MY LIFE, BY THE POUND

The irony is that when you need it you can’t get it and when you don’t you can’t get rid of it.

Life can be funny. I spent the early part of my life trying to gain weight. I was particularly obsessed with gaining weight in high school because I figured it might be useful in my short lived football career.  Now in my latter years I am obsessed with losing weight. Well, not really obsessed but definitely interested in the health benefits of a trimmer body.

Early in my life I was a pretty big kid. By the time I was in junior high (for the younger ones, that is Middle School today or at least part of Middle School) I was over 130 pounds and comfortably wearing my father’s clothes. I was one of the bigger kids in junior high. I played football on the junior high team and was pretty good at 130 pounds I was big enough to run over most of the other kids. For some reason, I hit my plateau by the end of my freshman year in high school. I had gained up to 145 pounds, but because of a couple of injuries in 8th grade, my parents didn’t let me play football in my freshman year. I whined for most of that year and they finally relented to let me play in my sophomore year with the understanding that they didn’t want to hear any complaining about being tired, or sore, or no time for home work. I agreed and played for the next three years at 145 pounds.

I tried everything I could to gain weight. I lifted weights with the team and in the off season on my own. I ordered and consumed loads of the Bob Hoffman High Protein supplement and ate as much as I could, but nothing would help me gain weight. I finished my senior year in high school at a little over 145 pounds and pretty much gave up on gaining weight.

The summer after I graduated from high school I got a job on a Mississippi River boat as a deckhand. Between the great food and the intense hard work day in and day out on the boat, I found myself weighing in at a solid 165 pounds when college started. What I wouldn’t have given to have had that extra 20 pounds in high school.

We’ve all heard about the “Freshman Fifteen.” That is what kids are expected to gain in the freshman year in college. I didn’t gain fifteen pounds, but did put on about another 7 pounds. Throughout my college days, I pretty much maintained a weight of 172 pounds. When I graduated and got married I was at that 172 pound mark.

By January of 1970, 4 months after that wedding day, I had entered active duty in the Army as a second lieutenant. I was assigned to a missile unit in Key West, FL. For the first few months things went pretty well with my fitness level, but after that we went through a depletion of personnel. Our little HAWK battery was authorized 5 officers and we were now down to 2 of us. I was spending 36 hours on duty and 12 hours off. Most of my work was very sedentary and there was no time for exercise. Just keeping up was a challenge. On top of that the vending machines were right outside the door to my office. I found myself eating almost all of my meals on the missile site out of “Mermite Cans.” These meals were all very high calorie and I was supplementing with candy and sodas out of the vending machines throughout the night.  Bottom line, I gained weight. I had gotten up to about 198 pounds. None of my uniforms fit neatly and I was in danger of failing my Army Physical Fitness Test and weigh in.

Something had to be done. I reported to a Navy doctor and he put me on a low carb, high protein and high fat diet, they said I could eat all the eggs and cheese I wanted, but bread was off limits. I also made it a point to find time to work out. I got involved in Dr. Kenneth Cooper’s popular 1960s Aerobics program. I still refer to his book even today. I managed to get my weight back down to 180 pounds after a few months. I was able to keep my weight at 180 until I left Key West and went to Vietnam.

After a few months in Southeast Asia, I was down to my “fighting weight,” 165 pounds. I made the mistake of going to a Hong Kong tailor at the Long Binh base camp and ordered two suits and a suede sport coat. These were great clothes for a 165 pounder. Sadly, I was only a 165 pounder for about 6 months after I got back to the States. I did manage to wear the clothes for a few years by letting them out at tailoring places in Germany, but eventually they couldn’t be let out anymore.

For most of the rest of my career, about 15 years, I maintained a pretty steady 182-186 pound frame. When I retired from the Army in 1990 the roller coaster began. I kept telling myself that if I could just stay below 200 pounds things would be ok. After all, doesn’t everybody gain when their metabolism runs low as they age. Over the years, I edged closer and closer to that 200 pound threshold until one day I was beyond that magical point. Once that happened there was no stopping it. By 2007 I was up to 222 pounds and I was afraid I was in real trouble. Obese was not a term I wanted to be associated with.

The company I worked for at the time started a Weight Watcher’s at Work program. I joined the program in January of 2007 and found that it clicked for me. Over the next 20 weeks I lost 45 pounds and was at a comfortable 177 pounds. Problem is that the program ended after 20 weeks and I was on my own, not a good thing. I did manage to maintain my weight at about 180 pounds for several years then it began edging up again. Part of that was job related with a lot of stress and travel and part of it was some health problems with a bad back and some surgeries.

I fought the problem over the years but finally got back up to 220 pounds in 2017. I decided I needed to get back to Weight Watchers. I signed up for the program in May of 2017 and as of this writing I am below 190 again and hope that by the end of September I will be back to that magic 185 number. My goal is to continue until I get below 180 and then to stay with the program to maintain what I have achieved.

Why do I care about my weight? Well, I must admit to a bit of vanity. When I reached my goal weight back 2007 I rewarded myself with some very nice suits and other trimmer clothing. I still have all of those clothes and like the way I look in them. I have managed to get back into most, but still have some I want to be able to wear that I cannot right now. But, the main reason I want to manage my weight is because I feel so much better when I am at 180 pounds than when I am at 220. I have less trouble with my acid reflux, my back seems to not be a problem at the moment, my knees hurt less, I can walk and swim further with less heavy breathing and I can enjoy my grandkids more. There you have it. That is my life, by the pound.

 

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