When I was a teenager on a farm in Southeast Kansas, I ate like a small horse, at least that's how I remember it. Many a day came and went with me rushing home after football practice to devour dinner leftovers, as I often missed the main meal. Most of all, I remember feeling invincible. I had no fear of food (quantity-wise) and welcomed it, particularly potatoes, fried chicken, and other forms of meat. I also enjoyed pasta, particularly my mom's chicken noodle recipe. I did always have problems with type of food, something that really caused problems when I got overseas. In some ways, I still struggle with this too.
I arrived in Great Lakes, IL for US Navy boot camp at a whopping 164lbs. Yet I left at about 175lbs. Already, just by getting three solid meals a day and ironically working less than I did on the farm, I was gaining weight. I left A-School at 185 and C-School at 195. See a pattern developing? Well, hindsight is 20/20 I suppose, because I didn't see it then.
Now 13 years have passed since I was last in Great Lakes, and I'm returning to teach A-School weighing in at over 240lbs. In some ways, I am in better shape than I was even then. My body is, relatively speaking, as healthy as an ox. I've run two half marathons and an assortment of smaller races. I also competed in a swim-a-thon at the base pool, although I didn't reach the minimum goal to get a prize. My cholesterol is right at the borderline though, even though my heart rate is a cool 55 resting (I've heard that Lance Armstrong's is only 5 beats less than mine).
But I am also a big ox. I have found recently, as I crossed the 30 year old mark, that my body does not respond as quickly as it used to. I cannot lose 15lbs in a few weeks like I could once upon a time, and I find it harder to say no to food. I have failed physical readiness tests in the past, but after four years of not failing one, I'm finding myself in a precarious position.
I weigh the same I did nine months ago when I started training to run long distance. It has not been a success, although I can't begin to explain how awesome it is to cross the finish line of a half marathon. No, sports fans, there is a problem brewing under my skin, no pun intended.
I don't want to be destined to be this way. I wrote about gluttony at the start of this year in a desperate attempt to find accountability in myself and scripture, but that too has failed. I don't want to be "that chief" or "that first class" who talks about PT like it's vital to a young Sailor's career (it is) yet can't look good in uniform myself.
No, I'm not asking for sympathy. I'm just letting you know how this works. I feel an immense amount of pressure to be thin so that the Navy will look good. I understand the need for the Navy to look good. Who wants to see a bunch of fat sailors? But I am not who I used to be. I am not the young buck who can eat anything and get away with it.
The problem is that my work ethic and determination doesn't seem to translate to my waistline. How does the number 4 E6 sailor on board a US Navy cruiser struggle with weight? I'm the Sailor of the Year as well...it doesn't make sense. It just doesn't even seem right. How will I prove to my future command that I'm a good sailor...no, and excellent sailor, capable of guiding the next generation of sailors when I look like this?
It could be that you struggle with weight too. Welcome to the club. The membership is pretty steep, unfortunately. You have to pay with a career spent barely making weight every six months, and probably missing it a few times here and there. It's not a fun club, and I don't want to be president, but I guess I am, at least for a little bit.
Are you an overweight sailor unafraid to admit it? Do you have encouragement for those who struggle, like myself?