Now that’s a headline! What I didn’t include in my sensational headline is that I first gained 30 pounds teaching AP English Literature. My sad tale of weight gain started during my second year of teaching high school English.
I managed to stay fairly slim and trim my first year because I was just trying to keep up with all my new responsibilities that I forgot to overeat and not exercise. With a new sense of confidence during my second year of teaching, I looked around at all the treats that seemed to appear daily around the lunch room. There were cookies, cakes, candies, and other assorted fat-generating treats. Being the polite person that I am, I indulged. I rapidly put on 30+ pounds over the year – going from 180 pounds to a full-figured 210 lbs. And, I forgot to mention, I stopped exercising. I am a runner. I have completed marathons, half-marathons, and many other shorter races. I stopped running because I was always working or grading papers, and it was much harder running in a 200+ pound body.
My story is a common one for many English teachers; we have papers to grade, lessons to plan, professional developments to attend, and boring meetings to pretend to pay attention to without falling asleep. But every teacher knows this sad tale of woe, so I will proceed to what I bet you want to know: how did this 63 year-old AP Literature teacher lose 25+ pounds in three months while teaching a full schedule, acting as Department Chair, teaching a community college class, and consulting for College Board and NMSI. Well here are my “super-secrets” to weight loss and a happy life all in five easy to follow steps.
Step One: Desire (without a vision the teacher grows larger)
My New Year’s resolutions usually include the following: quit eating ice cream and candy, lose ten pounds,and exercise. I usually hang in there pretty well until about January 15th or until the first “cake” day of the new semester. One piece of cake leads to ten, and my resolutions are cast away with my Ding Dong wrappers.
This year I didn’t make a resolution per say, but I did have a desire to change beyond January 15th. I wanted to regain the body and mind I once possessed and desired to possess again. I understood that a 63 years old body might balk at my desire, but I was, and am, determined to change my ways.
I weighed 203ish on January 1, 2019. My desire was to end the year weighing 185 ( I am currently hovering around 175). I didn’t commit to a certain diet or exercise plan at that moment, but I did commit to fulfilling my desire of regaining my health while continuing to grow as a teacher.
My desire was strong and remains so to this day.
Step Two: Action (watching Big Bang Theory reruns while eating ice cream is not action)
Desire is the first step, but without daily action, desire will wither away quickly. My action steps include the following:
- Mornings before work, or on weekends, I plank for two minutes, complete 50 push-ups, and 100 sit-ups. These old as dirt exercises are mandatory every day. I keep track in my journal with a confirming check mark. I haven’t missed a day.
- I run three times a week or more. I didn’t start with a distance goal, but I started slow with 1-2 miles and I now run about 15 miles a week. My desire is to run about 25 miles a week (God willing and if my body holds up!). Most of my runs are on a treadmill at the gym, but I love to get outdoors as well.
- I lift weights three times a week. As I’ve aged, I noticed that my “muscles” were getting butter-like. I have never been a muscle-beach-type-a-fellow, but I was soft as a marshmallow. Weights are helping me tone my flab, even if I am the only one who notices (my wife also notices!).
- I quit eating like an out-of-control teenager. I have an addictive personality, so I quit ALL treats cold-turkey. I cut way back on breads and other food (ice cream) that went straight to my gut. I replaced these foods, with meal replacement drinks, fruits, vegetables, and plenty of protein. My “special” treat now is cottage cheese with pineapple and pretzels, but only if I have been a good boy.
- And the biggest action step has been – no treats at work, period. No cake day, no donut day, no candy bar day, no whatever makes Roy fat day. No exceptions!
Step Three: Accountability (be ready to kick your own butt when needed)
I keep a journal by my bed. I weigh myself every morning and write the number down be it up or down. I log my exercise activities, and I check off that I completed my morning routine. I keep track of my weekly totals in all areas. I am a bit compulsive in this area, but someone has to be, right? My wife is also part of my accountability system. We help each other and we encourage each other. We’ve been married over 40 years and we want to share many more years together.
Step Four: Prioritize (school stuff is not always numero uno)
I don’t care if a teacher is fresh out of college, or if a teacher is an old dog like me, there are many things in life that trump school stuff. My family and my health are prime examples. I am not suggesting school is not a priority because it is a priority, but it’s not the highest priority. Starting on January 1, 2019 I made the decision to put my health above my career. I still work incredibly hard at school, but I refuse to sacrifice my health on the altar of essay grading. My gym time and eating habits come above grading, but grading comes above watching The Big Bang Theory. It’s working, but many days I’ve had to have a real talk with myself about leaving the stack of essays for the treadmill and dumbbells. In the end, the stack waits for me to finish my workout.
Step Five: Celebrate (but be tough when things aren’t worth celebrating)
I weigh every morning. Every morning. Some days the scale goes down and some days it goes up. These are the vicissitudes of life. I feel rewarded when my weight moves south, and I moan (a little) when my weight moves north. I want to know the truth, and my scale is a truth-teller. I have learned to celebrate my successes: a new personal best running, lifting a few more pounds, or losing weight. But, when things don’t cooperate with my plan and my weight temporarily moves in the wrong direction, I don’t hang my head and quit. I may hang my head and curse, but I accept the reality of the moment and move on with my plan. Yes, some days I whine, but because my desire is to control my weight and be the healthiest version of myself possible, I move toward my ultimate desire: to be a healthy person.
Well, there you have it.
Easy, right? No!
Not easy, but doable. Doable, but your time frame may be longer or shorter than mine. We are all different and we are all on different paths in life. But the one thing I am pretty sure about is we all want to be healthy while teaching English. We want to be healthy for our families, our students, and most importantly, ourselves.
Teaching is hard. We teach, council, cajole, listen, plead, learn, pray, and that’s just Monday. We teach because we want the best for our students and we understand that we are shaping the future ever day. In order to be at our best, we must care for ourselves as we care for our students.
My next challenge: keeping the weight off and running, running, running until the last bell rings.