Not so long ago, I was 625 pounds. I took cholesterol and blood pressure medication, walked with a cane, and hated life and myself. As many of you know, I've been on an amazing journey, a journey to take back my life. I'm not a teacher, a doctor, nor do I have a degree or any plaques on my wall. What I do have is the experience, a plan, that helped me to regain control of my life, and I want to help you to do the same. Let's do it together. Dan Hawthorne

Monday, July 25, 2016

35 Pound Roadblock

 The slow regaining of weight; a possibility we all dread and most experience. We hear others speak of it; how sad, they say. Did you know he/she lost all that weight only to regain it back? I feel so bad for so-and-so, and they worked so hard too. And so goes the hushed conversations, spoken in tones suggesting both sadness and curiosity. 

 It's something everyone fears and most have lived. To this day, the science and the health communities scratch their heads, analyzing how and why some folks--numbers upwards of 95%--regain the weight they've worked so hard to shed.  Are they returning to old habits, is it something in the genes, in their heads?  Nobody really knows.

 I say, the why doesn't really matter. It's better to expect it, on some level, and have a plan. For it's the "what now?" that is far more important. Your next move will decide the outcome of your journey.

 Make the right one!  

 Eight months back, I had ankle surgery, repairing damage that only 625 pounds can do on a body. When it was over, I thought I would jump off that operating table and go for a nice long walk; expecting a fix-all to the damage I'd done to my body, my life.  What I got was months of casts, inactivity, boredom and finally, slowly--I repeat, slowly--therapy. 

 At the time, I was so excited to finally get up on my feet, and walk into a place that resembled a gym, that I would have happily performed ballet pirouettes--can you just see it?--as long as it lifted my spirits. Simply put, my fantasy was that I would be grunting up a sweat, pounding that treadmill, riding that bike, and throwing around some weights like a real man! I was ready! The reality was that day one produced stretching, which lead to day two of more stretching, and well, you get the picture. The pace was not to my liking. 

 This inactivity was making me feel FAT, worthless and lazy. All the momentum I'd gain in four years was waning, and to add insult to injury, the weight was slowly returning, upwards of 35 pounds and growing by the day. Looking back now, I wish I would have recognized the signs, like me resorting to my old habit of comforting myself with food, or my usual uplifting spirit plunging back into a I-Hate-Myself mode. 

 Bottom line, I had not felt this down since my last night as a 625 pound monster! I was canceling speaking engagements, not wanting folks to see me.  And to think it only took one unexpected set back to send me trucking down that road of no return!  Granted it was more than a mere hiccup in life, but reality is, left unchecked, I was marching towards the OLD Dan again, and I feared that 625 pound giant as much as I did death! 

 This was not happening!

 For all my blogging about courage, and loving one's self enough to make it all happen, expecting and overcoming hurdles, and yet I felt lost. I have all the tools, I've lived and survived the struggle and still I'm being pulled back. How? What is it? Why can't it just be over?

 Why indeed. I can't clearly answer that my friends, not even for myself.

 Maybe it's just meant to be my (our) challenge, the Achilles heel of life. Whatever it is, I can tell you this, that for every day of success, no matter the year, we must wake up every day and put on our armor! For those of us that have food addictions, suffering or recovering from obesity, our fight is never over. We must stay on guard! The Bible speaks of it; putting on your armor for God every day, to better prepare for the evil of the day. This suggests we must expect an attack! Well, I say, much like a spiritual battle, we must be prepared for that which will come against us physically, preying on our weaknesses--hopelessness that somehow leads us to food! Whatever it is that holds you back from your best, be it alcohol, drugs, you name it, we must gear up for it.  

 Friends, we have to change our way of thinking, expecting this to be over at some point is clearly a mistake. And when the threat comes, as it will, and we find our self backsliding we must have faith in our goals as hopelessness is the start of the end for anyone. We have to keep believing in our success.
 A few days ago, as I was typing a blog for TL to edit, still battling the Old me, I got an email from a young man at a local news channel in my hometown. He wanted me to come in and be part of a story on weight loss. 

 For all that I've shared with you above, I was horrified! I did NOT want to do it and I was trying to talk myself out of it; "I'm the guy who lost all that weight, and now WHAG TV wants me to appear on the screen looking like this?"  I texted Trish right away, sharing my worry, and she said, "People like you Daniel because you're real, you share truth with them, and your current situation is a huge part of the weight loss journey. People need to hear this from you, hear your struggles and successes."

 (Note: God always seems to know when to have someone speak on his behalf, doesn't he?)

 I  knew she was right, but I was still not convinced, so being the angel that she is, she challenged me to pray about it.  I did. And two hours later, I was in front of the cameras sharing my journey and the struggle. Afterwards, I had no doubt that someone needed to hear what I shared that day, and that someone might have been me! I found myself pondering my own words long after, feeling the talk the talk, and walk the walk chant all the way home. 

 It was time to man up and prove what I blog about is true and that it works; you can inspire yourself to a new beginning, be your own champion.  

 (Let's be clear: I did not say, you can do it alone. I said you alone can begin.)

 A few days ago, I had my first real workout in many months. I worked hard, as I safely as I could, on the bike and then the treadmill, even hitting the weights on my way out.  It felt good!  This space in time shall go down as yet another roadblock in my journey, one that almost took me out but did not win! It came with pins and bolts, weighing in at about thirty five pounds--but thanks be to God, I have the right people in my life and the faith to never give up on ME. 

 It takes a personal desire, a drive, and a positive village to succeed in all challenges. And I've said it over and over, and life keeps proving it to be true so it's worth repeating; it's with support and faith that we ultimately get over the bad we bring to our life. We are far more successful if we aren't alone in the struggle.  

 So what about that extra weight I've gained? 

 It will come off, as it has before, with effort and time. I'm never more aware of what it takes to endure, and to quote an Elvis tune, "I've got a lot of living to do." There is never a time to give up! Life is too precious. I want to live it healthy. And I want you to live healthy with me!

 Are you facing a roadblock or speed bump right now? If so, fine your way around it, you can do it, I will be that support system if needed. Email me, write here on the blog, I will answer. And guess what?  The Camera is on you now; it's your turn..."ACTION"



Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A Little Fear

 We all have hidden fears. And I'm not talking about a terror of heights or arachnophobia; I'm talking about an emotional quandary, one that keeps you desolate and isolated from life.

   When I was in my dark period, I had many uncertainties, elevated by the pain of my obesity. I was the King of "I'm gonna," and my fear controlled me; they gave me excuses, reason's to not do the right things at the appropriate time.

 "Dan, you can't do this or that until you lose the weight," I would tell myself, and well, what were the odds of that happening? Sound familiar? Worse yet, I believed all the lies, used them even, to hold me back, confirming their truths by hitting the very next MC-drive-thru, often twice a day, just to be sure they were set in stone. 

 I wasn't gonna do a thing, not ever. I was lost, and I was my own worst enemy.  

 Are you yours? What fears are holding you back? Is it walking in to that gym, heavy, and alone for the first time? Are you wondering what people will think, if they'll stare? Or, are you worried about food? What can you eat? What can you not eat?

 How about, dying? Are you worried about that? Now that's a fear I can get behind!

 When I talk to individuals dealing with obesity, their biggest concerns are about food and support; can I have pizza, or what if I fail, what will they think?

 It's normal to fear losing that comfort we get from both family and that friend (aka) FOOD. Honestly, I'm still concerned about food today. Recently TL (my angel) and I were shopping at a country store, looking at fresh fruit and veggies, when I glanced into the refrigerated section, and there it was, my weakness, a big jar of local dairy chocolate milk! My mouth began to water, but there were many more stops to make and the summer sun was blazing; there'd be no rich creamy goodness today. 

 This caused me a great deal of stress. I found myself obsessing about it for the remainder of the day; would it still be there when I went back? Who knew! The uncertainty was nearly debilitating, and I began to chat TL up about all sorts of topics--the sun, the chance of rain, the music on the radio, anything--to distract my mind off what I was missing, never explaining to her what this chatter was really about, because how do you explain to a person with an average relationship with food what it feels like to obsess over food itself?

 There are no words. It sounds crazy, even to me, and I live it! 

 Ironically, it's that relationship with food, or the fear of losing it, that can actually cause us to pass on what needs to be done today until tomorrow. But unlike Scarlett from "Gone with the Wind" (Yes. I pay attention now to famous literature) tomorrow is NOT another day! We are guaranteed nothing.

 The Phrase "Face your fear" rings true to me.  We must attempt to better our lives, because friends, the fear will always be there. There will always be someone saying, "Don't do this," or "You can't." So, lets take a leap of faith, and ask ourselves the "what if" questions. Like what if I do, and what if I make it? What if it works? If the answers to these questions are pleasing then there's only one option--you must try!

 I thank God everyday that I overcame my fear and walked into that fitness center at Hagerstown Community College. Imagine if hadn't? Imagine what could have happened...imagine what could have been? 

 Wait a minute, I don't have to imagine, because I did try. And I did it!

 Now it's your turn. What's holding you back? Certainly not a little fear........PEACE


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Backsliding : For Better or For Worse!

The struggle is ongoing. For many, including myself, there is never a day when the job of losing weight is just DONE, the goal perfectly met.

Never. It's a daily fight. And the raw truth is that backsliding is part of the whole experience! Why? Because people suffering from obesity have a relationship with food; emotional, intimate and personal, and daily life triggers a need that most of us struggle to control.

Some of you reading this right now may not have such a relationship, you just need to drop a few pounds--good!--but to those that view a meal as a social event, often their only social event, and can point out the best burger joint in a four town's radius without thought, then accepting such a truth is key!

I know, I am such a person. I have an unbreakable relationship with food.  I was 650 pounds!  In the last three years, I've lost 350 pounds. In the last six months, I've gained 30 pounds back and the weight continues to slowly climb.   

My story is true for many; it's the real fight for those of us whom battle obesity. The question is what will we do with this truth, do we let our relationship with food beat us or do we find a way to control it, expect it to creep back and be ready for its return? Sadly, many will remain in denial about their relationship with food, and some won't survive their first backslide. They'll accept defeat like one accepts their ancestry; if you're Irish, you're Irish, if you're obese, well, you're just obese. You can't help it!

 False. Do not pass GO.  

Have a plan, friends! Don't burry your head in the sand and start a journey without a plan for when trouble comes, because trouble will come. And that relationship can bring back those old habits, if you let it. The foods that comforted you before will call out to you, threatening your health.   

Expect it to happen. Be ready.

Whether this is your first battle or a battle you've forged before, fighting is our only choice! It's the winner's choice.  It's a survivor's choice.  

Just this morning, I was sitting alone on the couch--TL had just gone off to work--and I was thinking about the future, where I want to be and what I have to do to get there, and I looked over at the TV and saw a gentleman from a reality weight loss show, speaking about his big win and how he was now famous. My heart became fearful for this man whom seems to have missed the lesson of the journey!

What had he learned, about himself? What will happen to him when the cooks and the trainers all go home? How will he handle his first set back? Can he do it with the cameras off and only himself cheering him on?   

Overcoming obesity means preparing for a long fight, my friends. We have to do it without a million dollar prize waiting and be ready to discover many truths, about ourselves and how we got here. We have to wake up every morning and hit that gym floor, or step outside for a good walk, just move. If we/you/me really wants to achieve a healthier life, for life, we have to commit to it! Not for a few months but forever.

We have to take all the ups with the downs, recognize setbacks and see the hurdles, while still moving forward with confidence. We cannot beat ourselves up nor set unrealistic goals. We must kick our own self in the butt, foresee old habits returning and fix them when they do! We must find others that support our efforts, lift us up not down. And mostly, we must spread this message to all those suffering, that there is hope where they once believed there was none.

No one fight is the same. No one person can do it perfectly. Every day is a good day to start.