Weighty trade-offsWritten by Michael Miller | Editor in Chief Emeritus | firstname.lastname@example.org
The salt for our home water softener is delivered in 50-pound bags. The bags are left on our front porch and I drag them down to the basement to pour their crystalline contents into the water softener tank. This has been a regular process for a decade, but the most recent salt delivery included a bonus — an epiphany.
As I lifted a 50-pound bag over my left shoulder and started for the basement, it struck me that since beginning a bariatric surgery process on Sept. 1, I have lost 120 pounds, nearly two and a half of the 50-pound bags of salt. I wasn’t ready to navigate the basement stairs carrying three bags of salt, but I did manipulate a second bag over my right shoulder and started for the basement.
I was lumbering, slow, hesitant and felt crushed under the extra 100 pounds of salt, but I walked a few circles in the kitchen, trying to reconcile the idea that just a few months ago, I carried that much weight, plus another 20 pounds, on my frame every day.
Setting down one bag was a relief. Setting down the second bag was a revelation.
At the beginning of the bariatric surgery process, I weighed 380 pounds. My current 260 is more than an adjustment of aesthetics and habits; it is a reclamation of my life. Not quite four months after the sleeve procedure, which involved the removal of 85 percent of my stomach through laparoscopic surgery, I continue to break through plateaus and lose pounds. My eventual goal is to get down to 225 or so, the weight I was when I graduated from high school, and then maintain around that weight forever and ever, amen.
I remain on a high-protein, minimal sugar and low-carbohydrate diet, and I am often asked if I miss food, both quality and quantity.
Yes. Yes, I do. Every day. Every hour. Every minute. I miss quaffing Coke. I miss pasta, especially Mueller’s spaghetti with Ragu tomato sauce, ground beef and fresh, warm bread, all doused with a snowfall of grated Parmesan cheese. I miss breads in general, and McDonald’s french fries and Wendy’s cheeseburgers and Fricker’s buffalo wings and the parade of cookies, candy and ice cream that pass by my eyes at parties, grocery stores and restaurants.
I miss eating more than a few spoonfuls at a time.
But I do not miss those things enough to lose the ground I have gained through the weight I have lost.
On the last day before Christmas vacation began, I ran and played tag with my 6-year-old son, Evan, in the driveway as he waited for the school bus. We chased each other in circles and froze in time-out spots and laughed as we slipped by each other’s outreached hands. I do not believe Evan recognized the moment as the landmark event it was, but after nearly six years of sitting by as Evan and his younger brother Sean ran and played and tried without success to get me to join them, I felt a burst of “hallelujah!” that still makes me smile.
I would not trade that game of tag with my son for an ocean of spaghetti and meat sauce, or a lifetime supply of crispy, saucy chicken wings from Fricker’s.
In tandem with food discipline, I have been unshakably dedicated to exercising an hour every day. I am simply walking, at a decent but not record-setting pace, for at least one hour every day. (Not that speed has ever been my strong suit. My Libbey High School football coach, Dave Merritt, used to say he should time my 40-yard dash with a calendar. Assistant coach Fred Wesoloski once asked how, since I moved so slowly, the sperm that became me beat all the others to my mother’s egg. I believe my response was that the sperm carrying me must have eaten all its competitors).
I usually walk during lunch hour for three laps on a one-mile course through Downtown Toledo, down Monroe Street, along Summit Street, north on Washington Street and across 10th Street. During the holiday vacation weeks, I experienced a number of different paths. Visiting friends in Fort Wayne, Ind., our walking path took us to Parkview Field, home of the Fort Wayne TinCaps baseball team. It’s a marvelous facility, newer than our Fifth Third Field if not as ambitious and regal, but it has one friendly advantage over the home of the Mud Hens; it stays open every day for walkers to circle its nearly one-mile pavilion lap. It’s still outdoors, but it is safer than dodging car traffic and fosters a great affinity for the facility. Perhaps the difference between the growth in downtown Fort Wayne and the stagnancy in Downtown Toledo can be summed up in the difference in attitude between the open and utilized Parkview Field and the locked and empty Fifth Third Field.
On Christmas Day, I watched the sun rise as I walked a three-mile path around Big Fish Lake in Ortonville, Mich. Snow had dusted the trees and freezing lake, and the Christmas morning was silent except for the geese and the crunch of snow under my feet. It was a peaceful, spiritual walk, one I never would have contemplated before I dropped 120 pounds of fat from my bones.
My New Year’s Day walk was 1,500 miles south, on the Don Soffer Exercise Trail in Aventura, Fla. That path, circling a golf course, is also three miles, but that is where its similarity to Big Fish Lake ends. The Soffer trail is lush with green palms and tropical plants, flush with flamingos and iguanas and geckos. It is also a display area for people with great tenacity and athleticism (T&A). T&A is in abundant display in South Florida, at beaches, pools, clubs, shopping malls, temples, etc., but the Soffer trail is home to some of the finest T&A a married Midwesterner is likely to see in an environment without shiny silver poles.
It’s damn inspiring.
I am loathe to admit I enjoy exercise and walking, regardless of the path, weather or scenery. And while I am walking farther and slightly faster each week, I am still no Usain Bolt; I tried jogging once, but the resulting brontosaurus-like, Richter-scale motion was a freakish blend of Miller walking and jogging I called “Millogging.” It wasn’t pretty.
But as the weeks and months have slipped by, I find that hour of moving not only breaks up my day, it energizes my mind and inspires my still-adjusting legs and feet.
The bariatric surgery and resulting 120-pound weight loss have changed everything for the better. What is a piece of bread compared to playing tag with my son? What is a glass of Coke in relation to seeing a Christmas Day sunrise over a snow-dusted lake? What is a cheeseburger next to the sensory indulgence of tropical birds, green palms and inspiring T&A?
My journey is not easy, and will not end until I do. But I no longer sit like a sloth and watch life speed by.
I move. I may not move as fast as life does, but I move. Therefore, I am.
Michael S. Miller is editor in chief of Toledo Free Press and Toledo Free Press Star. Email him at email@example.com.