Time After Time By Charles Edwards

If you’re lost you can look and you will find me
Time after time
If you fall I will catch you, I will be waiting
Time after time
By Cyndi Lauper

Time: Do you have the time? I need more time. I’m out of time. Just in time. Time to leave. Time is up. Time travel. Our brains are such an amazing organizer of our personal experiences with an almost limitless number of ways to cross-catalog events for reference and recall. Odor and music, for example, serve as historical bookmark with emotion in real time that allow us to travel back, even many decades, to the moment our brain classified an event.

Today was a step back to the year 2000 as I did my weekly weigh-in which read, 268. That was a sixteen-year trip backwards to just before the dawn of a new century’s “Day of Infamy”. I was working as a Sales and IT Manager for a manufacturing company in Cerritos, California. My self-image has always been shrouded in a bit of denial, so when I stepped on the scale in our shipping department, I fully expected to see myself in the 240-pound range. Much to my surprise, the scale dial sailed past the 240 mark and landed right at 270. Hmm, I thought; perhaps the scale weighs a bit heavy? Yeah, denial comes at a moment’s notice any time it is needed and I’ve avoided scales ever since.

One reason we don’t announce our goals to others is for fear of ridicule if we fail. If no one knows we failed except ourselves; well then, we can forgive that! I know that is why I sat back and watched my best friend work the Wonder Slim program for himself over a year’s time. He became the ‘Selfie King’ with each new pound lost; however, in the back of my mind I kept thinking, yeah, yeah, another ‘diet’. It won’t last. But last it did, and today he looks literally 20 years younger and, with a new marriage, is living an envious life.

I’m a musician and my life is dotted with a soundtrack from every good and painful experience I’ve had. If I ever need to start a good cry all I have to do is recall my mom singing (and mom could really sing well) I’ll Be Home for Christmas – if only in my dreams. I’m taken back instantly and filled with longing for her to still be here; only this time, I’d sing with her instead of rolling my eyes and saying “oh, mother”.

At age 61, I’m acutely aware that my timecard is closer to being punched now than in the year 2000, when it seemed I had the world well in hand. Now, I’m thankful for each day to unravel twenty years of believing I was going to live for a very long time and worry about my weight at a later time.

My goal is to travel back to just this side of 1978. I weighed 250-pounds and had to loose 40-pounds to be accepted in the U.S. Navy at 210. I drank gallons of water and ate mostly salad as I worked in, of all places, a Mexican Food restaurant cooking everything from scratch. I was very motivated to move forward in time then, and I am equally motivated to move back in time now. Time is your time. Welcome back.

An Irish Blessing

“May the roof over your head be always strong. And may you be in heaven half an hour before the devil knows you’re dead.” (An Old Irish Blessing)

I joined the US Navy at age 23, which made me one of, in not ‘the’, oldest guy in my boot camp training group. Unlike the US Marine Corps, Navy Boot Camp, due mostly to the hot and morbidly humid Orlando Summers, was more psychological conditioning than physical. Think of it as an exercise in training the young male psyche to think and perform more like a team member than an individual. Even the name “Shipmates” (we were told to call one another) denotes being part of something bigger than self.

Navy boot camp was learning to follow routines and paying attention to detail; like how to fold underwear so it fits in a tiny metal locker drawer. The Company Commanders held frequent inspections to ensure all shipmates were on the same page, and if not in line, rigorous indoor physical conditioning would be met to those out of sync.

You may be asking yourself: “How hard can it be to fold underwear for crying out loud?” You’d be surprised to learn most of the thirty or so shipmates could not do so correctly. To both my relief and a sorrow, for the other guys being grilled with pushups and squat-thrust exercises, there I sat in the TV room (like I said, Navy was not like the USMC) with another five compliant souls who had a perfectly folded underwear drawer.

To be perfectly honest, from my peripheral view of shipmates lined up to the left, right and across of me, I couldn’t see their infraction and was forced to ask myself:

“Why me? Why was I chosen to pass?” Being a naturally analytical person, I was trying to figure out what I did right, so I could do it again; or, God forbid, and just in case the Company Commanders made a mistake, they don’t discover their mistake next time. Was my success real or did I cunningly disguise my flaw? Was it a lie?

Fast forward many decades and I have the same experiential tinge with my digital scale. To be perfectly honest, it took three weeks on my Wonder Slim program before I actually bought a scale. When challenged about my starting weight, I tossed a guess to my coach based on what I was willing to admit. When my toes straddled the red digital display for the first time, and after some notable loss of weight in my face, I was disheartened to see the display read 299. Shit. I had no idea of how far past 300 I had gotten. Guess I was the last to know how far out of shape I had become.

My wife had been gently ‘suggesting’ that I should take better care of myself for over a year. She forgot guys, in general, fail at suggestions and need a more direct, if not harsh, communication of ideas and concepts. It would have been more effective if she had said, “hey, you fat fuck, fix that shit”. But, that is not her demeanor. She is kind and forbearing and waited patiently for ‘it’ to be my idea. There is a special place in heaven for such wives; and if husbands are good and kind to these souls, we get to go there too.

I have been waiting to write this story until after I was sure I had gotten below my lie, as it were, about the weight I declared on my driver’s license, 280. I knew it was a lie when I so stated it, but I didn’t want the person at the DMV, sitting across from me, to know.

This past Thursday I did the dance with my little white digital conscience and when it read 277, I couldn’t help but think, “This shit is real now!” I have been redeemed from a lie I told and have been set free. It feels pretty good, and I wish you the same.

The Emotion of Food

Oh brother, is there absolutely nothing worse than to hear someone rant on about self actualization, self improvement or any topic that begins with “self”? I mean, really, who gives a shit about what someone else thinks?

I am the kind of guy who steps in when I see a situation that needs stepping in to. You know, the guy who stops after a traffic accident to see if there is anything I can do even though I am not a medical professional. I am not one who can sit idly by and leave it to someone else to do something.

Seven weeks ago I began a new practice of putting food in the place food was intended to go – fueling my body to live the best life I am able. Admittedly, and even with the best of intentions and denials, my weight at 310 pounds was unsustainable unless I was ready to buy one of those mobility scooters seen on the afternoon and weekend commercials. Not only did I not want to do much outside of my video editing career, I mostly couldn’t do much else for very long periods of time.

Now that I’m down 28 pounds I’ve begun to regain movement that I incorrectly attributed loss to aging and past sports injuries. Osteoarthritis is still present in a few badly injured joints but the effects and symptoms have subsided to the point I no longer take 600mg of Ibuprofen to get through the day. I didn’t see that coming.

Due to our current Presidential election period, we have been hearing the term “rigged” a lot of late. There is a belief that the ‘system’ is rigged to the benefit of one candidate or the other. Well, with regard to food, the system is rigged and I didn’t see that coming either.

Due to the abundance of everything in America, we are afforded many luxuries. One such is the ability to reward ourselves with eating. Weddings, graduations, funerals, anniversaries, first dates, last dates, and retirements – you get the picture. As a result, food becomes synonymous with reward, and who doesn’t like to be rewarded? I’ve come to realize it isn’t the food, per se; rather, it is the feelings food brings to our emotional table. Food fires on all emotional receptors: visual, smell, taste, and touch. Memories are formed in our brain that can be easily triggered simply by smell.

My mom passed away in 1994 at an age that came too soon for me. After her passing I poured myself back into a great career working for large International Corporation. Just a few weeks after mom’s passing, I traveled on business to Oklahoma City. I stayed at a hotel that shared the parking lot of one of my favorite southern restaurants called, Cracker Barrel.

My favorite Cracker Barrel meal is their meat-loaf dinner with mashed potatoes, gravy and green beans, so I was glad to sit and order this meal at the end of a very busy day.

If you’ve never been to a Cracker Barrel, it is a throw back to Southern charm and manners. The wait-staff address guests with ma’am and sir and seem ready to answer with a “bless your heart” at every turn.

My server placed my magnificently plated entrée in front of me, and mercy, it was a sight to behold. It was perfectly pleasing in every way possible. I thanked my server and dug my fork into my mashed potatoes, lifted to fork to mouth, placed the serving in my mouth, and as soon as it touched my tongue, I began to sob uncontrollably, inconsolably actually – not that my server, who dutifully came right over to ask if something was wrong with my meal, didn’t try her best.

You see, growing up, my mom always made mashed potatoes that were a little chunky and, as fortune would have it, so did the chef at this particular Cracker Barrel restaurant. All of those memories of mom came unexpectedly rushing back from the crevasse of my mind where I partitioned the grief of her recent loss. With one fork of mashed potatoes I was instantly transported to a better time and place – one where mom was still able to receive my phone calls and visits. Food can do that, and that’s where I went off the rails of healthy living.

I am glad that I can put this segment of my journey down on paper so I can say: I finally get ‘it’. Now, it’s all about executing my program to attain my desired level of health irrespective of what I weigh. Sure, I have a goal weight in mind; however, I don’t want to limit myself and want to see just how far I can go.

I wish you success on wherever your journey leads to healthy living.

Who I am is not defined by what I do

I’m sitting at my desk working on a website for a new client listening to one of the true greats of Country Music of the last Century, Merle Haggard.

Merle was once quoted how much the fame his song, Okie From Muskogee, over shadowed so many great songs from the lexicon of his music catalog. At one point, Merle kind of wished he hadn’t recorded it.

I started to think how many times have I done something that really stood out and inadvertently cast me in a role I was destined to play out to some conclusion. Take your favorite movie actor, for example; someone like Bruce Willis, Vin Diesel or Jason Statham who play the epitome of a tough guy. Not likely to see them playing the sensitive type reaching for a tissue over angst of a soufflé failing to rise. Just saying.

I learned at an early age that size does matter. To thwart unwanted bullying or ridicule, I learned how to manipulate situations using, sometimes, just a look. More affectionately known by family members or close associates, “The Look”. Not that I’ve ever seen it, but I have been able to cause a room full of people to stop talking and take a step back simply by its appearance. Couple that with an imposing posture and size it makes for a great control mechanism when things get out of my comfort zone. For much of my life, this was one thing for which I was known. Not that I didn’t have redeeming qualities, quite the contrary. I am the guy who cries when the National Anthem is played and sung by thousands of people at a
sporting event. The same guy who has to turn the channel every time one of those abused dog commercials appear on television. It was years before I could actually listen to anything sung by Sarah McLachlan. A truer walking dichotomy has never been.

At over 310-pounds, I had gotten used to being called “Big Guy”, even by those who knew my name. Seems my size was more of an identifier that all the other parts of my life I’ve accomplished or am currently doing. This always struck me odd, but, as I said, I grew accustomed.

I find it interesting how food became a chore, a reward or something to pass the time. If I ever knew really ‘how’ to eat or why, I can’t say. Suffice it to say I’m learning just how little I need to eat now. With my level of inactivity, I needed at least 3,900 calories to maintain my starting weight. With my new program, I calculate that I’m downing approximately 1,200-1,400 calories per day – which is around 1/3rd. At one point I would have felt as though I’m being punished for 43 years of ignorance; however, I am happy to say that is not the case.

I’m not one to bloviate or soapbox, if you please, so forgive my assertion that any of this story relates to anyone but me. However, my 35-year old son said to me yesterday, “Hey, the incredible shrinking man”. That was both embarrassing and rewarding. Embarrassed for what I’d become known for, but rewarding to know it is never too late to be known for something else.

How did I get here?

Somewhere along the journey to self-acceptance we find ourselves at a fork in the road that leads to a well-worn path called, self-denial. My former high school friend, Yusong Im once told me, “If you lie to yourself, you’ll lie to anyone”. And gosh, was she right.

Of course, I had help along my life’s journey. Well meaning family (my mother) who told me I was big-boned as a child to lessen the sting of being chided and picked on by my peers for being the ‘chubby kid’.

When puberty hit and I discovered my body type (Mesomorph) could develop strength well beyond my peers, I pursued weight lifting with abandon. I was one strong 250lbs high school freshman. I could lift more than my body weight in several different lifts and was very gratified that the student body that once taunted me was now seeing me as someone not to mess with. I dug the shit out this; unfortunately, this mindset set me up for some really high hurdles to overcome in the relationship and business world. But, that’s another story.

Fast forward 43-years and I am now a 61 year old who’s knees are too sore to walk more than a quarter mile without needing to stop and let the spaz in my back release due to the funky gait I’ve developed from my knees shifting back and forth to propel me forward.

My wife, as much as a saint that ever graced this earth, is always encouraging me to move; however, without copious amounts of anti-inflammatory drugs – destined to kill my liver or kidneys – I have to pass for now. For now; however, I am making progress.

I started Day 16 of my Wonder Slim program today and can see a faint resemblance of my more youthful and thinner self. Pants are more droopy, face and fingers are thinner, fewer daily trips to the bathroom and, much to my elated surprise, no more antacids – my poison of choice was the old fashioned remedy, backing soda and water 2-4 times a day. I don’t miss that at all; and frankly, if I didn’t loose another pound at all, this aspect makes my program completely worth it.

A wiser person than I once said, “When your present pain exceeds your future fears, change will occur”. So, dear friends, I reached the tip of my scale three weeks ago. My future fear was that I was not going to reach my demise as soon as my parents and immediate family members did in their 60’s and could very well end up like my Great Grandfather, who lived to nearly 100 years old. I’d rather be like he, and have mobility for the next 40 years instead of sending off for one of those scooters – if you know what I mean.

Peace by yours along your journey. Remember, being honest is always the best policy, and start with yourself.