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One step at a time: Get honest, real in search for healthier lifestyle

By Jack Stallard
Dec. 30, 2017 at 11:10 p.m.

Jack Stallard Wednesday, December 20, 2017. (Les Hassell/News-Journal Photo)

Editor's note: As resolutions are being considered for the new year, News-Journal Sports Editor Jack Stallard writes about his journey to lose weight and get healthier that began a year ago.

Remember that time you pulled into the quickie oil change station only for an oil change but also left with a new fuel filter, air filter and windshield wiper blades?

I can beat that.

On Dec. 30, 2016, I visited the doctor's office with a kidney infection and left with Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, a bunch of new medications and a pretty clear understanding that if I didn't make some changes, my 30th football season as a sports editor at daily newspapers in East Texas just might be my last.

I'm a pretty smart man, and it wasn't like I expected the doctor to tell me I was a fine specimen of health. But I wasn't ready to hear what amounted to a death sentence, either.

Actually, maybe I was.

Just a few days before the visit to the doctor, I told my wife and son I wanted to make some changes. I realized God had given me this body and made it a temple, and over time I had torn my temple down and built a Taco Bell. But, to be honest, I wasn't sure how seriously I would have embraced a lifestyle change had I not been slapped in the face with some pretty staggering numbers.

When I left the doctor's office that day after being told my blood pressure and cholesterol were off the charts — and instead of blood they basically found sawmill gravy running through my veins — I knew it was time to get serious.

But knowing it and doing it are two different animals.

I immediately began a fitness journey that in the last year has seen me walk more than 1,100 miles, lose 110 pounds, go from a size 9X shirt and 7X pants to a 3X in both, get the OK from my doctor to do away with all medications and basically live life again instead of just being alive.

The first thing I did was have a brutally honest chat with myself, and if you want to follow a similar path, I urge you to look in the mirror and have the same conversation.

Don't hold back. Don't be nice. Be honest and realize that unless a doctor has told you not to exercise due to medical reasons, you're just lazy. You aren't too busy, and you aren't too tired.

You simply don't want to be healthy badly enough to get off the couch and do something about it.

After having a "come to Jesus" meeting with myself, I mapped out a plan. Nothing scientific. Just common sense.

I broke up with three women in my life who have always been sweet to me, but also were leading me down a path of destruction. Goodbye Little Debbie, Betty Crocker and Marie Callender.

In fact, I did away with all sweets. I also put away the frying pan and broke out the grill. Fruits and veggies became my new burger and fries.

Mostly, though, I got my lazy carcass off the couch.

When I first started my walking routine, the trip to the end of the road and back — maybe 200 total yards — left me hurting and breathing like Secretariat coming down the homestretch.

Within a week, I was making it around the block. By the end of the month, I could do two trips around the block and had logged a total of 66 miles on foot.

I topped that in February, again in March, April and May and from June through October — the months in East Texas where it's so hot and humid it feels like we live inside someone's mouth — I never did less than 100 miles in a month.

On Thanksgiving day, I did my morning walk, visited family in the afternoon, played a little basketball and later in the evening toured Marshall's Wonderland of Lights. By the end of the day, I had walked nearly 8 miles and felt spry enough to do another trip around the block with Sarge, the most spoiled pup on the planet.

A year ago, I would have pulled a hamstring just thinking about walking 8 miles in a day.

I realize none of what I have accomplished over the last year makes me an expert on diet and fitness, but I feel good about giving a few pieces of advice.

Unless a doctor tells you to check the scale regularly, put that thing in the corner and look at it once a month. Set goals on how much weight you want to lose, and trust that if you stick with your routine, the weight will come off.

In the meantime, don't forget to enjoy the little victories along the way.

My wife bought a VW Beetle two years ago, and I told her she would never see me riding in it or driving it. I figured I might be able to get in the thing, but it would take the Jaws of Life to get me out.

I can drive it comfortably now.

I took my wife to the Texas Shakespeare Festival this past summer without worrying if I would be able to sit comfortably in the small theater seats.

I can park anywhere now without considering how far I will have to walk or worrying about someone else parking so close to my truck I can't get back in my vehicle when it's time to leave.

Little things? Not if you've spent most of your life dealing with them.

Finally, do it for you.

In the long run, yes, I'm doing this because I want to enjoy more time with the people I love (and to continue to torment those who don't like me). But if you do it for others, when it gets tough it will be easy to say, "To heck with it. They'll love me anyway," and just quit.

You have to want it more than anyone wants it for you. It won't be easy. Nothing worthwhile ever is.

But a year from now, you will be able to look in the mirror and have an entirely different conversation with yourself, and when you reach around to pat yourself on the back, you won't pull a muscle.

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