Friday, February 29, 2008

Every Four Years . . .

Today, as you might well know, is February 29th. That's right. 2008 (and all years that are divisible by four) is a leap year. We add a day to the month of February once every four years because it takes 365 days and six hours for our home (earth) to get all the way around the sun (or so the "man" would have you believe).

Leap years seem like a pretty good solution to an otherwise awkward problem to me. I am, however, obsessing this morning about people who were born on the 29th of February or people who died on this day or people who get married on the bissextile or people who met the love of their life at a Starbuck's on this day or kids who lost their first tooth on a "leap" day. I obsess - OBSESS - over how they celebrate (or "recognize" in some cases) these special events and how unfair it would be to have to "choose" to celebrate the occassion a day early or a day late OR to constantly chase the 366th day so you celebrate your fourth birthday on February 25th and your eighth on the 21st, etc. etc. etc.

So - what is more important? That you celebrate your birthday on 2/29 or that you celebrate your birthday? That you remember the exact date and time that things happened or that you remember that you happened? That you have the full context of a special moment or that you remember the context of that moment?

I might argue that it is enough to just mark the occassion. I would argue that, however, with a certain hypocrisy though . . . I'm not, as anyone that really knows me can tell you, at ALL flexible about stuff. I'm not a "close enough" sort of guy. I am very tied to having things "just so" and I crave order and rules and timelines and exact detail.

If it were up to me, Joy and I would have dinner every August 2nd at Levante in Washington, DC (where we first met). If it were up to me I would have a joint birthday party with my brother Patrick every year the weekend of/after our birthdays (he was born on June 11, 1975, I was born on June 12, 1976) so our friends could play each other at some sport if ONLY so the party could still devolve in to a brawl between the "teams."

I still remember the exact date, time and location where I first kissed a girl (she kissed me actually, the charlatan) and I still remember the first time I failed a test. I remember how Sacre Coeur smelled when I first walked through the doors as a Sophomore in high school.

I remember all this but I don't remember how the hell I got to 530 pounds. With a few exceptions I don't really remember the times I would go to the doctor and they would weigh me and lecture me about my weight (the lectures I remember - the numbers I don't). I don't clearly remember all the times friends and family had tried to talk to me about my weight or my health (again - save a few episdoes/interventions/battles including my FAVORITE "talk" that actually took place at a Fuddrucker's). I don't really remember how tired and miserable and sore my weight made me feel (I know that I feel much better now).

I guess, to me, those moments all happened on February 29th. I sorta' remember them and sorta' acknowledge them in a "relative" way . . . even though they were no less important to me than his birthday is to "leapster" Tony Robbins.

I know they were impactful and important. I know they helped form and shape me but - they are not nearly as fun or as memorable as my first kiss (post-prom party, Junior year of high school (go ahead, laugh at the late-bloomer, NOT a kiss with my prom date (scandalous!)) or the way Sacre Coeur smelled to me on my French Club trip to Paris as a 15 year old or the way I felt the first time I flew in an airplane, etc.

Happy Birthday, by the way, Tony Robbins!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Childhood Obesity Stats . . .

I just found this sobering collection of statistics on childhood obesity in America . . .

General Stats

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16 percent of children (over 9 million) 6-19 years old are overweight or obese -- a number that has tripled since 1980. In addition to the 16 percent of children and teens ages 6 to 19 who were overweight in 1999-2002, another 15 percent were considered at risk of becoming overweight. ("Prevalence of Overweight and Obesity Among Children and Adolescents: United States, 1999-2002"; Oct. 6, 2004)

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over the past three decades the childhood obesity rate has more than doubled for preschool children aged 2-5 years and adolescents aged 12-19 years, and it has more than tripled for children aged 6-11 years. ("Prevalence of Overweight and Obesity Among Children and Adolescents: United States, 1999-2002"; Oct. 6, 2004)
Overweight adolescents have a 70 percent chance of becoming overweight or obese adults. This increases to 80 percent if one or more parent is overweight or obese. (United States Department of Health and Human Services)

Costs/Socioeconomics

Obesity-associated annual hospital costs for children and youth more than tripled over two decades, rising from $35 million in 1979-1981 to $127 million in 1997-1999. ("Preventing Childhood Obesity: Health in the Balance, 2005," Institute of Medicine.)

Adolescents with no insurance or public insurance such as Medicaid are more likely than those covered by other insurance to be overweight, according to a 2003 study. ( J.S. Haas et al. (2003) The association of race, socioeconomic status, and health insurance status with the prevalence of overweight among children and adolescents. American Journal of Public Health, 93, 2105-2110.)
Among white teen girls, the prevalence of overweight decreases with increasing socioeconomic status. Among black teen girls, the prevalence of overweight remains the same or increases with increasing socioeconomic status.(P. Gordon-Larsen et al. (2003) The relationship of ethnicity, socioeconomic factors, and overweight in U.S. adolescents. Obesity Research, 11, 121-129.)
Exercise

Experts agree that inactivity and poor eating habits contribute to obesity. While national guidelines recommend 150 minutes of physical activity each week for elementary children and 225 minutes for older children, only Illinois has a statewide requirement for daily physical education.

Nutrition

Nearly one-third of U.S. Children aged 4 to 19 eat fast food every day, resulting in approximately six extra pounds per year, per child. Fast food consumption has increased fivefold among children since 1970. ("Effects of Fast-Food Consumption on Energy Intake and Diet Quality Among Children in a National Household Survey," Pediatrics, January 2004.)
Obesity-related Disease

For children born in the United States in 2000, the lifetime risk of being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes at some point in their lives is estimated to be about 30 percent for boys and 40 percent for girls. ("Preventing Childhood Obesity: Health in the Balance, 2005," Institute of Medicine.)
In case reports limited to the 1990s, Type 2 diabetes accounted for 8 to 45 percent of all new pediatric cases of diabetes, in contrast with fewer than 4 percent before the 1990s. ("Preventing Childhood Obesity: Health in the Balance, 2005," Institute of Medicine.)

In a population-based sample, approximately 60 percent of obese children aged 5 to 10 years had at least one cardiovascular disease risk factor, such as elevated total cholesterol, triglycerides, insulin or blood pressure, and 25 percent had two or more risk factors. ("Preventing Childhood Obesity: Health in the Balance, 2005," Institute of Medicine.)

Data from the NACHRI Case Mix Program show inpatient diabetes cases in children's hospitals have increased approximately 12 percent between 2002 and 2004, and average adjusted estimated costs have grown approximately 10 percent during the same time frame. (Information pulled September 2005. NACHRI maintains the nation's largest pediatric-specific inpatient database, housing over 3 million discharge records from 72 children's hospitals.)

Minority Data

Among boys, the highest prevalence of obesity is observed in Hispanics. Among girls, the highest prevalence is observed in African Americans. ("Preventing Childhood Obesity: Health in the Balance, 2005," Institute of Medicine.)

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, non-Hispanic black (21 percent) and Mexican-American adolescents (23 percent) ages 12-19 were more likely to be overweight than non-Hispanic white adolescents (14 percent). ("Prevalence of Overweight and Obesity Among Children and Adolescents: United States, 1999-2002"; Oct. 6, 2004.)

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Mexican-American children ages 6-11 were more likely to be overweight (22 percent) than non-Hispanic black children (20 percent) and non-Hispanic white children (14 percent). ("Prevalence of Overweight and Obesity Among Children and Adolescents: United States, 1999-2002"; Oct. 6, 2004.)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Chastity v. Chastity . . .


I totally forgot - I got an e-mail the other day asking me why I always refer to The Biggest Loser's Dan as Chastity.
I present here my reasoning . . . Dan is an easy body double for Sonny and Cher's daughter, Chastity Bono. No?



The Biggest Loser . . .

FINALLY an episode of The Biggest Loser that did not make me cry . . . for better or for worse though, the blue team cried enough for ALL of us instead.

What an interesting experience - spend ten weeks with a "partner" and a bunch of strangers and end out developing team cheers and "brother" dynamics that end with a batch of HIDEOUS tattoos to remember the experience for the rest of your life.

I fear the blue team lost sight of what they were actually on the ranch for at some point in the last few weeks. Sure - they continue to lose weight (a LOT of weight) but they rarely mention the weight loss and the improving health as part of their swaggart. Instead it is about "mopping the floor" with the black team and enjoying "Vegas, Baby" with the boys.

Interesting how the all-girl-except-Berndana black team seems to be solely focused on what weight they can and can't lose and how they can't compete if they don't lose the weight (they seem to have no desire to mop anything with anyone).

So Mahhhhk went home last night. FINALLY. With his departure, all three of my "favorites to win" at season's beginning have been reduced to just one team member each (come on Kelly - since I can't, in good faith, root for Chastity or Jay any more) and it means that the evil, nasty maestro of the "ranch" will no longer be able to control his younger brother or the rest of the team.

Could the black team have the advantage they need to destroy the blue team from here? Could the scales have been tipped? It seems like the show is "changing" once again next week so we might never know BUT I was happy for the black team that they could stop the losses and they could finally focus on the fact that they ARE in the game. They ARE doing well. They ARE having fun. They ARE losing weight. I was happy for them.

Overall, not a great episode (I hate and resent the "tease" footage that the boys in Vegas would lose their minds and eat, drink and booze the trip away v. work out) but at LEAST I got through an episode without crying and at least Mahhhk is gone.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Let's Play Ball . . .

Here's a story that's got me a little grumpy today . . . the Florida Marlins, as a publicity stunt (admit it, jergovs - it is a publicity stunt) are looking for "plus sized" (that is what they are calling them) men for a cheerleading squad for their professional baseball team.

Ha. That's funny, right?! Ha. How crafty. Make fun of the obese. How ORIGINAL. What? You're not making fun? You really DO want the support of fat people and to have them cheer? You think it will elevate the game? I don't think so, Mr. Marlins. I really don't.
I can see your thinking though . . . we'll get fat men. And we'll dress them up in absurd costumes. And we'll make them dance and make fools of themselves for 9 innings a day. That's hilarious right?! Oh yeah. FUNNY. Real funny. The season's ticket holders will love it.

But, what if another team wanted to get people who had survived cancer ? Or what about the mentally retarded? People confined to wheelchairs? Cubans? Another minority group? The Mia-Ana set (the latest hipster slang for people afflicted with bulimia and anorexia)? No?! None of those groups are funny but fat people are? Oh, okay, I get it.

What? You DON'T think that is funny or appropriate Florida Marlins? Really? Hmmmm.

So you ONLY want to make fun of fat men. And the criteria to try out is to be fat. Okay, I get it.

Of course - they will have men show up for these auditions. They fill all the female cheerleader squads year after year and that is about as demeaning of a thing as I could POSSIBLY imagine (ha - you people thought I would forget that women are still degraded by every sport (professional, collegiate, high school, beer-league) in America for their "cheering" capabilities . . . but why DO they have to be 3/4 naked to cheer effectively? Hmmmm.

Anywho - men will show up. They will fill a squad. It will be a "success."

The higher your weight, the lower your self-esteem, I would suggest.

They will put on their poor-fitting uniforms and shake their blubber and will see people clapping and pointing and will think that they are loved. They will hear the cheers. And just assume they are being supported.

The irony, of course, is that the people in the stands - pointing and laughing and having a great time at the expense of these other men will statistically just be a bunch of fat people themselves. Fat people with enough money to buy a ticket and enough self esteem to self-loathe at the expense of others.

Shame on YOU, Florida Marlins.

Redemption . . .

I've been fairly obsessed lately with the idea of redemption and restoration. Going back. Making good. Healing. Understanding. Accepting. Forgiving. Being forgiven. I don't know why. It could be my love of the show Lost. It could be that I am at a point in my life where I am introspective and at "peace" with stuff. It could just be that I am working on a personal project about my life and it has me looking a lot at "stuff."

I probably give off this energy that I have lived a terrible life full of pain and torment and bad decisions and abusive relationships and self-destruction. Nothing, frankly, could be farther from the truth.

My life has been full of great people and wonderful experiences and joy and laughter and accomplishment and the sort of hope that makes you feel "warm" at the end of the day. I have very few complaints about life or how I've lived it - but there are just those nagging things in the back of my head that could have been "better" - me, the situation, the result, etc.

In the last year I've made a concious effort to avoid conflict and to avoid fighting and to avoid destructive or negative behaviors at ever turn (I have not been 100% successful, I should acknowledge here) because I wanted to live at least one year of my life where I felt that everything was improving. I want it ALL. And I want it all to be PERFECT. I have gone through too much and changed too much and devoted to too much to not get it all right in the next 31 years of my life (and the 31 after that too).

My marriage. My fathering. My sonship. My brotherhood. My friendships. My profession. My weight. My health. My mini-golf skills. My self-image. My self-confidence. My SEAN.

It has been a great year and I've come to understand myself more than I have in my 31 years of life. I'm a better husband, father, son, brother, friend, professional and individual for it.

I laid in bed last night reading my latest issue of GQ and waiting for Joy to finish her homework so we could go to sleep and the TV was on VH1 (we love Flavor of Love - I won't lie) and this song came on and it is a beautiful song that left me with a chill in my spine and a tear on my cheek.

I think it sort of sums up what I've been doing as well as some of the work I still have to do on me and on my relationships and I think it sort of motivates me for the challenges ahead.

And I'm not ashamed cause my love ain't changed
I'm prepared to beg you back the whole way
Bring me your arms, I'll bring mine too
And we will heal, mend, me and you ...

Sing it, Mary J. Blige.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Sunday Means Laundry Day . . .

When I first arrived as a Freshman in Dana Hall on Quinnipiac's beautiful 200 acres in August of 1994, I brought with me very few real-world skills that could carry me through life. I couldn't cook very much or very well. I couldn't manage money. I couldn't see that my status as a freshman did not compel me to like the Steve Miller Band or the Beastie Boys. I barely had a driver's license and I was not able to convince a good friend of mine not to get a tattoo for the sole purpose of upsetting her very conservative, Jewish parents.

I had a LOT to learn but that is what college is for, right?!

To learn who you really are. To learn how to live and be independent. To learn a skill, profession or vocation. To learn that "liquor before beer, you are in the clear - beer before liquor, never been sicker."

The ONE skill that I brought to college with me, however, was LAUNDRY.

Four days after my arrival on campus, my first Sunday as a college student, I did my laundry. I've done laundry just about every Sunday in the 14 years since too. Much to the laughing, pointing and chagrin of Joy. She feels I might have some OCD-like issues around Sunday laundry (NOTE - I have always maintained that it is NOT OCD but, in my heart, I know she's right)!

As Joy and I merged our lives and started a family, a few things became very apparent to me . . .

1 - My pants were so big that Joy's pants could literally climb inside them and hide out during the spin cycle.
2 - If you are morbidly obese and still gaining weight, the dryer is your sworn enemy.
3 - Joy takes her socks, pants and undies off in one swift movement and never bothers to seperate the articles of clothing upon their removal. (NOTE - Joy won't appreciate that I shared that. In my heart, I know she'll be right for feeling that way.)
4 - The clothes of a newborn through 18 month old are just really, really, really small. And cute.

Since my surgery - and especially in the last few months - there is another thing that has become very apparent to me too. My clothes are getting smaller.

I know that should seem obvious but I was actually caught off guard yesterday. I confused one of my t-shirts for one of Joy's. I folded my undies a different way than I have for the last 14 years because there is just less fabric to fold then there once was. I put three of my sweaters from the washer to the dryer HOPING they would shrink so they actually fit again v. add bulk to my body. I actually laughed - OUT LOUD - at a pair of pajama pants that I washed for the first time yesterday. They seemed SO tiny to me but - when I put them on - they fit quite comfortably.

I should not be so surprised by these events. They are all part of why I had this surgery. They are the things that I KNEW would be part of my experience post surgery. They are the daily reminders that I am still losing weight and they are the daily nudges that I need to stay agressive in losing weight ("Hey, wait a minute, these pants have fit for like a month. I need to get to the gym so they can fall off my hips soon.").

What I was NOT ready for was just how quickly my clothes would go from laundry to the donation pile. I moved in to our house on October 31, 2007. That was not quite five months ago. With the exception of the outfit I wore to the hospital the morning of my surgery (that I will hold on to until the day I am finally ready to take that all-too-cliche "Look at me holding my big-ol pants out in front of my little old body" picture that ALL GBers must eventually sit for) I have four shirts in my closet today that I brought with me from Connecticut. All four are too big for me and are only worn for weekends and plumbing projects. I have no pants left from my New England days. I will not wear any of this winter's sweaters when the cold weather returns in the fall. My t-shirt and underwear drawer has more overturn than a poorly-managed fast food restaurant.

My SOCKS are the only constant in my fashion life, frankly. And I HATE socks.

Friday, February 22, 2008

You Know You Sean Has Been in Kansas Too Long When He . . .


a) Attends the annual dinner of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce with Senator Pat Roberts as the Master of Ceremonies
b) Sits through the entire dinner and speaker program without so much as a dry-heave
c) HUNTS DOWN George Will for a picture after his “inspiring” keynote address about how much democrats stink, how pathetic we are to care about our fellow man in a “liberal” mindset and how much we should all hate welfare while praising Wal-Mart
d) Does not even bother to try to argue the finer points with George Will upon finding him and, instead, smiles BIGGER than George Will in said picture
e) Looks as conservative and AS SKINNY as George Will in said picture.
THANK GOD for black and white photography . . . very slimming!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Voicemail . . .

I got your voicemail this morning, BGBFF Kate and Techia. I miss and love you guys too! Thanks for the cheers and the encouragement. I'm sorry I missed support group (it is a really long drive to make it once a month (giggle)). The topic of love and relationships sounds good. I hope the conversation was great. I hope to connect with both of you in the next week or so!

The Pressures of Dinner . . .

I used to eat dinner at a one of my best friend's house about one night a week my senior year of high school. I would walk over to Melissa's house after work and would sit with her and her family and we would eat and chat and laugh before we would do a little bit of homework and then I'd head on home.

I used to really enjoy spending time with Mel and her family but, truth be told, I hated eating dinner at their house. Hated it. I never really felt like I could actually "eat" there. It was not so much that the Higgins family had very different types of dinners than my family had (the food, the conversation, the dynamic, etc.) but it was the pressure that I felt sitting at their table v. mine for the evening meal.

You see, for as close as Melissa and I were, and for as much as she seemed to accept me for who I was, I never felt "good enough" when I was at her house. There was always this feeling of dread i had because of my size or my weight or whatever. Now, in the interest of FULL disclosure, this was all based on my assumptions and my feelings (and my insecurities). Her NOR her parents ever said anything to me nor was I treated poorly or unfairly. Quite the contrary - her family was always very, very nice to me and still are, to this day, when I see them (about once a year or so) and both Melissa and her brother Chad are now married to larger people (so they are clearly not a family of sizists). I just always had this sinking feeling that if I was skinnier, it would have been better. I would have felt more comfortable. I would have been more at ease.

My own "gloom" over the experience had one very simple effect. I didn't really eat. I would take what was given to me and would push it around on the plate and have a fork or two of this or that but would not eat. I would always refuse dessert, naturally. I would take very small portions when we served ourself and I would try to be "smart" about what I did and did not take. I would always make a point to be the first one "done" at the table - to imply that I couldn't possibly be over eating. As many of my land-speed records for consuming double cheeseburgers in mere seconds later in life proved, speed has nothing to do with quantity eaten but, at the time, it seemed to make sense. As bad as it felt though - it could not have been THAT bad - I continued to go back . . . week after week.

I recall this experience because dinner last night had a similar feel to it. Fast forward 14 years and put me in Topeka and replace the Higgins family with my co-workers and 1,300 super-conservative Kansas businesspeople, Senator Pat Roberts and political-commentator George Will (ah, I'm always outnumbered it seems (smile).

The food was DELICIOUS. I didn't eat the salad, the rolls, the mashed potatoes, the green beans or the dessert (key lime pie, I'm told) but I did whoop up the entree. They served each of us a huge, HUGE slab of Cargill Prime Rib (I put an uppercase P and R to show my respect for the meat) and I took down a good three (perhaps FOUR) ounces of it and I don't even LIKE Prime Rib (or most red meats, for that matter).

I did, however, get a wee bit self concious about it when I glanced over at a co-worker (who was about ten ounces in to his beef and had eaten two salads before dinner, three rolls, most of his potatoes and green beans and half of his pie already) and happened to see him watching me eat and he cooly asked . . . "So, how much can you really 'eat' at an occassion like this following your surgery, Sean?"

Now I KNOW that I was not over-eating. No Ten Commandment of Post-GB Life had been broken. I was under my calorie count for the day (between you and me, I skimped on breakfast and lunch because I was HOPING there would be some cheese trays or something during cocktail hour). Why was I suddenly freaking out? I know my co-worker meant no disrespect. He asked very casually and with a geniune interest. He seemed to feel bad that I was not eating everything and was implying that maybe it sucked to be me in the situation accordingly. He was certainly not trying to make me feel uncomfortable but . . .

Suddenly I'm 17 again. I'm gaining weight. I use a cordless, electric shaver again that gnaws my face off every time I shave (once ever two weeks). I have band practice in the evening and my student council meeting tomorrow. I have crafty magazine clippings about social and political topics I don't really yet understand hanging in my locker (I had pictures of Bill Clinton, Che Guevara and Malcolm X hanging in there - I was soooooo cool!) to inspire me between classes and I am at Melissa's kitchen table - scared to pick up my fork . . . like the rest of it suddenly doesn't matter (and TRUST ME - my senior year . . . student council MATTERED)!
I put my fork down. I pushed my plate back. I explained all the rules of eating after surgery to him and my table of peers. Everyone seemed fine with the explanation and they went back to eating. But not me. I was done for the night.

I hadn't even thought about dinner with Melissa and her family in many, many years but it all rushed back to me last night. I woke up this morning with the urge to dust off my Norelco and find my student council agenda so it was handy.

I kissed my wife, hugged my daughter and enjoyed a glass of milk for breakfast instead - while googling Che Guevara . . . some things never change!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Biggest Loser . . .

I don't have much to say about last night. I'm very sad, frankly, about Paul. As I have made very clear - I have been rooting for Paul since day one.

I wanted Paul to lose all of his weight. I wanted Paul to get his wife back. I wanted Paul to learn to like himself. I wanted Paul to be proud of himself and to have other people be proud of him. I wanted a lot for him . . . I think, in my mind, Paul was ME (except the ex-wife who still emotionally supports me) or maybe I was Paul in my mind? Either way . . . he got voted off last night and, with that, my dream to successfully pick a winner of the show will have to wait until season 6 (at least).

What made me so sad was how quickly and far he fell. He went home (all the contestants went home at the start of the episode) a proud man who walked tall and felt great about himself. The next night he went out for all-you-can-eat chicken wings, soda and some 2" tall dessert action. He looked drunk in one video-diary in his hot tub with a soda perched on the edge of the tub. He didn't talk to Jillian or his teammates (save for two quick calls to Kelly) all week. He walked away from his support system and he fell back to his old tricks.

But it got worse. He went back to the ranch knowing he had gained at least four pouns while he was home (in TWO days) and his body language and demanor seemed to suggest that he felt like an outsider and a marked man from the minute he set down his suitcase. He was right, I guess.

Paul lost five pounds. He could have done much better that week if he dad talked with Jillian (which she pointed out and he agreed). His team lost (got their butts handed to them, frankly) and he wore his YELLOW shirt to the elimination ceremony.

It was bad. Just pouting and barking and snide comments galore. And not just from him - I was very surprised at how Brittany carried herself as well. Paul said that, all along, he knew that it was the three young team members against he and Kelly and, with Kelly safe, he knew he was going. He was right. He knew what was coming. He was prepared, in many ways, for what was coming. But he could not make PEACE with what was coming.

He chose to wear his yellow shirt to put himself as an outsider on the team. He chose to be very standoffish and to dismiss the rest of his team. He chose to let his insecurities and a lifetime of feeling rejected and outnumbered and unloved get the best of him on that ranch.

I felt, watching the ceremony, more "like" Paul than I ever had before. I have worn that "yellow shirt" of indignance more times in my life than I can count. I've burned bridges and I've looked like a fool and I've acted small and stubborn more times than I care to admit. I saw, for the first time, just how sad and pathetic it looked and I was greatful that I no longer carry the chips on my shoulder that I did for so many years.

I am sort of glad that Paul is gone. He needs to get himself happy in the real world. He needs to make peace with his family and with his girlfriend and - most importantly - with himself. THAT is the only way he'll ever be "The Biggest Loser" . . . if he loses that edge and those immaturities that plagued him before and on the ranch.

I will miss you, Paul. I hope you can get yourself well and I look forward to seeing you on the reunion.

PS - One other little comment . . . when Roger arrived home in Alabama his skinny-little-thing-of-a-wife commented that she, for the first time EVER could hug her husband and get her arms all the way around him. I had that moment with Joy not long ago (it was right around Mother's Day). I remember feeling her arms lock behind my back for the first time ever and I remember how good it felt. She commented on it too.

Those moments . . . those little things . . . those are the things that this surgery has given me that I never thought I would hold so near and dear in my heart. Watching Roger and his wife hug reminded me of just how good it felt to have Joy hug me that way and just how impactful weight loss can be on an entire life - not just health, not just clothing sizes, not just attitudes.

Here Come the Men In Navy Blue . . .

In the hilarious, box-office busting and then, sadly, sequeled 1997 comedy Men In Black, Will Smith plays an over-zealous, cocky and wildly-talented New York City police officer who is enlisted to help save the world from aliens (spolier alert - he does).

I know, I know, that is the plot line for just about EVERY Will Smith movie ever (except Six Degrees of Seperation (my favorite of his films) and the ones he's gotten Oscar nominations for - Ali and The Pursuit of Happyness (that is how they spelled the name of the film - not a typo on my part) - for those keeping track at home.

ANYWHO - enough movie trivia . . . I have a point. So Will Smith joins this secret strike force to rid the world of unauthorized aliens (I think the movie may have been foreshadowing of our current border-crisis) and, as part of the job, he is partnered with a wonderfully crumudgeoned Tommy Lee Jones and given the official "uniform" of the group - black suit, black tie, white shirt and cooler-than-the-special-effects-in-The-Chronicles-of-Narnia Ray-Ban sunglasses.

Smith, full of his own abilities, suits up in the uniform for the first time and looks at his new partner (Jones) and asks "Do you know what the difference is between you and me?" Jones facially gestures (as only he could) and Smith cooly quips "I make this look goooood!" (NOTE - Insert fist pump, giggle and shout of "hell yeah" (from those watching in the multi-plex) here.)

Fast forward nine full years to a wintery day in Wichita, Kansas. Myself, a former over-zealous, cocky and wildly-talented professional (PR v. PD) has been enlisted to help save the world (our clients) from aliens (bad PR strategies) and, for tonight at least, I have been fitted with a uniform.

Yep - myself and six of my work-croneys are heading up to Topeka tonight for the Kansas Chamber's annual dinner with the one-and-only George Will keynoting following the dinner.

The Captivating Joy authorized me to purchase a new ensemble for this evening's dinner.

Men's Wearhouse could alter my old clothes from when I interviewed here in October but I've lost six inches off my waist and six off my chest since October so, even with re-fitting, I just looked sloppy in the old stuff) and I decided to go a little "conservative" for the night by wearing a blue/grey windowpaned sports coat and navy blue wool pants. I'm usually a "brown" guy or a "grey" guy (before Joy I was a "black" guy but she convinced me that always wearing black didn't actually mask your weight/size at all) but NAVY BLUE seemed right for the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and my new mentalities on size and clothes.

I must have been on to something with the blue . . . as luck would have it almost all of the men in our group have also chosen to wear navy blue and white shirts for our trip (with wildly different ties, I should note).

Ordinarily I would HATE having an outfit even close to any one else I was with. My brothers/co-best men even wore different ties than I did in our wedding and all the men got to pick out whatever suit they wanted to wear as long as it was charcoal grey.

I needed to be "different" or "apart" from the rest. I guess because my size was such a defining characteristic - to be in a "uniform" on top of that, to me, was like begging everyone to notice just how much bigger than the rest of the group I was.

Not so much any more. I am fine "fitting in" in my clothes. Hell - I don't even mind that we're all going to look very matchy-matchy this evening. I look at all of these skinny men with their shiny Bryl Creamed hair and their blue suits and I think to myself . . . I fit in with these guys. I can look "like" these guys without looking "different" from these guys and, dammit, I look BETTER than these guys in my new suit.

Now I just need the Ray-Ban sunglasses and some sunny weather to wear them in (it is COLD) here today.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

It's Okay, Jessica, Really . . .

A co-worker just shared a link with me knowing how much I love when sizism and pop culture collide on the web.

Jessica Simpson, who sits high on my "least favorite famous people of my generation" list. She is joined on the list by throngs of 20/30-something women (and men, for that matter) in America that are famous for being sort-of-attractive and sort-of-stupid with a limited-to-moderate level of talent (I add to the list the Hilton sisters and Lindsay Lohan (among many others)). It's not really her fault. She didn't really have a childhood and blah, blah, blah.

It seems that Jessica made an excercise video a few years back (probably behind the reality show she made that chronicled the rise and quick fall of her marriage and around the time she started making commercials for pizza, toothpaste and skin care products) but has since thought better of the decision and has blocked the video's release.

My PROBLEM is not with Jessica though (at least not today (smile)). My problem is with the company that she made the video with.

The owner of the SpeedFit company, Alex Astilean, had this brilliant thing to say in response to his foiled plan to release the video . . .

"They are hurting millions of fat people in America."

Well, Alex . . . on behalf of the millions of fat people in America let me assure you that . . .

a) Jessica Simpson excercising on video will not help any of us lose weight. We don't find her partricularly inspiring or uplifting and her fitness regime does not seem like something we would like to emulate or be part of.
b) Your SpeedFit operation is just a money maker for you as you clearly don't care about helping the obese. Thanks for making that clear.
c) Your STATEMENT hurts fat people more than your video on the market might help. I don't think you understand the obese-condition if you think that all of us can get help in one place, if you think just an excercise DVD could make a difference for any of us OR if you think that calling us "fat" is a nice thing to do.
d) You and I both know that there is only one reason to buy a Jessica-Simpson-in-Spandex-DVD and, for most men who would buy it, it only works a few very specific muscles

Anywho, that's the rant-du-jour.

For those of you that DO want a good work out video, I strongly recommend the Biggest Loser work-out series (there are four of them to choose from). Joy and I have sweat many a pound away in the last few years thanks to the DVDs and they are very good for people who are obese, who might have limited range of motion (you can make most of the activities fit your abilities (however big or small that ability might be)) and who don't get much out of watching idiot-stick-figures like Jessica Simpson gyrate. You can find them here.

Bicycle Madness . . .

I've got this weird obsession lately. Bikes. Bicycles. Two-wheelers. The ol' 21-speeds. The spokes and chains. The . . . you get the point.

I am not sure WHY I am obsessed with bicycles lately. I rode the stationary (sp?) bike at the gym the other morning for 10 minutes and I was more than happy to hear the "beep" of completion. I have not riden a bike since I was in high school. I used to ride back and forth to band practice and to the pool and to visit friends, etc. I never rode for fitness. I never went "off roading." I never rode in a race. I have, frankly, never even thought about taking a bike "off road" or to challenge another person to see who can go faster. Biking, for me, was always about two very simple things . . . getting from point a to point b and, of course, looking coooool doing it. Okay, biking was only about ONE thing for me.

But that has changed for whatever reason as of late.

I want a bike. I want to own a bike. I want a bike I can be proud of and that I can use to run an errand in the neighborhood and that I can ride to and from work (it is about two miles each way) and I want a bike that I can put a seat on the back of to take Ava out for a spin on a Saturday afternoon too (I can hear her giggling now).

I have read many, many books in my life. Some for school. Some for work. Some for pleasure. Some for a combination of the above. Without question, my top ten books of all time would be littered with the works of a fellow "recovering" big man - Mike Magnuson. I celebrate his entire catalog! My FAVORITE Mike Magnuson book though is Heft on Wheels. The book is about how Magnuson wakes up one day and decides he is overweight, drinks too much, smokes too much and doesn't have enough of a focus or obsession to keep him away from his vices so - he turns to bike riding - something that he, like me, enjoyed immensely in his youth (he talks about in Lummox and The Right Man For the Job).

Magnuson goes from the couch to racing up mountains (literally) in just about no time at all (in the grand scheme of things) and if you read his blog now . . . he seems to ONLY talk about biking (I've been waiting, impatiently, for another Magnuson book for YEARS, dammit!) any more.

Now, I'm not interested in that. I don't want to overhaul my entire life around my two wheeled trophy. I just want another way to get out there and get active. If I can reduce my carbon footprint in the process, all the better.

The weather is getting nicer here in the mighty Wichi-Wichi, it was in the low 50s yesterday and will be again today, and Spring is in the air -- just ask my sinuses and allergies. I walked down to a local bike shop yesterday and chatted with the owner of the shop - AGAIN (I've been in about five times now) and he wants me to take a bike for a test ride this weekend. I have been putting off getting on the bike for a few reasons (namely I'm still not used to my smaller body and I am all but sure that my 500 pounds of girth will crush the bike and I am afraid, if I don't crush the bike first, I will dump it five feet down the road and break at least 100 of the bones in my body).

Anywho - according to the wise bike peddler (NOTE - pun not intended) the time is right to pluck me up a bicycle and to see where it takes me (NOTE - pun not intended).

I probably won't actually buy a bike this year. My father in law has a bike that he doesn't ride so I might try to snag his to see if I will make a real run at it first BUT it is nice to have an interest in owning piece of sporting equipment that doesn't have "Nerf" written on it for once.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Why Hello, 270s . . .

Two things happened this weekend that are relevant enough to share with the masses.

One - I weigh 278 pounds. Yeah - congrats to me. I'm at a weight that would shock and shame most Americans. But it shocks and THRILLS me. That number is 205 pounds less than I weighed on the morning of my surgery. I have 20 pounds to lose to hit my one year goal and 24 days to do it (cursed shortened month of February). I am NOT going to make my 225 pound goal. I am just not. No way I can lose a pound a day for the next few weeks. You know what - I'm fine with that. Maybe I lose 215 instead. That would still be one HELL of a year and one HELL of an accomplishment. I have, to date, lost an average of .6 pounds per day since my surgery. That is more than a half a pound a day. For almost an entire YEAR. That's a-okay-alright, right?! RIGHT! I'll keep you posted on the overall chase for 225 as appropriate.

Two - I had my monthly appointment with my personal trainer at the gym on Saturday morning. It was the last of my "initial" consultations and I am not totally sure if I will continue to see Matt in the future. Joy and I have talked about meeting with him about once a month or so to make sure we are doing the right stuff for our fitness goals, etc. but I don't really know if there would be a huge value in that for me or not. I am going to just keep doing what I'm doing until I get to my goal weight (and then to maintain my goal weight) anyway, frankly.

Meeting with Matt did, however, have a bit of a "chilling" effect for me. I will be completely honest with you here and say that, upon walking away from Matt, I had - for the first time since my surgery - the feeling that I was "done." That I had completed something or hit a goal or was finished with something or that there was nothing more to do. I don't really know what that "feeling" was tied to. Clearly I have more weight to lose. Clearly my heart and lungs are not as healthy as they could/would/should be. Clearly I have muscle to gain. Clearly I have excess skin to tighten and tone (or lose). Clealry I have more work to do on my mental "stength" and I have relationships to work on and strengthen and rebuild. So what the heck was I "done" with?

I hope and PRAY the only thing I felt done with were my sessions with Matt (I got a t-shirt and everything, yuns). I FEAR that it might be a larger relief that has started to slowly make its way in to my mind/psyche.

I am approaching my one-year anniversary since surgery. I am more than 70% of the way to my goal weight. I have been losing weight for 11 straight months. I feel a million times better than I did a year ago. These are ALL statements I've never been able to say before . . . in my entire life.

So does that mean that my internal "challenge" is fading? Is my desire lessening? Am I settling in to where I am?

I believe (hope/pray/beg) that the answer is NO. I think that I am just sort of settling in that this is my life now. My weight is in the 200s. Get me done 50 more pounds or so (into the lower 200s) and I will be comfortable knowing that I'll be where my weight will likely be for the rest of my life. Add that to the fact that my surgery is no longer the conversation starter that it used to be and the fact that my weight loss is no longer as obvious and fast as it once was (it is largely only noticed by Joy and I on a day-to-day basis) and the fact that some of my food cravings are starting to return (NOTE - I said my food CRAVINGS are returning not ME GIVING IN TO MY FOOD CRAVINGS are returning) and that my I will likely only lose a few more inches off my waist and maybe go down one more shirt size without more surgery AND you have me as the "current" me.

NO longer the old me. NO longer the new or improving me. Just plain me. I'll change again, of course, and this me will be the old me but - for today at least - I don't feel "new" or "different" for the first time in a while.

Maybe that is what I was feeling as I walked away from Matt on Saturday morning. I had finished a series of appointments with a personal trainer. The mere thought of being able to say that a year ago would have had me rolling on the floor laughing. I had lost more than 30 pounds under his "care." I could barely make that statement for a nutritionist's success with getting me to do something before my surgery. I have come to enjoy the gym. That's right. ENJOY the gym. Not "love" it. Not "obsess" over it. Not "prioritize" it. Just enjoy it. When I'm there.

These things are accomplishments. These things are check-marks on the ol' "to do" list. These things are final and complete and are things I can just let go of from here. I don't need to stay vigilant about the success I have had in these small areas of my life to stay motivated to reach success in other parts of my life.

I can let go of the things that are done and focus on the things that are still to come. Like managing food cravings. Like continuing to lose weight and stay motivated after the one-year mark (a lot of the reading I have done talks about just how hard it is after the first year) and getting to my goal weight and then - shifting gears - to maintenance. I NEVER thought I would see a day in my life where all I had to do was stay the weight I was. I was nine years old the first time doctor talked to me about losing weight. It has been all down hill since (smile)!

So, farewell previous challeges and hello new ones. And hello 270s. And hello my free t-shirt from the YMCA for finishing my trainer program. I earned you, you scratchy, white, size 2XL t-shirt that is guarateed to shrink the first time you even touch hot water or a dryer!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Some V-Day Love from My Mother . . .

The "comment" technology on the blog frustrated and ultimately exhausted my mother this morning so she sent me this note and asked that I share it. Who am I to argue with my mother? You are pretty encouraging yourself (as you lose that weight and face the challenges of your health head on) and I love you too, Mom! Very, very much. Thanks for these kind words . . .

I chose today to write you a comment on your blog sight, as it is Valentines' Day - a day when you should most openly acknowledge your love for another.

Being your mother, my love for you is/was/will be unconditional. It does not matter how much weight you carry on the outside of your body's frame. A mother's love sees only the inside of her child.

Inside you have always been a caring, intelligent, humorous and determined person.

You have demonstrated leadership qualities and dared to forge a path where others might not have for fear of being "different".

You looked at a task and said "I can do this, and I can do it well!" You have always made your personality and leadership skills work to your benefit. Heavier people do use their assets to make them noticed.

Hopefully, as you lose the pounds, you will still make your personality be your main attraction. I am very proud of you for the challenges of weight loss that you have met and the new you on the outside. May the inside values stay the same.

You are my incentive and the "wind beneath my wings"!

Love, Mom

The Valentine's Day Holiday Poem . . .

Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
For today's post I'm going to share a list of the things I love with you.


I love my wife and I love my daughter
I love Crystal Light packets in my bottled water
I love my brothers, Joyell and Mom and Dad
I love the classic political self-implosion that Giuliani had

I love Wichita and I love Kansas
I love the Peanut-Butter-Jelly dance
I love the sounds of waves on the beach
I love having my goal weight only 70ish pounds from reach

I love my in-laws and I love my niece
I love that either Obama or Clinton will surely make historiece
I love that Lost is back but sad it is only for eight shows
I love that this blog lets me share, with the world, my highs and lows

I love PostSecret, the concept and the blog
I love that one of my co-workers actually asked me yesterday if I'd like to join them for a jog
I love that Butcher-Butcher-Bay-Bee lives just across town
I love that, since surgery, my hair is thickening again and coming in not grey but brown

I love that I am wearing my new, smaller khaki pants today
I love in that one Rupaul song when (s)he says "Sashay, sashay!"
I love Friday Night Lights and I love Connie Britton
Okay, I don't "love" her but I'm certainly smitten!

I love my new job, I love some of my peers
I love the anti-Northeast bias some carry and their accompanying sneers
I love that I'm a healthier better man today
than I was a year ago in every possible way

I love Saturday morning gym and errands with Ava Grace
I love seeing a simple smile on her pretty little face
I love coming home when our errands are through
and seeing Joy's sparkling eyes . . . greenish-blue

I love that I won't be overeating today
I love that I don't crave the sweets of the "occassion" in any solitary way
I love the book The 48 Laws of Power and the secrets that it shares
I love that conventional wisdom is that God made us to go through this life in pairs

I love I'm alive, well, happy and improving today!
I love a lot of things so Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Biggest Loser . . .

Wow-wow-wowzas! Last night's The Biggest Loser was action (and crying) packed and left me begging for more.

First, Trent. My good man, Trent! I admire you for NOT playing "the game" but for being at the house to lose weight, get fit and to be there for your son (who you once called Pumpernickel (to my great delight)) and for your wife. I admire you for saying that you felt that with your knee healed you could and would continue to lose weight (and you DID) and for not letting your terrible band of brothers (Mark and Jay especially) play yet another game with my dear, sweet Chastity. Any one else but me have a hard time taking him seriously when he was crying about how lonely his room was without his mother? Joy and I joked that it is probably the first time in his life that he's slept farther than "down the hall" from his mother.

Second, Paul. My good man, Paul! I've been rooting for this guy since the first commerical I saw for this season and I will not stop cheering for him. Last night made me even more his fan. When he talked about his father abusing him, I just about lost it and when he and Kelly talked about how they "knew" they would be next to go, I got so scared. THANK GOD the black team pulled it out (by ONE pound) at the weigh in. I think Paul is going to be just fine. He seems to have gotten something out of his therapy session and he seems very committed. NOW - if only his right man-boob would go away like his left one already did (scary stuff at the weigh in) and if only Kelly would love him again and they could get back together . . . my life as a spectator and a cheerleader would be complete!

Overally - an interesting episode! I especially liked the way therapy was handled on the show. Three of the black team members seemed to want to sit and chat (not sure about the other two) and the blue team chose to "walk it out instead of talk it out" showing the dumb machismo that drives that squad.

I, myself, have been in therapy three times in my life. The first time was when we first moved to Groton and I had a hard time adjusting. The second time was around the time I was finishing graduate school (I had a quarter-life crisis and was unsure what to do about it) and the third time was right before I met Joy. In hind sight, my weight BALLOONED around all three adventures on the couch and all three times were "low points" in my life that were followed by much more enjoyable times where I felt like I flourished as an individual.

I don't think it is "unmanly" to talk about your problems with a professional. Of course I also cry when watching Lost, The Biggest Loser and some episodes of Super Nanny. I can tell you my favorite scent of Yankee Candle and "The Hours" is one of my favorite movies so perhaps I am NOT the ultimate judge of what it means to be a "man" after all!

I also don't think that therapy is for everyone. You have to do some mental evaluations to get gastric bypass surgery. All three times I went through the process I met with a therapist and all three times they made these weird assumptions about me and my history and my mental positions (I guess the stereotypes of how people get fat go beyond the economy (smile))! I didn't really share anything with any of them because I just wanted to get through the process (I was HONEST but not overly communicative). I TRUSTED all three of my real therapists though.

None of this has anything to do with anything . . . nevermind.

Good episode of The Biggest Loser. Glad to see that Trent was there for the right reasons and I'm glad to see that the show is continuing to progress and to show the various OTHER aspects of long term weight loss success beyond just 100 days on a ranch with Sami and Bob and Jillian. I hope Jillian's mother (or a shrink) becomes a regular component of the show like it is on the HORRIBLE "Celebrity Fit Club" that VH1 can't seem to get enough of.
FIVE of my favorite six (including my beloved Paul) are still in the hunt on the show. Only nine players remain. Did I FINALLY pick a winner to hitch my horse to? I still miss you, Jez!

It's the Economy, Stupid . . .

One of my favorite podcasts, More Fair Game with Faith Salie (my new intellectual crush) had Economist writer and author Eric Finkelstein on the show yesterday to discuss his new book The Fattening of America: How the Economy Makes Us Fat, If It Matters, and What to Do About It.

The book, which looks at the economic factors that impact obesity, seems very interesting to me. Some of it is obvious - like that people buy more fast and cheap food when they have less money and fast and cheap food are not as healthy as "other" foods. Some of it is riveting - that obese people "know" they will not live as long and are more likely to develop diseases but many of us justify one with the other (you only live once, do it your way?). MOST of it is just good thought process around why we are getting fatter as a nation.

As I have always said - I am WHOLY responsible for my weight (always was, always will be) and I would not ever pretend that economic factors somehow drove my obesity. I come from a strong middle class household and I lived a middle class life in DC, Baltimore, Connecticut and now Kansas. I don't think there was ever a time that I stood in the line at McDonald's (before surgery - to be clear) and thought "Well, the Dow is down 300 points in the last five days . . . I should just order off the dollar menu!" I also don't think I ever stood at the butcher's counter at Dillon's and said "Hmmmmm, my shares in IBM are way up year-to-date so let's go with the filet mignon!"

BUT that might be the point. I am just one random person. One random fat guy. My decisions and actions are just one little tiny part of the American fabric (an IMPORTANT part (according to my ego) but just one little part). I can't say that because the economy didn't influence my obesity it is not to blame for our national epidemic.

Frankly . . . I'd like to blame the Bush administration for us being fat. Long gone are the days of aerobic excercise, fat free milk and reduced calorie honey that marked the Clinton years? But that is just my personal political spin (an important spin but just my personal spin). My politics aside though - it does make you wonder just how many social, political and economic pressures really do drive obesity in this country and just how each one of us (as individuals, families or population segments) might react to each of those pressures to drive obesity in this country. Why are we getting fatter? Who IS to blame?

Regardless, Finkelstein seems like a smart, smart man and he clearly did his homework so I will add his book to my growing "to read" list. For some reason the only book I get to read lately is Ava's copy of "Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed" (which gets read over and over and over and over again lately)! I will read the book and I will learn and I will be better equipped to make decisions on where to put our retirement funds - or at least what we should be eating in these uncertain economic times.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Sweet Treats . . .

I had one of the many, many people (there must be three of them) who turn to me to solve every problem in their lives e-mail me the other day with a "simple" question that actually got me thinking. They wrote . . .

"Dear Dr. Love -

I am still very much in love with someone who has had gastric bypass surgery and I wanted to get them something sweet to mark Valentine's Day. We have traditionally shared a box of chocolates and a bottle of wine after a big meal before busting out the risque lingerie and the tripod for the real games to begin.

With my love's new perspective on eating, alcohol and homemade porn though - I'm left wondering how I can still make them feel special.

Please help.

- Cupid's Target"

Well, Cupid's Target . . . I'm not, for the fifteenth time, a doctor and my last name is NOT Love (it might be translated as such but that is not the same thing and you know it). I also don't appreciate you coming to me with your EVERY challenge (did you find your other brown, dress shoe?) BUT - in this case . . . since many people who read this blog might have a similar challenge come Thursday - I wanted to give a few thoughts for the perfect gift.

First and foremost . . . don't go the "sugar free" candy/sweets route. Truth be told - it is a slippery slope. MANY of the sugar free goodies out there have as many calories as the "real stuff" has and the whole point of the surgery is to reduce the calories and the food you take in. To get sugar free candy is to encourage old behavoirs. We don't do that to the ones we love, Cupid's Target.

It is far better, instead, to find a way to reinforce the changes and the new mindset of your formerly-heavier-and-less-healthy-beau and to find a new way to celebrate the new "them."

I might suggest the following ideas instead . . .

- Put a picture of the "old" you and them in a dual frame next to a picture of the "new" you. The visual reminder that things can change but still stay the same will warm their heart.

- Write a card or letter in support of all the changes you have seen in your significant other since last February 14th and telling them how much better they seem to feel about themselves because of those changes (don't make it about you - this surgery has to be about US first - our lovers need to reinforce that).

- Plan an excursion to do something new and different. Maybe something that weight and size might have prevented in the past. Scuba diving. Sky diving. Horseback riding. Long plane rides. Compact cars. Booths in a quiet restaurant. The options are endless for a life that is just beginning again.

- Cook a healthy, post-GB-concious-dinner with ingredients and serving sizes that are appropriate for both of you. Skip the wine. If they are a year out from surgery, they can have a little alcohol but it is just empty calories. Instead, go with a nice, exotic iced tea or small glasses of a rich, 100% fruit juice or something that can be had as a "treat" but that won't trigger dumping or going over daily calorie counts.

- Put away the tripod and the cheap costumes. You are neither a bad catholic school student nor an emergency room patient. You are not a helpless person on a desserted road with a broken-down-car and you have never once "needed" to wear ass-less chaps. I know your children and they don't need the possible emotional scars that come from stumbling across mommy and daddy's private moments. That goes for ALL parents and ALL children, frankly.

Hope I've helped you out, Cupid's Target (and all the little children around the world too).

Monday, February 11, 2008

Nice Chatting with You, Ryan . . .

I had a nice, long chat with my younger brother Ryan last night.

Ryan is four years younger than me. At times in our life we have been much "closer" than that and at times it has seemed like the gap HAD to be much, much larger.

Regardless of where things used to be, the last five or six years (as my weight got higher and higher and higher and my relationship with Joy deepened and his life changed in many ways too, etc.) have not been the best for our relationship as brothers or as friends.

It is not that we didn't always love each other, we did.

It is more that Ryan, even as my brother who's literally known me his entire life, is another one of those people that my mounting insecurities and my self-loathing got in the way of our relationship. I was no longer 0pen or honest with him and I didn't put the energy in to him that I should have and he sensed that and it strained our dynamic.

I was, as he explained last night (I am finally getting comfortable talking with my family about how much my weight has influenced our relationships), just not fun to be around and overly negative and nasty for a long while.

I think he actually said that I was an "as&h*le" but I will be more "eloquent" (or try to be) for the sake of those who don't enjoy the four-letter-words as much as the Amore boys do.

Anywho, we talked last night for about 90 minutes and he was very honest with me and I think he is sensing the changes in me lately and I think he approves. He talked about missing me and missing Joy and missing Ava and it made me realize that, with us being here in Kansas, we might never really have more than a few days at a time to ever share real time again. Granted - when we lived in Connecticut or even in Baltimore, we didn't always see Patrick or Ryan all that often or for that much time (the reasons we didn't were very, very different then than they are now though).

I wish I could have more time with my brothers now - with me at the mental and physical place that I'm at now and with clearer goals and clearer perspectives. I think the three of us would have a much better time than we've had in the last however many years and I think it would do my brothers as much good to see me where I am now as it would do me good to share time with them now.

In the meantime, I hope Ryan and I can talk again soon and have a longer chat about his feelings about me and my life and I can talk about my feelings for him and his life. It felt wonderful to start to really reconnect with him and I hope that I can do the same with my brother Patrick in the coming days, weeks and months as well.

I want to get things in order with my brothers and then start working my way down the list of friends that I've lost along the way.

I'm back!

I want my "people" back too!

Another Four Inches Gone . . .

I went to the Super Weekend Bonus Buys sale this weekend at JC Penney.

The sales at JC Penney are sort of funny to me. A) It seems like they have a sale every single weekend and B) That sale is always billed as the "Biggest" or "Best" sale of the month/season/year/weekend. I'm not complaining.

The ol' Amore family budget is not as loosy-goosy as it once was and we always welcome a sale accordingly but there is something funny about a perpetual sale that makes you wonder if there even are "regular" prices to be had at our nation's second largest department store chain.

Anywho - I've pledged my devotion to the St. John's Bay Worry-Free Loose Fit Pant in this forum before and my statement that this "pant" is the finest chino available on the market today. They never wrinkle, they have perma-crease lines, they block all crap (spills, dirt, mud, Ava's smeared chap stick) from even possibly becoming a stain AND they don't even think about shrinking in the dryer. Most importantly, they look good and they hold my increasingly gelatinous (sp?) belly in place and, according to Joy, they make my biscuits look bitable (that's your mental image of the day, Mom and Dad).

I went yesterday with my dear, sweet Ava Grace, who insisted on opening the changing room door three times (all three times when I was completely pantless), to try on and buy some new pants (the ones I bought the week after Christmas are way too big on me already) and I was very pleased to find that I've lost another four inches off my waist. I now wear a size 44" (which I know is very large to most of you but that was NINTH GRADE for me so I feel pretty good about it) and I'm down a total of TWENTY SIX inches from my all-time-high.

The worst part about my discovery is that I had to buy a size 46" pant yesterday because my excess skin from my shrinking belly is too much for the front of a pair of 44" pants. I need to get more sit-ups going and try to shrink the belly that lies under that skin before I can really take advantage of my new waist size. It makes me think about the "body life" procedure that I swore I would never have.

I'll be darned, I'm starting to realize, if I am going to lose 280 pounds (let's assume I will hit my goal weight) but still have to wear over sized pants because I have more skin than my body needs. That's just not right.

Anywho - I also tried on an XL shirt that sort of fit (I could not sit down in it but it looked good standing up) and I bought some new sleeping pants that are a size XXL. One year ago today I wore an 6XL t-shirt (down from an 8XL) and a 7XL button down shirt and a 6XL - 8XL drawstring pant.

Anywho - yesterday's shopping was the best of times and the worst of times. And I'm already looking forward to the next big sale at JC Penney.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Working Out . . .

I'm sitting here on a Friday night, setting my iPod up with a new "gym mix" play list and I stumbled upon an oldy but a goody that I used to take to the gym with me every time I went my sophomore year at Quinnipiac.

I didn't have an iPod. I didn't even have a discman. NOPE - I had a WALKMAN (as in a portable cassette player) that my boy Bruce Cohn hooked me up with to keep me going back to the gym.

I lost 40+ pounds that year. All thanks to Bruce, a little will power and THIS classic diddy.

Enjoy, my shining stars!

Horizontal Stripes . . .

For the first time since the early nineties (freshman year in high school) if memory serves me correctly I am wearing horizontal stripes in PUBLIC today.

I think I look okay. Heck - I don't even think they make me look any bigger than I am.

Yep, I just said that and I stand by it.

Could it be that I'm down to a weight/size where HORIZONTAL STRIPES are actually acceptable? I am pretty sure the answer is YES.
Yep, I just said that and I stand by it.

Yuns have a nice weekend!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Is It February 7th Again ALREADY? . . .

Not only is today Charles Dickens and Laura Ingalls Wilders shared birthday (or the anniversary of their births . . . I doubt they are celebrating with a cake as we speak) AND the Chinese New Year (a heartfelt WELCOME to the Year of the Rat to all) but it is also the one year annivesary of the day I finalized, locked, loaded and confirmed my surgery!

I can not believe it has already been a year since I felt the rush that 02.07.07 brought me.

I remember the millions of emotions I felt a year ago today as I hung up the phone after thanking the hospital for the confirmation.

I walked down the hall away from my desk. I felt a rush of emotion coming and I wanted to be alone. I walked to the bathroom and locked myself inside. I sat on the floor. I started thinking.

I thought about having a surgery date. I struggled to do the math on just how many days I still had to "live" (rather "endure" or "continue" or "finish") the life that I had grown accustomed to. 41.

I had 41 days. Forty + One. One day more than the lenten season (Happy Lent, by the way, to those who partake). One day and one more night than Jesus spent in the dessert being tempted by the devil himself. One day less than six weeks. Ten days more than there are days in the month of June. You get the point. It was just 41 days.

I could do it. I could get everything ready (mind, body, spirit).

I could enjoy the rest of my time in my old life. I could say "goodbye" to all of the foods that I used to love and that I abused so regularly. I could dedicate myself to the diet and excercise changes that would set the pace in my new life. I could savor every instant of the time I had left, right?

That calm lasted all of about, oh, I don't know, ten seconds.

Then the reality set in. It was here. I had a surgery date. I had insurance approval. I had approval from my employer for a leave of absence. I had my mother-in-law confirmed to fly in and to take care of Joy and Ava while I was in the hospital. Everything was set. Every base was covered. Every I dotted. Every T crossed.

It was not that I "could" do it. It was that I HAD done it.

I had made it.

My health hadn't gone to hell. My body hadn't given up on me. My weight and the impact it had on my mental health had not driven Joy away. Ava was too young to see me for the large and difficult man that I was. My family would get a different impression of me than the one I had given them the last few years.

I was going to have a second chance to live a better life. I was going to get another chance to be more responsible with my eating and my general health. I was going to get the rare opporutnity to undue all of the weight I had gained and to back away from all of the medical and health problems I was inching (ouncing) towards for the last 30 years. I never became diabetic. My blood pressure never got "high." My cholesterol was never a problem. I never had a heart attack. I never had a stroke. I never had crippling pain in my joints. I never lost mobility.

I would never have any of those things or problems or crises (knock on wood).

I was going to add 20 years to my life. 20 GOOD years. 20 QUALITY years.

I had a moment of thrill to realize that I was going to be fine.

Then - I threw up . I sat on the floor of the bathroom in my office building and cried. I rubbed my belly and my head and neck and legs and arms. I felt how heavy they all were and how dense and thick and fatty. I wondered what my body might feel like a year from that day.

I threw up again. I cried again. I put myself back together, cleaned myself up, popped in a stick of gum (my GOD - it has been almost a year since I chewed gum) and walked back to my desk to call Joy and share the good news.

The whole episode took about 10 minutes. I had 40 days, 23 hours and 50 minutes to go. I was going to be fine. I WAS fine.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

All Tied Up in Knots . . .

As I've mentioned before - the dress code (or lack of) in my office is very casual and people dress pretty casually accordingly. I've never been a "casual" dresser. Joy often makes fun of me for being a 70 year old man in a 31 year old body for my general fashion sense and, as we thumbed through my childhood photo albums one year, I must say that I have always dressed a little "formally."

I think - no - I KNOW that the reason for this is two fold. First, as a "husky" kid turned fat man, you couldn't exactly get the hottest trends and latest fashions to fit you when you wore clothes designed for people older and more established than you (of couse many trends - like Skidz pants, Z. Cavaricci (in general), parachute pants, etc. etc. etc.). Second, I've always been sort of an old fuddy-duddy at heart anyway.

Instead, I've just worn what today in my "preppy" sense of style I chose to call "classics" for my entire life. Khaki pants. Navy blue. Olive drab. Chocolate brown. White dress shirts. Black shoes. Charcoal Grey suits. Etc. etc. etc. I have - in my LIFE - owned about five items of clothing that had the logo or indicia of the company/designer/maker/campaign on them. I have never worn horizontal stripes. I've never worn diagonal stripes. I've never worn red by choice - I went to a high school that chose red as a school color so my band uniform (oh flattering of allll the fashions) was largely red as were the other mistakes I made supporting high school athletics (we shant discuss my stint as a cheerleader my senior year). I've owned very little yellow and, save for a blaze orange sweatshirt I bought at a hunting/sportsgood store that I owned in college, I've never worn dayglo or "neon" colors either.

Now, I'm not complaining here. It was my own fault that my threads were not always hip and I have never been interested in being trendy or "cool" either so I probably still would have steered clear of most of the stuff the kids my age were wearing. I would dare go so far as to say that it is only in the time that I have known Joy that I have cared at ALL about the clothes I wore. Don't misunderstand - I've always loved clothes and I've always owned LOTS of them but it was never really about the "brand" or anything. It was about a) does it fit and b) is this stain THAT noticable.

So the ONE gripe that I've always had (since the tenth grade) was that my fat body required me to wear extra long ties. And TIES are the one place in my fashion world that I like to be trendy, hip and cool (EXCEPT when that might require the "skinny tie" rebirth of NYC hipsters OR the "knit tie" debacle that rages most winters).

This extra long tie problem was, of course, because my neck was so big and because the curviture of my chest and belly took more length to get to my belt than it would for the straight-lined torso of a skinnier man.

If you've never been tie shopping while fat or bought a tie for a fat man, I should clarify that extra long ties are not easy to find. They aren't carried in MOST stores. Where they are carried, they have less colors and choices than the regular ties and, of course, they are more expensive than regular ties too. This tie challenge has upset and plagued me for 16 years, literally.

I wore ties all the way through high school - almost every day - despite going to a public high school where flannel shirts and jeans were the norm, I wore them quite a bit in college and in my DC days I wore ties until I decided that booze and food were more important to me than my general appearance. I resumed the tie love when I went to work for IBM and I wear them again daily here in Wichita.

Something nifty happened to me on Saturday though. Ava and I went shopping and I bought five ties at a killer sale at Kohl's (my new tie obsession here in Wichita, by the way, is Harold's) and all five of them are regular length.

Between losing 4.5 inches off my neck, 18 inches of my chest and 26 inches off my waist, I have gotten down to a small enough size that regular ties are long enough for me to wear them without looking like a schlub!

I'm wearing one of my new ties today and I just got a compliment on it from one of my least friendly co-workers (so it must look REALLY nice, right? Right?!?). It is a small victory for mankind but a huge win for me.

Welcome back to my life - regular length ties. I've missed you!

The Biggest Loser . . .

Last night's Biggest Loser was a peach, yes? As I mentioned in my brief thoughts last week - my favorite part about the many teams of two becoming just two large teams was good because it made all of the confidences and insecurities of the players so much more apparent.

The whole notion of the "couples" model was that you would have one person you could lean on and as long as you and that person leaned and worked - you would be safe and you would be secure. It was a security blanket that was warm and soft and cuddly.

But what of last night when we were reminded just how little soft and cuddle there really was in these new teams.

1 - Paul. Paul, Paul, Paul. You love Kelly but that ship has sailed, brother. She's helping you get your life back (as you pointed out) but she's got a new guy at home and she loves him and you've talked about your girlfriend in the past too. It might be time to understand that as long as you walk around with the "blanket" of your love for Kelly, you are not going to get fit and healthy and you won't lose the weight. Shed the blanket.

2 - Jay and Mark. Jay, my friend, when will you learn that your brother Mark is just a pirate? He's just an over the top, way too competitive, do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do maniac. The "chocolate caramel candy" temptation challenge (please, NBC, just call the ROLOs. All of us fat people at home watching know a Rolo when we see one - you don't even need to clarify they are chocolate caramel candies and to not use the proper name for the candy just wasted valuable time for the rest of us) proved that when he ate 43 of the little suckers just so he could NOT change the teams around. And no one feels bad for your stress fractured leg, oh Svengali of the Show. Just ride your bike, lose your 13 pounds, keep scheming and shut up. But Jay. Please. Lose the blanket. You are better than just being his younger brother. Respect yourself.

3 - Chastity. Oh Chastity. What you gun do? What you gun do without your mother there to cheer for you? I was, first off, impressed to see that Chastity's brother looks almost as much like Chastity as Chastity does. I will be very anxious to see where the swaggart goes without mother-Orange around (that's right - 1/2 of my favorite team because they wore my favorite color couple was sent home last night) but I hope you can overcome and battle on. You need to at see at least Mark or Jay go home - and their time is coming, right? Right? Anywho, your blanket is gone. Now get back to work.

The biggest "twists" in last night's episode was seeing how well the remaining half of the formerly-purple team responded to being "alone" (there is life on the ranch after your teammate goes home, Chastity) and, of course, the Rocco dinner where he didn't so much cook as pointed the team members towards the food they would make for themselves and, biggest twist of all, the SECURITY that Jackie felt just walking in to Trey and Roger's room and telling Trey he would go home and he would be fine only to walk to the brother's room and have them SWEAR ON THEIR CHILDREN'S LIVES that they would tell her before voting her off - only to turn around and vote her off. Security became insecurity and poor Jackie was left feeling very hurt and very alone.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

My First Love . . .

With Valentine's Day almost here once again (I'm working on a special post for Valentine's Day that will mark the return of the holiday poem (for you old skoolerz)), I'm reminded of my first love in life.

This might shock many of you but my first love was not Joy. I was 27 years old when I met Joy. It would be naive of you to assume that I had never loved before her. The fact is that while Joy is my GREAT love, she is not my first.

No, my first love has been with me since I was very young.

We met in elementary school shortly after my family moved to Groton and I was smitten from the very start. I saw happiness when I looked at my sweetheart.

We were friends first. Over time, we became more serious. Seeing each other whenever we could (time was short year to year). I would sneak downstairs late at night so we could share time while my family slept. Morning walks on the weekend so we could enjoy each other's company.

By high shool, I thought I knew what love really was and I loved my first love with all that I had. I denied my love for many years because I was not sure if people would approve. After all, we were so very different in so many ways.

I would walk long distances (all the way to Main Street and beyond) to cuddle after school.

I'd scrape together pennies to buy my love's time and affection.

By the time college rolled around, our lives had changed. I had all new friends. I was in a new environment. I didn't have a chance to see my love and, I will admit, things changed.

Sure, we tried to stay friends. We'd see each other from time to time and would laugh at the good old times and we would try not to cry as we split company . . . hard as it was.

I'm rambling here . . . what am I trying to really say . . . I guess I'm just saying that every year at this time - ESPECIALLY at this time - I am reminded that love is fleeting and I am reminded at how lucky I am to know and to cherish a better, more secure and mature love now than I knew then.

I don't need the rush or the jolt of my old love any more. I'm happy now. I have different and more meaningful things to fill my life. I can give more of myself in return to the things that I love now.

Still though - I find myself here at work with a free moment and I think about my first love and I google my first love and my heart beat races - just a bit - when I see my first love's picture, one more time.

XOXO, my sweet!