As I lose weight and approach the 300 pound mark, I’m reminded of the fact that I’ve never been cognizant of the approach to 300 pounds (or 400 pounds for that matter) while gaining. I first topped 300 in my mid-20s. Things were tough for me as I struggled to define myself as an adult. I dropped out school the summer Jerry Garcia died on my birthday in 1995 - when I weighed somewhere in the high 200s - and by the time I bothered to weigh myself in January of 1996 I weighed 310 pounds.
By the coming summer I’d lost nearly 70 pounds. I'm glad that I caught myself before doing more damage than I did. But concerned that my weight gain was caused by the problems that were all around me, I packed my lingering discontent in the trunk of my 1989 Ford Taurus and hit the road.
I was on a mission to change my life. And when my car broke down in South Florida I decided there was no better place for me to make my change. It was in South Beach that I began exercising as part of my lifestyle, walking as a primary means of transportation and Rollerblading to and from work. I taught myself Spanish during my initial eight-month stint here, returned to school to finish my degree, and quickly as I could I returned to Miami to begin my career as a journalist.
As I advanced in my career, I shifted focus from fitness to finances, and pounds started to creep back on slowly. I never bothered to step on a scale as I ate my way through Latin America. And then by the time 9/11 stopped me in my tracks I was well on my way to ballooning past 300 once again.
In 2004, I finally weighed myself once again. 330. I almost died. For the second time in my life, I never saw that coming.
I began to work out for about a month, but when a budding relationship started to sour I once again sought food as my refuge and turned a blind eye to my exponentially expanding body. And so I lost track of time as well as pounds for another few years.
In 2008, though, I found myself curious about my weight once again after looking at a picture someone had taken of me at an unflattering angle. I tried to weigh myself on that friend’s scale, but, to my horror, I was too fat. So I went to the doctor for a checkup, and even his scale only went to 350, which I easily exceeded. So, one day, while on my way to visit my Dad to celebrate my 36th birthday, I slipped a quarter into the slot of one of those novelty scales you find in the bathroom of rest stops along the interstate. The scale read 417 pounds.
Oh my friggin’ god! You’ve got to be kidding! It’s one thing to not notice when I topped 300, I thought, but how could I not realize I’d surpassed 400 pounds? People are shocked to this day when I tell them with all honesty – I simply did not notice that 100-plus-pound weight gain. In my eyes, I looked the same at 417 as I did at 290.
I was on my way to meet family members to celebrate my birthday on the day of the 417-pound weigh-in, and we took a photo together, which will forever be my reminder of how bad things got. I look at that picture every day now to keep things in perspective. And as I’m going down, reaching that 300 mark once again, you better believe that I’m going to notice – my eyes are fixed on reality for the first time in more than a decade. And I pray they will stay this way.