4.19.2009

On change (short version: shut up and do it)

I'm sitting in the food court at Indianapolis International Airport right now. I'm telling you this because I have to start writing this thing somewhere, and after the conversation I just had, I have no idea where to start -- so I figure I'll just start going with what I know and see how it works from there. So far, so good.

When I got here, I figured I'd kill a bit of time by getting a bite to eat. I went to Qdoba and ordered a naked pork burrito, and while I was ordering, I noted that there was once a time when I would have not only ordered the burrito with a shell, but also with shredded cheese, extra cheese sauce, double meat, extra beans, and chips on the side. I noted this because, for the past, oh, year or so, I've become aware of just how much I used to eat. Much like a recovering alcoholic marks every single day they've been sober, recovering fat asses can't help but think back to how little they thought about what they ate.

While sitting here eating my naked pork burrito with lettuce and salsa, a rather rotund gentleman sat down a few seats away from me with a large sack emblazoned with the trademark red square and yellow "M" of a McDonald's bag - but long before he even sat near me, I could smell that oh-so savory smell of The Fries.

Now, I could get all expository and go on and on about how fucking GOOD McDonalds fries are. And you know why? Because they're fucking GOOD. But I won't, except to say that if I have one weakness in this new dietary whatever I've discovered, it's those damn fries. They smell good. They taste good. They even sound good. See if you can sit near a batch of them and not succumb to the siren's song they sing. You can't. I can't. No one can.

After he pulled out his fries, he pulled out two cardboard flip-top containers that mentioned something about a double cheeseburger. This used to be a typical meal for me when I ate fast food. Two burgers, a batch of fries, and a soda. Really, no big deal in the grand scheme of things. And as glanced at his meal, I didn't do what you probably thought I did, which was note "OH MAN THAT WOULD BE SO TASTY RIGHT NOW WHY AM I EATING THIS NAKED BURRITO WHATEVER."

No. I just thought "Man, those fries smell good." I didn't WANT them. I just thought they smelled good. That's a big change for me.

Anyway, He looked over at me a few times, and I could tell he was checking out the big Akira tattoo. He asked me who did my work, which broke the ice a bit. I told him about Todo and how amazing he is, and he went on to say how much he admired the work, and how when he lost some more weight, he was going to get his tattoo done.

I mentioned the fact (and this is a big thing for me) that one of the reasons I work out every day is because I never want this amazing piece of art to look all bent out of whack. And I immediately felt bad, because I know that, at that very moment, what was going through his head.

I know, because it used to go through mine, and the things he said right afterward confirmed it.

He talked about how he used to play football in high school and college. He talked about how he just hasn't been hitting the gym lately, but that he feels that, if he really dedicated himself, he could probably get back in shape pretty quickly. He talked about how much he used to bench, and that one of the things he hates about going back is how he can't bench that. He talked about knowing "this stuff isn't all that helpful" (pointing to the McDonalds), but really it's not that bad in the grand scheme of things. He then said he'd probably get back into "it" this summer.

This was, almost verbatum, the exact dialogue I'd have with guys who were in shape when I was at my most out of shape. And like I used to be, this guy wasn't absolutely blubbery and fat - He was just a "big guy."

And I was SO close to starting to talk to him about how I used to be, and why I decided to try out for the AFL, and the work it took to get to where I'm at now (which is still a long ways off from where I'd like to be). I wanted to tell him that, like him, all of us ex-athlete adult males think "Oh, man, three months of dedicated training and I'll be right back where I was." And I wanted to tell him why I know that he keeps putting off the gym because he actually HAS gotten close to three months of dedicated training in the past, and the weight didn't just fall off, and how he blamed it on the fact that he probably didn't train as hard as he used to, and how he had a job, and no time, and so on and so forth.

And I didn't. Because, like me a few years ago, it would have fallen on deaf ears.

You can't want something for someone. And to lose twenty to thirty percent body fat, you have to REALLY want it. No amount of encyclopedic knowledge or research will drop the weight. No amount of money spent on gym equipment will drop the weight. Walking through the doors of your local gym won't drop the weight.

It takes a long, long time. A year. Two years, even. Constant maintainence on the diet. Constant exercise. Constant attention to energy expenditure vs. caloric intake. Constant desire to want to be better. Constant affirmation (and reaffirmation) that what you're doing is positive, and not just a waste of your time.

And some guy with cartoons on his arm and a little bit of muscle sitting in the Indianapolis International Airport isn't going to give you that, no matter how badly he wants to.

I could tell that he had a mental process going on in the back of his head that was saying "you know, now that I'm talking about this, I really SHOULD join that gym. I really think it's time. And maybe my reward will be the tattoo I've always wanted." And inbetween bites of Double Cheeseburger, he asked me how much I bench, and how often I work out. He even said "Yeah, maybe today will be my last day of eating this crap." And he kept eating the crap.

The cognative dissonance was astounding - and only beacuse I realized I used to be the exact same way.

And now that he's left, I can't stop thinking about him. I wish him luck. What he wants is what he used to be, and he's so far from it, he's giving up before he even starts. I was that way for years. "It's not going to happen, so why bother?" Right? In the case of this guy, I know that, unless he has a reckoning that shocks him into finally deciding to stop trying or talking about trying, and actually get to work on changing his lifestyle, he'll likely go another round or two of this cycle. And I hate that for him, because it's the worst form of failure there is - knowing that you just didn't try hard enough.

But I don't pity him. And I also don't think any less of him. If he wants it, he'll get it. But he doesn't want it.

You don't change because you want to change. You just wake up one day and do it, and no matter how hard it is, you never go back to what you used to be. This goes for everything, not just weight loss. Stopping smoking. Stopping drinking. Starting on writing a book.

Everything and anything - you just fucking DO IT.

And the big secret is that, no, you won't stop wanting what you used to have, and you don't stop thinking about how nice it would be to just go back to the easy stuff - the laziness, the addictions, the whatever-it-is. And you just made a decision every day to not be that person. Eventually, you don't think about it every day, you think about it a few times a week. And then once or twice a month, you'll remember how nice it was when you did whatever it was that gave you comfort and made you fat (or lazy or addicted to something). And eventually, you just don't have the taste or the craving or the desire to be whatever you were - becaue now, you're someone else.

That's change. And it sucks, and it's hard, and it's work. And that's why it is so rewarding - because once you've done it, no one can take it from you. It's yours forever. And conversely, you can't give it to anyone else. They have to go make their own change.

So, change. Cast off the comfortable blankets of whatever it is that keeps you in the bed you've decided to lie in, put your feet on the floor, stand up, and move foreward. And no matter how tired you get, don't go back to that bed. There is no snooze alarm for change. There's just daylight being burnt, and when the sun goes down and they day is done, that's it. The opportunity is gone, and you quite literally die being something other than what you wanted to be.

So change.