Half the man, twice the manWritten by Michael Miller | Editor in Chief Emeritus | firstname.lastname@example.org
“Stop writing about your weight loss. Wait until it’s been a year from the surgery that butchered you. I hope you gain it all back and write about that and how you failed.”
— Anonymous voice mail, May 20
On June 1, I downloaded a free Nike running app on my phone. The app uses GPS technology to track how many miles and minutes I walk each day. It’s a way to mark my progress and I find it motivating to watch the miles add up. On Sept. 3, I crossed the 500-mile mark (25 of those miles were on bicycle, the rest walking). For a man who complained about driving five miles a year ago, walking that far every day is an achievement.
Sometimes I appreciate the head-clearing aspects of a solo walk, but some of my favorite walks have been with others. One of my best friends and I take regular walks through Downtown, discussing our families, business and the ups and downs of life. My wife Shannon and our boys Evan and Sean have taken several long walks and it is a great way to teach them that exercise doesn’t have to be a chore. When we stay with Shannon’s parents near Big Fish Lake in Michigan, my father-in-law Kit and I take dawn walks through a state park, usually in silence broken only by observations about the deer, frogs and snakes we see.
“Nature,” as Kit often says, “is great
I had walked four miles the morning of Sept. 3, and noting I was less than two miles from the 500-mile goal, decided to walk that evening to hit the mark. Kit, 72, and Evan, 7, joined me for the walk through our neighborhood.
I wasn’t making a big fuss about hitting 500 miles, but I checked the Nike app every half-mile or so and knew when I was about to cross that mark. As we walked, Evan, who alternately ran ahead and dropped behind based on what interesting bugs he could find, walked between us and took his granddad’s hand and mine. And so it was that as the sun lazily settled in the western sky, three generations of Scott-Miller men walked the sidewalk in an unbroken line as the stentorian Nike app voice noted the mileage that propelled me through the 500-mile mark.
It meant absolutely nothing.
And it meant absolutely everything.
As of Sept. 18, I am one year out from the bariatric sleeve surgery that has helped me go from 380 pounds to just a few pounds more than 200. It has been a dramatic experience, one that has changed my entire existence. I sleep better, think more clearly, serve as a better father and husband and in general experience life with a zest and passion I thought had been lost with my early 20s. My relationship with food has been completely redefined. I’m not flawless in my dietary choices, but I have a discipline (I would never say “control”) that has evolved from dealing with mindless cravings to dealing with impulsive wants to focusing less on food and more on activity.
Very little of the transformation was planned; it has been a natural evolution as I adapt to my changing physiology and psychology. There are many ways of measuring the changes, from the abandonment of medications and sleep apnea machines to the challenge of re-learning how to buy clothes to the way I now fit into seats in theaters, airplanes and other public places. There is also the wonderful change in a measurement I invented, the Penis-to-Belly Juxtaposition Index, or PB&J for short. To obtain this factor, the obese male measures how far the non-erect member protrudes past, or is hidden by, the distended belly. This measurement should only be taken in profile, as looking toward the toes may produce extreme frustration. At my most rotund, my PB&J Index was -7. I am too modest to proclaim my current PB&J number in such a public forum, but — spoiler alert — it’s as far positive as it once was negative. Yay!
Another of the more amusing shifts in my life has been the change in invitations to participate in public events. I used to be asked to judge food events and cooking activities. I helped the Metroparks launch its Autumn Adventure walking program and most recently opened a discussion with the organizers and sponsors of the Medical Mutual Glass City Marathon. The marathon folks asked if I am interested in training to run the April 27 event’s 26.2 miles.
The answer was no. No, I am not. I’m ambitious, not delusional. But I am interested in assembling a five-person marathon relay team, which obligates me to just more than five miles. I have some Toledo Free Press runners and my main walking partner recruited, so the plan is to train and prepare during the next few months.
Many of you have been exceedingly kind about this very personal journey, and I hear from scores of readers who are making similar health changes and have taken up walking. But it’s a major step from couch to walking to preparing for a team marathon, which means I have a lot of learning to do. I invite you to join me on the path to the Medical Mutual Glass City Marathon; I will write occasionally about everything from buying the correct shoes to staying safe on the roads; from what time of day to run to how fast to run to stretching and dealing with injuries. It won’t be every week; I don’t need a string of Monday-morning phone calls from anonymous people screeching about how angry they are that I bore them (which is, if you think about it, kind of an oxymoron).
But I am excited about my progress and excited so many of you are on similar paths, so I look forward to the discussion and the next step in our fitness evolution. Weight loss, like so many things in life, is a marathon, not a sprint.
Michael S. Miller is editor in chief of Toledo Free Press and Toledo Free Press Star. Email him at mmiller@toledo freepress.com.