Nine months and one day ago (or 274 days or how long a manned trip to Mars would take or the gestation period of a human baby), my wife, two close friends, and I entered into a friendly wager. As these things typically happen, it started small and ill-formed: we were planning a trip to Hawaii in the spring of 2013 and, seriously, none of us wanted to go to Oahu already wearing a muumuu.
So, we made a bet. First, we would all throw money into a pool because there has to be a reward for the winner and some pain for the loser, right? Like the weight we were attempting to shed, the pot-o-cash would start small and increase as the weeks passed. Each month we would meet, do some sort of physical activity (like climb a mountain or run a few miles), pony up some more dinero to sweeten the kitty, and weigh once more. This served a few different purposes: it provided some accuracy and accountability — the scale does not lie! — but more importantly, it increased the solidarity between the competitors.
How much were we playing for? Right at a $1000.00. Motivating, for sure.
Considering weight loss, we applied the fairest method possible: percentage lost.
When the contest ended the winner would take all. Second place got bupkis. We also discussed the importance of talking of much shit, because all four of us were mighty skilled at this art. This was no Weight Watchers support group and none of us were spewing Jenny Craig laced affirmations. One must have thick skin and a sharp tongue to wade into the waters with these hefty sharks.
On June 2nd, 2012 we all sat down for one last great meal; it was breakfast-themed with all the fixins. Biscuits and gravy, eggs, sausage, bacon, waffles, hash browns, Bailey’s with coffee, and much more. There was enough to choke a bear. We finished up our last supper and stepped on the scale and on the path to weight loss…or so we all hoped.
“Did it work?” you might ask. I understand why you’d ask; if you’ve ever read my blog you realize that no matter how hard I try, I struggle with getting the pounds off. And I know that I am not alone, not by a longshot We live in a country of super-sized people and, when compared to most, I am almost insubstantial. And I promise you, there are very few fat bodies out there that want to be obese and they are constantly obsessing on how to get out from underneath their own weight.
But I digress…
So, we started on a journey that ended this morning and let me tell you, it was one of the hardest and most epic undertakings of my life. I know you’re thinking I’m being a little melodramatic but I promise you, a little melodrama is in order. Please allow it to continue for a bit. There are a few places and times when camaraderie amongst friends reaches an apex: in a foxhole with shells and bullets whipping overhead, in a dugout near the end of game seven in the World Series, on the top of a mountain peak bordered by China to the north and Nepal to the south, and during a nine-month long weight loss challenge where all the competitors are equally committed to winning and helping their fellow competitor win. I know, maybe that last part about everyone winning doesn’t make sense to you, but it does to me.
39 weeks came and went. We powered through dietary obstacles both familiar and new. Co-workers tempting us with food from their homes, loved ones seducing us with offers to eat at a favorite restaurant, advertisers telling us about something new and mouthwatering at a nearby fast food joint, a junk food company coating a tasty potato chip in some sort of delicious powdery concoction, each day brought something new to contend with.
The Holidays came and went, first Halloween with its bags full of candy, followed by Thanksgiving. Turkey’s always fine but the stuffing and mashed potatoes were deadly. Of course Christmas…fruit cake, eggnog, and tree-shaped cookies…along with its little sibling New Years, brought the biggest nutritional back-sliding.
We saw it all and we all cheated, some more than others. And we all paid the price.
As the holidays receded and the relentless gloom of a Seattle winter seeped in the competition changed. The shit talk was pretty much nonexistent. It went unspoken, but we were all keenly aware that we’d started something…when the weather was warm, life was easy, and the calories plentiful…without realizing how big and difficult the undertaking really was. We were adrift at sea in the same lifeboat with no rescue in site. If one of us gave up it could start a chain reaction and none of us wanted to pull down the group during our self-imposed caloric exile. As we moved forward, all of us wanted to give in, stop at Taco Bell or Mickey-D’s to tank up on all the gooey deliciousness they offer. Please, Mr. Minimum-Wage-Cashier, could cram some more into that paper sack? But to do so would mean failing not only yourself, but the group. And that wasn’t going to happen. Our conversations, while not exactly sympathetic or supportive, were motivating because each participant knew what their competitor was going through. I ask you, walk a mile in my shoes, right by the ice-cream in the grocery store to the produce aisle where we spend an inordinately long period of time picking out salad toppings, and you’ll know what I mean.
The contest ends today and it feels bittersweet; like returning home after a long military deployment. Or maybe it is more like getting out of prison. I am glad to be home but I don’t know what to do with myself. I am just hoping that now, unsupervised, I don’t get into trouble.
So who won? It really isn’t important. Cliché alert: we all did.
Here are some totals for you — I lost 62.5 pounds (24.15% of my weight). The group lost 190.24 pounds. Pretty impressive, if you ask me.
I just want to say to the group, Angie, Melissa, and my wife, Melanie; no one has ever pushed me as hard as you guys did. You were there, whether you knew it or not, when pizza and burritos tried to seduce me. I hope I was able to give back as much as you gave.
Thanks for the ride. If I had my way, it wouldn’t end. Are you ready to go again?