my weight would not drop below 200 pounds again for 33 years. I would see my weight rise and fall between 225 and 250 for a number of years and then begin the nearly uninterrupted climb to 300.

The how is really very simple. I ate much. I moved little.

The why is much more complicated.

The Failed Efforts

I was about 310 pounds in 2003 or 2004 when I was told by my doctor that I was pre-diabetic and that if I wanted to avoid diabetes and stay off the medications I would have to lose weight and change my diet. He gave me a copy of “The Diabetic Diet” and I followed it religiously. I lost 60 pounds. It was almost effortless. At 250 I looked better, felt better, and the pre-diabetic condition had gone away, all my numbers were good. In less than a year all the weight was back and then some. I passed 300 pounds again less than a year later.

In 2009 I again went on “The Diabetic Diet” and I added cycling back to my life. I lost 50 plus pounds, did the 42 mile Five-Boro Bike Tour in 2010 (Meeting NI in the process) and did a couple of other rides. A muscle tear in my right calf was all the excuse I needed to stop exercising and start eating wrong again and the weight climbed back over 310 pounds by the summer of 2011.

I had lost, gained, lost and gained 100 plus pounds over the course of a few years.

I thought I knew how to lose the weight. I had no clue how to keep it off. I was right only on the later. I was wrong about knowing how to lose it.

The Moment of Painful Recognition

Our emotions lie to our brains.

I still have this suit.  I use it as a cover for my car.

I still have this suit. I use it as a cover for my car.

We don’t see our physical self the way others do. I never really understood the jokes about my size. I didn’t think I was really all that big. My body language, trained over years of acting, lied to others and to myself. My face hid the pain of the comments behind crinkle-eyed smiles and jovial laughter. Mostly I was hurt because I didn’t understand why the jokes were being made. I knew I was big. I didn’t think I was THAT big, the kind of big jokes are made about.

I didn’t fit in diner booths. I blamed the diner for having small booths. I was a tight fit in airplane seats. I blamed the airlines for being cheap.

I simply didn’t see myself with the clarity that other did.

I didn’t really see myself at all.

That all changed on December 24, 2011.

I saw my reflection and, before my mind could switch to denial mode, I recognized myself as the man a split-second before I had seen in my mind as HUGELY FAT. The denial phase had been trumped, bypassed, circumvented.

I was forced to admit that I was not merely big. I was fat. Hugely fat. Obese.

It was a stunning revelation to a stubbornly in denial man. I couldn’t hide from it. I couldn’t deny it. I couldn’t blame it on the camera, the shape of the window, the angle of the sun, the amount I had to drink.

I spent the rest of the night in a funk, avoiding looking at the window again, eating all night long, trying to figure out how I got so fat.

I am slow on the up-take…..

The Start of the Journey

January 29, 2011. A long hike on a cold winter day.  The Beginning of the Journey

January 29, 2011. A long hike on a cold winter day. The Beginning of the Journey

So that was the start. Right there in that moment of shocking recognition. Three Spirits dragging me around Dickensian London could not have had as great an effect on me.

I decided to begin the weight loss right after the New Year. Not a “resolution” but resolved to eat right, exercise more.

I planned our usual New Years Eve with our friend MR and didn’t want to give up the special treats and dinner I prepare. So not a New Year’s Resolution at all. Just a practical delay to the start….

I cannot tell you why. I really do not know. I have thought about it and thought about it but I do not have an answer. I just don’t know. Even after a year of wondering, pondering, questioning, I cannot tell you what happened the morning of December 27. I can only tell you that as I sat on the edge of the bed, having just taken my blood pressure medications, I turned to Missus and I told her I was starting the weight loss effort that day and she mumbled OK.

I had a light breakfast, a light lunch, a moderate dinner and a light snack and I was on my way. The Journey had begun.

Creating the Plan

I understood two things when I started that day. One: I had to eat less. Two: I had to move more.

Beyond that, I had no clue what I was doing. I thought I understood how to lose weight. I had done it so many times before… I knew I had no idea how to keep it off because I had never done that before. I also had never followed a diet for as much as a year or lost more than 60 or so pounds.

I started by loosely following “The Diabetic Diet” given me so many years before by my doctor. It was a way to start but I knew that I could not follow it forever and I knew that I would drift away from it as I had the times before.

I searched on-line for ideas and came across so many contradictory concepts that I was frustrated to the point I decided I would have to go with my own plan, follow my own instincts and learn as I went along.

The first thing I did was recreate the spreadsheet I had made several years earlier for tracking my weight.

The second thing I did was toss out the idea that you should not weigh yourself every day. I weigh myself every day. I even travel with a scale so I can weigh myself when I am out on the road.

Next I found a website for recording my food and calculating my calories.

On January 5 I started this blog as a means of keeping my focus on the weight loss and perhaps get a little support if anyone ever decided to read it. I have to say that this part of the blog has worked our far better than I ever dreamed, the support of the readers has been wonderful, inspiring, affirming and energizing.

By the end of January 2012 I had the plan pretty well-formed. I was walking almost every day, eating a good yet light breakfast, a small lunch and a healthy and filling dinner. I had started to call this “the Journey” and was coming to understand that I needed to get a grasp on why I overate and what part of my life food occupied if I was going to be able to continue to lose the weight and then keep it off.

That part of the Journey would be the hardest and would reshape me much more than the weight loss.

Lessons Along the Way

pathways

It took me 50+ years but I finally began to understand that there was more to my overeating than bad habits and a love of food.

There are emotional issue at play and I had to understand them beyond the “mom will love me more if I eat” scenarios. Certainly that was a part of it, still is, but there had to be more even if the reasons spring from the same emotional roots.

I understood early on that this was not going to work if I didn’t define, confront and conquer those issues.

I am introspective by nature. I have spent a life time exploring my emotions and putting them to paper as blank verse. I have also spent a life time dealing with a certain emotional volatility that makes any trip in to my psyche an adventure. While I have explored much of my mind,I never went down the paths that would help me understand the food thing.

Here is what I learned:

My mother expressed her love for people by cooking for them. Expressing love to my mother was as easy as eating what she served.

I express my love for people in the same way. I cook for them. When I want someone to know they are my friend, I invite them to a meal at my home.  Acceptance of that invitation is acceptance of my friendship.

I am comforted by food: the consuming and the preparing.

When I have a home full of dinner guests I am really just channeling Sally Field. Inside I am saying “You Like me, You really like me”.

A great deal of who I self-identified as was wrapped up in being the big (fat) guy who loves to feed everyone.

This is a recipe for getting very fat….

It's bad when Santa thinks you are chubby.....

It’s bad when Santa thinks you are chubby…..

And I did.

I also learned that I channel my anger in to my focus on food, mostly cooking oddly enough. One would think that anger would be expressed as hunger but instead I am motivated to cook. Then eat.

I also learned that all the above became a social crutch. Insecure in the value of my friendship to others, I found my niche as the one who cooked or the one who suggested evenings out with the friends. Hiding behind the proverbial stove as well as the real one. As long as I was feeding people, the (il)logic went, I was a part of the crowd. A declined invitation was a crushing blow to my emotions.

I wrote several times about this particular dynamic. It is something I am still working through but at least I understand it a bit better now.

At social events, be they business lunches or dinners or parties at a friend’s, I could hide behind the plate of food. With food in hand and mouth I didn’t risk talking to much (a known trait of mine) or saying something that might sound ignorant to those more intelligent than me (most if not all of my friends). Again, food as a mask for unfounded insecurities.

Getting the body and mind moving

Hikes along the way

Hikes along the way

As soon as I started this Journey of mine I started working out. First it was walks at the high school track. I would drive the half mile so I could walk a mile…. I remember coming home from that first mile. I was exhausted. I was also embarrassed. When I walked two miles for the first time I thought it was a cause for celebration. I also started walking up the bleachers. I called them Bleacher-sets: 18 steps up, 18 down equaled one set. The first time I did it I did five and spent a full 10 minutes on the bottom step thinking I was having a heart attack.

I walked nearly every day and then I set out a course in the factory where I worked and started doing laps during lunch break at work. First a mile and then soon I was up to 4 miles, then 5. At the High School I was doing a mile and then ten bleacher-sets. Then another mile and another 10… Soon it was 5 miles and 50 bleacher-sets. Only the coldest weather or rain would keep me from my walks.

This is when the good things really began to happen.

I wasn’t exhausted going up stairs anymore.

I wasn’t too tired to walk the dogs, or goof around with my sons.

I wasn’t too tired to hike with friends.

I found it easier to address the demons. I found my energy level and my attitude improved. The more energy and positive attitude I had the easier it was for me to confront the issues.

Victories

My first little victory was that first 5 pounds.

Then came the bigger victories, the signs that I was moving forward.

The ten-mile bike ride in early March on my birthday. I was gasping for air when I was done but I had done it. The first five-mile walk and the first time I did 50 bleacher-sets.

The Ride in June to raise money for Autism research. 50+ miles (plus a few extra when I missed a turn).

Finding a way to keep it going after the knee injury, not losing focus, not giving up.

Me near the peak.  The picture can't show the fierce winds

Me near the peak. The picture can’t show the fierce winds

Climbing the nearly vertical section of the Hike in Harriman and not being winded, tired, worn down… The tears in my eyes were not from the wind.

Passing the original goal of 210 pounds

Passing the 100 pounds lost marker…

Reaching the one-year anniversary still on the Journey

Where am I now?

I am now hitting my stride. I may stumble a little but I am able to recognize it and take the steps needed to right myself.

I am dedicated to fitness. I walk and hike and make sure I stay active.

I am still planning, still focused on the goal, still traveling this Journey of discovery. I am discovering new bits about me daily.

I am most proud of the fitness. Losing the weight was one thing, getting myself fit was quite another. One required eating less. The other required hard physical work and a dedication to it that I expected to lack.

I am more comfortable in my skin but I still have fights to wage and to win. The mind still wants to lie to me and I still have to fight the lies.

The best way I can think to say this is I am right where I should be.

Some years ago I developed a saying:

Where you are is where you belong.

Everything that has passed in your life has brought you to this place at this time.

It is where you are going that you can change

It took me a very long time to listen to my own words.

Friends along the way

Encouragement from my friends, some of whom I have grown closer to because of this Journey, and some I know only through this blog or theirs, and some whom I have met on the Journey, has been of incalculable value.

I have been very out there and open about this trip I am on. I talk about emotions and fears and insecurities. In written words and in conversation I have opened up long closed doors and allowed anyone who knows about the blog to read about the bumps and brick walls, detours and blind alleys of my Journey.

Without the advice, the ideas, the pats on the back and the hand up I might well have come to a stop or retreated back to the beginning.

If you have ever posted on my blog with a word of advice, commiseration, or a firm GET OVER IT, I thank you deeply.

NI and I at the 50-mile rideAlways ready with a hand on the back and a push up the hill

NI and I at the 50-mile ride
Always ready with a hand on the back and a push up the hill

To the friends in my life who have offered me ever more challenging hikes, a boot in the butt to set my sights higher, put the hand on my back and help push me up a hill on a bike ride, waited patiently a the top of the hill as I slogged my way up or shooed the snake off the trail, or carefully calculated the calories of the homemade snack you brought along, I thank you.

Now What?

I keep going. I keep the focus, I keep the plan and the goal and the Journey going.

I have so much more to learn, to do, to plan and to dream. Many more mountains to climb, rides to make, miles to put under running shoe, mountain boot, bike tire…

I have much to learn about how to maintain the weight, improve the fitness, build lean muscle.

I have much still to learn about me. I am still peeling away the layers. Still so much I need to understand about the things that move me along in life.

I will continue to write. The blog will continue as long as I think I have something to say and there are people stopping by. Even if I am the only one that reads it I think I will continue to post in my blog.

It is impossible for me to quantify how much the blog has helped me. The place to open up about all I was experiencing. The encouragement. Knowing there were people reading it from as close as down the road and as far away as Australia and that they cared how I was doing on this Journey has been a tremendous inspiration for me.

And to Wrap This Up….

I know this posting is long and I know it travels over roads long ago explored.

I wanted to see the Journey over my shoulder, to look back with the perspective of a person that has come a long distance. How would the road traveled look to me after the fact? I hope you don’t mind terribly.

I see the victories more than the defeats. I see more of the good days than the bad. I remember the days of success and the feelings of exultation more than the difficult days and the feelings of despair.

Mostly I look back and see the work paying off more than I can see the work itself.

That is both the blessing and the curse of this. I must learn to enjoy the victories but I can never let myself forget just how hard I fought to win them.

Bridges along the way

Bridges along the way

Peace and Love.


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A Bunch of Barely Connected Themes on a Tuesday Night


Foods I Don’t Eat

I had fish with dinner today and fish at lunch (two packets of tuna) and I had the usual assortment of veggies with dinner, and I had a bagel for breakfast because I overslept and didn’t have time for my normal bowl of cereal…..

Ok, you read this blog and you know what I do eat. What don’t I eat and why don’t I eat them?

Red Meat (Beef, Lamb, Pork, etc): I just believe fish and poultry and vegetables are better for me and red meats are a gateway food for me. I overeat it when I eat it and I tend to eat the “wrong” foods, fries and the like, when I do eat red meat.

Pizza (well, I did have two slices a month ago): another gateway food and another food I cannot control myself around. It was an effort of will to not have more than the two slices when I went out with PGB.

Chips: Any type. Potato, vegetable, corn, whatever. I will not touch them. Calorie density is the main reason. The amount of salt is another. Also a gateway food. I tend to eat all wrong when I allow myself chips. And I really cannot eat just one.

Eggs: Nothing wrong with eggs. Nutritious and delicious. Not very high in calories. I avoid them because I only really like them fried and fried is just not good.

Cake, Pie…: Why do you think? Nothing good to be had for me in cake and pies. High calories density. Gateway food. Food I can’t control myself once I start…

Doughnuts: Poison for me. I love them but there is simply no way to fit even one once in a while in to my life. Calorie density off the charts, addictive, laden with fat and sugar.. The very definition of bad for me.

Pastries: see cake, pie, doughnuts

The Continuing Slide Towards Vegetarian

It occurred to me as I sat down to dinner tonight that the tuna I had at lunch and the fish I was having for dinner were the first meats I had eaten in days. I had gone vegetarian, quite unintentionally for three days or so. Not really sure because I really wasn’t keeping track and it wasn’t something I had planned. Now I had eaten dairy over the course of those three days or so, but no meats. No poultry, no fish, not red meats….

We had some really good dinners. I made a TVP taco meal. Very good. We had a nice dinner of roasted sweet potato, squash, mixed greens and veggie patties for dinner two nights ago. Not sure what we had the night before but I know that it was a meatless meal.

The point here is that we are eating really well, truly enjoying our meals, and we simply don’t even notice that we have not had any meats. WE don’t plan it that way. It just happens.

While the fish tonight was quite tasty, I noticed that when it was gone (a four-ounce fillet goes quickly) I didn’t notice the lack of it in the meal. The sweet potato and the squash, the corn with sun-dried tomato and snap peas, were tasty and satisfying. I am finding that I simply do not miss the meats…..

Tomato sandwich. My Favorite

SO the slide towards vegetarian continues. Not based on any sort of animal rights, cruelty, all living things angle. You want to eat what you want to eat? Go ahead.

I am moving towards what I believe to be a healthier diet. That is why I am sliding this way. Given my family’s history, I figure this is a smart thing for me to do. When the Doctor told me my blood pressure is “perfect” I started to feel that I am doing the right things.

Don’t know how far this slide will go. I will let ya know….

One last hike

I am going to the Preserve this weekend if the rain holds off. I am taking the time for myself to be by myself and to walk a long walk in the woods. It is my last chance to get in a hike before the knee surgery on October 9th. The next weekend is family time. We are going on our annual apple picking trek. The weekend after that I will be resting the knee. Then rehabilitation and so forth. And the cold weather.

So this will be my last hike for a bit.

A view at the Preserve

I will take some pictures if I can. I will go as long as the knee allows and I will try to get in about 10-12 miles. Mostly I will spend the time relaxing and enjoying. Even if it rains a bit. I will find a quite spot under a rock ledge and get out of the rain while enjoying the sounds and sights and smell of the woods.

The woods are for me a refuge from the world around me. They are the place to find peace, quiet, calm, me. I have developed an affection for the Preserve. I wish I lived closer.

With all that is happening in my life, discovering who I am, losing the parts of me that were doing me harm, learning to be the me I am now, these solitary times in the woods are a brief time of sanity.

Dreaming

I used to think that I was not deserving of the bicycle I want. I was chubby but I was dreaming of this very nice bike. A bike better than my abilities. More bike than a fat man should ride. I would go in to bike shops and they would steer me to the beach cruisers. Didn’t blame them. I knew what I looked like.

Now I have the body and I have the ability (fitness) to “deserve” such a bike.

Well, winter is coming and I will spend the winter dreaming of these bikes.

I am so proud of myself for getting where I am.

Maybe come spring…..

Peace