Hello, my name is Rob, and I am an addict. Isn't that what they say at AA and those sorts of things?
The difference is, I'm addicted to food. Food for comfort. Food for rewards. Food as a motivation to do and a reward for having done exercise. But I'm getting way ahead of myself here.
I've never thought of myself as an obese person. I've also never really thought of myself as an athlete. Yet I raced BMX at 12, rode around practicing freestyle BMX tricks every night of my teenage life, rode to my job at a bike shop at 16, rode my first century (100 miles in a day) at 17, and have been racing mountain bikes for... well, a long time, anyway. As my daughter would say, "in the 1900s"!
Maybe that's why I never saw myself as fat. But starting in college, I began gaining weight until about 2015. By then, I was around 250 and still racing. I believe in our hometown Weeping Willow race in 2014, I came in dead last. Not in my particular category at that time, but for the entire race. Every category. That includes kids under 13 and men and women over 70. It tells you a lot about my capacity for self-delusion that I could even talk myself into putting a number on that day. What did I think was going to happen? Or maybe somewhere deep inside, I knew what would happen—and needed it to.
But inside, there were no such delusions of grandeur. And amazingly, I don't necessarily mean that in a health sort of way. More a mental health way. How was I still gaining weight? I rode almost every day! I'll get to that later. But for now, I want you to appreciate the hopelessness I was feeling. No matter what I did, what I thought to do, I seemed to keep gaining weight. Which led to trying to drown my sorrows in more food. Not a good solution.
I had tried Weight Watchers around 2000, and saw results, but somehow never thought of going back (maybe because of the happy happy vibe I'll get to in a moment). But when I saw an old summer camp friend losing significant weight with the program, somewhere deep inside a little spark of hope said, "well . . . maybe". I'll always credit her with saving my life. Maybe actually, or maybe just any kind of life I want to be living, but that spark changed everything. And maybe that's why I'm writing this. It's not that calculated, I assure you, but perhaps someone who needs it will see this.
I hated myself so much the first day I walked into Weight Watchers. It was January 4, and I knew I was one of those people who show up wanting to make "a new start" at the beginning of the new year. And I hated that. They've always strived to make these meetings positive and uplifting—which has only intensified since their WW rebranding and the Oprah commercials I'm sure you've seen—but I went there for public shaming. To have to weigh in in front of a crowd of people and know that when I gained weight the instructor would get that positive-but-disappointed look on her face (I've only ever met ONE male WW employee) as she said "another pound up. Keep trying!" I suppose that tells you more than I want to about the state of my mental health at that time, but it's the truth. Even 6 years later, I don't really go for the pep talk (though I've come to appreciate it more).
But here's the thing. Here's the turnaround you've been hoping for if you read this far. It actually worked! I certainly don't intend this as a WW commercial, but I do have some pretty positive feelings for what they do there. As I calculated my daily "score" (it's too complicated to explain here, but know that each food has points and you're supposed to stay under a certain number each day) I began to see even the first week that it was obvious why I kept gaining weight. If these people were right, I was eating enough for about five people every day! How could it not pile up? It was simple math and logic. That first week, I think I lost 5 lbs. That was a new feeling, and I liked it.
[Now, let me digress for just a moment. Like I said, it would make this blog post way too long and boring if I laid out all the real numbers and how they're calculated and blah blah blah. But let me give you just a hint, because the way we all think about food is so screwed up, it needs to be said. I have approximately 30 points in a day. A banana milkshake at Sonic has fruit in it. We always hear about how healthy bananas are for you, right? So how bad could it be? 89 points. EIGHTY-NINE! And these "healthy" choices are everywhere. A wheat bagel and cream cheese is around 20 points. Get a flavored coffee and put some sugar in it and you've nearly used that 30 points and breakfast is barely finished! Digression over, but I think you can imagine how quickly it can all add up if I'm not mindful of what I'm eating.]
Enough numbers, but suffice to say I managed to lose a large chunk of weight in a relatively short time. It was nothing short of a miracle. I don't know how else to say it. I could still vividly remember (still can, but this was that same year) how hopeless I'd been, and yet, the impossible was happening. I was seeing weights on that scale I was absolutely certain I'd never see again. I'm still not back to the weight I entered college at, but I'm close enough to imagine it's possible. Half a decade later, I still can't quite believe that. I had to write some sort of profile statement for WW the other day to describe my motto or something or other. And I think it's a pretty good place to end for now. I don't have it here in front of me, but what I wrote was something close to: "The less of me there is, the more I feel like myself."
Oh, and that race where I finished dead last? They don't do it anymore, but they did have one last edition. And this stat I will look up. At the 2017 Weeping Willow, I was 16th out of 21 finishers in the 40-49 Novice Veteran II Men.
That ain't fast- but it ain't last!