How James Got His Groove Back, Part One

The Prologue

I’ve commented numerous times over the life of this blog about my health. There have been a small handful of posts that saw me dive deep into an issue or two, possibly weight or depression. That’s pretty much the extent of my attempts to address those issues, just a mention here or a blog post there. But times are changing and I’m not getting any younger. Instead of cracking jokes or brushing aside the issues I am facing and/or digging myself deeper into, I believe it may be time to address them head-on. I know, I know, this is the old fat-man’s joke where he talks about going on a diet, manages to stay on one for about 2 hours, then ditches the idea to go eat a Big Mac. Seriously, and with a bit of humor, I do realize the need for a change in my lifestyle.

Back in the day, I’d say specifically around 2000 or 2001, I took it upon myself to change my lifestyle then. Since high-school, I’d always been a large fellow. In the days I’m narrowing my focus to, which would find me well out of high school and working at a small retain outlet known as Wal-Mart, I weighed in at around 270 pounds and was about 20-21 years of age. I wasn’t a muscular fat, either. I was a fat-fat.

What triggered my need for change then was when I realized I was tired of the same old thing. I worked, I slept, I ate. Same old thing. Day in, day out. I had no social life aside from that at work when I would talk to co-workers. Something had to give, I needed to get up, get out, find someone to spend the time with when I was between working and sleeping. So I woke up one day and decided I was going to hop on the treadmill and walk. That’s it. I walked on a treadmill for 45 minutes a day, five days a week for three months. the last 15 minutes of the hour I would spend doing sit-ups, jumping jacks, or doing more walking on the treadmill. I still slept and worked a lot. I’d only give enough time each day to do that one hour workout, shower and clean up and then go to work.

Meal-wise, I suppose I may have technically starved myself by todays standards. I didn’t eat much at home unless it was a peanut butter sandwich, maybe a handful of chips and a sandwich. No fast food at all. I didn’t drink colas of any sort either. We had one of those old fashioned drink machines at work, one where you selected what you wanted and it would mix and dispense your selection in a plastic cup for you right there. They had pink lemonade. I became a pink lemonade junkie. On my breaks at work I would work through the 15’s (we were given 2 a night) and on my lunch break I’d usually just go in, maybe grab a bag of chips from the vending machine and drink my lemonade. Then I’d go back to work as soon as I was done.

I’d say that within 4 to 5 months time I had lost 50 pounds. At the end of my “journey” I was 220 pounds and the weight loss was very noticeable. I had several people comment on it without me saying anything. My outlook was brighter, I felt better, I didn’t get hungry as fast or as often as I use to, and it wasn’t long after that I met someone that helped me occupy those hours between work and sleep.

The relationship didn’t last, but I was able to continue to keep the weight off. Around the same time, I was just about burned out on my job. Things just weren’t going as smooth as they use to, I was restless and knew I wasn’t going anywhere. On top of that, my grandmother was sick and had been in the hospital and my mom had just lost her job of nearly 15 years. I went into a depression. Things were dark there, the thoughts, the conversations – but on the bright side, I wrote some of the best works I’ve ever created – which have since been lost between moves, marriage and life.

Enter depression medication. It took a little trial and error to find something that wouldn’t zombify me or make me so nervous I was afraid to go anywhere. But once it leveled out, I started feeling much better. Of course, medication for depression doesn’t completely alleviate all cases. There is still that feeling of weight on you every now and then, and I had a few moments here and there, but with supportive friends and my future wife, I was able to pull up out of them. And, still I was able to keep the weight off!

Over the next few months to few years, I eventually quit my job at Wal-Mart. Just out of the blue. I went in, had enough, made my comments and left. The next day I had a talk with the store manager in which – I kid you not, I’ll swear to it on a Bible – he gave me everything I had been asking for for months. I could have stayed and been in the exact department I wanted to be in, working with the people I wanted to work with on the shift I wanted to be on and sacrifice only a dollar in pay to do it. But it made me mad. It made me mad because it had to come all the way down to this for me to get what I had been begging for for a good three months before hand. So, instead of being flattered that they were suddenly going to hand it to me in order for me to stay on and keep my job, I threw everything back in their face and left.

I was unemployed for a year. I did get a couple of thousand dollars to live off of and pay off my bills thanks to the Wal-mart HR manager. I was about 3 months away from 7 years of service, but either she or the corporate office decided it was enough to give me full vestment in my years of service, so I received a nice lump sum when I left. Well, nice for a single guy living at home with little to no bills. If I’d been a family man, I’d have still been screwed.

At the end of the year I was unemployed, my soon-to-be-wife and I were now engaged to be married. Her dad had issues, though, what with me being out of work and hopping around from unemployment agency to unemployment agency. So, taking a leap of faith and trusting I wouldn’t embarrass him, my father-in-law introduced me to his boss and a fresh job opening. I interviewed on a Tuesday. I was hired on a Wednesday. I was trained on Thursday and Friday. I started full time the next Monday after. I have been there for almost 11 years now.

About my second year of the new job, my fiancee and I were finally married. That first year, I started gaining my weight back. Every year since, over the course of well over 10 1/2 years, I have put on more and more weight. I am now, at the age of 36, weighing in at 328 pounds. I’m not simply over weight, my friends, I am O B E S E in every sense of the word. I’m a large man. And just like before, despite being married, the majority of my life is spent working massive amounts of overtime and sleeping. On weekends I am usually so tired that I stay home 98% of the time while my wife and son go out and enjoy the days off. During the week I may have 4 hours, if that, to spend time with my family and do chores around the house, run errands and pay bills. The usual married life stuff.

In the past couple of years, I have also developed major recurring heartburn – do to the weight I’m assuming. I’ve also been easily stressed out lately. This has lead to not only some high blood pressure but also a bit of anxiety issues. So I am now severely over weight, taking depression medication, a nice beta blocker to ease the anxiety and keep my blood pressure down and on acid reflux medication. And I dare say that if I could get the weight off again, I could probably ditch at least 2 of these pills.

So that brings us to this blog post.

I use to be in-tune with the things and people around me. Even before losing my little bit of weight, I was able to maneuver through life a bit more comfortably. Now it’s more like I’m Jerry Lewis in a slap stick comedy and I sort of trip and bounce around on everything.

You remember that scene in the Matrix? The one where Morpheus and Neo are walking down a crowded street in the opposite direction of the flow of the hundreds of pedestrians? Morpheus steps, slides, dodges and doesn’t even touch a single person as he talks his jive to Neo. Neo, on the other hand, is bumping into people, tripping, getting pushed and shoved. Well, I was Morpheus, once upon a time, to put in a mildly entertaining frame of reference. I was in sync with my reality.

Am I getting too far out there for you? I’m just putting in terms that come easily to me. I’m a man of my upbringing, which was mostly books and movies.

These days, however, I’m like Neo in that opening stroll with his mentor through the busy city streets. I’m being shoved and pushed and dodging this and that and her and him. I want to change that, too.

I’m in this for the long run. But I want to bring on the changes before Christmas of this year. I want to begin my quest now. Not on the first Monday of next week after I’ve prepared for it and psyched myself up. The next time to start something is NOW, not next week or the day after. That’s why this blog post and all others on this topic will be titled How James Got His Groove Back.

How James Got His Groove Back will be my attempt to chronicle the changes I begin to make in my life. From adjusting my daily schedule to make time for the more important things, to tinkering with my relationships at work and home and with family and friends. I may not perfect them all, but I can work to change what I can. I also want to lose the weight. Good Lord Almighty, I want to lose the weight. I have to get this gut off. “A cheeseburger away from a heart attack,” as the cold saying goes.

But, as with all things, I may succeed, I may fail. It may not last for more than this blog post, or it may last a week, if I’m lucky. But I’ll give it my all, I’ll try me best, and if I can get my mindset right, I’ll do it no matter how hard I have to struggle to get from one point to another. So I invite you, Dear Internet Friends, to watch me succeed, or fail. Be amazed, or giggle uncontrollably at my lack of will power. It’s all good. But at least I’ll feel the invisible eyes of strangers staring through me and know that, win or lose, I’ve put myself on public display. Hopefully that will drive me to work harder so that I won’t fail. But then again, when you reach this stage, failure is kind of a close friend in these fields.

So, if you made it this far – or just skimmed down and got the gist of it, thanks. I’ll see you on the next installment. Have a good night!

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