Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Why Bother?

This post is prompted by a discussion on a couple of years ago. In a thread titled "Motivation or Tactics", a poster called Tractorlegs wrote that the back and forth between my friend Chris and myself in another thread was "rough around the edges." Perhaps. Its very hard for a super obese person to find the right track, for the penny to drop into the slot.  Finding the right way to change your life isn't easy. Nor is it easy for friends of a super obese person to always say the right thing.

I should know. I've been on both sides, now as a recovering super obese man who has kept a triple digit weight loss for eight years, and then as a 400 pound person. Ten years ago I was in Cambridge Springs, PA, at the 100th anniversary celebration of the famous international chess tournament the town hosted; I was there in my capacity as a board member of the Pennsylvania State Chess Federation, and Grandmaster and former US Champion Larry Evans was to discuss games from the event. 18 months later I'd hear my wake up call; but it was ringing there, when I was so tired I didn't have the strength to play in the amateur tournament scheduled that same day. I sat on the porch of the Riverside Hotel and rested.  None of the diet iced tea I was drinking was doing the trick.

A few years before Fritz, a player at my chess club, sat down with me and told me I had to lose weight, because he wanted to be playing against me 20 years in the future. I made some promises to try, which meant doing nothing, and simply wrote it off as Fritz dreaming about decades of crushing my Dutch Defense.

My point is that I had some desire to lose weight. Super obesity isn't super. It kills. Every super obese person knows it. I knew. And I could have died of it. Among my friends in the chess world I lost two in one year, Fide Master Boris Baczynskyj and former PSCF President Ira Lee Riddle, to obesity-caused illness. Boris "the Bear" was so big that when I gave him a lift in my Geo one time, we couldn't close the door, and I had to drive through downtown Philadelphia with Boris partly sticking out of the passenger side. Ira was so sedentary that at one tournament he was directing he had room service deliver to the lobby of the hotel so he didn't have to get up from the registration table. Had someone spoken to them as Fritz did to me so long ago, perhaps the penny would have dropped. Or perhaps not. Boris had as a chess student Pat Croce, and the Philadelphia Inquirer ran an article and photos of the FM and the physical trainer and 76ers owner at the chessboard. Croce was quoted as saying that Boris had to lose a couple of hundred pounds, and Boris replied in his thick Ukranian accent "I have lost hundreds of pounds many, many times."

So why bother with a person who says they want to lose weight or get healthy but offers excuses or has little success? Because they bring up the subject. Doing so shows an interest, a desire, to change. And because you never know when that penny will drop in the slot. In my case it took one of my neighbors passing on to me a gym gift certificate after he heard about my trip to the hospital. But for two weeks after I was discharged I did nothing but live in a daze, knowing what I had to do but not being able to make myself do it. If I didn't get that two weeks for free certificate for Gold's, who knows what would have happened? And even after I'd gone twice and exhausted myself with seven minutes on the recumbent exercise bike, my diet was still garbage, and that didn't change until I read about my choices.

So why do I bother? Because people bothered for me. Its taken a lot of time and reflection for me to realize just how much I owe to so many people for helping me with my weight loss. They didn't have to, and they did. They persisted despite my lack of success or half-hearted efforts over the years. Can I do any less for other people?



At May 21, 2014 at 7:46 AM , Blogger Sean Anderson said...

This is an important conversation. It's a touchy subject really. I can remember several encounters over the years with people trying to influence me to do something positive for myself and it never worked with me. I've approached a couple of people directly over the last several years and offered encouraging words and tried my best to spark something within them...Ultimately, as it was with me--the point where the "penny drops" often comes from a very deep place within. I'm not suggesting gentle prodding from friends and family isn't a good thing--it is, in that it shows genuine love and caring for the person. I'm simply saying it often isn't enough. My personal policy has changed. Now, I do not approach someone unless they've reached out to me first. I've adopted this after listening to Richard Simmons speak about this very thing. Richard, having so much love and natural compassion for people, would often approach people and offer words of encouragement and try this very thing--and for reasons on which he didn't elaborate, he stopped taking that direct approach. For me, it's because I don't know where they are emotionally and mentally and will me approaching them simply create more stress? Or are they in a place where it might make a difference? It's a gamble. I think it's worth the risk only if the person approached is a close friend or family member. Expressing love and concern for somebody close is never a bad thing. Even then, if it doesn't "stick" or create the spark I had hoped for--I know I just got to keep on loving them (because I understand how they're feeling) and most importantly, keep on doing the best I can to take care of me and hope that leading by example is inspiring enough to trump all other methods of reaching them. Great post. The most important thing is to never give up and you're a wonderful example of not giving up. Thank you for doing what you do.


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