Reflections from a life-altering trip to the playground


In the past 105 days, I have lost 66 pounds.

And unlike losing a set of keys or my cell phone — two things I lose faster than Usain Bolt can run the 100-meter dash — I’m not planning on spending any time trying to find a single ounce.

What I have found are a lot of questions. Seems people notice when you lose a considerable amount of weight in a relatively short amount of time.

They want to know if I really have been losing weight, if I’m losing it intentionally and, the most common of them all: How did I do it — what is the secret?

The cookie-cutter response is that I changed my diet and exercise more. And I did.

But that isn’t really why I’ve been successful so far. That “secret” has a back story — a tale with an almost Aesopian fable ending summed up with three simple words.

You see, my life changed at a Selinsgrove playground about two years ago.

My daughter, Paige, is a playground-a-holic. She loves playing outdoors, and we just couldn’t resist the freshly painted orange play system on the west end of town one sunny spring afternoon.

While she was climbing up a plastic rock wall, I noticed two young boys ahead of her on the second story. They looked down at me, and one simply said: “Hey fatso!”

I was overweight at the time. I was around 300 pounds and not shocked in the least at his comment, regardless of how rude it was. Some kids never get the manners memo from their parents.

Paige reached the top of the wall and noticed the three of us. She put her hands on her hips and, with an extremely proud look on her face, said: “That’s my daddy!”

And there it was.

Three little words that threw me into an emotional whirlwind.

She didn’t see my weight as something to be ashamed about — she just saw an opportunity to brag that I was her father. I was humbled, touched and knew that some day, I didn’t want to be the one to embarrass her by being overweight. I didn’t want her ashamed to proudly tell her friends that I was her daddy.

I had an obligation to get it under control. For her, for my wife and for the two children we adopted since then.

For nearly two years, I kept thinking of that spring day at the playground. I finally had to take action.

And on the day after the Super Bowl, I committed to the change.

No more soda. Instead, I would drink a gallon of water a day on average. I drastically cut the carbohydrates, and have done my best to stay away from processed foods.

I changed my exercise pattern. I jog/walk a three-mile loop around my neck of Snyder County when I can. I work out in the evenings to an NFL training camp routine. I do more projects around the house and try to fit in trampoline time with the kids whenever possible. Playgrounds, of course, are still on the itinerary.

I strive to follow my self-named OWL (Outdoors Weight Loss) program. Like our ancestors before us, the goal is to hunt, gather, plant and harvest as much of my own food as possible.

This means the food is as fresh and untainted as it comes, and I get plenty of exercise during the process. Anyone who has worked a large garden or trekked our hilly terrain for hours on end to harvest some free-range, organic venison can attest to that.

Pilgrims didn’t dig out the elliptical machine when they felt their abs needed a little honing, and we non-Pilgrims today don’t need to give away our life savings for a gym membership in order to turn around our lives.

But even the best of intentions to make the right changes won’t mean anything without the right, long-lasting motivation – something that flips the internal switch from a life of making excuses and living life in a semi-dream state of denial to one of determination, follow-through and action.

I have been blessed with a great extended family, a supportive and amazing wife and three exceptional children.

And I plan to enjoy them all for as long as possible. Thanks to the 66 pounds lost in the past three months, and more weight to come, I plan on many more hunts, paintball outings and camping trips with my son.

I look forward to jumping in the roller coasters at Disney this fall with the family and not worrying if the lapbar will close when we buckle in.

I look forward to enjoying our new/old/used camper with my wife and plenty of fishing trips, hiking excursions and so much more in the near future with my daughters.

And, of course, we’ll be going to the playground whenever possible.

Maybe I’ll see those two young boys again – and this time, I’ll be the one with my hands on the hips, announcing to the world that I am the one who has some people to brag about.

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~ by zaktansky on May 25, 2012.

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