Last week I posted a picture of myself on Facebook, one that I’ve been doing with a certain frequency. It was my “140 Picture,” a companion to my “130 Picture” and my “120 Picture,” and with any luck, my 150, 160, and 170 pictures.
Some people misunderstood the meaning of the pics and some had questions, so I thought I’d take a moment to address them. The “140” in the caption to the picture does not mean I currently weigh 140 pounds. I’m pretty sure you’d have to remove my entire skeleton to ever get me to that weight. I’m not in the business of losing bones. In fact, after two bike crashes this year, I find myself needing them more than ever. Fortunately, they’ve held up so far, and my record of 50 years without breaking one has held.
No, the 140 in the caption meant 140 pounds lost. So far.
During the quarantine era of 2020, I kept a lid on exactly how much progress I was making, though I made no secret I was working on things. But I had so much to lose that I didn’t feel like it would make a big difference if I posted a picture or said anything about specific numbers until I reached 100. In fact, when I’d lost about 45 pounds I posted several pictures from Disney World. No one seemed to notice what should have appeared to be a significant amount of weight. That helped fuel my decision to stay quiet until it was an amount that made a strong visual impact.
I’d been making the side-by-side comparison pictures all along just so I could see my progress for my self. The picture I use is from December of 2017, the last time I played George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life. I was at my heaviest and the weight plagued me throughout the production. Rehearsals were long and frequent, the amount of emoting necessary took its toll on me, the pratfalls I always volunteer to do weren’t very fun, and my 1-lap run around the theater winded me.
Towards the end of the show’s run, I decided that 2018 would be the year I lost some weight. So on January 1st, I set off to do so in the way I had so many times before. I cut my calories to the bone and weight dropped off. I’d gotten down 58 pounds when our biennial Summer Disney Trip came along. To be fair, I always track my weight when I’m losing and looking back I can tell I was already running out of steam when the Disney trip appeared on the calendar. The Disney trip is usually the end of my weight loss excursion, because there’s so much food there and so many great treats, and, wait, I’m the only one in the family that can’t have any of this great stuff? You can see how just out of frustration alone one might fall off the wagon.
Over the course of the next year and a half I gained 48 of the 58 back. However, I usually find a way to look at the positive of things, and the positive was that I hadn’t gained it all back. Early in 2020, I started tracking what I was eating again, but really out of curiosity and not with any weight loss goal in mind, more just to see if I was mentally ready to police myself like that again. By February, my wife had dragged me out on our daily dog walk and was strongly suggesting we take our bikes on a lap or two around the neighborhood. I’m not gonna lie. I was reluctant as I could be. Walking is too slow and boring and riding in circles drives me nuts. It’s why I’ve never cared for NASCAR.
But I started doing it. And I started tracking my exercise like I had been doing with my food. And what I found was that with the exercise, I didn’t have to cut back the food nearly as much as I normally did when trying to lose weight. The resentment that eventually followed any weight loss wasn’t there. I didn’t feel like I was depriving myself. By the summer, when my wife had surgery on a torn meniscus and G-Man had both of his feet operated on, I was walking and riding on my own. I no longer needed to be dragged out to do it.
The Disney trip worried me, because that’s when it usually goes off the rails.I made sure this time, though, that exercise was a component of our routine down there. I bought a rack and we hauled our bikes down there. On day one we realized that wasn’t going to work out the way we’d thought. MY wife did not at all want to ride on the streets, and I don’t blame her. The streets on Disney property are packed with thousands of distracted drivers. That left the sidewalk system, which isn’t as robust as we’d thought it would be. The paths are okay if you’re tooling around a resort, but if you’re looking to get a workout and ride any distance, there just aren’t very many opportunities to ride. We decided instead to avail ourselves of the resort’s fitness center, which had plenty of exercise bikes and treadmills.
Over the 11-day trip to Disney, I lost five pounds. And I still got to eat at all the neat restaurants and even split a Beaches and Cream sundae with Mrs. Ryfun.
So the easy answer to the main question I was asked when I posted that picture, how are you doing it, is “eat less and exercise more.” But doing that is the complicated part. Getting to 140 has meant living it every day. Remind me to tell you some time what I think of cheat days. Getting to 140 has meant going out in the rain to put miles on my bike. It’s meant one plate at Thanksgiving and one slice of my birthday cake. It’s meant not accepting any excuses from myself, and I’ve got plenty to offer myself. It’s meant being completely honest with myself about exactly what I eat, down to the tablespoon. And if you want to do that, you can. You just have to.
I’ve learned a few things about myself over the last year and a half. One is that I’m VERY busy, but that if pressed I can find ten minutes to do something IF I choose to find the time. I no longer use the phrase “I don’t have time.” Instead I have learned to say, “I have chosen not to prioritize it.” Because the truth is that we all have the time to do the things we say we don’t. We have just decided to give something else a higher priority. And that’s okay. SOMETHING has to occupy that space on your list, but it doesn’t mean you don’t HAVE the time. You’re just doing something else with that time.
Another thing I’ve learned is that I can make excuses to myself with the best of them. You should hear the things I tell myself to not have to go out and ride that bike. I’m tired, I’ll do it later, I need to grab a bite first, it’s raining, it’s too late. But I’ve learned to not accept that reasoning from myself. Know what happens when I don’t accept my excuses to myself? I get things done!