Day 395

Holy crap it is cold outside. Knowing that the forecast high is well above the freezing mark, I was not expecting the biting wind and cold of -8°, with the wind chill making it feel ten degrees colder. Princess Sophie, lower to the ground where I suppose the wind is not so harsh, was happy to go for the full turn through the park, which meant that I did get over 2,000 steps in before my coffee, and it also meant I was quietly thanking G-d for the wonderful scarf that Leslie knit for me last year. Even through my leather gloves my fingers were chilled. Nevertheless, I am Canadian born and bred, and I knew to dress properly for this February morning, and aside from my digits, the only discomfort I felt was to the only exposed part of my body… my face.

I met my goals yesterday. I stayed on track. Save for a single sugar-free lozenge during class, I did not veer from the program. I remember writing yesterday, the words still on the screen if I look at the last paragraph in this immense journal, that I would drop below the 280-pound mark in the next couple of days. I did not have to wait any longer than that; when I stepped off the bathroom scale this morning, I could hardly believe my eyes, but after re-checking it several times, the numbers read 279.8 lbs. As an added bonus (but wait… there’s more!) my body mass index (BMI), that measurement that earlier this week I railed against, dropped below 36. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (, I am about 7.5 lbs. away from dropping out of Obese Class II into Obese Class I. That precise milestone happens to coincide with another upcoming milestone, which is my best weight from 2017. I have added that as a note on my comparative chart from 2020, which this morning has me 1.2 lbs. better than I was on the corresponding day from that year (Day 16 of my comparison), although that is not entirely accurate, as I was in Las Vegas at the time, as I would be through Day 19.

I have written before that setting short-term goals is one of the keys to long-term success because they give you something to reach for that is not years away but can be reached within a reasonable period. If I were only looking eighteen months ahead then in the grand scheme of things, why would it matter if I took one day off? With short-term goals, I know that last weekend’s failure with the nachos and salsa delayed today’s milestone by four or five days. I did not cheat again during the week (although that latté also slowed my progress), and I got here. When I started out, the idea of losing the 115 lbs. that I have so far lost was impossibly distant… so I set goals for 20, 40, 80, 100, 120, 140, and 170 pounds. I also set milestones at every 10 pounds, and several other benchmarks along the way. I have strived to reach those… and I have celebrated both the scale- and non-scale victories. Without setting short-term goals, I do not know if it would be possible for anyone to achieve that long-term success. Hitting milestones feels wonderful, and it is these short-term victories that spur us on to not cheat today.

At the same exact moment that I was about to step onto the bathroom scale, I noticed a text message on my phone from a woman that I am trying to support through her weight loss journey. Through no fault of her own, she ran into a huge obstacle on her journey, and she was desperate to figure out how to handle it. I called her, and we spoke at length about different ways she could get past it. We also discussed how she should start making small lifestyle changes that will increase her chances for success by limiting her exposure to temptations. I have said since the first time I started this program in 2017 that I was lucky that I lived alone and did not have to be around someone else’s food… let alone have to prepare it for them.

She has a teenage son for whom she has been cooking every evening, requiring her to be in the kitchen with the food every evening. I am not a gourmet chef by any measure (well, measured against the chefs in the Army I suppose I am) but I can tell you that I cannot imagine preparing food properly without tasting it to make sure I got it right. Her husband spends a lot of time on the road for work, but the son has to eat. I suggested that she come up with several meal ideas for him, then take him shopping… and teach him how to cook for himself. This is not only a good plan for her weight loss but will also greatly benefit him for the rest of his life. Start with a simple dish like spaghetti… here’s how to cook the noodles (and if there is anything easier than this other than toast then I don’t know what it is), and here’s how to empty the sauce into a pot and heat it up. Hamburgers! Here’s the patty, here’s the frying pan. You like onions and tomatoes on your burger? Great! Here’s a knife. Let’s make chicken! Here’s chicken-quarters, here’s a pan, here’s some seasoning. You get the picture. Oh, and by the way, kiddo… everything you use, you have to clean… so here’s how to minimize the mess that you make so as to facilitate the clean-up. Trust me, when you move into a university dorm… or when you are sixteen and your parents go away for the weekend… or when you are fifty-years-old, twice-divorced and living apart from your new wife because of the US Department of State… knowing how to prepare your own healthy meals without relying on ordering in all the time will be a huge lifesaver… not to mention that women find guys who can cook for them hot.

Okay, we have addressed that problem… but what about the meal replacements that her clinic refuses to sell her until she comes in for an appointment, but they cannot fit her in until the beginning of next month? Okay, here’s a solution to that… and until they ship to you, here’s an interim solution.

Perfect… I just wish that my friends understood. Guess what, lady? Nobody does. Your husband is wonderful and understanding and supportive and that is amazing. That does not mean that he understands. Your friends, who think that the program you are on is unhealthy because they are all so much smarter than you? Not only are they wrong, but they will never understand. This may sound obnoxious or arrogant (and it would not be the first time this week that I have been called either or both of those), but that’s why you have me. I told her the story about the guy who fell into a hole, which rather that typing out, I will copy and paste from the site, as it quotes the great Leo McGarry (played by the incredible John Spencer):

This guy’s walking down a street, when he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep. He can’t get out. A doctor passes by, and the guy shouts up “Hey you! Can you help me out?” The doctor writes him a prescription, throws it down the hole and moves on. Then a priest comes along, and the guy shouts up “Father, I’m down in this hole, can you help me out?” The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in the hole and moves on. Then a friend walks by. “Hey Joe, it’s me, can you help me out?” And the friend jumps in the hole! Our guy says “Are you stupid? Now we’re both down here!” and the friend says, “Yeah, but I’ve been down here before, and I know the way out.”

Like so many others, she is afraid to ask for help. Asking for help is not easy. I asked her what she was afraid of, and she told me that she was afraid that she would disappoint me when she failed. I told her about the nacho and salsa incident last Sunday… how I dealt with it, and how I recovered my footing the next day. I told her about how I did my research and planned out the meal in advance so that I would not fail… and then how I failed… not months ago, mind you; this happened six days ago. I could have told her about myriad other failures along my journey… not to mention the fact that my journey has started three times now, and I have now lost over one hundred pounds three times now… and twice I have regained it all back. I told her that people who do not fail, do not need my support. I told her that if she could do it alone, she would have done it alone. I told her that I would never judge her because I have been her… Hell, I am her. It is far too easy to gain weight and far too hard to lose it. The difference is that there are all sorts of people who will help you to gain it… in fact, it is so easy that you do not usually need their help. While there might be psychological reasons why we gain weight, it is a simple process… make bad choices, eat too much of it, repeat. If she wants my support then she should take advantage of it when she is about to cheat and needs someone to offer her alternatives… or when she has already cheated and needs someone who understands, and who can guide her away from the slippery slope.

In January 2002 I was on a ski trip to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. I had not been on skis since 1981, and I knew that I would need lessons. After being fitted for my rental equipment, I spent the morning of that first day on the slopes with an excellent instructor who helped me to remember that I was once a skier, and he spent more time showing me the best trails than he did showing me technique. It really was just like riding a bike. I bade him farewell at the end of the morning, and after lunch at the top of the mountain, I headed out on my own.

I found myself at a divide between two trails, and I decided that the green dot trail would be too easy for me. I opted for the blue square trail, which after remembering that I used to be a skier was more my speed. It was an unfamiliar trail, but I had been down many ‘blue runs’ that morning, and I would be fine. Pretty soon, that trail split into two… a blue run, and a double black diamond run, which would be far too advanced for me. I was about to make the turn to stay safe when something got in my way… I do not remember if it was another skier or a critter. The slight delay in turning forced my hand, and I was on the double-black run. I was feeling exhilarated! I was doing great… until I realized how fast I was going, and I tried to slow down… but the slope had gotten too steep, and nothing that I remembered from my childhood or from my two hours of lessons that morning taught me anything about stopping on a 70° downward slope of pure powder. My legs did everything they could to stay under me, and I made every turn possible to slow my descent, but it was to no avail… pretty soon I was on my ass (wholly predictable), and it took me another 60-100 metres to stop. I collected my skis (which took longer than you might expect, considering all of the factors), and walked down to safer ground. A ski patrol who had seen what had happened came by and clipped my lift ticket. I was done for the day.

The trauma from that day stuck with me. I spent the next day (a gorgeous sunny ‘champagne powder’ day) sitting at a bar called The Tap House in town. The following day I did something else. My three-day ski trip turned into a one-day ski trip, with two more days of drinking, eating chicken wings, playing trivia at the bar, and sitting in the outdoor hot tub at the Steamboat Grand.

The following year, I went on a ski trip to Montana, and I stuck to the green slopes. A year or two later, I went to Park City, Utah… once again, skiing the easiest slopes, except for when I was with a guide… who knew that I was not an experienced skier. The guides knew this from what I told them, not from watching me ski. They all tried to encourage me to try again, but I never got past that slippery slope at Steamboat Springs.

If only I had not excused my instructor that first day. If only I had the courage to say, ‘I still need help!’ If only I had not thought to myself that I could do it myself and did not need anyone’s help. I wonder how much more enjoyment I would have gotten out of those trips had I just admitted that I needed help.

That slippery slope can kill you and thank G-d you did not go off a cliff.

Had I asked for help I likely would not have been on the slippery slope… and had I done so, the help would have guided me to safety.

I did not need any help on the green and blue trails, and had I stuck to those, everything would have been fine. If my friend lived alone, never needing to expose herself to other peoples’ foods, she would be just fine. There is no shame in asking for help… and if the person that you ask knows what you are going through then they will never judge you for what you perceive to be your weaknesses. They will understand.

People who do not make mistakes, do not slip, do not falter… they do not need support. The rest of us can truly use the support of others, and we are foolish to eschew it and try to go it alone. Weight loss is a very difficult uphill climb, and as with mountain climbing it is so easy to make one misstep… and fall off the cliff. The difference between recovering and failing is the support that we have. Refusing to reach out to them for fear of judgement is no different from making that last mistake that sees you falling to the bottom.

Whoever you reach out to for support will be thrilled to celebrate your successes and victories with you… but they will also be there when you falter to remind you that you are not alone. They will give you tips and tricks on how to do better… and they will help you to remember that any weight loss journey will be replete with successes and failures, and that you are human and will make mistakes. Can you minimize those mistakes? Sure. Can you avoid them completely? Probably not. Along the road to being slim a few nacho chips with salsa will fall in your path. Get by them and continue on your journey.

My plan for today is to stay on track. The fact that I achieved a milestone this morning does not mean that I get to rest on my laurels. I am now 19.5 lbs. from reaching my best post-Army weight… I am 4.6 lbs. from going to my tailor’s appointment under 275 lbs., and I am 9.6 lbs. from flying to Dallas under 270 lbs. These are all short-term goals that I have set for myself, and while they are on the far end of realistic, a single misstep would likely put them out of reach. I will not sabotage myself by falling down now. After my second shake of the day, I am going to drive into Hamilton to see Lyle and Dorothy for a couple of hours. I asked Lyle what I could bring, and he reminded me that I have had a bag of Montreal bagels in my freezer for them for the last several months. I will be glad to be rid of them at long last, and they are currently sitting in my travel cooler by the front door. I might stop in at Bulk Barn near them because there is a snack that Leslie asked for that was not available in the Bulk Barn near me. Unlike so many other snacks that I might pick up for her, these are just too decadent to tempt me seriously. Yes, I would love them… but unlike Goldfish crackers or Pop Chips, I cannot look at a chocolate-covered pretzel covered in M&Ms and make any justification that would sound plausible. ‘Hey, Goldfish crackers, eaten in moderation, are a reasonable snack!’ Maybe so… but who am I trying to kid that if I open the bag today that there will be any left by bedtime tomorrow? No, the pretzels for Leslie and her son will be safe… and by going into Bulk Barn on a day when not only did I hit a milestone, but also on a day when I spent so much time supporting (and then writing about supporting) others through missteps will not hold the same temptation as it might if it were just any other day. Stay the course. Stay on track. When I wake up tomorrow morning, I might weigh 280 lbs… or I might weigh 279.2 lbs. If it is the former, it will not be because I cheated today. If it is the latter, it will definitely be because I did not cheat today.

(Holy crap! I do not know if I have ever written over 3,000 words for a single journal entry. If you read all of it then power to you!)

Have a great day folks!

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