This time I’m serious!
By Steve Carr
As David Thomas describes it, he’s taking his “third trip down Weight Watchers Lane.”
The difference is, “this time I’m serious,” he said. “I originally joined in the 80s and lost about 30 or 35 pounds, then I joined again before the turn of the century, in the late 1990s, and lost about 50 pounds while on the program for about a year. That seems to be my staying power, about a year or 18 months.”
What’s changed? His life.
At 67, “I’m serious about it because of my age, my weight and my disability have created challenges that I felt if I addressed, I might be able to extend my expiration date on this planet by a few years.”
He moved to Tucson’s Oro Valley about a year ago from Detroit after retiring from a career that mostly focused on veteran’s issues and services, including with the Department of Veterans Affairs. During a short stint in a Marine advance-infantry unit in the Vietnam War, a land mine explosion cost him both legs.
“I use a manual wheelchair for mobility and that’s caused a lot of arthritis in my shoulders which impacts how much and the types of exercises I can do, so it kind of limits what I can do without pain,” he explained.
So does his weight, which was up to 320 pounds before losing 75 since last June. His goal is to get down to 200.
“This time he’s sticking with it.”
“I have no choice over my disability, but I do have a choice over my weight,” he said. So, he made a choice, and this time he’s sticking with it.
“I only have myself to rely on,” he said. “I live alone and whether I do something or not, I can only hold myself accountable. Most of the people I know on Weight Watchers are supportive, from a friendly neighbor point of view versus your grandma saying something like you’re too skinny so start eating! Obviously, that’s not my problem.”
He’s addressing the problem through a combination of meetings and activity that fits his lifestyle. “I do the best I can with what I’m able to do. I’m not a person who goes to the gym, but I do yoga once a week, some core conditioning and stretching 20 minutes a day every day and other activities I can tolerate,” he said.
He gleans what he needs from the meetings, which he says are “kind of funky. That’s just my opinion. I do go and I do enjoy them, but I compare it to going to a business conference and attending a training session. Maybe you’re there for three or four days, but how useful is it other than for networking? And then you go to the training session and get one or two nuggets that pay for the whole trip. Same is true for the meetings.”
“I do the best I can with what I’m able to do.”
“I go to the meetings and listen,” he said. “There are times when someone has an insight you don’t have and explains it. Maybe you knew it, but it didn’t register, and all of a sudden it clicks: Now I Get It!”
He uses the Weight Watchers nuggets as tools for his own advantage and to share with others as a Weight Watchers receptionist.
“People ask me about the points. I explain that those are the guardrails on the road. You can go down the road 35 miles an hour or 90 miles an hour. The faster you go, the more reckless you can become, and you bounce off the guardrails and stay in the lane. I see it as a safety net that keeps me on the straight and narrow.”
He’ll take that one step further after training in early June to become a leader, making him one of the very few male leaders.
“We want to live our life and be treated like everyone else.”
“As a leader, you can share insights and knowledge,” he said. “I’m at an age now where I don’t have to prove anything to anybody else. I choose to do these things to share knowledge and experience to help out other people.”
When asked if his disability might serve as additional inspiration, he’s quick to point out that “if you talk to disabled people, none of us want to be role models. We want to live our life and be treated like everyone else. If others draw inspiration, more power to them.”
He said that’s why he doesn’t have a lot of ‘before’ pictures.
“I’ve been sensitive about showing my disability. It’s not that I’m ashamed of it, but it’s been my experience that people look at the disability and look at the wheelchair and they are afraid because they see themselves sitting in that chair.”
Today, “I’m more comfortable in my skin and have become much more relaxed.” More nuggets he will, no doubt, be happy to share.