FS - Mike Mercer - That Elusive 50th Pound!

I’m pretty sure that I said in an earlier post that I tipped the scales at 237 pounds when I first walked into Aim High. That first night on the floor was rough one for me. It wasn’t a particularly strenuous workout, but I sincerely struggled with the jumping jacks during the warm up. I had no spring; I was sensitive about impact; and i just had a lot on board to move up and down. Jumping Jacks…are you kidding me? I used to be able to dunk a mini-basketball (not a huge fete, but quite a fall-off). For the sake of before/after contrast, Cyrus says I landed a 540 several times the other night. I’ll take his word for it, though, I’m sure it wasn’t pretty.

How Did I get There?
I wasn’t completely inactive before coming to Aim High. In fact, I had been working out, off and on, for a couple of years - mostly lifting weights and doing some running. Lack of consistency, lots of travel, and a growing affection for food were sabotaging my efforts.

The thing is, this was never going to happen to me. I was the skinniest kid ever. I don’t think I topped 150 when I graduated from high school. In the 9th grade, I grew from 5’6” to my current height at 6’1”. All that did was further stretch me out. Through college, I did everything I could to gain weight. I lifted weights, ate big, got reasonably strong, but never held out hope of hitting the 200 pound mark.

I was at 172 when I got married. That was January of 1996. Over the next 10 years I did eventually find my way to 200 and slightly beyond. This was aided by multiple youth retreats per year where staff would medicate on boxes of cereal late at night after the campers had gone to bed. Through those years Cap’n Crunch became my drug of choice. When my primary vice wasn’t available, Lucky Charms or Golden Grahams would do the trick. Even thinking about them now makes me feel good, though they don’t seem to taste near as good anymore.

Then the big leap: It came after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. I blame FEMA for the next 30 pounds! Not kidding!

Shortly after Katrina destroyed hundreds of miles of the Gulf Coast, I was asked to lead a relief and rebuilding operation in East Biloxi, Mississippi. East Biloxi is a historic neighborhood that, before the storm, looked almost as it did before and during the Civil Rights Movement. In fact, It still boasted most of the same homeowners. People who were led by Dr. Gilbert Mason, Sr. (Mississippi Civil Rights Leader and famous for leading the Biloxi Wade-Ins - See more at this link) and marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We had the sincere privilege of rebuilding a number of their homes, stabilizing Dr. Mason’s medical office, and serving the aging, disabled, and widowed, all for whom East Biloxi had been home for decades.

Early in the effort we were housed by FEMA, an agency that can make a fully functional camp for certified volunteers magically appear, anywhere, within 24 hours. These set-ups are complete with laundry service (where they wash AND fold your clothes), medical facilities, designated sleeping quarters (with air conditioning), showers, toilets, internet cafe’s, logistical support, AND FOOD SERVICE. They actually reach out to the Bureau of Land Management or the U.S. Forestry Service who have standing contracts with all of the services needed to set up and run a camp. Effectively, these are fire camps, identical to the ones that assist firefighters in the event of a forest fire. Significant to my journey is that a fire camp food service contractor is REQUIRED, by contract, to provide firefighters 12,000 calories per day. 12,000 calories per day!

The thing is, you don’t even know you’re eating that many calories; you just know the food is really good and feel so well taken care of. It’s t-bone steak one night, bbq chicken the next night, ribs the night after that. This on top of a breakfast where they must be cooking the bacon in butter and hiding it in every other food item provided before sending you out the door with a ten-pound lunch. My problem: I wasn’t working the field; I was spending my days at a desk, in meetings, or behind the wheel of a car. I was THAT guy. I wasn’t doing a lot of the clean-up or stabilization work. I wasn’t running a chain saw or demolishing houses. Suffice it to say, even if I wasn’t eating every calorie, I was burning hardly any of the 12,000 provided.

I would tend to travel for a week at a time. Every time I came home I would be five pounds heavier. It happened fast. And once the weight was there, it became a familiar friend that never wanted to leave.

Some of the Changes
I’m not a big self-discipline guy. Any change in my life is usually motivated by love or desire. I’ll share one of my major acts of kindness in a later post. Ahead of sharing it, I can say, with authority, that greater discipline has nothing to do with the big change in me that is coming through the challenge. Only love.

I found something that I loved at Aim High which was the first piece in a series of lifestyle changes; changes that have been a marathon, not a sprint. As love goes, I’ve certainly found a love for the martial arts. More, I love all of the people at Aim High, staff and students alike. You’ve all become my place of peace for this station of my life.

So I wanted to lose 50 pounds - or in practical terms, about a Jae Jae or so. In my first run through with the color belts, I lost 38. I saw 199 for a day and then it ran away and hid. Inconsistency in diet and schedule, which I wasn’t managing well at the time, allowed for about 27 of those pounds to find their way back home, welcome or not. Squatters! I was pretty discouraged.

Then the big changes

In January of 2013 Kymra eliminated sugar from our house. It wasn’t a 100% ban, but it was a good 90% ban with the remaining 10% on probation. No foods with high fructose corn syrup, no refined sugar, and, as much as possible, no manufactured foods (The Cap’n and his buddies got the boot!). In June of 2013 we took it a step further with a very specific eating plan that cut out most carbs altogether but required that we eat them in abundance one night a week (Even the Cap’n was allowed in the house once a week!). We had great success with this and still maintain it at some level.

Last, you’ve all helped me get in shape - better shape than I’ve been in…in forever. I was telling Danny that when I was running before, I had a 5k barrier that I just couldn’t break through. I just couldn’t train to run any farther and didn’t quite understand it. Now, that barrier is gone. I was down at the beach last week and went out for the first actual run that I’ve done in over a year. I ran nearly five miles and could have run more. That is progress that has solely come from working out with all of you. So when I say, “Thank you for the work out,” I’m sincerely thankful.

And the Elusive 50th Pound
It’s killing me. Actually, its the elusive half-pound. I’ve made it down to 187.5 but the last half-pound is being held hostage by something. I know that it will come off but patience is not in my wheelhouse of strengths.

Goals Beyond this Mark
I might lose a little more, only because I have a body fat percentage goal…and I want to see my abs. I’ve never met them before. Beyond that, I have measurement goals which may actually mean weight gain.

In the meantime, I’m accomplishing something else. One of my wife’s favorite things is thrift store shopping. I’m in constant need of new clothing, so Goodwill is getting frequented and everyone is happy. I’m going to stake the claim that the latter is helping me with my other big goal: A black belt in marriage!

Much love,

Posted on June 28, 2014 .