I was lazy, I was stupid, but most of all, I was scared.
For most of my life, I have struggled with my weight, and when I say struggled, I mean I didn’t eat right, and I didn’t exercise. Because that is exactly what struggling with your weight means. I knew what I needed to do, and I knew basically how to do it, I just wouldn’t or couldn’t. Call it laziness or stupidity, either way, it’s my fault.
Oh sure, I got by and I enjoyed life as much as someone 80 pounds overweight could. I mean, after all, eating and drinking whatever and whenever I wanted made me a man, right? Everyone knows that man food is fried or grilled meat with some sort of starch that is either fried or drowned in butter, bread is optional, but the drink has to be served in a 55-gallon drum. Only debutants and hipsters eat salad!
It didn’t matter how many people I knew that we’re going down with heart attacks, cancer, or strokes; I wasn’t changing for anyone. The fact is I was surrounded by people just like me, so how the hell could we all be wrong. The occasional pinhead on television saying that my favorite foods were bad for me had just never lived in the South and experienced the joy of coming home from school to your grandmother frying chicken for your afternoon meal.
Of course, after we started having kids, it did become realer that I had other people depending on me and that perhaps I should make some changes, but I didn’t. Yes, I would go through periods where I would cut out certain things and join a gym, but they never lasted more than a few days. What’s really sad is that for those few days, I would feel better not only physically but mentally, then I would let one setback blow it. The months following, I wouldn’t look back and just keep on shoveling the same stuff down my gut and somehow expecting things to get better.
I was lazy, I was stupid, but most of all, I was scared.
In the fall of 2013, our third son was due, I was now in my late thirties and time didn’t seem to be moving as slowly as I thought it should. Around that time, the firm reality hit me, I was going to an early grave if I didn’t get myself under control. I joined a gym, changed a big portion of my eating habits and lost quite a bit of weight. I was headed in the right direction, finally. Then after his birth, I gave in to the excuses again. I was too tired to get up early for the gym, I needed to be home to help with the baby, so I can’t go after work, the gym got raided by the feds and the owner was indicted for selling drugs (true story), I am too exhausted to cook let’s order in. So again I gave up.
All the weight came back and then some, the bad habits returned with a vengeance, and I was back on the expressway to an early grave. This time, though, I had that window of real proven success to look back on, and it kept slapping me in the back of the head. Now I knew I could do it if I wanted to and I knew how to do it, quit being lazy!
So about a year and a half ago I joined a gym across the street from my office, there now is never an excuse good enough to say I don’t have time. In the first year, I lost about 30 pounds and was feeling pretty good about things, then I stopped losing weight, and again I knew why. I was exercising and had more endurance than I had had since I was a kid but I was still fat. The problem was the diet, and no matter what I did, I couldn’t get away from that.
I simply couldn’t outrun the wings, cookies, and soft drinks anymore. I now had to make the most radical change I have ever made in my life. This southern born and southern bred meat and potatoes country boy is going vegan. My farmer grandfather who died of a heart attack in his hog pen probably just rolled over in his grave. Ironic isn’t it.
One problem we face as men who want to make drastic changes like this, changes that go against accepted traditions and customs, is that we are afraid of the backlash. We have to listen to the jokes and innuendo when we do things differently than the rest of the guys. I know because I used to do it to others, why couldn’t I be supportive of my fellow man when I saw them trying to take better care of themselves? Maybe it was a herd mentality or maybe it was fear that they were going to accomplish something I couldn’t. Whatever it was I hope they didn’t listen to me.
A realization that I was not only killing myself but also that my influence would also lead my sons to an adult life with the same struggles I had been more than I wanted to risk. I was never given quality nutritional advice; I was never taught to take my personal health this seriously. How were they supposed to figure it out in less time than I did? My responsibility for their lives doesn’t end when they leave the nest, what I have shown them through experience and example will guide them for their lifetime if they are aware of it or not.
Is becoming vegan for everybody? Most certainly it is not. Will I be an absolute vegan forever? I have no idea. Here is what I do know, I couldn’t out exercise a lifetime of bad habits. The burn more than you take in philosophy wasn’t working for me, and my love of food was going to kill me sooner than later. It was going to make my quality of life a lot less enjoyable until then. So I am making what many consider a drastic change, and I have determined to see it through. Not out of simple vanity or a feeling of superiority, but out of a real desire to live healthily. To stop making food the center of my social world and try to extend my time with those I love as long as possible.
It beats the hell out of dying in a hog pen.
Photo: Flickr/ David Cedrone