Ten years ago, I graduated from high school a very thin and slightly short 18 year-old. A year later, I joined the United States Army and left for basic training in Fort Benning, Georgia. I’ve heard many a story of how someone lost a bunch of weight in basic training and in Iraq. However, being a scrawny 160-pound 5’8″, I guess I had nowhere to go but up. I remember pre-military days when I would smoke some weed and stuff my face with two McChicken sandwiches, fries, and a milkshake at lunch, a box of Cheez-Its for a mid-afternoon snack, throw in a half a box of chow mein, half a box of orange chicken, and a couple eggrolls for dinner, and a 12-pack of beer to get ready for bed at 3am. I would wake up the next day and still weigh 155 pounds. Then, my well-timed dining schedule and balanced diet of fast food, beer, Jack Daniels, and Chinese take-out was disrupted and replaced with three quickly-eaten balanced meals per day, and LOTS of Columbus, Georgia tap water from my canteen.
I was an infantryman in the army. You know, the rifleman, the guy with the huge rucksack on his back, the guy who runs a painful 5-8 miles 4 days a week, the guy with face paint and mud all over his body you see in almost ever non-drama military movie ever made. One would think I would have been a lean, mean fighting machine, especially in Iraq when I was running around with 60-75 pounds of gear hanging off my body in the 120-degree sun for a year. At first I was. Remember that 160 pounds? I came home from my first Iraq deployment in 2005 at a cool 175. That’s not all that bad. Then I rediscovered alcohol and discovered Texas dance halls and smoked brisket/sausage plates. 175 led to 185 by the time I came home from my second Iraq deployment in 2007. Then my back started hurting more than ever. Seems I have a non-curable spinal issue and the only way to temporarily relieve it is medicating and a chiropractor. Then I met a wonderful girl named Jenny and we got cozy together. One day I woke up and I was 195. Then Jenny got tired of my mental wounds from past failed relationships and two years in sunny Iraq and broke up with me. As much as it sucked, it was actually decent timing since I was about to leave for a third year-long vacation in dusty Iraq, and so didn’t have much time to develop any bad habits. Another day I woke up and I had crossed that oh-so-wonderful 200-pound barrier. I spent a final year in Mosul, Iraq fairly depressed and extremely dissatisfied with my job and the people around me, not to mentioned worried I might not make it back. Because who makes it through three years as an infantryman (combat specialist, you could say) in three of the most combat-ridden cities in a war-torn country, running around in a blue/gray uniform with a rifle in broad daylight without any wounds worse than a few pieces of shrapnel in a leg (acquired the first week of my first tour in the lovely country).
Anyway, fast forward to February, 2010, Fort Hood, Texas, when a 26 year-old me is getting ready to become a civilian again. With nothing more to do than enjoy unemployment, work on my truck, drink 30-packs of Milwaukee’s Best, and eat $5 Jack In The Box and Taco Bell combo meals at 2am, I decided I better figure out what comes next. So I completely randomly decided to move to the border, full of Mexican cuties and authentic tacos and botanas, and enroll in the college down here to finish becoming an aircraft mechanic. One day six months later, I woke up and I was 265 pounds. I was on the verge of having to make another trip to the Dickies store to buy larger pants, when I decided I better do something about this. Fifty pounds in six months is scary. It creeps up quickly. I got on a mostly gluten-free diet with a cheat day mixed in every week and lost 30 pounds in three or four months. Then I flatlined. That was about a year ago, maybe more, I can’t recall. I have managed to keep between 230 and 240 pounds through a strict diet of salad and yogurt lunches mixed with homemade Italian, BBQ, or Mexican dinners a couple nights a week, and Jimmy Dean breakfasts. Last night I took my shirt off to get in the shower, looked down, and said a word I promised myself I wouldn’t use on this, my more serious, blog.
So here I go. Today, I went grocery shopping and bought a bunch of V8, Yoplait, canned veggies, and other things I would never buy before today. I guess this is really happening. I even downloaded an app this time. I’m writing this on Thursday but by the time you read this on Monday, I will have eaten everything unhealthy in my pantry in an act of celebration, and will be on Day 1 of my journey. This time, I’m not stopping until I get to 200, and if I’m still motivated, I might try to lose another ten after the holidays. I’m attempting to lose two pounds a week, ideally being at my target weight by Christmas, by maintaining 1500 calories a day and going back to Army-style physical training (keeping it simple now that I can plan my own workouts, I’ll stick to simple calisthenics and sprints, mixed with getting back on my $800 mountain bike when I have time). I’m hoping this will also help me not pass out on the job when I begin working with my first full-time, non-military employer in ten years. More importantly for my mental state, I’m hoping this will break my drought with women and bring back some form of self-esteem and confidence, thus helping me to meet new people in my eventual new city. That part was challenging enough when I was 21, let alone now, 60 pounds later and with permanent black lines under my eyes and slowly-graying temples. I’m proud of the black lines and graying temples, I earned them and they say a great deal about the miles this 28 year-old has traveled. I’m not proud of the oversized beer gut, especially since it takes me a week to finish a six-pack these days.
Over the next few months, my text posts may become a bit odd and bipolar, meaning the real me may come out when I become hungry and am struggling not to take a trip to HEB to pick up a giant back of puffy Cheetos, or am struggling to find motivation to go out in the 105-degree South Texas sun to run sprints when I’m shaking due to low blood-sugar. Please forgive me in advance and know that I welcome any tips, motivation, encouragement, and any other help the blogosphere may provide.
Wish me luck,
Your Humble Narrator
Listening to: Marc Maron’s WTF Podcast: 300th Episode