Wednesday, February 17, 2016


What is my weight loss goal? How will I know once I'm finally in shape?

Again, I picture how things were when I was 15. I know cannot reasonably expect to be in that kind of shape again. I've done myself a few injuries which make it unlikely. I've taken on a few responsibilities I refuse to ignore, because I've set a few goals which are linked to dreams I refuse to give up.

And so I think of it like this.

All my life I was taller than anyone my age. I didn't have a growth spurt which put me over the top - I just had a head start. For a 5th grade class assignment we measured everyone's height; that's how I learned I was 5'8" (I was ten years old). Similar events lead to someone measuring my height about once a year, so I know that I grew at a steady pace of two inches a year . . . until the age of 14, when I hit 6'4". That was the age I stopped growing for a while.

Texas high school football is no joke. Because of my height advantage the coaches decided the best place for me was on the line, and linemen are further required to bulk up as much as possible. One coach gave me a specific weight gaining diet to follow (not that I was thin to begin with, mind you), and they had me weight training six days a week in the off season. I don't know how much muscle I gained, but I still bear a six inch patch of stretch marks from the inside of each bicep toward my chest.

Some years later I learned that such weight training can divert the body's resources away from growing height and into growing muscle. This explains why I stopped getting taller just as I started bulking up, about 4 years before most people stop growing. I consider myself lucky; life at my height is frequently uncomfortable, awkward, and inconvenient as it is. If I grew to be the 6'8" or 6'9" the doctors predicted… well.

Besides, I do enjoy the irony of being 6'5" and having stunted my growth.

When I was in high school sports I was weighed obsessively. Every August brought Two-A-Days for the football team (practice from 7-10:30 am, and again from 4-7:30 pm, for two weeks). We were required to log our weight before and after every practice, presumably so the coaches could identify drastic changes as a warning sign that someone was about to drop dead, so maybe ease up. Wrestling season had me weigh in for tournaments twice a week before every meet and tournament. This is how I know I never weighed more than 210 pounds in those days.

These days I tend to hover around 270. Somewhere between that ages of 18 and 22 I gained an inch of height, but I lost a lot of muscle mass since I don't lift like I used to, and haven't in years. So when anyone tells me "muscle weighs more than fat," the first thing I hear is You could easily stand to lose about 70 pounds.

Is that my goal? Well, no. If all I wanted to do was see a lower number on the scale, I could just cut my fucking legs off. Yes, the only statistic I post on my daily photo is what the scale reports, but that doesn't mean that's the only thing I'm tracking.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016


January of last year I (temporarily) got some health insurance. I went in to the doctor for the first time in years because my stomach and my heart were . . . let's just say they were "uncomfortable." Regularly. It was making me nervous.

Doc took an EKG and told me my results looked great, whatever that meant. If I'm in the clear, I guess I don't much care exactly what the results are and how to interpret them. On the other hand, my weight made him uncomfortable and he didn't like my blood pressure, so I was instructed to take care of the one and let's see what happens to the other. It was the first time a doctor ever scared me.

I was in the neighborhood of 275lbs, the second time I've ever weighed that much. Because my health was at stake, I wanted to do something more drastic than usual. I started thinking back to what I was capable of in high school. I know it's not fair to compare myself at 36 to what I was at 15, but I was then conducting a set of habits during that time which had me in the greatest shape of my life. I was on the football team, the wrestling team, and the track team. All year long I was spending six days a week exercising 3-4 hours a day, and those hours were divided among several different activities. It wasn't three to four consecutive hours of goddamn jogging, that's for sure.

I do love to run (or, it is perhaps more accurate to say I have eventually learned to love to run), but I needed to mix it up if I were to put in that same amount of effort. My gym had lots of cardio options available, so I made use of four of them. Two focused on the upper body and two on the lower, and I'd alternate.

The time I'd spend on each machine was based upon which playlist I was listening to. Once upon a time I heard that a body needs 20 minutes of exercise before it starts pulling energy reserves from fat cells, so I would make exercise playlists in excess of 30 minutes, not including a quick warmup song and a one or two for a cooldown. After a couple of weeks I was skipping the cooldowns and going straight to the next machine and starting the next playlist. I was soon treating the warmup just like the rest of the routine. In total I would get 2 hours and 20 minutes of intense aerobic exercise five days each week (Three days on/one off, two days on/one off).

Helping matters was a show I was rehearsing at the time. It was very physical, so I ended up averaging an additional hour or two of sweat inducing movement right after my workout.

The payoff was great; after six weeks, I was down 22 pounds from where I'd started. I intended to keep going, but got distracted. That's another story for another time.

Every single time I've tried to lose weight, I've managed it. Every time except for this time. I'm missing something. Something is different, but I haven't figured out what it is just yet.

And the clock is ticking.

Journeys and Destinations

I have successfully lost weight a handful of times; that is to say I made a point to make an effort to get into shape, and then I did. Typically it's included a weight loss of 20-30 pounds. I'd get to a point where I was content, and maintain that for a few months. Eventually my discipline would slip, and then it would stumble, and less than a year later I'd end up right where I'd started.

Last November I had just finished a gig, and didn't have the next one lined up yet. Usually this results in a listlessness stemming from a mixture low self-worth and fear. Recognizing that pattern and hoping to stave it off, I decided to dedicate myself to getting back into shape (again). I had felt my body putting on weight, my clothes fitting tighter, my breath harder to catch.

My goal this time wouldn't be getting there, as I've done so many times before, but staying there. Lacking any other ideas about how to obtain permanence, I started a photo album. I updated it every day. Always with the same lighting conditions and always wearing the same clothes, but I made it a point to take the picture and weigh myself at varying times of day. Under no circumstances immediately after exercise.

Several times since I started I've been advised to weigh myself less frequently, no more often than weekly. I've also been told it should happen at the same time of day, ideally first thing in the morning when the body weighs the least. This misses the point of what I'm trying to do.

I inhabit my body every hour of the day, every day of the week. I can see it and I can feel it at any time. Not just at 8 am on Sundays. Not only immediately after exercise when my water weight bloat is at its lowest and my muscles are at their most rippling. My goal is not to present only the most flattering data sets or a successful trend. I want to be happy with myself all the time, not just under the most favorable possible circumstances.

I'm documenting the struggle, not the result. This shit is hard. There's a journey of 1,000 miles between every Before and After photo, and I'll be goddamned if I gloss over a single step. Sometimes it hurts, and sometime it sucks, and sometimes I'm just doing it wrong and I need to try something else.

Failure and despair are waypoints on the road, avoided only by the very luckiest. I've visited them a few times in the months since I started all of this. For reasons I have not yet determined, this is the very first time I've put in this much effort and had absolutely no tangible result. Perhaps that's why it's more important for me to document it this time than any time previous. Maybe someone else who has given up (or never started) will be inspired to their own action and success, knowing that it's okay for the road to be rocky.

Maybe I'll keep that in mind, too.