(Our friend Dan Glass shares the outdoors with his wife Heather. Now he shares with us how both of them overcome challenges to remain active and outside. The first part of the story, how they lost weight to better enjoy hiking, is below. Part two, which appears tomorrow, is an account of their first time rappelling.)
When I met my wife Heather in December of 2007, we were completely different people. Now that we are approaching the 7th year of our acquaintance (August 15th was our 5 year marriage anniversary), we have both transformed for what I’d like to say is mostly the better. Yes, it’s true; we’re older. I have way more white hairs on my chin than I ever thought I would, and while that aging looks sophisticated on me as a middle aged man, it means that I’m growing older, and older is not always better since I’m no silver fox. And as for Heather, I know how she feels about her white hairs; she beats them back with what’s in the Revlon box that is now sitting on our bathroom sink. They’re definitely not sophisticated when a woman isn’t even in middle aged (she’s still on the good side of 40 – me, not so much).
Gravity also has put some serious effects on us. It’s not like we were immune to weight around the middle to begin with, but in both of our times of employment trouble (my being reduced to halftime work after my graduate degree was completed at the end of 2010 and her being laid off in April of last year), we seemed to find a lot more opportunities to expand our middle with the stress and frustrations that come with not being as gainfully employed as we would like. Sure, we picked up the slack for each other to get us through these times, but it was a very tough thing, and eventually, it became necessary to get back into the routine that we once enjoyed via a new routine that we hadn’t done before. Obviously, our work schedules that we transitioned into hold us back from some of what we’d like to do, but like anyone else, we move through and do what we have to. When we were in a good place, that routine was the outdoors. In the long twisty journey of our time together, I was the “seasoned” hiker who did things like Ricketts Glen in the winter when I wasn’t hiking in the same old local spots around Berks County, or dreaming about the cross country vacations that I longed to take. She was the Ohio transplant who grew up in the flat world by Lake Erie. Originally, she came to Pennsylvania to meet a guy. He wasn’t the one, but I ended up being that person.
Over time, we came to do a lot of things that the other person in the relationship likes. She showed me Longwood Gardens, radio friendly pop music / hip hop, and Mexican food (as I pronounce my Americanized versions of them: ta-sos, burr-uh-toes, and chinchillas). I showed her way too much MLBTV, Neutral Milk Hotel /the Polphyonic Spree, and the waterfall and vista hiking guides of Scott Brown. Prior to meeting Heather, my experience with hiking waterfalls was minimal, but after her first trip to Ricketts Glen, an essential factor that she would have to enjoy if we were to stay together, we started doing other falls. I once thought all waterfalls were fairly civilized as far as trails go. Mind you, I had never been to Sullivan Run, so I didn’t know what “uncivilized” meant. However, we hiked Glen Onoko for the first time, and Heather scaled a wall and did rock shimmies and climbs to go with her root grabs. We went back on another occasion, and she did the through-the-water walk to the top as well.
As time went by, we hiked many other waterfalls and trails. She climbed the 1,000 Steps, but hated it. Nevertheless, she did it twice more since then. It seems that her husband is convincing. Well, it’s either that, or she doesn’t want to hear him pout.
Over this time, I don’t think she appreciated my discussions of mountain shape as my interests moved from waterfalls to mountain vistas, but she was a good sport through most of it. The rocks of the Standing Stone Trail out from Allensville Road were not kind to her, nor were the long climbs to the top of Clarks View, but she hiked them to appease her husband. Sometimes, marriage is like that.
Her husband in turn rewarded her with trips to a certain Italian restaurant, flowers (for the house and the garden), carte blanche on interior decorating and HGTV projects, and Kohls’ trips for clothing and jewelry and the like. Of course, there was also love, respect, and a goofy smiling face that also went with it, but yeah… one hand washes the other and sometimes, earrings are more appealing than said smile. Nevertheless, over these last years, the exercise has not always been easy, and that’s what mountain hiking is. It’s about balancing ourselves on the rocks. It’s about pushing to the top through sweat and humidity and dirt and grime and rocks and hoping that the view out from the top is clear for pictures. It’s about not falling in the water. It’s about talking to each other, holding hands, and having fun. Sometimes, it seems like more work than those last 3 things, but for the most part, I’d like to think it’s a lot of fun.
And it’s helped take me down about 35-40 pounds… depending on what day I stand on the scale. As for Heather, she’s dropped 50 pounds, some days more.. Some of this is due to walks on nice nights. Other parts of it is due to being healthy and not eating snacks. Cutting back on intake helps a lot for both of us.
I’m not a vegetable healthy guy, so I have to sweat it off more. I don’t mind that. Like Jack Black, I like to eat. Many of us do. For Heather, she was willing to kick off the pounds with a foul smelling routine of juicing in the beginning of her current push to get to her desired goal (a man doesn’t ask a woman how much the goal is). It really worked for her.
Recently, she was able to reward herself with a trip to the regular section of Kohls’ to go clothes shopping. If you’ve ever shopped in the “other” section, you understand how depressing this can be. First, it’s its own special section. Second, the styles aren’t styles. There seems to be way too much animal print, and there’s no sense of youthful or even thirty-something fashion. Just dropping to that point where things get “regular” or “normal” again seems to be a major change in so many ways. Guys don’t really understand this unless we want to be hipsters in skinny jeans and body hugging shirts with thin ties (and for as much as I enjoy Joel McHale, I don’t want to dress like him). Guy clothes are pretty much uniform. For women, this just isn’t true. Being there with her to enjoy this night that showed how much she changed over time was awesome and awe inspiring. For this, she can have whatever part of my paycheck she needs to replace the old with the new. Let the shopping spree begin!
Besides, it was the reward I promised her for getting to this place (and on that note, my dad shed a fair chunk of weight recently, which caused him to have to get all new clothes – a proposition that seems nice until the credit card bill arrives – so I didn’t want Heather to worry about this necessity).
But it took a long path to arrive at this. Some days for both of us were better than others. Obviously, weight gain is a mix of not eating right, not exercising enough, and genetics, and it goes on easier than it goes off, even if that is just ounce by ounce. Taking it off is a good thing, and people who do it are to be commended, but does that make people “heroic” for doing what they need to do? I’m not here to debate that because all weight loss and getting in shape is good. People who make positive changes are role models to me.
More importantly, I am here to say that people who do positive things also have a responsibility to inspire others. I see teachers and role models as needing to be people to help others find the ways and the means to do it. Even if they aren’t ready for it now, maybe they’ll remember the words of advice later. No matter what that change is, sometimes, it has to be tough love. It’s what I needed to hear. That said, a doctor who wants to stay in business can’t say, “Lose some weight fat boy.” However, it’s what I needed to hear. For Heather, it was all about watching someone’s juicing journey on some online video. It was all about reading the dangers of certain foods that can play havoc on certain body types. Where this could reinforce some of the failure for some people, it served to move her through. In the end, whatever it takes is the answer. But getting to that point was a long journey.
Prior to that transformation moment, at the end of 2012, my financial status went back to normal after doing a 2nd job I was never really happy with. We celebrated it by going to Jamaica. It was a fun time, but both of us were getting heavier from the stress. You can see the difference in both of our faces and what we did and didn’t want to do on that vacation. When a person lives with him or herself every day, there’s no sense of change other than what can or can’t be squeezed into regarding jean size. Of course, there’s a sense of the physical things that can and can’t be done, but yeah… the thickening of the face is just something that happens until a person chooses to reverse course.
And so we eventually found our reasons to not be those people in the year 2013. We chose to be skinnier and healthier. We’re a work in progress, but we use nature as the place to do our thing, in whole and in part. We chose to be different, and we worked at it. We have to keep working at it, or we could go back the other way, too. Positive mental commitment is what we did to get to the point where we could both go shopping for new clothes. I dropped four sizes in pants, and Heather replaced many shirts and pants already. A year of work for her (and a year and a half for me) offer a lot of positive rewards. However, when it comes to life, it’s all about being able to do the things we want to do with the bodies that we have. In the same way hikers hike their own hike, people need to live their own body place, and what that really means is can you do what you need to do with the body type that you have? For me, I was fitter and healthier and able to get into better levels of mountain shape. Heather was getting complimented by friends and coworkers. We were both more confident about our lives, although that’s a work in progress, and things just keep changing for the better. Even if sometimes, it’s at a snail’s pace, it’s still a positive pace.