Am I destined for 42" x 30" pants?

  • Published
  • By Alton Dunham
  • 1st Special Operations Public Affairs
A few weeks ago, I visited my doctor for my yearly checkup. I felt great and it seemed like everything went well...until he unceremoniously informed me that he wanted to order a few more tests.

Uh-oh, I thought. This probably isn't good.

Although I felt as fit as a fiddle, my doctor was concerned about my weight. At 5 foot 10 inches and 180 pounds, that was the last thing I expected to be a red flag. But after reviewing my records, I noticed I had slowly been adding three to four pounds a year since I hit 30.

This definitely isn't good, I realized.

Maybe I can turn my suffering into a story though, said my inner journalist.

My doctor then rattled off a complex 40-syllable medical explanation, for my condition, but I'll refer to the Urban Dictionary because it hits home more: I'm "skinny fat."

Sure, I exercise when I can, and I try to watch what I eat...sometimes. While I'm not Brad Pitt I'm not Homer Simpson, either. Most of my peers don't think I look as out-of-shape as I am, but the one who counts - my doctor - disagreed.

He's right.

I tried to figure out where I went wrong.

First, I confused the "scale as gospel" when it came to my health. Some experts warn that I'm actually at greater risk for Type 2 diabetes, early onset of heart disease and a litany of other health problems because of my skinny-fat frame.

And even though my eyes could clearly see a bit of a potbelly, the scale indicated I was within 10 pounds or so of a "normal" weight, so I assumed I was healthy.

Not that bad of a gut for a guy in his 30's with a full time job and a family, I thought. I'll just pull my shirt out a little bit more, and I bet no one even notices.

Honestly, I didn't think terms like "heart disease," "fatty liver," or "high cholesterol" would enter my vocabulary for at least another decade. Unfortunately, I found out that these conditions aren't simply age-related; they are weight-related as well.

Even one inch on my waist makes a difference. I'd already added four inches since I was a young Army paratrooper, and I was now on pace to eclipse 200 pounds by age 40.

Other than the obvious future problem of trying to find 42" x 30" pants, I also considered my responsibility to my family, and my commitment to resiliency as an Air Force civilian.

I needed to make a lifestyle change.

I contacted the Hurlburt Field Health and Wellness Center and asked to speak to someone who could help me with this article featuring "top five tips" for skinny-fat people like myself. When I showed for my appointment, I was shocked to see that there wasn't just a single person to interview, but a group of enthusiastic fitness professionals eager to answer any question I had.

The roundtable included a nutritionist, a fitness specialist and a healthy lifestyle coach. They pointed out every component is equally necessary to obtain optimal health; without each building block, the whole system is doomed to fail.

As I engaged the team, I quickly realized that there is no miracle solution, because what is right for me may not be right for you.

The folks at the HAWC broke down many of my mistakes in less than 20 minutes: portion control, sleep, exercise, consuming the right foods and understanding my personal healthy weight and body fat.

Yet I didn't feel overwhelmed or embarrassed because they exuded a sense of teamwork and ownership in my desire to become healthy, as if we were going to do it together. I could tell I wasn't the first person to voice similar concerns and they were willing to commit to my health as much as I was.

Even though I left without my five miracle tips I could share to help readers go from skinny-fat to fit, they did reinforce one important universal take away: "You only have one body, and you have to take care of it."

I appreciated the sage advice and the Buddha-esque words (and since I have no desire to look like him, the irony wasn't lost on me one bit).

However, I set out to write five tips - so I'm going to build on what they shared with me and give you a list that I believe in:
1. Stop thinking about "normal" weight, and start thinking about what is a healthy for you.
2. Talk to your doctor.
3. Find your personal motivation for fitness.
4. Commit to a lifestyle change, and not a quick fix fad or diet.
5. Call the HAWC at 884-4292. Tell them your personal story, and get started. They are a great team to have on your side.

The first step of any journey is always the hardest, but there is no need to do it alone.

Editor's Note: The BOD POD at the base Health and Wellness Center is currently undergoing maintenance until further notice. For more information about the BOD POD contact the HAWC at 884-4292.