Over the years I have tried many-a workout strategy. For the longest time I would go to my local YMCA in Whittier and run on a treadmill for 20 min, work out on a elliptical for 20 min, and use a bicycle for an additional 20 min. For the first couple years after I had completed college this was my daily workout routine. Wake up, go to the gym, do bare minimum on the above three machines, shower, rinse, repeat. However this yielded few results and despite my efforts I maintained weight at best.
The constant stream of fish tacos, in n out burgers, friday night Chinese food and “today was really hard” ice cream probably didn’t help.
I am sure you all know this struggle. We see ourselves in the mirror, we make a displeased look at what we observe, and tell ourselves “this week, THIS WEEK is the week where I take my health into my own hands!” In many ways it honestly feels like I have the “New Year’s Resolution” cycle on repeat: step on scale, make displeased face, make goal, go to gym, feel better, forget goal for *covers mouth to hide number* tacos later, step on scale, repeat.
However a few years ago I went into my doctor for some routine checks and blood work. What I did not expect is for the doctor to call me back and leave a message. “Mr. Campbell, I’m sorry but we need to call you back into the office to discuss the results of your routine tests”
OH GOD, I’m dying. I’m probably dying of cancer, or the mumps. Are the mumps still a thing? Mumps are definitely still a thing. I’m definitely dying of the mumps.
Luckily I was NOT dying. Ok actually I kind of was…am…but it’s not what you think. It turns out that my cholesterol is/was outrageously high. So high in fact that the doctor felt compelled to call me in and tell me that If i did not change my eating and exercise habits I would be in serious trouble. If I did not lose about 25 pounds and stop eating red meat and shrimp (by the way I totally thought shrimp was fish, and so of course I ate it profusely. If it comes from the sea it must be good for me like all fish right? That’s how logic works. Wrong…shrimp is a heart killer) I would have serious heart issues very soon.
And then like Rocky in a training montage I kicked ass and worked out till I lost 30 pounds and triumphantly raised both fists in the air at the top of a long set of steps.
For the last couple of years I have started and stopped workouts to get myself in gear. This included a stint of doing exercise reps with you tube, doing P90X (HA that lasted a week), and using myfitnesspal to continuously watch what I eat. Probably due to lack of consistently, all failed.
There was one major component that was missing though. One thing I never thought about in my pitiful weightloss journey – accountability and companionship.
Throughout my not so difficult strain with exercise I never really had a “workout partner” or partners for that matter. I honestly never thought about what doing the whole “get healthy” thing would be like with the aid of someone doing it right there with you.
That was until I received a text message from a good friend. He informed me me that he was starting a special8 week fitness challenge not obsessed with gross juice cleanses, starving yourself, or eating a ridiculous food regimen only to reward yourself with a single spoonful of mayonnaise. (This is the world we live in people).
- On a daily basis –
- Drink 8 cups of water
- Have three servings of vegetables
- Two servings of fruit
- Sweets/baked goods only once a week
- Stop eating after 9pm
- Exercise 30 – 45 min a day – five days a week.
In other words do exactly what doctors have always told us to do. Crazy right? No wheat grass kale maple syrup smoothies required.
However as easy as the challenge sounded, it would not be that simple. The guys invited on this challenge grew up together and know each other deeply. Growing up in church together, leaving church together and then venturing into life together; we have seen our best and worst days. This “accountability group” is the very same that would a decade ago venture across the church campus from room to room like nomads in search of leftover donuts from sunday school classes. We have watched each other eat entire pizzas, take on “burrito only” diets, andbasically replace water with beer.
Despite our collective weaknesses (FISH.TACOS) we form a pretty diverse group with a singular goal. A FELLOWSHIP if you will. In many ways I see several parallels to the famed group which followed Frodo into the depths of Mordor.
Like the Fellowship of the Ring we all come from different backgrounds. Frodo did not cross the whole of middle earth with a band of other hobbits, he was accompanied by 9 people from all walks of life. We are not Wizard, Elf, Man and Dwarf but since our nomadic days at church we have grown up and gone on our separate paths to adulthood. Over the years we be came teachers (two of us actually), Behavioral therapist doctoral candidates, Podiatrist medical assistants, and drug counsellors. All of these fields in their own right are consuming and it makes sense why we can never stay healthy! We are always on the go, working on paperwork, grading papers, talking people down from the ledge, and helping children learn and grow so that they can function in the real world. The work we do is exhausting and yet rewarding. But with these careers comes unending stress and as we all know, all stressful roads leads us back to Del Taco at midnight because we did not have time to eat dinner. Without this challenge our careers alone would prevent us from truly succeeding in any weight loss venture.
Secondly just like Frodo and his Fellowship we all have a singular purpose. While the whole world is not likely to turn into chaos from our neglect to do crunches before bed, we are all more or less working towards the same goal. Yes we come from different places but we are also moving forward in the same direction. We hope to move away from “finals stress weight”, potential heart attacks, weight gained from the added responsibility of fatherhood or malnutrition from the psychological warfare of throat infections. All of us are doing this not because we want to have washboard abs or to “lateral Pratt” – (moving from Parks and Rec to Guardians of the Galaxy Chris Pratt). We are doing this because we want to live more fully, and to be healthier for us. We are all collectively moving towards our own Mt. Doom.
This leads me to the most crucial similarity to Frodo and his companions: we have each others backs. Like Frodo and Sam or Legolas and Gimli we push each other forward towards our goal. On a daily basis we check in with one another to make sure we are moving onward. At therisk of legalism (which nobody wants) we text each other burrito confessions, pictures of salads we are eating for dinner, and tease each other about “how many vegetable servings are found on a slice of combo pizza from Costco”. More times than not we joke around, and poke fun at each other and find ways to laugh and make the difficulty of the challenge easier. In many ways our “fellowship” is not an “accountability group” at all but a cheering section. We push each other when we really don’t feel like eating well or exercising. These daily check ins are not for us to feel guilty when we falter but to strengthen us to pick ourselves back up again and start over. Sometimes we even fall together. This weekend we had a game night with pizza, beer, and (depending on the game) tequilla shots…not exactly what the doctor ordered. But sure enough the next morning we were back on the path to Mordor, cheering each other on to start over afresh.
This I think is the most important thing to take away from my experience I am sharing with you today. Everyone needs encouragement and no one is a one person weight loss wrecking crew. We all need people to push us, to encourage us when we want to give up. We as humans can only do so much. We wake up every morning and greet the day only to have it trample on us like elephants. But with the right encouragement we could cross mountains. If you take anything away from this it’s that friendship is crucial and having uplifting voices in your world can make all the difference from being a defeatist to defeating your worst fears.
That, friends, is exactly what makes the Embraceable Project so great. We all realize that we struggle every single day to feel embraceable. But this place reminds us that we are never alone in this. This project exists because incredible people in their own struggle felt alone and decided that no one should have to go through what they have gone through their whole lives. So if you feel as though you cannot make it, know that at least here you have brothers and sisters in arms who are fighting alongside you towards your own Mt. Doom.
May you realize that no one can do this on your own. And that you find your own fellowship to uplift and push you forward when you feel like your feet can no longer carry you. And if you ever feel like you are not up to the challenge of finding what makes you feel embraceable, you can always turn here to be emboldened to go back into the badlands.
Just remember, you are never alone in this. *in best Gimli voice* you have my Ax!
June Guest Blogger: Danny is part teacher, part artist, and part adventurer. About to start a new teaching position in Santa Ana, California, Danny enjoys being an educator and the prospect of either getting students to learning from stories or helping students tell stories. He hopes to continue educating while also getting back into his other competing first love, the stage. Ultimately Danny enjoys the simple things: a good book, a mug of coffee or beer, and great company. He is definitely a Hobbit at heart.