Have you hit the gym yet?
Probably a good thing. Most people who try to lose weight for the sake of an arbitrary resolution, hit the gym as soon as it re-opens on January 2nd, do a bunch of exercises, wonder what the hell they are doing, and never see the inside of the place again for another 365 days.
If you read my post yesterday, you already know the importance of calling in the professionals to give you the customized information you need so you can build a plan to not just shed a few pounds, but change your life.
In two sentences: Their job: make a plan for you. Your job: JFDI.
Once you have your plan, there’s another thing you’ll need to ensure success: friends.
In my second post, I wrote about the importance of the real, as opposed to virtual, social networks in our lives. It actually came out of my PhD research on the voting patterns of US expatriates. I started to get interested in their chapter arguing that obesity was contagious. I started to wonder if the opposite was true, that weight loss is contagious, too. I looked at how I was now surrounded by people who were all involved in some form of fitness.
Was it emulating their behaviour that got me on this journey? I don’t know, but if it wasn’t for my friends, I wouldn’t have succeeded.
There are two kinds of friends one keeps around: those that are good to you and those that are good for you. I’ve come to learn recently that just because one is the former does not necessarily mean they are the latter. Those that are the latter will likely include characteristics of the former. A friend that is good to you is not necessarily bad for you, but may be more reinforcing of your baser instincts. A friend that is good for you helps you become a better person. They see in you what you cannot see in yourself.
Did I confuse you? The point is the friends that are good to you might be the equivalent of the bag of potato chips. They’re tasty, but too much will kill you. The friends who are good for you are more like sweet potatoes roasted in olive oil. Still delicious, but also low in simple starches and full of vitamins.
I am lucky to have more of the latter than the former. The decision to go on this journey was by no means a natural one for me. I was quite content the way I was. Looking back, I was the proverbial pig living in the mud, content because it was all I knew. That self-deprecating sense of humour I mentioned in previous posts? A mere smokescreen in place of true self-esteem.
While a lot of friends have helped me on this journey, I need to mention two in particular: Christian and Vicky. If you want to succeed, surround yourself with Christians and Vickys. Find your own. These two are mine.
I’ve known Christian since 1997, when he was a first year at St. Thomas and I was in my second year. He was a band geek and I was just a geek. We became fast friends. He even asked me to serve as best man at his wedding, an honour I greatly accepted.
It was Christian, he of Bald Guy Running, who convinced me to train for the 5K for Ottawa Race Weekend. He was going to slum it with the 5k (he previously did the half marathon for that event) to support his wife, Ramona. I’ve joked that he got me drunk one night and signed me up to the cult of the runner. The truth of the matter, though, is I thought completing a race would be a good intermediate goal. I was supposed to do cardio on my days I wasn’t working out with my trainer, so why not put that activity in the context of a goal that would serve my ultimate goals? He convinced me. I, in turn, talked our friend Michael Clements into doing it, too. Frequent readers will recall that I didn’t know that I had successfully talked Clements into it until he surprised me by showing up on race day with a bib.
The 5k dare lead me to the Running Room for my first clinic, the Learn-to-Run 5K. After I completed that clinic, I was asked to be group leader for a combined 5k/10k clinic and, after that, asked to instruct a 5k clinic. Not bad for a guy who bought his first running shoes in February.
The person who really got the ball rolling, though, is my friend Vicky. Ironically, I met Vicky when I quit my job. In the summer of 2008, I realized that despite my best efforts, the PhD field research wasn’t going to get done by commuting between Ottawa and DC. I had called off three research trips, two because work needed me elsewhere and a third because no one was hanging around DC to be interviewed in August. My looming departure forced my office to find replacements for myself and another co-worker who had left in April. Vicky was hired about a week before I packed the Uhaul for Washington. We really got to know each other when I came back the following fall. She eventually left for another Senator’s office, but we kept hanging out. She’s one of my best friends.
By the way, “best friend” is code word for … best friend. Since readership has spiked recently, I figure I should be proactive and not let anyone jump to conclusions. She’s an amazing person who I am lucky to have in my life.
She was the catalyst, the lynchpin that allowed all the ingredients to come together to make this happen, the lever that pried the immovable boulder to roll down down the mountain. Over dinner last December, just before our Christmas holidays, it was Vicky that suggested Free Form. I had just told her about my drop in suit size. She told me she was planning on trying it and suggested I check it out, too. It would further our friendship. Beginning a pattern that would recur throughout this journey, making life choices over food and drink, I said, “sure”. The rest is history.
I’ve relied on Vicky a lot in this journey. She’s been there for most of the major milestones. She saw me off at the start line for Ottawa Race Weekend. We ran together for the Army Run. She even took me shopping for my first batch of new clothes to get me through the spring sitting. She was pretty astonished to find out not only pretty much everything I owned came from Moore’s, but I hadn’t even stepped foot in most of the stores in the Rideau Centre that didn’t have the word “apple” or “gamestop” in it’s name. I didn’t even know some of these stores actually sold men’s clothes.
The only time she judged me is when I tried something on that looked truly awful. Yes, I tried on some stuff that was truly awful. Not Herb Tarlek awful, but awful nonetheless. Thankfully, she has laughed with me instead of wretching at the utter ghastliness of my sense of modern fashion. I’ve appreciated her honesty, because this stuff isn’t cheap.
Everyone should find themselves a Christian and a Vicky. The funny thing is neither of them told me I should lose weight. They asked me to join them on their journeys. While I’ve written about my own journey, theirs are no less important to me.
You may have noticed a lot, and I mean a lot, of Doctor Who references in my blog posts. Pretty obvious it’s my favourite science fiction show, isn’t it? For those not familiar with one of the longest running TV show in the history of the medium, the Doctor is a Time Lord, a time traveller, who goes about time and space in ship that looks like a British police box. He frequently has a human companion, our entree into his world. The recurring theme of the show is being “bigger on the inside”. He crashes, always crashing, rarely landing smoothly, takes on a companion or two, makes them better over the course of a season or two and then leaves them behind to seek their own destiny.
I always thought I was the Doctor in my friends’ lives. Seems like I’ve come and gone just as frequently the last few years. Don’t get me wrong, DC is great, but it’s no Gallifrey. As you might have noticed throughout the blog, I can prattle incessantly. Sartorial choices come from a different era. Even have a piece of paper conferring the title of Doctor … just not the kind that actually helps people. Turns out, however, I was the companion. They made me bigger on the inside, or smaller on the outside, or … See what I was saying before about prattle?
They saw in me what I couldn’t see for myself: the man I could be. It just took me 9.5 months to dig that man out of a fat suit and see him for myself. I like him and can’t wait to see more of him.
I will never be able to truly repay this debt of gratitude. I can only hope to be as supportive for them in their journeys as they were in mine.
I’m trying. Where Vicky suggested Free Form Fitness, I suggested we continue our journeys with Greco. It was a special to Parliament Hill staff that came in the form of one those e-mails that comes from someone whose apparent job it is to send a dozen messages a day, so she originally ignored it and deleted it unread. I was always paranoid my Chief of Staff will ask me to look up some obscure e-mail when we’re off-site so I would never delete a message (still not sunk in that I’m unemployed. That sentence was originally in the present tense). After serving as her instructor for the 5K clinic, I coaxed Vicky into doing the half-marathon clinic and race with me in the New Year.
So, the lessons thus far for those embarking on their journeys:
1. Call in the pros
2. Surround yourselves with the friends who are good for you, Christians and Vickys
Once those walls are in place:
Put one foot in front of the other.
And … of course …