I woke up this morning at about 3:45. I got up and had a sip of a Diet Dr. Pepper and laid back down. As anyone who ever finds themselves flipping through the 945 channels on cable that early in the morning, about 927 of those channels are playing infomercials. I scanned through the plethora of offerings of such cutting edge products as pads that remove the toxins from your body through the bottoms of your feet, the “magic bullet”(it’s a blender), various devices that can get healthy juice out of a watermelon rind(shouldn’t that be thrown in the garbage?), and spray-on hair among others.
The ones that really jumped out at me, though, were the ones that promised to make me skinny quickly and easily no matter what I ate or how little I exercised. One guy said he took this little pill, which had been “clinically tested”, and he was able to lose weight while eating whatever he wanted. Another woman on the same commercial said, “You can’t do it on your own! You just can’t!” They lie.
I’m no health nut, but I am healthier than I was six years ago. Six years ago, I weighed 240 lbs. I ate what I wanted, when I wanted and I was miserable. I finally woke up one day, probably after passing out from tying my shoes, and decided to do something about it. A friend talked me into buying a bicycle and all of a sudden, exercise became fun! Then, in March of 2008, I ran into my high school tennis coach at an ice-cream shop. She told me she had just run her first marathon at Disney World. She never thought she could do it, but she did. Two days later, I bought a pair of running shoes. I started off by running for one minute and walking for two. After a week or so, I began running for two minutes and walking for one. Within a month or so, I was able to run a mile without stopping! In May of that year I ran my first race, slowly! It was the Jubilee Cityfest 2-mile fun run in Montgomery and a guy who was running in brown loafers and blue-jeans stayed right with me almost the whole race. At least I looked like a runner. It took me almost 24 minutes to finish but at least I did it and got the t-shirt! It felt great!
Today, I’m 40 years old and my weight hovers between 195 and 200 lbs. I run at least 3.1 miles every other day and cycle as much as 40 to 50 miles on the weekends. Last summer I rode 62 miles through some of the hilliest country I had ever been through. It took about 4 hours to ride the whole 62 miles. It was hard, but so much fun! I’m not saying these things to brag. I have lots of friends who run and ride a lot further than that and one who will be doing his first full Ironman Triathlon in the next couple of months. 200 lbs. is still quite a bit heavier than I need to be and when I run, I’m painfully slow. My wife can attest to this fact. But the simple fact is this: I lost weight and got in better shape because I made up my mind to. I got my big, fat rear-end off the couch, started being more careful about what I ate, and I simply did it. There is no proverbial magic bullet that can make you lose weight without changing your lifestyle. Not one that is safe, at least. I always thought Hydroxycut might be good to try. I never did, thank goodness, because the FDA said just a few weeks ago that Hydroxycut has been linked to liver damage and the product has been recalled.
There are things that can help. I know there are various surgeries and supplements that can help someone lose weight. But even these things require lifestyle changes. You can have gastric bypass surgery and lose a lot of weight quickly, but if you start eating the same way you were eating before surgery, you’re just going to end up fat again. What a giant waste of time that would be.
If you want to lose weight and be healthier, you have to understand that it takes hard work and at least a modicum of discipline. It takes a little suffering, too. Actually, maybe a bit more than a little. I haven’t been on a run yet where I didn’t wonder to myself, sometimes aloud, “Why am I doing this? This is not fun!” But when I’m done I feel incredible! That’s one reason why I continue to do it. To know that I can push myself through the suffering and finish a run or a ride when I want to quit gives me a tremendous sense of accomplishment. It motivates me to continue when I feel my pants not so tight around my waist and I have to tighten my belt up a notch or two. The day I realized that an XL t-shirt was too big for me was a liberating one!
I’ve still got work to do and I’m not yet where I want to be. But I’m setting goals and reaching them, albeit slowly sometimes. There are ups and downs and days when I don’t feel like getting off the couch. Sometimes the couch wins. But most of the time, even when the couch seems to be winning, I force myself to lace up my running shoes and walk out the door and run. I haven’t regretted it one, single, solitary time. As a result, I’m probably in better shape now, at 40, than I have been for the better part of the last 20 years.
The hardest part is starting, just getting out the door. Just remember that you don’t have to run a half-marathon your first time out. Maybe you just put on your old sneakers instead of your flip-flops and jog to the mailbox rather than walk. That’s more than you did yesterday. Perhaps that’s the key. Do a little bit more today than you did yesterday. Maybe in a few weeks you’ll run a lap around your neighborhood without stopping. Heck, you might even find yourself actually paying someone to let you run 5 kilometers early on a Saturday morning for a t-shirt and some post-race fruit and cookies. Don’t laugh, it happened to me! It also happened to my wife and now we look forward to running together(she is much faster than me). Set goals and work to reach them. It won’t be easy but I promise you that you can do it and you won’t regret it.
Then maybe you can reward yourself by buying a George Foreman Grill or a Snuggie! Just stay away from the Lipozene! Because you can do it on your own. You just can!