Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Chair That Broke The Camel's Back

My coworker challenged me back in late 2009 in a weight loss contest. I like challenges. She had just had her baby and wanted to lose that weight. Me, I had topped the scales at the highest weight I'd ever been, 330 pounds. She wanted to lose 15-20 pounds, something like that. My goal was much, much loftier. I figured 100 pounds to lose should do the trick.

Only, the thing is, I can be really lazy when it comes to stuff like this. I've been on and off many regimens in the past, and I wasn't about to start some bigger-than-life program. So, what did I do? Basically, I kept pretty much every habit I had and just made slightly different choices. For instance, fast food is a staple for me. So, instead of a Big Mac and fries, I'd get a grilled chicken sandwich with no mayo and a side salad. Same habit of grabbing food on the way home at the drive-thru, but with a somewhat healthier decision.

No changes were made to really anything else. The sedentary lifestyle continued, and over the course of three months, I managed to drop about 20 pounds. Come New Year's 2010 I make a natural resolution to keep it going, but totally failed. I fluctuated from January to March, but basically started March the same place I entered January, about 306.

So, somewhere around the second week of March, something happened. To me, it was the straw that broke the camel's back. Pathetically, it's the second time it happened too. The cheapo desk chair from Office Depot broke. Here's a picture.

It's 10 months later, and no replacement chair has been bought yet. Instead of running out to the office supply store the next day, this busted chair cycle had to be broken. It dawned on me that my bookshelf had a couple of diet books collecting dust I bought a few years back with every intention of making a go of a real life change, as they say. So, the dust was blown off two books.

Both books were bought from some distant health kick. I don't remember what inspired that buying spree, but this I know -- most everything was stuffed on a shelf, hidden in a corner of a room, or thrown into a drawer of gadgets. The purchase included a pedometer, one of those blow-up Swedish exercise balls, You: On a Diet (The Owner's Manual for Waist Management), and Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy. Why these books? I want to say it's because my intent was to get the Swedish ball and Amazon suggested these because they were best sellers. Honestly, I have no recollection of why they were chosen. As an aside, I haven't had a television or cable for going on five plus years now, so my familiarity with this Dr. Oz was nonexistent. Apparently he's on TV. In fact, I don't think I realized until just this past weekend that Waist Management book was written by him, go figure.

So after the dust settled, I cracked the cover on the You: On a Diet book. What I saw on the cover was that it was written by two doctors, so I figured it couldn't be all bad. Doctors are smart people, right? I spent the next couple days devouring the diet book, gobbling up every piece of advice I could find, and setting myself up with a new outlook on life. Yeah, this book was that good. There's good sound doctor advice, paired with incredibly down-to-earth explanations of incredibly complicated biology, simple cartoons to bring it all home, and just to top it off some recipes thrown in for good measure. It didn't hurt that I was totally inspired to action by my busted chair, which I refused to remove from my home until I was sure I was on the right path.

The other book is good too, and eventually I read it too. Eat, Drink is much denser though and intricately complex with little to no layman's explanations. In other words, this book sucks to read with a glass of wine. You need note cards and a highlighter, and I just wasn't that into studying.

So, I read a couple of diet books, so what? Well, like I said I was inspired. That weekend, I started taking some of the advice of the Dr. Oz book immediately. I started walking. This was a pretty big deal for me. I'd more-or-less been sedentary for the past five years or so (marginally related to the lack of cable TV, by the way). Also that weekend my dad and step-mom visited my brother and his family from out of state. I packed the books with me, and headed up to Windsor. I explained nothing about the chair, but that I had recently decided to get back on my horse.

My dad, brother, nephew, and sister-in-law all went for a walk that weekend, and on this walk even though the camel's back had already been broken, something else happened. The walk was simple enough, as we took a very level stroll around a lake in Sonoma County. As the walk neared it's end and we headed back to the car, there was a fork in the road. We could continue to walk the no-elevation path back or take a little hike up a hill that meandered back to the parking lot. I looked at the hill with dread in my eyes knowing my much more active family members were going to do it. Except that as we were making the decision to take the more strenuous climb, my nephew said to my brother, "But dad, I thought you said Pete can't do it." He shushed the 7-year-old quickly, but the cat was out of the bag. My pride was shattered, and I definitely couldn't go on having my nephew think that way about his Uncle Pete. We took the hard route back to the car, and while I won't say it killed me or anything, after five years of no exercise I was certainly a sweaty pig by the end of the hike.

With a busted chair and a shattered pride, I guess you could say I had a new outlook on life. It's been about five months since then, and I've already dropped another 40 pounds. The goals now are:
1) walk 10,000 steps a day
2) get myself down to my "fighting weight" as Dr. Oz puts it
3) prove my brother and my nephew wrong
4) buy a new chair when I reach my goal weight

There's more to how I've been doing it for the last 1/2 year or so, all the specifics about dietary changes, exercise routines, and ups and downs. Some of that will have to wait until another post though. Until then, I hope this gives some explanation as to the impetus for this whole life change thing.


  1. Pete,

    I felt so sorry for you when Connor made his comment. But glad to see what you did after that. You deserve a lot of congratulations and for your stick-to-it-ness.