- Posted October 24, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
CNN Fit Nation: 2014 Triathlon Challenge
Formerly Known as Obese
Dr Sanjay Gupta, CNN Fit Nation, and the rest of the world,
My name is William Hughes and I live in Newnan, Georgia. I am a United States Air Force veteran and I am 45 years young. Over the course of the last eighteen years, I have been spit on, slapped, kicked, punched, and called every disparaging name in the book. Once I was even urinated on. As a law enforcement officer in the Metro Atlanta area, I took this treatment in stride.
June of last year, I went to my doctor for my annual physical. One by one, the nurse completed her routine initial screening procedures of me: Temperature, normal; Height: 5’11”, and weight 245 lbs. She announced my blood pressure and pulse rate were a little high as she logged them onto her sheet. The word “obese” jumped out at me as she added it in the notes section on my chart. The one word that I would never use to describe myself, now flashed like a neon sign; alone, unspoken, blaring in my face. I felt as if I had been stabbed. This one word did what all the slapping, punching, name calling, etc. had never done. It made me cry.
I guess all the years of driving a patrol car, working in an office, sipping on free soft drinks, and eating discounted fast food had finally caught up to me. I composed myself the best I could before the doctor came into the examination room. We visited but I can’t remember much. I was distracted by my recent diagnosis. However, he did mention that I needed to start exercising or there would be serious consequences down the road. To add insult to injury, my test results later diagnosed me with a “fatty liver.”
As I drove home from my doctor’s visit, I was still in shock and began exploring ideas about how I was going to lose weight. I already was a member of a gym but only used my membership 2 to 6 weeks at a time. The gym has always bored me. By the time I arrived home, my new neighbor from across the street just completed a bike ride. I thought this would be a good time to get reacquainted and asked him about his ride. He told me he’d just finished riding 20 miles within two hours and he burned approximately 1,500 calories. I was astonished. I had never accomplished a feat like that and he had my attention!
Tom further explained to me that he was training for a century ride. This ride that would be 100 miles long and it was going to take place in six weeks. Without even thinking, I was already committed. I told him that I was going to do it with him! He excitingly asked me if I had a bike and I told him, “No, but I will have one by next weekend.” I registered for my first cycling event that day.
We trained throughout the week, leaving our longer rides for the weekends. During my rides, I would often “bonk.” I would deplete every ounce of stored energy but would continue to ride. Each hill presented a new challenge and each downhill, large or small, provided a sense of an accomplishment. After every ride I completed, I was inundated with joy. I was completing goals, losing weight, and eating healthier. Little by little, I was changing for the better and feeling more comfortable in my own skin. I eventually was able to tie my shoes without losing my breath.
Before I knew it, the event was here. After a restless night’s sleep, I mounted my saddle and I embarked on this journey with my new cycling friends. Sixty miles later as we were rolling into one of the rest stops, my neighbor saw that my family was there. Knowing that I was emotionally and physically drained, he yelled, “You better not get into that car!” Tom couldn’t measure the determination in my heart. After a few well wishes, hugs, and kisses from my family, I continued on my passage. Seeing my family gave me more strength.
Finally, after thinking I would never make it, I saw the finish line where my wife and two small children were waiting for me and cheering me to the finish. The ride took 7 hours and 56 seconds to complete (nine hours if you include the time spent at the rest stops).
Since then, I have completed other smaller cycling events and accomplished other goals. Whether it was continuing to lose weight, increasing my elevation gained in a ride, cycling more miles within a week/month, or increasing my speed for certain duration. I combined my love for cycling and helping others by raising $1,200 for a Cystic Fibrosis cycling event in hopes of bringing awareness of this chronic disease and hopefully one step closer for a cure.
I first learned about the CNN Fit Nation from listening to Jeff Dauler’s big announcement on the Atlanta’s morning station Q-100. Unbeknownst to Jeff, his fear of the unknown (triathlon) inspired me to lose weight, train for my cycling event, and overcome my fears. Every day and until the end of his triathlon, I lived vicariously through Jeff and his teammates. The possibility of being a CNN Fit Nation member has been a goal ever since.
I talked about applying for the 2013 CNN Fit Nation with my family, but I wasn’t ready to step out of my “comfort zone” yet! It was a “pipe dream.” I am not a strong cyclist, nor am I a runner or swimmer. I just wanted to follow others, wishing I was there. All I have going for me is determination, something instilled in me from all of my law enforcement officer survival training.
Although I have never done a triathlon, I believe this is my time, my next chapter in my life. I’m tired of living through others. I am ready to step out of my security bubble and join others for a better me. Just thinking about applying or competing in this challenging event brings me anxiety as if I am standing at the edge of a plane’s door waiting to parachute for the first time.
Becoming a member of the Fit Nation’s six-pack would not only show my determination to better myself, but also my desire to show others what is possible. Together we will not only motivate each other, but those who have been like me, thought this goal was out of their reach. I hope to motivate and educate my fellow law enforcement officers, military veterans, and others to step out of their comfort area and create a healthier lifestyle. I just don’t want to complete in the Nautica Malibu Triathlon; I would like to set the goal of finishing within the top fifty percent of my age group. Did I just say that?
Moreover, God has blessed me late in life with a beautiful wife, two step-children, and two boys of my own. I may have very well lived longer than I have left. Unlike my father (whom I never witnessed exercising), died from lung cancer at the age of 63 while my wife was pregnant with his first grandchild. I will do everything in my power to slow down my aging process and live long enough to see my children complete college, get married, and to hold my grandchildren. I feel the only way I can accomplish this is by making healthy food choices, exercising, learning from my experiences, and with the help the experts CNN Fit Nation provides.
Furthermore, I want to document my expeditions as an iReporter for CNN so that my words and my advice will forever inspire my children and perhaps others to take risks, tackle their fears, set goals, and of course live a healthy lifestyle.
Thank you for your time and your consideration!
William Hughes, formerly labeled as “Obese”