I can honestly say that I have lived two totally different lives in my time thus far on this planet. No, I am not bi-polar, I am not transexual, nor am I a secret agent with the CIA.
So, you are probably wondering what in the world I am talking about. What I mean is, that the first 22 years of my life, I was overweight. At my heaviest, I was in fact obese.
My hope in sharing my story, is that you might find inspiration in it that you can use to apply in your own life.
I can actually pinpoint the exact moment, my defining moment I call it, when I realized that I was headed down a wayward path toward a destination that I knew was not my best life. That moment, was when I decided that I needed to change my life.
I didn’t know how, and it wasn’t exactly a straight shot from where I was to where I am now, but that was when I consciously began to put the gears in motion. In order for you to fully understand, I think I need to start at the beginning.
Of the North
I was born in northern Michigan at Wurtsmith Air Force Base, but due to my Dad’s position in the Air Force, I spent most of my childhood (age 4-14) living in Anchorage, Alaska.
Now I know many of you reading this may be thinking,
“No wonder he was overweight! He lived in the arctic tundra, surviving on whale blubber and moose meat. Not to mention that he probably could not go outside since the snow was as deep as the house was tall.”
Contrary to popular belief, Alaska is not all snow, all the time, and whales are only really eaten by the native Eskimos, although I have had moose and it is quite tasty.
When I was a little boy, in the single digit years, I was not really all that overweight. I just had a little pudge, you know, the baby-fat, but nothing excessive.
I was pretty much a normal little guy, doing what little guys do. I was active, playing hockey in the winter and tee-ball/baseball in the summer. Honestly, I think if anything, the extra weight was from my hair!
As I got older, closer to 10 years old, I started to notice that I had some extra “padding.” I was playing hockey, starting goalie for those that are curious, in the winter, but in the summer I was no longer playing baseball.
I was still active in the summer going to goalie camps, skating clinics, exploring the foothills of the nearby Chugach Mountains, riding my bike, and most importantly of all... going salmon and trout fishing.
Those were the days, in the late 80’s early 90’s, when kids actually played outdoors and video games were limited to a few hours a week. Throughout my elementary years this was the norm for me.
When I reached junior high, I took a year off from playing hockey. However, I was still active doing the same outdoor type things with friends as I had done in the past.
In the 8th grade I tried out for the junior high school hockey team and made the team as the starting varsity goalie. This was exciting, however, what was not so exciting was that I had gained a bit more weight.
Chunky kid that was attacked by a Flowbee!?!?
And So It Began
At this point it was not just baby fat anymore. This is were I really started to notice that I was not the weight the that I was supposed to be.
I had stretch marks on the inside of my thighs, when I was playing goalie my belly pushed my chest protector out, instead of laying flat across my abdomen.
As if my the physical signs were not enough I was also feeling the weight mentally. These mental signs came in the form of mean kids at school calling me “fat boy”, “fatty”, “tubby”, etc. The extra weight really began to hit home.
The Empty Carb Junkie
To this point in my story I have described to you what I did
as a kid. My activity. The one thing I have not talked about is what I ate. Being that I was a fairly active kid it only goes to reason that my eating habits were not all that fantastic.
I was a picky eater, like a lot of kids. I loved carbs, sweets, and fried foods. My choice for vegetables consisted of corn or potatoes, period.
Some typical foods I would eat often were pizza (no veggies of course), bread chicken patties (aka present day chicken fingers), spaghetti and meat sauce, french toast, peanut butter and sugar sandwiches (at least it was on wheat bread...sometimes), cereal of all sugary types (and if it did not have sugar in it, sugar was added), and Kraft macaroni and cheese (the spirals were my favorite).
The list of garbage I ate as a kid could go on forever, but you get the point. Now if that were not bad enough, we have not even touched portion size yet, as the phrase “portion size” was not even in my vocabulary.
I ate until I felt full, which at the rate I would eat, would mean that I ended up feeling over full.
For example, it would not be unusual for me to have 4 pieces of pizza for dinner as a preteen kid, or make two breaded chicken patties and a box of mac and cheese for myself alone. Portion size was whatever my eyes thought my stomach could handle.
High school was a continuation of the trend, and then some. The summer after I finished 8th grade my dad received orders from the Air Force, moving us from Alaska to bustling the metropolis of Mascoutah, Illinois. All 5000 people were thrilled at our arrival! Kidding.
We arrived in Mascoutah just in time for the start of my freshman year. The only person I knew in school was my older brother and there was no hockey in Mascoutah.
The closest location where my brother and I could play hockey was in St. Louis, Missouri, which was about a half-hour drive away.
At the time, Mom was not comfortable driving on the busy St. Louis freeways after 10 years of laid back 55 mph Alaskan highways, so we decided to take a break from hockey.
During this “break”, I did the next best thing of course... nothing. My eating habits did change however, they got worse, as I would now eat out of boredom.
On top of that, since I had a lot of extra time on my hands (and did not have any friends yet), I learned to cook, which I now love to do.
However, my idea of cooking at the time was deep frying pretty much anything you can think of that can be fried. Needless to say this did not help matters any.
Partying = Packin' On the Pounds
As I started to make friends I got a little more active, but no where near the level of activity I had in Alaska. Unfortunately, I never did return to hockey.
Sports were not the thread of common interest with my new group of friends. Instead, I took up a new extra curricular activity - partying.
We all know of the freshman 15. Try freshman 30+. And, I missed the memo that said this was supposed to take place in college, not high school.
After my brother and I graduated from high school, my dad retired from the Air Force. At this point there was nothing tying the family to the Mascoutah/St. Louis area, so my parents decided to move back home to Michigan.
I was able to transfer to a Michigan location with my employer, and through this, met a group of guys that also liked to party. YAY, instant friends!
We partied every weekend for years, because... it was the thing to do. And what do guys in Southeast Michigan do after a night of drinking? Head to the nearest Coney Island
, of course! Two coney dogs and chili cheese fries anyone?
I just kept on keepin on, as they say. And so did the weight, in a steady increase. I had a group of friends, I had something to do on weekends, I didn’t really care about what I looked like at the time, because I was doing what I thought made me happy.
Little did I know how my path would change...stay tuned for Part 2