I was 13-14 years old, I was somewhere in the range of 160-170 lbs, and I was “6 foot something.” I just had my first overwhelming and confusing week of high school when one of my childhood friends came over to me. He began quietly bragging about the 4-5 miles he ran the previous day. His name was Chris Eastburn. He is one of the nicest people from one of the nicest family I have ever met. He was also about half my size, and there was something about his tone that sounded like he was challenging me. Knowing Chris at the time, I am not sure if his intention was to get me on the Cross Country team, or he was in fact talking trash. I have convinced myself he was talking trash, but that is probably not the case. We were close friends, and he most likely wanted to share the experience with me.
He had me hooked, I went out the next day and I ran… I ran hard. Chris warned me to slow down and to stay with him. Through deep breaths he warned that I couldn’t maintain that pace, but I did not listen. I ran with the top varsity runners. They looked around and smirked to each other. I am also pretty sure they sped up the pace to teach me a lesson. I stayed 3 miles or so till I threw up. I doubled over, stopped, and I was completely heat exhausted. Our coach picked me up in the van and asked if I was okay. He was concerned because all the color was out of my face, and I am sure I looked like death. The truth was, I was more than okay. I was obsessed. I learned later on that no one (except maybe Chris) expected me to come back, but I did. I came back day after day, and I ran until I could not run anymore. I ended up joining a team of strange people who ran for fun. This was not to get away from a wild animal, not to avoid a pending volcano eruption, or a masked serial killer, but for pure fun and competition.
Eventually I made the varsity team that year, and I became one of the top runners in the state the following year. I enjoyed running occasional 5k and 10k races, and I ran a couple half marathons. I even ran a full marathon when I was 18 years old. I took a break to heal up for that, and I never came back. Something happened after that final race. My life started.
I had kids, started a career, and I got married. I quietly fell in love with food, but in the past I was able to offset what I ate by running or playing pickup basketball. I stopped running and playing basketball, and I traded it in for nights in front of the television. I tried to get back into running a couple times. I would use it to lose weight or because I missed competition, but it never stuck. I always felt horrible. I just didn’t have the youthful exuberance to look past the pain. Then 20 years passed. I weighed myself, and I was 6’6 399.8lbs. Something had to change!
(I am skipping the multiple fad diets, attempts at exercise and working diets that I couldn’t maintain.)
I have hovered between 320 and 400 lbs for about 2 years. Ten days ago I sat my wife down and admitted that I have a food addiction. It is not simply a craving, but a heart racing, physical pull to the food that is the least healthy for me. I cried, I felt weak, and I was ashamed. If you know me, you know I do not like surrendering, and I am not easy beaten in anything. I wanted to fight this food thing on my own. The truth is, I would be left doubled over, throwing up on my shoes because I couldn’t take on this addiction by myself. I did not want to disappoint my wife, or shorten my life with my son. I had to make some drastic choices, so my wife and I did some research. We are now eating a very clean/whole food vegan diet. I am rewiring my body and brain so that I crave healthy foods when my body needs a certain nutrient. This is not something that is going to end for us soon, but it is a lifestyle overhaul.
I have lost 18 lbs in 10 days, and I feel so good that I have now ran 2-3 miles the last couple days. I am finding a love for running that I have not had since I was a kid. It is different this time. There is no team running with me, no self-expectations, no coach pushing me, and there is no Chris passive aggressively talking trash. It has just been me on quiet path… alone. I am embracing the small aches and pains, and I am mentally getting over one hurdle at a time. It is also giving me a quiet time to deal with my addiction, and to have time with myself. It is given me the chance to challenge myself on a daily basis. I am achieving one small goal at a time, and I am building on that. I am not running till I throw up, or pushing hard to prove something to myself. I am running because it has become a catalyst to my growth as a person. I am embracing the change, and I am embracing the pain that comes with it.