Six months ago, my reasons for losing weight were very different than they are now. Back then, 78 extra pounds had pushed my cholesterol to dangerous levels and had me teetering on the bitter edge of diabetes. My number one reason, at that time, to shed the weight was to get my health back, to get off all the medications my doctor had put me on for those illnesses. Of course, if I were in a joking mood, I would have mentioned my realization that my scooter got much better gas mileage with the lessening payload of my size 18 caboose – yes folks, I was losing weight to personally decrease America’s dependence on foreign oil!
Of course, we can’t forget the other benefits I envisioned six months ago. I’d battled to lose about 20 pounds on my own before coming to the new well, and from that already had a taste of increased energy and flattering clothes (not to mention shopping trips for those aforementioned flattering clothes), so why not? Time to go for it! Designer labels in one-digit sizes, here I come!
I never had the confidence or fitness level to try any hobby that didn’t involve a lot of sitting. But I was nearing 40 years old, and feeling the need to reinvent myself. A few months ago I decided to try SCUBA lessons, and I wanted to be able to squeeze myself into a wetsuit without feeling like an over-stuffed sausage – check out that photo of me at the Illinois River! I planned to be an example of health and vitality, leading a more active lifestyle that I hoped my friends, family and coworkers would follow, but at the same time, I admit it: I like hearing people tell me I look good. Let’s all echo in the sentiment: In your face, classmates at my next reunion!
Nearly every one of those reasons got thrown out the window on July 8th, 2012, when my only brother dropped dead from a massive heart attack a little over two weeks after his 42nd birthday.
Yes, that was less than a month ago. I’m still reeling. My parents are devastated. Especially since his sudden death was entirely preventable.
You can see in the picture of my brother and me at my grandma’s birthday that my brother’s weight and health were even more out of control than mine. He was over 100 pounds overweight, his arteries were clogged with cholesterol levels higher than mine, and he had high blood pressure coupled with a sedentary, video game-playing lifestyle, and no desire whatsoever to change. When I cleaned out his kitchen the day after his death, I found beer, frozen pizzas, burritos, cheese, more beer, chocolate pie, ice cream, Twinkies, still more beer, white bread, white rice, four open jars of mayonnaise, Spam, another case of beer, chocolates, corn nuts, even more beer, and the thing that affected me most: literally fifteen pounds of bacon.
Fifteen pounds of bacon. And not one single piece of fresh fruit or vegetable in the house.
I suppose that my number one reason for losing weight has not changed – my health is on the line. But suddenly, all my silly reasons about flattering clothes and showing off to my former classmates just don’t seem so important any more. I’ve learned a very painful lesson from this completely avoidable tragedy, and now I simply want to take control of my weight and fitness to do the one thing my brother couldn’t do.
I want to live to see my 43rd birthday.