Well, I am sitting in Newark Airport waiting on word to see if I am getting to BLS today or not. It all started with my Mom getting me to the airport way earlier than needed…but I guess that’s okay, because at least I had time to let the idea settle in that I may not be getting to Chicago today as originally intended.
For the time being, I figured 1) I need to charge my phone and 2) I’d work on my blog post since I have been incredibly derelict in my duties as an occasional blogger to update. I’ve also been getting some pretty decent page views, so maybe people are actually reading this thing.
The word “inspiration” has been something that has stuck out to me ever since I was sitting in my normal Saturday morning meeting, just minding my own business. I actually have attempted to be pretty quiet during my Saturday morning meetings. I want the opportunity to be able to take what people say in and actually observe the room dynamic…and keep my yap shut. Because I know, for the life of me, that will be my biggest struggle when (and if) I get in front of the meeting room. I will need to shut my mouth and let the members talk.
So, let me start this all by saying I never set out on this journey to inspire people. Simply put, I was fat and didn’t want to be fat anymore. I also wanted to be considered attractive. Everyone focuses on how the media makes women feel with all their marketing, models, etc…But the media also puts a lot of undue pressure on men to feel a certain way. To be a guy…an attractive guy…you need to play a sport (and drink Gatorade and hang out in your Underarmour gear)…you need to feel comfortable walking around with your shirt off (probably hanging out with some hot chicks in bikinis while you’re drinking your Malibu rum on some beautiful beach)…and you need to be completely comfortable hanging out in your underwear all throughout your apartment (drinking milk while wearing Hanes…)
…Sorry, I need to rant for a bit…
I would like to take a moment as I sit in a chair for my third stand by and wait for my actual confirmed flight…United Airlines has some of the rudest check-in desk employees ever. Out of the number of staff with whom I had encounters, only 2 were kind and helpful. Everyone else has been incredibly rude and short-tempered. Now, I know that there are probably some people who unfairly took out their frustrations on the check-in attendants given the amount of cancelled flights and people needing to get to Chicago…in fact, I witnessed it. I like to think I’m not that person. The check-in attendants, the flight crew, and the pilots cannot be responsible for the weather. However, every time I spoke to someone, I greeted them with a smile. I just wanted to confirm that I was on a stand-by list (because when I went to go confirm my second stand by, I was told I wasn’t checked in…something the first stand by check-in attendant failed to do)…I was genuinely calm about the situation. I knew I was getting into BLS late, I was just hoping for a break to get in earlier because sitting in an airport is kind of boring and I wanted to get some training in before the evening.
So, with my smile, my greeting, and my firm understanding that the check-in attendants are not to blame…explain to me why I was told that I should just wait for my confirmed flight…in the rudest manner possible. This is after I had explained that I am happy to have a confirmed flight, but would love the opportunity to get in earlier and just confirm my name (since the first check-in attendant failed to do it, and rudely told everyone in the stand by line that she had their name…when, in fact, apparently, she didn’t.) And, even worse, there was a young woman in line in front of me who did not speak English well, and the check-in attendant yelled at her and said because her flight was cheaper, she was put to the bottom of the list and better start looking for a better flight.
I will think of my experience from here on out whenever I wanna reach through the phone and slap a caller in the office.
…so, yeah, I had incredibly shallow motives when I first joined Weight Watchers in 2002. Not to mention, guys aren’t “supposed to” lose weight or be thin. If they are bigger, they just need to grow muscle and play football. Skinny and fat guys are made fun of. It’s really a difficult challenge to be a teenage guy who doesn’t like how he looks in the mirror.
So, somewhere within the past year, I guess I did turn into an inspiration. Now, now, now, for those of you who know me, I am not a confident guy at all. I actually have a lot of self-doubt and a lot of mini-panic attacks regarding my skills, abilities and even my appearance. A lot of the time, I feel I project a “know it all” attitude to really just serve as armor against a lot of the insecurities I still feel. I’ve mentioned it before, but my self-image has not caught up to my weight loss or my fitness success. I feel like I still don’t fit into clothes right…I could still look better…I could probably lose more weight if I really tried harder. The reason I am saying all this is because I just want people to know that I did not label myself an inspiration…nor have I ever really felt I’ve taken on the mantle to inspire people. I just feel like I have an important story to tell…so, I tell it…because I will tell you I do like the sound of my own voice…and I suppose people draw inspiration from that.
So, I am sitting there in one of the beautiful purple WW chairs…and I think we were talking about turning “slip ups into success.” Naturally, the meeting turns to how important the meetings are for people to get recharged or get back on track after a rough week.
So, a member chimes in…and she starts talking about how the meetings keep her going and inspire her. She mentions how a member’s story has really kept her going. Now, I am fully prepared for her to talk about a woman who has lost 125 pounds on program and, in my humble opinion, has one of the greatest attitudes about tackling weight loss. Whenever this inspiring member talks, she reminds me of how far I’ve come and how much better my life is as a “thin” person and as a Weight Watchers life timer. Her positive attitude is so incredibly contagious, that I always feel great after a meeting.
So, the member who is telling her story…she surprises me with “And this member, he inspired me with his story.” So, wait, Kim ISN’T talking about Kara?!?! Wow, shiver me timbers. Well, there’s definitely some guys with amazing stories in the meeting room.
Then…she points at me and says my story has inspired her. I am…baffled. Something I did inspired someone else?!?!
All I can say is that I had to hold back tears. Seriously…I had no idea that me losing 50 pounds could have such an effect on people. Like I said, my reasons for joining were completely and utterly selfish…and somewhere, things changed, I guess.
But I also think my motives for maintaining are now different from when I first joined. A leader I work with every Sunday said it best – “When you become lifetime, it stops being about how much you’ve lost, but how long you keep it off.” There comes a point where people are more used to you being thin, that they don’t remember you being larger…so, no one sees me anymore and says “You look so good” or “You’ve lost so much weight”…because they know me more as thin Eric than they do as fat Eric. Those compliments were something that I used for motivation. I don’t have those anymore (although I do get a few nice ones when I post pictures on Facebook…and there are people who haven’t seen me in a bit.) That has been the biggest shift for me. I mean, I work to maintain my loss for the obvious reason that I don’t want to pay for meetings and I also would like to remain employed with Weight Watchers. But, as much as I’d like a six pack, it’s not about looking better.
I’ve accepted the fact (most days), that if you don’t like my physical appearance…then it isn’t my problem. I work my ass off week after week to keep this appearance, and that takes a lot more hard work than you being born with the perfect body.
It’s about my health. It’s about setting fitness goals for myself and pushing past them. I.gt’s about making choices that will help me live a longer and happier life. And like I said that that same meeting where I was called an inspiration – “I am ten times happier with the person I am now than the person I was before Weight Watchers.”
And as for being an inspiration…I just believe that losing weight (especially for a gay man who was never really happy with his body) is one of the hardest journeys anyone will ever have to take. There came a point in my journey, where I guess I had all the tools I needed to be successful, and felt a responsibility to share with others how I got to where I am today…
…so maybe it is only appropriate that I had the time to write this while waiting to board my flight to BLS Training. It is only my hope that I pass and I am able to continue to share my story with those who will listen…
…and you better believe that I’ll be thinking of all my Saturday Morning at 7:30 buddies when I’m presenting on Sunday.