Friday, June 18, 2010


Dear NIP,

          That's me, age 22. It wasn't too long after that picture was taken that this all began. It's been nearly 13 years to get where I am today and though it took patience and persistence, it was worth every step of that journey. I guess the specific moment I snapped was the morning I went to my mother's house to do my laundry. Out of curiosity I stepped on the scale in her bathroom. I had to lean over to look past my stomach to see that I weighed 257 pounds. I had no idea how I had let it happen.
          When I graduated from high school, I probably weighed about 215. I was stout, but I at least engaged in some sort of physical activity. Whether it was playing basketball in my friend's driveway or bowling after school, I managed to keep my sloth in check. This all changed when I graduated and went off to college. I didn't learn much the first time I went to college because I majored in pretending-to-go-to-class-by-going-to-the-mall-and-playing-video-games. Add to this lifestyle my preference for power-eating entire boxes of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese while slaking my thirst incessantly with Mountain Dew and it's easy to see how out of control I was. But that's not the whole story.
          The truth of the matter was that I was miserable. Looking back on it now, I don't know the exact cause of my depression, but that's surely what it was. I went from being a fairly adjusted high school graduate to a college newcomer who hated his school and just about everything else within 6 months. During my senior year, I had been the vice-president of our school's chapter of SADD (back then it was just Students Against Driving Drunk) and had never even sipped alcohol. By the time I got to winter break of my first semester at Rhode Island College, I was drinking regularly and smoking cigarettes. The only thing bigger than my wasitline at that point was my apathy.
          I withdrew from college by the middle of the spring semester. I worked full time for a few years and continued to gain weight due to my horrible eating habits, lack of exercise, and smoking. That morning that I got on that scale, though, was a wake-up call. I snapped. After getting off the scale I marched down the hall and furiously took my clothes out of the dryer and threw them disgustedly into the basket. I went out to my car and slammed the door, rolled down the window, and lit a cigarette.
          As I raced down Nate Whipple Highway, I smoked like a chimney. I had about half a pack of cigarettes left that I intended to ceremoniously inhale and as I pulled into the bicycle shop parking lot I flicked the last butt out the window. I walked in and looked around for a few minutes before I saw a Mongoose mountain bike hybrid that I liked. Without the least hesitation I slammed my credit card onto the counter and told the gentleman behind the counter that I wanted "that bike." He helped me out and I stuffed it into the backseat of my 84 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme.
          When I got home about half an hour later, I ran into the house and quickly changed. I came back outside, unloaded the bike determined to ride from my house to the border of Massachusetts and back--what amounts to a massive five miles. I remember thinking as I left, "What's five miles on a bike?"

When you're 75 pounds overweight and a smoker--a lot.

          As I got to the border of MA, I was dying. Rhode Island is nothing like Florida when it comes to terrain. RI is a continuous series of hills and valleys; FL is flat. In another stroke of brilliance, I decided that I should take a short rest by walking my bike across the street (apparently I still thought I was 7 years old at the moment); this was the worst mistake I could have made. In between all the pumping and churning of my legs, I hadn't noticed the queasiness in my stomach. As soon as I took my feet off the pedals, I threw the bike into the grass and started dry heaving. It was a solid 5 minutes before I could control the retching. When I was done, however, I was still determined to finish and I sped home as fast as I could. By the time I got there, I was so exhausted that I opened my sliding glass door, placed the box fan in front of the screen, and passed out from utter fatigue on the living room carpet.
          The next day, I did it again. Over the course of that spring, 5 miles a day became 7. Then 10. Then 12. Then 15. By mid-June I was riding my bike 20 miles a day. Some days if I felt I had the energy, I would do 20 miles in the early morning before work and then do another 20 when I got home in the evening. It got to the point that if I could take my bike somewhere rather than my car, I would. One day I even went to my friend's office in Foxboro, MA, which was at least 30 miles each way, maybe more. I started to eat better (or what I thought was better, back then) and slowly began to lose weight. In the first three months I lost about 25 pounds, but I was still heavier than I had been when I graduated high school. Over time, though, I managed to get where I wanted to be.
          Anyone can do this. Whether it is losing weight, quitting smoking, extricating yourself from a bad relationship, we all have the power to change--especially ourselves. And it won't happen overnight. If you are committed to change, you have to also be committed to perseverance. I believe these are inseparable, perhaps even symbiotic. There is so much that I have learned about life in general and myself specifically since that time. Nearly 13 years have passed since that I day I stood before that mirror, pissed as hell at what I had let myself become. When I left that bathroom I knew I never wanted to see that person again. Not because I was overweight; that was a symptom of the problem. My real problem, my real enemy, was my apathy. But that deep urge to change is what saved me. What started out as a bike ride for health ended up being the impetus to my metamorphosis. The genesis of a new me...

But the way out of my former life, the exodus one might say, was a much longer road than I had anticipated. It certainly was a struggle filled with sacrifice, but success sure is sweet.

  Keep chipping away,

- Ryan

1 comment:

  1. Thank you! You have inspired me in a big way. I just recently (two months ago) had a very similar experience and finally snapped as well. I have joined Weight Watchers and have lost 25 pounds, but have a long journey ahead of me. Thank you for writing about not getting discouraged, even when you slip up. Whenever I've slipped up in the past and made some poor choices in eating, I would just quit. NOT THIS TIME! It is a journey. Thanks and keep up the great work!

    My son, Jacob, goes to Durant and my daughter will be attending next year as a Freshman.

    God Bless You,