Kevin Smith and Southwest Airlines

I just read in the newspaper that the exceptional director Kevin Smith was bumped from a recent flight because, it was reported, that he is overweight. According to other reports that may have not been the case, but either way it made me reflect on my super heavyweight days.  I recall having boarded a plane plenty of times, holding my breath, waiting for those dreaded words, “You are too obese to fly.”

Back in my morbidly obese days most of my flights were not solo. I was usually accompanied by my significant other, so lifting the armrest and spilling into her seat was not an issue. However, I vividly remember for take-off and landing, with the armrests down,  I could manage to squeeze into the seat. However,  my extra padding spilled into the other seat. It would push the armrest over and mold itself over the top and the bottom. So the claim that one can sit in a seat with both armrests down doesn’t mean they actually fit in the seat.

I said I flew with someone most times.  There were times I flew alone and on those occasions I was always concerned about making some traveler unfortunate enough to sit next to me uncomfortable. I would even sit in the front row if both seats were open, but I was not very comfortable. In the front seats the trays are not attached to the seat-back in front, because there is no seat-back in front. So they came from the middle armrests  and because of that placement it is not possible to lift the armrest. I could still sit in the seat, but trust me I didn’t fit. However,  I would rather be uncomfortable myself, then force someone else to tolerate being seated next to me. It wasn’t fun for me either way, but my bulk left few options.

It is reported that Mr. Smith had purchased two seats, but was able to board an earlier flight. On the earlier flight two seats were not available, so he would have to sit next to someone else. Mr. Smith, it has been reported, has stated that he knows he is fat, but he is not too fat to fly.

I haven’t seen Kevin Smith lately, but in every picture I have seen he definitely appears more than just a bit overweight.  I know back when I was three hundred and forty pounds, I never thought I was that fat. In my case and in many of those whom I work with to overcome their obesity issues, we never see just how overweight we actually are or in my case were.

There are those who have metabolic and/or underlying medical conditions that cause obesity

The following  statements are not intended for those individuals

There is a much displayed self-absorbed logic that implies if one is overweight or obese that is just the way it is and everyone else will just have to deal with it. I am sorry, I do not agree with that logic.

I do agree that one has the right to weigh however much one wants. I was in the morbidly obese category myself and while I did not say, “Hey I want to weigh 340 pounds,” it was still my choice. Through slothfulness and poor food choices it was my choice to allow myself to almost reach the 350 pound mark. So, with that said, if a person is one of the many who choses an obese lifestyle, then one also must accept the responsibility for the limits obesity imposes.

I, on a fateful day, made a decision to accept responsibility for the self-made mound of flesh and fat I had become and changed my physical condition. I don’t know how much Mr. Smith’s tips the scale, but if he would like to ensure that something like what has been reported never happens again, short of buying his own plane, I will make this offer:

I will give up my practice and dedicate one year of my life to help Kevin Smith shed his excess weight and improve his fitness.

Once we agree upon an  acceptable fee then, for that year, he will be my only client. I will relocate to an area of his choosing and assist him in embracing a fit lifestyle.

I doubt he will take me up on my offer, but I make one guarantee, once I get him in shape he will love his new fit lifestyle.

A Setback or A Greater Challenge

On January 8th I wrote a post entitled Let the Fun Begin. It was my first week into high intensity training. I was moving heavier weights and increasing both my run distance and speed. I was a man on a mission. How was I to know that one short week later my training would get a little off track. In the preceding  posts, A Minor Setback — Not a Roadblock and Three Weeks from the Day, I chronicled what I was looking at as a setback in my training.

This morning something happened to change that way of thinking.

I was in the gym talking with a friend of mine. I had previously told him about my recent procedure and expressed how I was grateful nothing was wrong with my heart. He asked me how getting back into the grove was going and if I was still taking it easy. I told him good, but I conveyed to him that with the half-marathon a mere twelve weeks away and the strongman only three weeks later, I was feeling a bit unsettled about how I had lost over a month of training.

That is when I got the look.

There is one thing about weightlifting and weightlifters, when you complain, and I was, as much as I hate to admit it, complaining, to another lifter words never need be spoken. Weight training is unto itself about one thing; overcoming the pull of gravity on cold, unyielding iron. It is, every single workout, a challenge.

It is a challenge to embrace.

It is a challenge to welcome.

It is a challenge to overcome.

So when my old friend gave me that look, I realized I was complaining and simultaneously we uttered, “It is just a greater challenge!”

I didn’t have to do battle with cancer. I didn’t have to deal with a traumatic accident. I didn’t have anything really bad happen to me. I had a surgical procedure to check out my heart and it showed all was good. I am blessed.

So what? I lost a few weeks training.

So what? I lost some strength.

So what? I got a little soft.

I am healthy. I am still relatively fit. I now have a greater challenge.

Life is fun.

Life is not fair.

Life is a challenge.

Bring it on!

Keep training and remember: being fit isn’t simply about living longer, it is about living better!

Three Weeks from the Day

Today is Friday February 5th 2010.

Today is three weeks from the day that I had last gone for a run.

Today is three weeks from the day that I had last been in the gym.

Today is three weeks from the day I received the call from my cardiologist that there was an abnormal finding on my stress test and we would need to do a more invasive test.

Yesterday, I was given the okay from my doctor to go back to the gym. I was to go easy for the first two weeks, but I have healed up from my procedure and there were no restrictions, just words of caution — take it easy.

The alarm was set for six a.m., but I was awake by five; my heart was pounding, it was beating with excitement — today was the day I was going to workout.

I entered the gym doors, gym bag  tight in hand. I swiped my card, greeted the woman working the desk and headed to my locker.

I put my gear away, went up stairs to the cardio area and hopped up on the treadmill, in my head I heard the words, take it easy. I did, an easy 1/2 mile run. I was barely breathing heavy and I wasn’t even sweating, but I took it easy.

I went down to the weight area. I made a bee line to the shoulder press machine. I loaded it up, one 45 pound plate on each side, three weeks ago there were two +25, but I was to take it easy. The weights rose up and down with little effort, I did my supersets and fought the urge to add more weight.

I moved from exercise to exercise, resisting the desire to increase the poundage. I barely worked up a sweat, but I took it easy.

It was three weeks ago today I was last in the gym.

It was three weeks ago today I last felt cold, unrelenting iron in my hands.

It was three weeks ago today — I wasn’t sure if I would ever be back.

If all goes well, two weeks from today, I will no longer be taking it easy.

If all goes well, two weeks from today, I will no longer fight the urge to add more weight.

If all goes well, two weeks from today, I will be running further and harder.

If all goes well, two weeks from today, at the end of my workout  my clothes will be soaked in sweat.

Today is three weeks from the day that my life changed.

Today is three weeks for the day I promised to help others avoid the pitfalls of obesity.

Today is three weeks from the day that I knew my life’s work was to spread the word of fitness.

Today is the day I start that work.

A Minor Setback — Not a Roadblock!

“I was asked recently that if now that I lost the weight, I thought I was going to live longer. For a moment I pondered the question then answered, I honestly don’t know, however I do know one thing, I am living better.”

The above paragraph was how I ended a column in the August 30, 2009 edition of the Dispatch. Those same words were quoted back to me when I appeared on WVIA’s “Call the Doctor” on January 12, 2010.

Three days later I was slapped in the face with the realization of those thoughts.

During a scheduled follow up with my cardiologist all appeared well. Good EKG, blood pressure, heart sounds and pulse rate. The doctor told me he would see me in a year. I advised my cardiologist of my plans to compete in the Leigh Valley Half Marathon in April, The Boyertown YMCA Strongman contest in May and the Wilkes-Barre Triathlon in the summer. I asked if it would be reasonable, considering my previous morbid obesity, to have a stress test. He agreed, so we set up an appointment for January. The stress test went fine. Compared to my previous test in March of 2008 I was on the treadmill nearly four times longer to get my heart rate up, I didn’t have any chest pains, my blood pressure didn’t rise to above the normal range, recovered quickly and the EKG looked good throughout. I finished up and was told I would receive a call in a day or two. I left the doctor’s office and went for a run. The next two mornings I arose at my usual time, ran 2 miles hit the weights and then ran another mile — I was full into training for my upcoming events, increasing my run distance and I hadn’t lifted such heavy weights since I was in my twenties. I went through my workouts at a fast pace, barely resting between each heavy set and finished up with sweat drenched workout attire. I arrived at my office on Friday morning in great spirits. Linda, my office manger, commented on my good mood. I told her the extra bulk I mistakenly and needlessly added for the strongman contest was coming off and I was getting stronger with each workout — nothing was going to ruin my day.

The proverbial famous last words. About an hour later my cardiologist called.

I answered the phone expecting good results. My jovial spirit was quickly gone. The voice on the other end told me there was an abnormality on my stress test, he didn’t understand it because everything else looked good. However, on the exercise portion there was a problem. I asked him my options and he told me that the best way to be sure was a cardiac catheterization. I said I would call him back. Those that saw me after the call tell me that my face was ashen. I could understand because I was quite shaken up.

“How could this be?” I asked myself. I just ran 3 miles and moved over one ton of weights. I had been having regular testing. My blood work showed improved cholesterol readings, a stress test, a coronary CT scan and an echo cardiogram were all good. I even had a test to look for calcium deposits in my coronary arteries which revealed the best reading of zero. After consulting with my medical doctor cousins I opted to have the procedure.

The test was scheduled for the following Thursday and I was not to exercise until we knew what was going on. My heart sunk and I went from being shaken to being down right scared. The health care provider in me knew that if it were very serious I would be going directly to the hospital, the human being in me suddenly felt like there was now a time bomb in my chest.

Pre-procedure testing revealed another baffling piece to the puzzle — my cholesterol levels had improved even more. According to the test results my risk factor ratio was 2.86; below 3.4 decreases your risk factor by one half. Anxiety filled days and nights passed until the morning of the procedure.

My skilled physician did his thing and told me that all looked good.


Now I have to wait to heal from the procedure before I get back to exercise. I am chomping at the bit because, you see, I had been guilty of two of the seven deadly sins, gluttony and sloth. Now I am guilty of one; greed.

The greed to maintain my fitness, to spread the word and help as many of those who lost their way as I did.

Exercise is the fountain of youth and weight loss is a side effect of fitness. I want to help as many people as I can get fit.