Sometimes things happen in our lives that we don’t expect, and they push us to solutions we could never imagine.
For most of the last 40 years, I have had to battle my weight. Until I was 21, I never had any problem. I could eat whatever I wanted and never gain a pound. Part of it was probably my metabolism, but the biggest reason was just that I spent a lot of time in physical activity — basketball, football, etc. Just before my 21st birthday, though, I realized that I had gone from my normal weight of about 175 pounds to almost 190.
It was the first time I had ever felt heavy, and I took the weight off over the next couple of months by playing basketball two or three hours every afternoon instead of going to classes.
Good move for my health, stupid move overall.
Once I wasn’t in school, I got a job — a sedentary job — working in a bank. Within a year I weighed 200 pounds and the struggle had begun.
The irony of it is, as much time as I spent back then trying to get under 200 — and succeeding in 1985, 1989 and 1992 — now it will take a major effort to get anywhere close to that. A few months ago, I weighed 280 pounds, which is way too much when you’re 60 years old and are only about 5-foot-10.
It’s really a terrible place to be, because let’s face it. People who are as much overweight as I am generally don’t live to be that old. I have high blood pressure, I’m at serious risk for diabetes and I’m putting a tremendous strain on my heart, lungs and legs. I also have a very serious case of sleep apnea. I have gotten down to 270, but I really don’t seem to be able to do what I’ve done before — get serious about diet and exercise for 4-6 months.
The irony is that my eating problem has always been the classic one. I didn’t eat to fill a hole in my stomach; I ate to fill a hole in my heart because I wasn’t happy with myself as a person. Well, the last few weeks I have actually been feeling pretty good about myself. Except for the weight, of course.
My wife made a suggestion that bothered me at first, but when I started looking into it, I became more enthusiastic.
She said I should go to camp.
I immediately felt 12 years old.
Some of the most enjoyable weeks of my childhood were spent at three different summer camps — Camp Kern and Camp Templed Hills in Ohio and a camp in Pennsylvania for which the name just flew right out of my head. Kern was a YMCA camp that I attended at ages 10 and 11, while Templed Hills was a church camp where I spent a week each summer when I was 11 and 12.
The one in Pennsylvania was also a church camp, I attended as a camper for two or three summers in my early teens and then for one week as a counselor when I was 16.
I always had a great time, and my only regret was that it was always for just one week.
Yoga on horseback
This one is going to be very different. It’s a fitness camp in Texas, and I will be there for two months starting at the beginning 0f May. I’ll be on a strict diet and I will be exercising three or four times a day. Sounds more like a boot camp, but surprisingly, I’m looking forward to it. One of the great things about camp when I was a kid was getting away from everything for a week and just being able to enjoy myself.
That isn’t exactly what I’ll be doing here, but I do expect to do something entirely different and very rare. I will in effect be stepping outside my life for two months, getting a chance to do healthy things and maybe getting some of the poisons out of my system.
I’ll actually be working on the ranch for about 10 hours a week, sweeping out horse barns and various other chores. I’ll be up at 6:30 most days and in bed by 10 p.m.
It will be very strange to be apart from Nicole for two months. We’re in our 18th year of marriage, and only once have we been separated for as much as one month. I will definitely miss her, and I will be eager to return home in July.
But drastic problems require drastic solutions, and this might be my last chance to get my weight — and my health — under control. I’m going to have to live into my eighties to see little Maddie graduate from college, and that’s something I definitely want.
I would also love to someday celebrate 50 years of marriage with my wife, the love of my life, and we will both have to live till almost age 93 for that to happen.
It’s very strange. I never wanted to be old; I always thought if I lived 75 years in decent health, that would be plenty for me. But not anymore. There are people I love dearly, and I want to be around as long as I can for them.
So I guess I’m going to camp.