In January of 2018 I found myself in a hospital emergency room. I had just been involved in a bad accident on the highway. Driving to work, the traffic ahead was approaching a stand-still just ahead of a major exit/entrance system. It was quite dark at that early hour, but the morning work traffic was fairly heavy. I slowed to a nearly full stop. I think I was just quietly considering what time I would arrive at work. I saw the other vehicle in the rear view mirror.
As the mind sometimes works in these situations, I recall thinking about the possibilities about to unfold, knowing that the SUV was moving far too fast to stop before colliding somewhere. I recognized that the driver was a woman, and also that the SUV was new and expensive. I saw that she was drinking from a travel cup of some kind. As the fractions of seconds advanced, I realized she would keep moving forward directly into me rather than swerving into other lanes. Either way there was going to be a bad collision. I think my last thoughts were just to grip the wheel and get ready to hurt.
The impact was tremendous, though the car did what it was designed to do. The rear and front both ended up crumpled like cans in the recycling bin. Thankfully no one was hurt badly. I did go to the hospital, though, to have myself examined for various injuries. It was there that I had to step on a scale to get a weight reading. I had probably avoided scales at that point for about a year at least. I knew I was not at a healthy place, to say the least. I had allowed myself to just fall apart. There were reasons. No good reasons.
The scale measurement was in kilograms. I couldn’t convert it to pounds in my head, or rather, decided not to. Later I figured out that I had been walking around with 260 or more pounds on my frame of 5 feet, nine inches. It was certainly the heaviest I had ever been, and I knew it would just keep getting worse. Surprisingly I didn’t care at first. I was in a mental state of complete loss. It still took a while before I decided I had to do something. I had already been wearing increasingly bigger clothes, including “fat pants” to work because nothing I had would fit. I couldn’t close the suit jackets or blazers, so I just wore them open. Then I bought bigger ones from Goodwill. I didn’t much care that I looked like a clown.
Still that number from the scale kept popping into my thoughts. Gradually I decided what changes I needed to incorporate into my life to make a difference. I went back to the gym. There I figured out how bad things had become. I was unable to manage the treadmill for more than five minutes. My breathing was just too labored. But that was the beginning. I had to know.
In the next year I was losing weight, but very slowly. I was still not doing well with diet or nutrition. Once I decided to become accountable with eating, everything started changing. Getting an app on the phone, Lifesum, was the start of a new mindset about the whole eating equation. I knew that food was not the enemy, but rather my attitude and habits. Seeing everything clearly with real numbers was dramatic for me. When I started recording everything in the food diary, as well as the exercise, it started to make real sense. I always knew that for me fad diets are unsustainable, and ultimately not healthy. I didn’t eliminate any food categories. I just knew I had to maintain a calorie deficit as well as to eat more nutrient dense foods. In this way, losing weight would be a sustainable and healthy practice. I bought a food scale. I made smoothies… lots of smoothies.
I did add much, much more water than I had ever been drinking. This was huge. Water might be responsible for more of my overall improved good feelings than anything else. Of course I should mention the pandemic. This effectively shut down the gym regimen. I decided that continuing the exercise, specifically cardio as well as strength training, must happen. I set a long-term goal for myself. I would take part in the Highland Games in the year I turned 50.
That gave me something tangible to reach for and also it gave me a set of exercises that would best be performed outside. I started to throw stones. I restarted the exercise with the heavy sandbags I had made years before. Daily walking entered the regimen. And to keep it consistent, I continued the walking and exercise at work. Being at school was often an excuse I used to not exercise. I turned work into a place where exercise would continue to be important. In the classroom this past year, I built up the endurance to do sets of 100 push ups, six times throughout the day. This was not easy, but I included the students in the challenge. This added to the accountability.
The most important part of all, if I can name a missing piece of success vs failure, has to be that this time I included others into my plans. I have a very small, but dedicated group of people who know the deal. They have been working with me all along. Always before I would struggle along mainly on my own. I would have success, then back off and fall into bad routines again and relapse. The cycle of gains and losses, as I look back, was consistent.
Having my friends to keep me honest, I found, has been extremely valuable. With check-ins comes encouragement. This helps to fight off the inevitable back-slide into harmful habits.
Now when people ask, as they certainly will, what I have been doing, and I then tell them. I feel like a lot of people are frustrated with my answer. They want me to endorse one of the extreme fad movements. I didn’t do any of that, so I can’t. When I say that I have lost 85-90 pounds at this point, they usually react by saying something like how they don’t remember me being that heavy. In my head I just say that I do. The work in progress has been happening over three years. There have been no changes that one would see from one day to the next.
So for the new year the work will continue. I will compete in the Highland Games, provided that they actually happen. If Covid prevents them, I will have to put that goal off for another year. If I do, that will be ok. I know that what I have accomplished is more than static points on a line. I have regained a lost momentum. Strength of body and mind are greater than ever. I have returned to a healthier way of living that I can carry into the future. New goals will be set, reached, and reset. As I have been powering toward 50, I feel better about the future than I have in a long time. I have reached a good place.
Here’s to a prosperous and peaceful new year!