2. What Did I Have to Lose?

2. What Did I Have to Lose?

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Shaping the New You

What Did I Have to
Lose?

A man’s health can be judged by which he takes two at a time—pills or stairs.
 ~Joan Welsh

It started with my shirts. They didn’t feel right. They were too tight and the buttons kept popping open. Buying pants with a 50-inch waist was a real downer for me too. Every time I put them on a hanger it reminded me of setting up a tent. But it was applying for life insurance that caught my attention and made me think deeply about my life and health.

I was forty-six years old and more than 80 pounds overweight when my employer offered a paid $250,000 life insurance policy for those who qualified. I got my medical records together and spent over $40 on copying fees. Three weeks later I got a letter from the insurance provider saying, “We have decided not to offer you life insurance.” What it was really saying was “REJECTED!” I admit that being 255 pounds at 5’7” is not being in shape, but I didn’t think I was that overweight. Now the insurance company was saying I was too risky because of my weight. Chances were I was going to die before age sixty-five.

I needed a lifestyle change, but I didn’t know where to start. At the time, I thought exercise was the answer. I knew if I had to go to a gym, I would be faithful for only a few weeks. I had to do something that would not take too much time out of my day. I decided to start taking the stairs. Climbing stairs was a good way to exercise without going to a gym. I work in a four-story office building. Part of my job is going to other people’s desks. I started my self-challenge. From then on, I would take the stairs.

The hardest thing was taking that first step. The first morning, I stepped into the stairwell and looked up. The three flights of stairs looked like Mt. Everest to me. Sir Hillary didn’t conquer that mountain by staring at it. He had to take one step at a time. So I put my foot on the first step and pushed up, then a second step, then a third. Soon I was on the second floor, then the third floor. I made it to the fourth floor, wheezing and sweating and cursing myself for putting cupcakes ahead of my health.

I kept climbing stairs and soon I was up to twenty flights of stairs per day. Although my endurance increased and I started to feel more energetic, I didn’t lose much weight. I then added a mile walk during my break time. That, too, helped my energy level, but I still weighed about the same.

About this time, I received a letter from my employer’s insurance company stating that because my body mass index was so high, I could qualify for their weight loss management program. The insurance company would reimburse me for part of a gym membership or a weight loss program. After discussing it with my wife, I decided to enroll in a weight loss program. I studied different programs, and decided on one that was considered the most successful.

Then I received an e-mail announcing that the program I had chosen was going to meet in my office building every week. The e-mail invited everyone to an open house to see what the program was like. The next Wednesday, I went to the open house and liked what I learned. But I also learned that it would be $135 to start. I wanted to lose weight, but was afraid of committing my money. The group members were anxious for me to sign up. They needed at least twelve people to sign up, and I was the twelfth person. My wife convinced me to fork out the money and commit myself to make this weight loss work.

Because we met in my office building, I could attend almost every week. The instructor helped me to understand where weight comes from; it comes from eating without thinking. If I didn’t keep track of what I ate, I ate a lot more. So I started writing down everything that went into my mouth. I also learned how to make healthy choices and read nutrition labels. We weighed ourselves every week and that helped me to stay on track. I knew if I indulged myself, the meeting leader would know about it next week. I also found the camaraderie helpful.

I began to see that eating properly was like sticking to a budget. I only had so many calories to use each day. I decided that junk food wasn’t worth the price.

I began to see results almost immediately. I lost 10 pounds in the first three weeks. I stuck to a rate of losing about two pounds a week. After nine months I had lost 85 pounds and 14 inches off my waist line. People were amazed at the change. Some said I looked younger. I didn’t think I was that overweight. Now I am shocked when I look at my old pictures.

I thought I couldn’t lose weight. Thankfully, I was wrong. If you learn the principles of weight loss, and live those principles, you will lose the excess pounds. It takes work and discipline, but losing weight can be done. After all, what do you have to lose?

~Douglas M. Brown

More stories from our partners