When I graduated from high school, I weighed a paltry 135 pounds. I enjoyed a wonderfully high metabolism in those days. I ate as much food and drank as much beer as I wanted and never gained an ounce. But by the time my knees decided they didn’t enjoy Marine Corps basic training nearly as much as the rest of my body (and mind) did later that summer, I had managed to pack ten pounds of muscle on to my 5’7” frame. At 18 years of age and 145 pounds, I was at my physical peak (aside from the pain caused by bilateral patellofemoral syndrome and acute ITB tendonitis, of course.)
A month ago, I was as out of shape as I have ever been. I hadn’t exercised at all since riding my bike on the Katy Trail a few times last summer. I’d developed a beer belly that made it appear as though my pregnancy was entering its third trimester. I weighed 169 pounds; 34 pounds more than I did on my 18th birthday—a 25% weight gain.
According to several studies, the ideal body weight for a 45 year-old man my height is around 145 pounds; a weight I have not seen displayed on my bathroom scale since returning from boot camp in 1990. I’d like to get back to 145, but I’d settle for an even 150. I know it won’t be easy, but since New Year’s Day I have already lost ten pounds—over 6% of my body weight. It’s the first time in my entire life that I have lost weight. That’s not a half-bad way start to the new year, if I do say so myself.
What’s my secret? Hard work and dedication. In addition to giving up drinking, I have also committed to eating healthier foods, limiting portion sizes, and exercising regularly. Except for a cheat day on Super Bowl Sunday, I’ve stopped eating junk food and most carbs. My go-to snacks are unbuttered popcorn, zesty dill pickles, and, (to my family’s horror), plain, raw baby spinach leaves. And at mealtimes I put down my fork before I feel bloated rather than eating until there is no more food left in the house.
After pretending it didn’t exist for over a year, I finally tried out the treadmill Bethany bought for us last Christmas. Did you know that with the help of a portable DVD player, walking on a treadmill can be an almost pleasant experience? I discovered that I can watch two commercial-free episodes of my favorite cartoons (either “Samurai Jack” or “Pinky and the Brain”) in about 45 minutes. In that amount of time I can walk three miles at an average speed of four miles per hour. Sometimes I curl five-pound dumbbells or raise the treadmill’s incline a little while I walk, too. I try to walk at least five times per week, and I must admit that I don’t hate it.
Bethany’s already trying to convince me to sign up for a couple duathlons coming up this spring. Walking while watching cartoons is one thing, but running—especially in a race—is something else entirely. I hate running with every fiber of my being. And it hates me. Running indoors on a concrete floor during morning practices gave me horrible shin splints and ultimately led to my dismissal from my high school baseball team. Running in combat boots on pavement and in sand caused my knee problems in boot camp and ultimately led to my separation from the service. No sir, running is not for me. But I am drawn to the biking aspect of a duathlon. Maybe I could “walk-bike-walk” instead of “run-bike-run.” And forget about me ever doing a triathlon. Instead of “run-bike-swim,” I would “walk-bike-drown.” No thanks.
Of course the number one reason for my weight loss and overall feeling of improved health is my continued abstinence from alcohol. Aside from marrying Bethany and opting to become a parent, it’s the best decision I’ve ever made. Not only do I feel better physically, I feel better about myself as a husband, father, and friend. Lately when I look in the mirror, I like the person looking back at me. It’s been a long time since that was the case.
Now if you’ll excuse me, a treadmill and an animated pair of genetically altered lab mice bent on taking over the world are calling my name.