There was a pain in my chest.
It was late last year, and I was lying in bed at 2am when a sharp pain wavered through my chest. “Probably just gas,” I thought, trying to comfort myself. But, what if it wasn’t gas? Would the EMT’s be able to carry all of my pounds down my stairs and into the ambulance? And, assuming it was just gas, how long would it be until I was having chest pains that weren’t harmless? I was 36. If I wanted to live past the age of 50, I knew that I had to make serious, important changes to my lifestyle.
I was fat, and being fat made me depressed. I would eat to comfort my depression, and things would just get worse. I didn’t want to go out, and I didn’t want to meet new people because I knew that I looked terrible. Traveling on airplanes was a nightmare. My clothes – which I had to buy online because stores don’t carry my sizes – didn’t fit right, and even if they did I still looked terrible. But, I wasn’t doing anything about it. The one thing I wanted was to be thinner. I would put time and effort into other things I wanted – graduate school, for example – but not weight loss.
So, I gave it a shot. Late last year I started jogging and writing down everything I ate in a small calendar notebook. I tried to eat healthier, and it seemed to work. I felt better…until the holidays. I stopped working out and ate with a vengeance. It was worse than before – I seemed determined to eat myself back beyond where I had been. Even my “fat” clothes started to get tight.
And then it dawned on me. I have a food problem. It is a condition that for me is not unlike alcoholism. It isn’t something I can fix in my spare time with little or no effort; I have to meet the challenge every single day. I had to change my life and my outlook, and I needed motivation.
So, I thought, why not help other people while I was trying to help myself? I decided to make my struggle public – to add pressure on myself – by asking people to sponsor me for every pound I lost between February 8 and August 8. I chose to benefit Why Me – a local charity for Central New England children with cancer.
I wrote a column about it, and emailed all of my friends – I said how much I weighed, admitted my problem, and resolved to work toward changing my life. I explained that I was not going to do any kind of radical diet or plan; rather I wanted to start a lifestyle that I could maintain after the challenge ended.
I was shocked and thankful for all of the support I received. In a lousy, uncertain economy, people stepped up and pledged their support. They sent me notes of encouragement, workout ideas, and recipes. They cheered me on every month, and their faith buoyed my spirits.
February 8th came and I weighed in at 313 lbs. I remember thinking that if I could just lose 50 lbs. by August that I would be happy and that I wouldn’t feel like I had wasted my time.
I began weighing myself every morning. I realize that many plans advise against this, but I found that the ritual of weighing myself helped to keep my mind on my weight throughout the day. I wouldn’t be able to eat poorly without facing the reckoning of the scale in the morning. Also, I wrote down everything I ate and every workout. Therefore, if I gained or lost weight, I could look back and see exactly what had contributed to the result.
There were also some other changes that had to be made. I quit drinking alcohol for the first two months, just to help me get started. I knew that I didn’t need the calories, and besides, eating poorly seemed like a better idea after a few beers. I needed my wits about me to succeed. I tried to drink water most of the time, or seltzer. No soda.
Also, I tried to eat smaller portions, and schedule small healthy snacks during the day; a box of raisins or a few baby carrots in the afternoon when I might otherwise be on the prowl for candy. I tried to eat healthier meals – chicken and vegetables instead of pizza and macaroni and cheese – and generally just used common sense about what I was eating. And, no eating late; I tried not to eat anything at all after 8pm.
I started running. First, I jogged – very slowly – a mile at a time, three days a week. After a while I started jogging 6 days a week and gradually increased the distance. Then I started going to the gym twice a week for an hour at a time to lift weights. Again, I had to make time to do this – being healthy had to be the most important thing.
It started working. Every day I would write down my workouts and my food, and every morning I would see the results of the previous day’s effort. After the first month, I weighed in at 288 – 25 pounds lost. On April 8th I weighed in at 275 lbs. Again, still overweight, but feeling much better than I had in February. On May 8th I was 265 lbs.
Then, a setback. I started feeling so good about having lost weight that I stopped working out and started eating poorly again – celebrating, I guess. I shot back up to 275 lbs. There had been a number of times during my challenge that I had setbacks – ate something I probably shouldn’t have, or didn’t work out one day. The key was always to get back on track and do better the next day, and that is what I did this time. I worked very hard and got back down to 265 by June 8th. Again, my food problem is a challenge I have to face every single day. Yesterday and tomorrow don’t matter.
This past Saturday, I finished my fundraiser when I weighed in at 238 lbs. – a total of 75 lbs. lost, resulting in over $3,000 raised for Why Me. I want to thank everyone who supported and believed in me. I feel so much better – physically and mentally – than I did in February that it is hard to quantify. It was really worth it.
My fundraiser is over, but my struggle is not. I want to get down to about 190 lbs., and I know that even then I will still have to be careful, because I have a problem that is not just going to go away. I have to try, every day, to be healthy.
If you would like to donate to Why Me and help children who are fighting cancer, please go to www.whyme.org.