The anger stage, as I outlined previously, is the point at which denial can no longer ride in the front seat, “shotgun” with you. I was finally able to look in a mirror with the veil of denial lifted and accept the truth. As I looked in that mirror I was finally able to say, “Steve, you’re fat, you probably need to wear a bra so you won’t scare kids, and you are unhealthy”. What particularly troubled me is that my father had triple bypass surgery at 48, had high blood pressure most of his life, and died at an early age. I now weighed more than he did. I was also sure my life was turning in that direction if it wasn’t already there. As I stood there looking at myself in that mirror, I thought of my family: my wife and children. I realized I wanted to be there for them.
My wife and I would quip back and forth during this unhealthy stage when we would go to restaurants and I would order the fried seafood platter and the baked potato with “everything but the dirt from the kitchen thrown on,” and my dessert of whatever was probably the most awful “bad-for-you” thing on the menu. She would always remind me gently and graciously that “all your food is the same color and don’t you want something maybe a little better for you”? My response was always the same: “When I die you can marry some young guy and spend all of my money and live on a beach”. As I sat there, I realized something I had never thought of before. My wife is a beautiful woman and she COULD actually marry someone else after I died. That thought, even though somewhat selfish, actually bothered me.
Change does not come without cost. In my case, there were certain things I particularly enjoyed that had become part of my lifestyle. I even had hobbies that contributed to my weight. I was one of the best amateur brewers in the nation, placing second in the National Masters Championship of Amateur Brewing in 2011. I was also a nationally certified beer judge, and I traveled to judge beer contests. I was a fantastic cook and grew up learning how to cook Louisiana cuisine. For those not in the know, there is no “good-for-you” Louisiana cuisine. I will correct myself; there is good-for-you Louisiana cuisine in “moderation”. I didn’t do moderation when it came to really good-tasting, BAD-for-you food. Give me the fried oysters, dirty rice, crawfish etouffee, fried okra, macaroni and cheese, sweet iced tea, and a double order of that New Orleans bread pudding with bourbon sauce and vanilla ice cream please! A little info and side note here: the US South is the only place I know where macaroni-and-cheese is classified as a vegetable when you order dinner at restaurants. I know . . . amazing isn’t it? Chase all that with a Guinness or two and call that dinner.
Change is also not easy for most people, and it certainly was not easy for me when I began to realize the cost of the necessary changes I needed to implement. I did not yet realize the BENEFITS of change. It is human nature to want results to come easy. All I knew was that when we went out to eat, brussel sprouts tasted like dirt, fried food tasted better than baked or grilled, and ANY dinner without dessert was inhumane.
I began to bargain with myself. I actually would negotiate, telling myself, “You can get the fried platter, but get the healthy steamed veggies and you have really accomplished something here”. Maybe I would even skip the peanut butter pie for dessert. Another side note here: Tennessee is the second most overweight state in the nation. It doesn’t help that most of us here view cooking everything with lard as a necessity!
I would also negotiate with myself during my feeble attempts at exercise and tell myself that I would try to run two miles tomorrow instead of running one mile each day. It began to become easy to skip day after day with this newfound bargaining power. I began to be a better negotiator than the Priceline Negotiator, William Shatner. I would like to point out that this, in my opinion, is the MOST dangerous stage because it is so easy to think you have made changes and to get discouraged when you do not see results. I think it is at this point when most people give up, discouraged, disheartened, and depressed.
Love Gently Live Justly Race Hard,
Stephen Ruffin lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee with his wife Karen. They have two grown children. Stephen and his wife embrace the multi-sport lifestyle. Stephen is a Boston Marathon qualifier, Ironman, and All World Athlete. He is avid about the sport of triathlon and credits the sport with reclaiming his health. He is sponsored by TriBike Transport and competes on Team TBT.
He can be reached on his Linkedin page under: Steve Ruffin. Or you can reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org