One of my favorite pastimes, at least in recent years, is walking. I'm sure some of you have seen me walking up and down the streets of Sidney as I make my way to the county courthouse, city hall, public schools and other stops as I "beat the bushes" for potential leads.
If I don't have to drive my truck, I don't. Which is probably why I always have the best parking space outside my apartment, come to think of it.
I even try to enter walking events when I can, such as the "Walk Across Texas" competition I had entered before moving to Nebraska. That competition challenged teams of eight to walk the length of the Lone Star State, or about 830 miles, during a two-month period.
My team, the "Jim Wells County Incredibles," finished in seventh place with 1,547 miles, with me personally accounting for 323 of those miles.
I would never describe myself as an athlete, but I do love participating in mild exercise, even if that means just walking or the occasional yoga stretching.
But that wasn't always the case. In fact, calling me "sedentary" would have been an understatement.
A Life of Leisure
From the day that I graduated from my hometown high school in Texas way back in 1999, I had let myself go. What was once a youthful, if slightly overweight, physique had digressed into a Jello-like substance, malleable to the touch.
The change was subtle, at least to my eyes. For a fifteen-year period I ate what I wanted when I wanted, did little in the way of exercise and ignored doctor's advice to take better care of myself.
For fifteen years, I was a slug. A well-fed slug, but a slug nonetheless.
Even when the doctor informed me in 2011 that I had developed Type 2 Diabetes, I did little to change the way I lived. I told myself, "Hey, I'm barely 30 years old. I have plenty of time before I need to start worrying."
In late 2014, I fell on some hard times. Things weren't going well for me, both personally and professionally, and I started thinking about the way I was living my life. But in spite of my best efforts, as well as facing an uncertain future, there were many things that were out of my hands and that I could not control.
However, my physical health was something I could control. I just needed to make the effort.
Put the Cookie Down
I figured that taking care of my diabetes was a smart first step, so I began removing unnecessary sugars from my diet. I stopped buying cookies, candies and other sweets, and transitioned from regular sodas to the diet variety.
I switched one meal per day, usually lunch, to a salad, and cut the portion sizes down on my other meals. In those initial weeks, I would constantly think about food, and how I wasn't eating as much.
To put it mildly, I was hungry. Always, and often.
For motivation, I bought myself a small scale. I remember the first time I stepped on it and saw the number "258" staring back at me.
"Could be worse," I thought. "It's not '260.'"
It was after dinner that night. That was the clincher.
I continued to refine my diet, using information I learned in diabetes classes through the local extension office that taught me the basics in reading labels and identifying hidden sugars.
That was also when I began walking, trying to do at least a couple of miles every day. It was difficult at first, but I found that I always felt better afterwards.
By the end of 2014, I was down to 220 lbs. and set two goals for myself for the new year. First, I wanted to get under 200 lbs. before June. Then, by the end of the year, I aimed to be back to my old high school weight of 180 lbs.
Ahead of the Curve
For the first couple of months of 2015, I continued to refine my diet. I was no longer thinking about food all of the time. I found that allowing myself the occasional "cheat meal" kept me from seeing my diet as a burden.
I also increased the distance that I was walking, and was soon averaging about five miles a day. It surprised me how much I began to enjoy my walks, especially when I pushed myself enough to break a sweat.
By early March, I was already at my first goal of 200 lbs., and by the end of May, not even halfway through the year, I was at 175 lbs.
I was at a crossroads now. In five months, I had already hit both of my fitness goals and started to worry that I would soon abandon my diet. I needed to set a new goal for myself.
I never expected what that next goal would be, however. One that surprised not only myself, but also friends, family and even complete strangers.
The summer of 2015 soon became my summer of yoga.
In my next column, I will explain the circumstances that led to this unexpected venture, as well as how my first yoga session went.