What Got This Fat Man Running In The First Place: A Prequel
After the unthinkable happened, I ran in a 5K race in Avon, New Jersey, I wondered what was going to happen next (besides desperately trying not to throw up at the finish line). The one thing I should not have done was to call my ex-wife, Arlene, and tell her what I had accomplished.
ME: “Hey, just finished running the 5K, but I pulled a muscle in the back of my leg”.
ARLENE: “You never listen to me, you don’t become a runner overnight. I told you that you were going to get hurt”.
ME: “Yeah, well, at least I can tell people I ran a 5K”.
ARLENE: “Well, (long dramatic pause) you didn’t actually RUN a 5K”.
Why did I ever divorce her? The love and support oozed out of my cell phone (and we have the family plan).
To me, this was a major accomplishment. It’s not that I overcame a debilitating injury to run the Boston Marathon; not even that I broke my leg and was now able to run a few miles. No, what I overcame was a lifelong condition that finally came to a head two years ago.
That condition? I was fat.
Not ‘break down the side of my house and air lift me, and the couch that I’m literally attached to’ fat, but I was not what anyone would call healthy.
It came to my attention two years ago (apparently, I had ignored every mirror I ever walked passed before that) when, while on vacation with my sister and nephews, that the point was driven home.
As I pushed myself into the incredibly narrow confines of a booth in a pizzeria (it’s a booth in a pizzeria; it should be the width of an airport runway) I muttered a little too loudly, “I’ve put on a few pounds”.
There was a short silence, filled only by my heavy breathing. Then:
“Yeah,” my sister said, “we’ve talked about that”.
We’ve talked about that? Have I been the topic of some secret negotiations? The subject of some future intervention (we love you, Al, but Macy’s called and wants to book you for next year’s parade – you need to change something)?
It’s a bit annoying to find out you were the topic of conversation, but more disturbing to realize they were right.
After I finished eating my pizza (it was already ordered; it would have been wrong to waste it. Fat man around the world go to bed hungry every night) I spoke with my nephew, Joe, who was in the Navy at the time, and in excellent physical condition (a young version of me, actually). Stay away from wheat for a month, he said, and you’ll feel better.
Pizza and bread made up about eighty-percent of my diet. This wasn’t going to be easy.
It was July, 2015 when I had those conversations, so I gave myself a start date of August 1st. Then it turned out August first was a Saturday (no one starts a diet on Saturday), so I began in earnest on August 3rd.
I’ve tried diets before, cut out fast food, maybe run a little, but I never really fundamentally changed the way I ate. This time I did. This time I ate – God forgive me - salads.
Not just salads with lettuce, but salads with spinach. Anyone who knows me, would be aware of my intense dislike of vegetables. So, to suddenly eat spinach was life-altering. People reading this are thinking, “The asshole ate spinach; babies eat spinach”, but I ate spinach, and gave up pizza and bread, and started to exercise one hour every night (elliptical).
At the reception for my nephew’s daughter’s christening, I ignored the bread and loaded up on salad, chicken, tomatoes, and stayed away from everything I desperately craved. Once I settled back at the table my brother turned to me and said, “Who are you?”
It’s been two years now, I’ve lost nearly fifty pounds, and work out every night. Occasionally, I slip back and order a burger on a bun (the horror), but for the most part my eating habits have dramatically changed. When the opportunity to run in that 5K emerged, I jumped at it (no, just kidding, I was volunteered and signed up before I even knew what hit me). But I’m glad I did it and I look forward to the run next year.
Anyone who might think I’m trying to boast with all these ‘look how good I am’ comments above, you may have noticed one small exception: I never said anything about giving up drinking.
After all, it’s not like I want to live forever…