Earlier this week, my 8-year-old son offered a prayer before our family ate dinner together. Just after we’d all said “Amen,” he blurted out, “Wait! I forgot to pray for something.” By then, his siblings were already chowing down so I asked what addendum he’d like to add to his prayer, hoping to explain that God would still listen even if he wasn’t officially praying. His answer surprised me. It wasn’t “Please help (insert sibling’s name) stop being dumb” or “Please help Santa Claus bring me a bike.” Aidan wanted to add, “Please help that Dad will go back on his program.”
I have a lump in my throat now that I’m typing that, but I chuckled at the time. I asked him why he wanted me to go back on my health program, which has helped me lose a substantial amount of weight over the past year and a half. “I don’t want you to be fat.” One reason, he sweetly explained, is that he likes being able to wrap both of his arms around me when we hug. I think he also likes that his old man is more willing to be a fun and interactive dad when he’s not, well, fat.
It’s not the first time my kids — or wife — have prayed for Dad’s health.
I couldn’t help smile again today during a trip to the store. I ran into a therapist I worked with a year ago. She was really complimentary of my physical appearance. “You look great! Keep it up!” It made me feel good. And you know what? I do look great, especially compared to where I was when we last saw each other and dramatically better than where I was when I started my health journey last year as a miserable and morbidly obese 373.7 pound man.
While the compliment was nice, I was also smiling because I’d just visited the baking aisle — and then the water-softener salt section — and had my 4-year-old son take some “salt shot” photos of me.
Salt shot? I came up with it this morning. (Honestly, I would highly discourage anyone else from doing one.) A salt shot is the opposite of a sugar shot — the fun shots you’ve seen of me (or my kids) holding or stacking bags of sugar to represent the amount of pounds I’d lost. Those sugar shots are sweet depictions of weight-loss success. A salt shot is a bitter visualization of how much weight I’ve gained over the past couple of months. It’s not a punishment, per se, just a reminder (something my snugger clothes also offer). The smile came because here I was feeling bad about myself because I’m not where I want but somebody else reminded me how far I’ve come.
As of this morning, I’m 21 pounds heavier than I was when I joyfully bragged about getting under the 200-pound mark for only the second time in 29 years. I got down to 197 this summer, but I’m now at 218. A few days ago, the scale showed me the numbers: 225. I settled on a 25-pound bag for my salt shot. Now, I’m still lighter and healthier than I’ve been for the vast majority of my adult life, BUT I’ve been heading the wrong direction. I haven’t been on my program, which works wonderfully if you actually do it.
I’ve gone through and continue to experience some difficult things at work with an emotional job change and in my personal life. I let my guard down. I’ve allowed myself to eat my emotions — and, trust me, this man has a lot of emotions!
This slide began a couple of months ago. I let off of the gas pedal after dipping below 200 in early August. By the time I left for Texas to help with the Hurricane Harvey clean-up efforts in early September, I was at 202. Since then, I’ve been in self-destruct mode, eating everything in sight for a day or two or seven and then getting back on my program for a day or two or a morning before repeating that vicious cycle. I have an amazing way of talking myself into starting again tomorrow morning.
I have some awful eating tendencies when I stop being vigilant. I don’t just fall off the bandwagon. I lather the bandwagon with butter, cheese, sour cream and bacon bits, and snarf it down. I ate five cupcakes the other night while on a sports-writing assignment, and that was after having a huge dinner. I raided the baking products bucket in our pantry and nearly devoured a bag of chocolate chips. I downed a full carton of ice cream last week. I could go on and on. This is disappointing because my program offers amazing support and strategies for overcoming stuff like that, but I just said “(Bleep) it” and tried to eat myself out of my problems. That NEVER works. As my program’s co-founder Dr. Wayne Andersen says, “If hunger isn’t the problem, food isn’t the solution.” This problem is something I’m very cognizant of and need to continue to work on for the rest of my life.
I try to live my life out loud, so that’s why I thought I’d give an overdue update even if it’s kind of embarrassing and definitely frustrating. This is especially the case because I’m a health coach — one who needs to practice what he preaches. Sigh. I try to keep it real, though, and I want everyone to know that THE STRUGGLE IS REAL. Sometimes I need to write out my feelings to really feel them, so this is somewhat therapeutic, too.
I know there are people who look up to me as some kind of health hero. I initially wrote in this paragraph that I’m not — and certainly felt more like one when I’d lost 176 pounds instead of gaining 21 — but I am editing that part out. Maybe I still am a health hero (with super powers like being able to eat cauliflower and asparagus without complaining). More than heroic, though, I’m just a dude who was fed up with being fat and miserable, who decided he wanted to change and then did. My program makes it easy to be a health hero (not an infomercial here, promise), but like so many other things it stops working if you do. Healthy eating is like showering: if you only do it once in a while, life stinks. Or something like that.
Here’s the good news: Health hero or not, I feel a renewed desire to get down to a healthy weight and to stay there. I’m going to cut myself some slack and feel the power of the “Progress, not perfection” mantra I share with clients. I suppose the most heroic thing I could do for me and for those who look up to me — including the four kids who gave me the “PERFECT ROLE MODEL” shirt I’m wearing —
would be to pick myself up, back away from the baked goods and help God help me to answer my son’s prayer.