Are you sick of it yet? I am. Every year it’s the same. We see endless “lose weight quick” commercials, are told what to buy to quit smoking while gyms lure us with bargain prices. Magazines, newpapers and the local news feature man-on-the-street interviews focusing on New Year’s resolutions.
A lot of people refuse to make resolutions because they’ve made them in the past and they’ve never stuck. Why not? Why don’t they work? Because the gyms are packed and you can’t find a parking spot. Because losing weight is not easy, or quick. And because quitting smoking takes the average person as many as seven tries.
Am I saying we shouldn’t even try? Of course not. I’m saying we need a different mindset than “fast and easy.”
Take just a minute and look at your life. What will the world you see around you be like if you aren’t there tomorrow? Yikes! Tough question, huh? No one wants to think like that. I certainly didn’t. But, on May 4, 2011, a doctor at Florida Hospital in Celebration, Florida looked me in the eye and told me that apart from major intervention, my life would soon end.
What if I looked at you with certainty and said, “If you don’t lose 100 pounds, you won’t see 2014?” I weighed approximately 310 pounds at my heaviest. Don’t tell me I don’t understand how difficult it is to lose weight. I lost 70 pounds from Jan. 2009 to May of 2011. No fad diet, no drugs, no surgeries. I did it without support groups, meal plans or Weight Watchers. I failed at those so many times before.
I had doctors tell me to lose weight. I wore the label “morbidly obese.” I joked about it teling others that my mother pronounced it, “Obeast.” I’d laugh and say, “Oh beast, come in here please.” I told everyone I was happy being fat and jolly. Fat jokes were a normal part of my self-deprecating humor.
Do you know what I mean? Some of you know it too well. You can shrug off my words tonight, strap on your CPAP mask to keep the fat from closing off your airway and go on with your life ignoring the obvious. You know how tired you are, you know that your weight keeps you from things you once loved and you know how hard it is to keep up with your family.
In January of 2009 I sat on a bench in Florida at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure while my wife and three kids, ages 17, 19 and 21 headed off across the park to a roller coaster. I told them to go without me using the “I don’t like roller coasters” story again. I used to like roller coasters but now, at 310 pounds, my back always hurt and it had become embarassing trying to fit in the buckles. Plus my ankles were swollen and my legs ached from walking, so I made excuses while my family made memories without me. We had plannned this trip as our last family vacation before potential marriages and life changes altered them. I was missing it. And then the thought hit me, “It’s like I’m dead.”
That day I determined I would change my life. My diet would include everything I wanted to eat but less of it. I started doing simple math having read about someone who lost weight eating only at McDonald’s. His conclusion was simply that weight is entirely about how many calories we take in and how many we burn. I downloaded an app to my phone that tracked my calories. I set a reasonable goal of losing just one pound a week which meant I could still have 2100 calories and wouldn’t starve myself. And then, I started moving every day. Honestly, I could only walk about 100 yards before needing to rest so I started there and tried adding to it every few days.
My friends, a lot of you are morbidly obese. I know how upsetting it is and I know that you feel like a failure at losing weight. I know many of you have given up. I had, until that day on the bench when I watched my family go on living without me.
My weight most likely contributed to my eventual need for a liver transplant to save my life. Fatty liver becomes NASH (Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis) in a certain percentage of patients. NASH can then progress to cirhosis and liver failure. Yes, there is a familial link in many cases but in others there is none.
I joked with my transplant doctor that I should never have gotten healthy because it was when I was down to 240 pounds and riding my bike 75-100 miles a week that I learned of my need for a liver. I told him I should have stayed, “fat and happy.” He looked me straight in the eye and told me that had I not lost that weight a transplant would have been very unlikely. I would have been too heavy.
Please, Dad. Look at your world right now. Look at the people you love. How will their world look next January if you are no longer alive? Who will take your daughter to the father-daughter dance? Who will put your son’s first game ball on the shelf?
Please, Mom. Look around you. You know what happens when you get sick for a few days. In our house, the ship started sinking whenever mom got sick. What will the world be like for these people you love if you are gone? Who will help your daughter navigate her first broken heart? Who will draw those trapped feelings out of your son?
Are you, like I was, already missing out on shared memories? Did your kids go sledding, skiing or ice skating during their Christmas holiday while you gave an excuse and stayed behind? Are you in a warm climate and stayed behind while the family rode bikes, went for a walk or laughed on roller coasters? Is your family already making memories without you?
This CAN be your new beginning. Don’t make a resolution, don’t starve yourself and don’t kill yourself at some crowded gym. Instead, change your attitude and change your life. Please, let me help you. (firstname.lastname@example.org) We can do it together.
Trust me. I do not want you to live what I have lived in my fight from fatty liver, to NASH to cirhosis to end-stage liver disease. Had I not lost that 70 pounds a transplant would most likely have been eliminated as an option. Simply, had I not made that decision on wooden bench in January 2009, my family would now be living life without me.
I don’t like that thought. I don’t like it at all. Do you?
Make the change.