It’s well documented here and elsewhere about my struggles with my weight. Well, to be fair, I haven’t really struggled with it. There have been times over the past eight years or so that I have focused specifically on losing weight, or “getting in shape,” but for the most part I have been fairly content with how things are. Unfortunately, reality has started to seep in and I have decided to truly get focused on getting healthier. If that means that I lose some weight along the way so be it.
Over ten years ago, I returned from five months of Army training at a relatively thin 188 pounds. Growing up, I also considered myself a bit bigger, but I guess that was my fault for hanging out with a bunch of skinny folks. The one year I played Pop Warner football, I was an “X-Man,” one of the fat kids that could only play on the line, indicated by the X made of tape on our helmet indicating as such. Were we to try and catch a ball or run out of the backfield, the play would automatically be dead and we would probably get a stern talking to by our coach. I think it was because of this that I only played football for that one year… as well as the fact that everyone else had been playing much longer than I had and were kind of good. I still think that I would have been a pretty decent tight end, but I digress.The thing was that I was always tall for my age, so I never felt that I was heavy. It made sense to me that a kid around six feet tall should weight close to 200 pounds, and due to the great metabolism of youth, I could eat anything that I wanted. It was great to be a kid. Even after I shipped to basic training, I was in that middle group of recruits that didn’t really need to put on weight; I wasn’t so skinny that they put me on double rations to fatten me up, nor was I too heavy and on half-rations to slim me down. I shipped foir basic at around 185 — the three pounds that I put on were truly muscle.
Then I made an unwise decision. The 20 year-old rebel in me decided that the five months spent in the clutches of Uncle Sam was enough, and that my body deserved a break. Combine that with moving to a new state, subsequently having to find a new place to live within a month, and I neglected to even do the minimum of physical fitness to keep me where I needed to be for the Army. I barely passed an APFT on November 2, 2001 — and wouldn’t pass another for the last 9 1/2 years of my Army career. But that’s getting a bit ahead in the story.
I don’t remember the first time I went over 200 pounds; I think I may have rationalized it by thinking that I was a bit to skinny at 188 pounds. Looking back on so,me pictures from the time, maybe I was right.
For my height and age at the time, the Army said I could weigh 206 pounds. However, due to my lack of effort on the physical fitness front, it was only a matter of time before I had exceeded that benchmark and had to be taped. The last eight years of my military career would be spent under the Army’s tape standard, and I would begin failing pretty quickly, though not until my weight had started to creep above 230 pounds. Let me tell you, it’s all sorts of fun to be taped and counseled every month for both failing an APFT and missing on weight. Loads of fun.
It wasn’t without efforts along the way. I went on Jenny Craig for a while before I got married, got sick of the lack of good food choices and the expense, and quickly put back on the 30 pounds or so I had lost. I trained for the Army Ten-Miler in 2006, losing some weight along the way and actually doing pretty well in the race, only to stop running again when the weather turned cold in Connecticut.
I was heavy during this time, bigger than I had been up to that point in my life, but I was okay with it. I was working towards a goal, realizing that I hadn’t gained the weight overnight and wouldn’t lose it that quickly either. While I wasn’t losing a lot of weight, I wasn’t really gaining all that much either, so it was nice to see fractional changes in my monthly weigh-ins with the Army.
Then the bottom fell out of my life. A divorce, then living on my own, kind of sucked the life out of everything. I was trying to keep running, primarily because it gave me some time to just get away from things for a while. But if you don’t change other things along with it, you just keep struggling at it, and running isn’t fun anymore, so you do it less frequently. I often felt like I was running just to say that I had been when questioned during the next counseling session. My heart wasn’t in it, though my heart wasn’t in much of anything anymore. I put on another 30 pounds and was on my way out the door from the Army.
A deployment gave me hope for a change. I would finally be on some sort of regular schedule, in a place free of many of the distractions that often keep us away from doing what we should. Don’t get me wrong; I didn’t think that an all-expenses paid trip to Iraq would be magical and I would immediately lose 80 pounds just by showing up. I knew I would have to work at it, and for the first five months I did. I was working out regularly, not only improving my fitness but also losing weight. I actually passed the push-up even on the APFT for the first time in I wasn’t sure. I was one event away, the two-mile run, from actually passing the thing for the first time in 9 years. All sorts of progress was made.
But I got frustrated with the Army. I felt the only reason I was trying to lose weight and pass the test was to reenlist. Once I decided that I wasn’t going to, it was easier to make excuses to not go to the gym anymore, to stop running, to stop trying as hard. I left Iraq bitter and weighing 270 pounds. Granted, it was the lightest I had been in a couple of years, and indicated around a 25 pound loss from the beginning of the mobilization, but with a looming separation from the Army coming in a few months, I just stopped caring.
I came home. I joined a gym. I was doing alright, or at least I was going through the motions. I even found some people besides Al that would help me get to the gym — hint: they were girls! But my heart wasn’t in it, especially after said girls put me squarely in the Friend Zone, yet another blow to my already fragile self-esteem. Unemployment followed and I think I just stopped caring. I was making preparations to move back to Utah, to start my life over again, when I took a slight detour to Alexandria, Virginia for six months. The mild climate had me thinking I would walk the four miles to work everyday, or at least ride my fancy new bike. Fast forward to the end of six months, and you don’t even need to count how many times I did either; it just didn’t happen. Living alone away from everyone led me to make bad decisions with food. Combine that with not working out, and I reached the point that I am at now. Even an aborted “lifestyle change” (don’t call it a diet) was hard for me to follow much beyond a couple of weeks. It was just easier to go to Wendy’s or Taco Bell.
So that brings us to here. Partly because I’m on the wrong side of 30, and partly because of weight-related health issues in my extended family, it’s time to make a change. Again. This time is a little different, as at least I’ll bring my brother along for the ride. We’ve been easing ourselves into the “Slow Carb Diet” discussed by Tim Ferriss in his book “The 4-Hour Body.” Today marks the official start date, at least for me, but since I started to follow the principles loosely three weeks ago, I have lost ten pounds. Every week, I’ll provide an update of where I stand on the weight loss, as well as the training that I am doing for a 5k that my sister Kathy signed me up for at the end of the month. It’s been a long time since I ran, and even longer since I ran in the altitude of Salt Lake, but it’s only a 5k. If I do alright and don’t die, the plan is to run a 10k sometime in the late summer, and maybe a half-marathon by this time next year.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll go into detail about some of the things that I’ll be doing along the way to both weight loss and running. I don’t have a specific weight in mind, as it is more about feeling happier and healthy than I do now. As a quantifiable goal, however, I would like to start wearing jeans under a 40-inch waist and get away from buying by clothes at the big and tall store. Then again, if I start losing some weight, I have crates full of old clothes just dying to be worn. I hope that trying to keep myself accountable will work a little better this time around, but I guess we’ll ultimately see what happens.
Until next time…