I made a promise to myself on Jan. 1, 1986.
For the second time in my life I was ending a major weight loss. The first time was 15 years earlier as a 14 year-old just before entering 8th grade. I dropped from 260 pounds down to 190 pounds. I did it over the summer by slashing the heck out of what I was consuming including soda. There was a slight uptick in exercise but nothing to brag about.
Everything was relatively even keel throughout high school. But then things started going the wrong way on the scales. Between college full-time, working full-time, a sideline photography business and serving on a school board my eating habits became dreadful. I was eating before I went to bed and most of my meals were from vending machines after classes and convenience stores when I got the chance between assignments.
I turned 29 weighing 320 pounds. I decided I was not going to weigh 320 pounds on my 30th birthday. My goal was to get back to 190 pounds.
When December of 1985 rolled around I was at 220 pounds. By then it was getting through to my thick head that it wasn’t about diet alone. I decided I was going to start getting real abut exercise. By real, I meant doing it every day whether I liked it or not.
On Christmas Eve that year I bought my first racing bicycle. It sat unused until New Year’s Day morning. I remember looking at it and asking myself what I was so afraid of.
I was honest with myself. As virtually anyone who has been significantly overweight knows, much of your misery is foisted upon you by people telling you the obvious — that you’re fat and then asking why you don’t lose weight. If you’re unlucky, you’ve come across cretins who think it is OK to grab your sides and make some cutting remark.
I was allowing moronic bullies — people that essentially get their jollies off their own anger by slashing out at others — paralyze me. Those that gleefully reminded me that I was fat had now switched to informing me I was a klutz. It was less cutting as a kid to have my peers refer to me as a “fatso four eyes” than the insults other adults hurled my way.
So on Jan. 1, 1986, I decided “to hell with everyone else” and took the bicycle outside, hopped on and didn’t take a break until I had pedaled 16 miles up Highway 65 to a point north of Wheatland.
Ninety days later on my birthday I was down to 190 pounds.
In the 30 years since then, I’ve only missed exercising 11 days and that was due to two hernia operations and collapsing from a severe bonk on Sonora Pass.
I now weigh 167 pounds — my fifth grade weight — and have hovered between 160 and 170 pounds for the past eight years. In know this because I weigh myself — and mark down the results on a calendar — every day without fail.
And while that may freak out diet and fitness experts my weight isn’t the number I’m really obsessed with — it is the blood pressure and heart rate readings that are taken every two weeks when I give platelets.
The last numbers were 108/58 and 52. I get that those are the numbers that count and not 167 pounds. But the scales are a daily reminder of where I have been and not to forget that I’m essentially a recovering addict with the substance being abused is food and not alcohol.
It hasn’t been easy. There are times when I’m tired, not feeling good, or am in pain. But without fail exercise either reduces all three or chases them away.
If I can offer anyone advice after 30 years of being on the wagon — so to speak — when it comes to weight, it is as follows:
uIt’s not about what you weigh but how healthy you are. There is a difference.
uA pound of fat and a pound of muscle weigh the same. And it’s not just the density that’s different. Muscle tends to be easier on your body and general well-being.
uModeration is key while the best three words to remember whether it is exercise or paying attention to what you eat is “just do it.”
uDon’t judge yourself by others that weigh less or others that weigh more. The only yardstick that matters is you.
uExercise and diet (as in the type of food you eat) is a lifestyle not a three-month fad. Treat it any other way and you are in yo-yo land which is definitely not good for your health.
uKeep challenging yourself but ignore those that can’t resist trying to prove their manhood — or womanhood — by trying to outrace or out lift you. The race you’re running is life and its ran by adopting the tortoise’s approach and not the hare’s.
uIf exercise never appealed to you, then force yourself to new challenges so you can experience things you never thought possible. The reason I logged 80,000 miles on bicycles in just under 10 years had everything to doing with cross-crossing the Sierra numerous times via pedal power as well as riding through places like Death Valley. The same is now working for me with hiking. My exercise besides helping me stay sharp and healthy makes it possible to do things I never would have tried 30 years ago.
uAnd, most important of all, it is about you and nobody else.