When I had someone message me and ask about how I got started running and so on, I realized I have not written about it here. Time to rectify that! But before I get to my running history I need to dig deeper, to that kid in the picture above and beyond.
In The Beginning There Were Husky Jeans
I was never ‘small’ or ‘thin’. Like my own boys I was always one of the tallest kids, and in spite of a life-long love of fruit and vegetables, I wouldn’t describe my eating habits growing up as balanced or portion-controlled. As a result, when I was growing up my pants came from the ‘husky’ section at Sears.
When it came to sports I had talent- but running wasn’t it. It was a joke that I was fortunate I hit the ball as far as I did in baseball … or else I would never have gotten even a single. To put it another way, my mother described me running the bases as looking like the way they did the motion in ‘The Six Million Dollar Man’ … slow motion. Likewise, I remember in 5th or 6th grade having to run some distance timed for a state performance evaluation, and our gym teacher, who was a joker but very sarcastic, made a number of (in retrospect) rather rude comments about my speed and physical condition.
Things like that shaped my self-image, which can be summed up as ‘slow and fat’.
Not that I liked running – I remember getting a hairline fracture of my sternum on the freshman football team, and as I tried to recover I found it continuing to hurt each week. But honestly, looking back I think it might well have been just tight breathing from being so out of shape and not wanting to run.
The interesting thing is that I don’t look at the picture at top and see ‘fat kid’ in the same way I can walk into a school today and have that thought – I suppose that is how our sense of proportion (no pun intended) has changed through the decades.
But make no mistake, by the time I finished college … I was huge by any metric. I weighed in at 275lbs when I graduated high school and 375 by the fall of 1988 after I was out of college. I am not really certain of my maximum weight, so I use 375 as an estimate. Let’s just say that I was in a size 48 waist pants … and would have grown out of them before much longer.
How did I get there? That is pretty easy – an unhealthy relationship with food. I remember being in the kitchen at the fraternity house and we’d make a mega-batch of chocolate cookie dough … only I would grab a bunch and take it back to my room in a bowl and eat it. I would eat my emotions – happiness, sadness, pain and joy.
Somehow, when I look at the picture below all I can hear is Animal House “fat drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son”.
And Suddenly Enough Was Enough
I remember being in an interview in early 1989 and there was SOMETHING – a look, comment, moving around or just something odd – that really brought home how large I was and how negatively it was impacting how everyone saw me. This was a job I felt was MINE – the phone interview went very well and they had lined up a full slate of folks very enthusiastically based on our discussions. I was already unhappy – I was without a job and just didn’t see where I was going in life, but didn’t like wherever it was at the moment. So I decided to lose weight, even those I really had no idea what I was doing.
For some reason I can’t really remember, in early 1989 I started jogging. At first I started doing it at night, but found that I was full from dinner and tired from the day (I was working a couple of part time retail jobs), so I switched to the morning. It wasn’t much – a mile or two at most and at a very slow pace – and honestly after a month I didn’t notice any difference, and no one knew but my family so I was about to give up.
That same week someone from one of the part time jobs made a comment about noticing I had lost some weight and was looking good! It was incredibly motivating, and I kept up the effort.
It took more than a few months, but finally in May of ’89 I started working at Bruker Instruments – in my field and working on some cool technology – and was also well on my way to being a normal sized person. I am sure I was losing weight way too fast … as evidenced by this picture from August of ’89. 7 months and more than 150lbs lighter?
In The Beginning I Had No Idea What I Was Doing
The reality is that I had spent my first 23 years avoiding physical exertion and eating pretty much whatever I wanted, so when it came time to exercise and diet to lose weight I really had no clue.
In terms of eating, it is easy to look back and say that I was doing ‘calorie restriction’ at an extreme level. I would have a slice of unbuttered toast and a half grapefruit without sugar for breakfast. Salad with non-fat dressing and rice cakes for lunch. And a very limited dinner – at times I would have one food group per day for dinner. All while running a couple of miles and playing basketball for about 20 minutes daily.
I was fascinated with the feeling of being hungry, convinced that it meant I was losing weight and doing the right thing so long as it was just a hungry, empty feeling and I continued eating 3 meals per day.
But the fall of 1990 my weight had stabilized pretty well below 200lbs – here is a great picture of Lisa and I at Ken & Heather’s wedding in September of 1990.
Within two years Lisa and I were married, I was still just as thin, continued running 4-5 days a week for a few miles per day and ate pretty healthy and stayed active all around. It was interesting how my body normalized slowly to being thinner – I got all sorts of comments during that time about how my face looked, and I knew how my body was adapting to the changes … honestly I think it had no idea what to do and was very reluctant to tighten itself up.
Well, that is the first 25 years of my life … next time I will be back to fill in the ‘in between years’ – two babies, three jobs, a layoff, a thyroid and a family move!