Saturday, October 17, 2009

The irony of being fit

Since June 23, when I weighed-in at 259.5 pounds, I have lost 44.5 45 pounds, all in a period of 17 weeks, or just over four months. This involved nary a newfangled diet, eating plan with odd variations of foods replete with prescribed times of the day for imbibing, no pre-packaged food plans, or anything else out of the ordinary. Actually, I take that back—losing weight and adopting a healthier lifestyle does entail swimming upstream, adopting a new consciousness that is not the norm. It involves awareness and accepting responsibility for your choices of foods, quantities eaten, and deciding to exercise, or not, along with the level of intensity.

For me, my decision resulted from coming face-to-face with a man in the mirror, approaching middle age, who had been going to seed for more than a decade. It had been years, save for a brief period in 2005, since I had embraced any regular, intensive level of physical activity, or continued for any longer than a month, or two. I mention 2005 because that was when, just after New Years, I joined the YMCA nearby and enlisted their training services. For about two months, while working at home, I’d leave my writing tasks three afternoons per week, and do a variety of stations on their Nautilus equipment. I absolutely hated it. I hated the people, pretentious stay-at-home moms, and assorted elderly fitness fanatics, and others that I wasn’t ready to deal with—I hadn’t made the mental commitment that I’ve come to by accident over the past four months.

When I started all of this back in June, I was hoping to start with losing 10 pounds, and if that went well, then I planned to continue, possibly dropping 20 pounds total. I approached all of this with trepidation, and not much confidence. I’ve lost 10 pounds before, and then gained it back, shortly thereafter.

I think what jumpstarted my progress was Mary’s excitement at biking for a cause. We both made decisions to ramp up our training intensity as a pretext to participating in The Dempsey Challenge. Over those weeks, which eventually become months, being out on my bike, for an hour, or two at a time, was liberating. You couldn’t be checking email, answering a cell phone, Twittering—just you, your bike, propelled by the power inherent within your own human frame—plugged into the real, rather than virtual world. [chart above indicates the simple math of weight loss--my avg. calories consumed (bluish, on left), vs. avg. calories burned (yellow, on right) over the past two months-jb]

There were times out on the back roads, and occasionally, main roads, when a driver got too close. Occasionally (maybe two, or three times all summer and early fall) I would think, mid-ride, this sucks! I don’t want to be out here, 45 minutes or longer, from home. The hills that day seemed too steep, or my legs felt like shit because it was my third, or fourth consecutive long ride. Surprisingly, these negative thoughts were rare, and before long, I began to anticipate and pine for my ride after a day of work—days most often spent dealing with problem people, bureaucracy, and the giant “suck” that is work, even for someone like me, who generally likes his day job.

Interestingly, it took me until I was down about 35 pounds that a few people began asking me, “have you lost weight?” When I’d tell them the amount, most often, they were incredulous. I’m not surprised, as most of these people, maybe all of them, never knew me when I was in my athletic prime, or had seen me when I was a 25-year-old athlete, still engaged competitively on the diamond.

What has been ironic of late, particularly the past two weeks, is how many people at the office have made comments like, “hey skinny,” or, “look at Mr. Weight-loss,” or one person who said to me, “you need to upgrade that wardrobe,” particularly since my pants in particular have gotten quite baggy. One person, bless her heart, even asked me, “are you ok?” because apparently, in our country, being 50 pounds overweight means you are viewed as healthy, and nearing your ideal weight elicits concerns that you might possibly have lost your weight, not from any healthy motive, but possibly that you are wasting away from some ravaging disease. Recently, my own mother said to me, “you look good, but you shouldn’t lose any more.” Ah, excuse me, but according to most weight charts, I’m still about 10 pounds heavier than someone my height and frame should be. I’ll continue to work out and watch what I eat, because I like the new me.

As the days grow shorter, and my riding time is being compressed, I will be forced inside for the winter months. This time, I’m finding a gym where I can go, do my shit, and get out in 1-2 hours; I plan on doing this three times per week, and intersperse it with my treadmill work in the basement.

As I log those hours, under artificial illumination, I’ll long like a dog for his bone, to be back out in the open air, on my bike, building up for my next fitness adventure, and the warmer days of summer 2010.


Anonymous said...

Good for you Jim! I am encouraged to start focusing on my own healthy life style after reading your blog for the last month or so. congratulations! Rhonda

Jim said...

Thanks, Rhonda. Hope things are well with you and yours. See you soon!