By John Jericiau
I tipped the scale the other day at over 170 pounds. I have never weighed so much in all my 51 years. The writing is on the wall. I saw it happen to celebrities. One minute they’re fit and fine, the next they’re fat and flabby. William Shatner, Alec Baldwin, and Nick Nolte, to name just a few off the top of my head. The transformation is incredible: their 32-inch waist explodes to at least 42; even their heads get wider, and they appear to be suffering from some kind of allergic reaction.
Yes, yes. Beauty is more than skin deep, I know. But you’re talking to someone who got lots of attention for my physical attributes, especially in the heyday years between ages 17 and 45. What a great 28-year run I had! My secret? I ate very little and I worked out multiple hours per day.
First the workouts. At age 17 I joined my college cross-country and track team as a walk-on, mainly because a girl I liked in the dorm was doing the same. I saw my body weight go from 160 pounds in September to 138 pounds by Thanksgiving, all because we were running upwards of 120 miles per week! My parents thought I had anorexia or something. They even admitted to listening through the bathroom door after dinners that Thanksgiving break to try to hear the telltale dry heaves of a blossoming bulimic. I went on to add swimming and biking to my routine, and enjoyed events such as a solo bicycle ride across the US, a 12 ½ mile swim race around the island of Key West, and more.
I continued to work hard. What pushed me? Why was I so motivated to continue? Partly it was because I was doing something fun called “winning”. You really should try it sometime. It does wonders for your self-esteem. When you arrive on race morning and you see the glares and hear the whispers of your fellow competitors as they point you out and look you up and down…can you say “POWER”?!
I continued to train over the years, harder than the top 1% in the world, I’m guessing. At the top of my game, while training for and competing in the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon Championships each year (a grueling 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and 26.2 mile run, one right after the other as fast as you possibly can do it in the hottest and most humid weather you can imagine), friends and I would have all-day-long workouts. On a typical Saturday, for example, we’d wake up Saturday morning and swim an hour’s worth of a Master’s swim workout (maybe 2 miles of swimming), then hop on our bikes (which we brought to the pool) and take off up the coast for a fairly difficult 5-7 hour bike ride (sometimes covering up to 120 miles). We’d roll back to my house where we would quickly run inside where our running gear was waiting, and we’d give ourselves 4 minutes (we set the timer on the microwave alarm) to get dressed and out the door. We’d head down to the beach bike path and get in upwards of 20 miles of running before getting back home for the finish. On these days I could eat however much I wanted, but other days I monitored my intake down to the calorie.
Needless to say, all this activity lead to one ripped body. Zero percent body fat, but one hundred percent big head. The looks by guys at the beach (I wasn’t into dorm girls by this time anymore) with their wagging tongues … they motivated me to jump in the ocean and get in another mile of swimming before heading to happy hour (for a diet Coke).
Which brings me to my current situation. Eating kid’s cereal, leftover McDonald’s fries, and ice cream. Sharing a jumbo all-you-can-eat popcorn at our weekly movie date night, after eating at the all-you-can-eat seafood buffet just prior to it. Spending the only kid-free hour we have in the day getting a massage rather than getting in a workout. Some days skipping exercise entirely, mainly because of our three sons’ busy schedule. It’s often impossible to get in a workout!
It’s a strange contradiction. I’ve never been happier, but I’ve never been more panicked. I feel so loved, but I can’t button some (most) of my pants. I get a glimpse of myself in the mirror and I almost don’t recognize the love handles (fat) and man boobs (fat) that have invaded my body. My boys love me (awesome!), my husband wants me (incredible!), and so I really can’t complain. I’ve had it all and I have it all.
In my mind, I still think there’s a comeback around the corner. A return to my glory days. A day where tongues will wag and eyes will wink. But for now I will sit back and relax with my sons as we watch one of our favorite SpongeBob episodes and munch on some Pirate Booty. And I’m in ecstasy.