Good evening, friends and neighbors. It’s been a while.
My alarm goes off by my side of the bed. It’s still dark in the room.- not even a hint of the dawn coming in about 2 hours. I know Emily has probably only been in bed a few hours (night owl that she is,) so I jerk myself conscious enough to silence the alarm quickly before it can bother her.
My phone alarm acts as a dim nightlight, so I can just barely make her out next to me. Streetlights and headlights glow indirectly through the tiny ceiling window- enough for me to grab my phone, check the weather forecast for the morning, buzz through Facebook, curse myself for doing so, and get up.
I don’t have to be into work till 9, but I insist on arriving no later than 8:45. I want time to make breakfast and clean up-
after a workout of course.
This was not always me.
4 years ago, this was me.
Even a year and a half after I made it from 275 lbs to my goal weight of 165, I still hear the same questions- “How did you do it?!” Or, more tellingly, “You’re a baker- how do you keep the weight off?” There’s one answer for both questions- “motivation.” It also answers the bigger, unspoken question everyone WANTS to ask.
I could talk your ears off about HOW. Other folks will happily charge you to hear HOW to lose weight. The bigger question, though, is rarely asked- because everyone thinks they know the answer, but only YOU know the real one.
I can tell you HOW. More importantly though- I’ll tell you WHY.
Motivation #1: That Guy
That’s him. Nice guy, well-liked. Friendly, cool to be around full of jokes and stories. A lot of folks like that guy- except the grouchy bastard in the picture.
I’ll never say I hated myself, but I remember being constantly disappointed- in myself, and my self-control. For all the laughs and smiles I gave everyone else, I had nothing like that for me. I had exasperated sighs, moans of pain, and grunts of resigned isolation. No matter what I did or accomplished, all I saw in the mirror was a sadsack who could drink beer, suck down chicken wings, make way-too-sweet desserts, and cripple himself trying to make everyone but him smile.
Some time ago, The Oatmeal wrote a comic about a little creature called The Blerch. That comic struck more chords with me than I like to admit.
That Guy is still in me, somewhere. He half-expects me to gobble a whole pizza, or guzzle a 22oz beer in a sitting like I used to do and convince myself I was just a chubby happy guy when that was at least half a lie.
When I exercise, That Guy calms down. He manages to smile a bit- no longer pained, no longer disappointed. He feels good. When I wake up in that dark room, he’s in my ear whispering, “C’mon man- don’t disappoint me.” Then I get up and think, “What should I do today?”
Motivation #2- I Don’t Want to Die
You’d think that doesn’t need much explanation. Not many people go around WANTING to die of obesity.
I remember exactly where this motivation came from clear as day, though.
It came because, 6 years ago, in the middle of the night, my little sister caught me in the kitchen eating a full pound of shitty microwave bacon as a SNACK.
5 years ago, my father invited me home for dinner. In the kitchen, he asked when I last ate, wanted to see my hand real quick- and then pricked my finger and checked my blood sugar. He’d just been diagnosed as pre-diabetic and was worried about me.
Around the same time, my uncle- a very obese man who refused to diet or work out until it was nearly too late- went into the hospital for the second to last time, and BEGGED me not to follow in his footsteps. He asked me to remember that healthy food could taste good, and that I should run while I still have both legs and a strong heart. Diabetes had taken my uncle’s left leg and practically his right foot- so he spent his last year trying to fix things and get himself right from a wheelchair.
I have all the genes in place to go that way. I am scared that, one day, I will screw up and find myself there. I can’t let that happen.
Motivation #3- I Want To Be Free
I am not a perfect man, and don’t pretend to be. I get angry and scared. Sometimes I want to scream at the sky and rip my hair out. Sometimes I want to ball up my fists and just pound the living shit out of something until the madness goes away. Sometimes I just want to collapse in a heap, pull the earth in over me and just die.
That’s called living- and exercise reminds me of what I should be doing.
Running up a mountain through the pre-dawn Portland fog, my fears and terrors get lost and stop while I charge forward.
Plowing through an exercise routine, my mind clears- panic chased away by rhythm and exertion. As my body moves, so does my mind. I can stop panicking and start planning.
Heaving my sandbag around, everything angering me quakes in fear and shrinks away- and I no longer NEED to beat them down because I KNOW I CAN.
Every morning, before work, I put my fears in context and my anger in its place.
Motivation #4- I Like It Like That.
Like everything, motivations change with time. Those last three still pop up, but more often than not- THIS is the reason I wake up early and workout as often as I can.
I like it. I don’t really know any other way to be anymore. Where I used to spend entire days off lying in bed and messing around on the computer, the concept of that fills me with disgust and nerviness. After my appendectomy, I had to take a month off of working out, and I was a gibbering wreck. I wanted to get up and move, but lacked the energy. I needed exercise, CRAVED it.
Yes, I’m a baker- and I crave the feel of dirt roads under my sneakers and sweat soaking through my shirt more than cupcakes. I will happily work for hours to make the best, most beautiful cake I can; but I never need sugar and fat as much as I need to feel my muscles move, flex, and ache.
I didn’t start with that need, that motivation- the other three came first.
Then came these.
I want to be healthy so I can spend the rest of my life with Emily.
I want the energy to keep running and feel the earth under me.
I want the will to run up more mountains and see more sunrises.
I want the strength to make delicious food for people for the rest of my life, and meet more people that do so.
“We are not made for the mountains, for sunrises, or for the other beautiful attractions in life – those are simply intended to be moments of inspiration. We are made for the valley and the ordinary things of life and that is where we have to prove our stamina and strength.” – Oswald Chambers
Join a weight-loss group if you want. Make a New Year’s resolution. Join a gym, and get a personal trainer. Take on diets, give up junk food- whatever will serve you best.
It will never be easy in the beginning, and it will never, EVER work AT ALL if you don’t know/care why you are doing it.
“Why am I doing this to myself” needs to become “Why am I doing this FOR myself”- and as one of my favorite quotes says: