I’m beyond thrilled to have Wade Rouse guest post here at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet today. I first became aware of Wade when I attended the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop in 2010. He taught the Three H's: Humor, heartbreak and honesty workshop, which I enjoyed so much that I immediately reserved his first book, America’s Boy, at the library when I got home. Loved it!
So why have Wade guest post on a healthy recipe and lifestyle blog? Wade used to be overweight. Well, more like a potential candidate for The Biggest Loser. Hard to believe since he’s so slim and fit these days and can wear tight jeans and t-shirts without offending those folks on What Not to Wear.
I’ll let Wade tell all about you about his weight loss journey and how he found happiness. He’s also included an excerpt from America’s Boy, about getting in shape and losing weight. If you’re going from fat to fit and need some weight loss and fitness inspiration, Wade’s your guy.
If you’d like to learn more about Wade, check out his website, WadeRouse.com and his writer’s workshop WadesWriters.com. He also has a new book out, It's All Relative: Two Families, Three Dogs, 34 Holidays, and 50 Boxes of Wine (A Memoir). You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter.
Audrey Hepburn Wrists
By Wade Rouse
I grew up in a family that had tiny wrists.
Petite wrists. Hand model wrists. Audrey Hepburn wrists.
It was something that didn’t strike me until I hit 30. I was 5’7”, 260 pounds, and was home visiting my family. My mother had made her Ozarks specialty: Fried chicken, French fries, mashed potatoes with chicken-fried gravy.
Notice the key word? Fried.
I was inhaling my third piece of fried chicken – a leg, if I remember correctly – when I saw that my parents, who had always been thin, were finished. Their hands were crossed on the table. I looked at that bony chicken leg. And then I looked at my wrist. It was the only tiny thing on my body. And then I studied my parents’ wrists.
We were not a fat family.
Food had always been my comfort. And my mother just wanted to comfort me.
When I was 13, my older brother was killed, just a month after graduating high school. I made the conscious decision to bury my sexuality along with my brother that summer day, because I could not bear to see my parents experience another day of grief.
Food became my baby blanket, my protection, my everything. Since I felt as if my life – my chance at ever being happy – were over, I buried myself in food. Being heavy isolated me from social activity, from girls, from boys, from the world.
I loved Cap’n Crunch with Crunchberries, Count Chocula and Frankenberry, iced Pop Tarts, Hostess fruit pies, Snickers, Cherry Mashes, grape, strawberry and orange Nehi soda, root beer floats, frozen pizzas, chips and French onion dip, Funyons, Little Debbies, Jeno’s Pizza Rolls. I would usually eat one from each category every single day.
Not exactly a replica of the FDA food pyramid.
By the time I went to college and joined a fraternity, I added beer and midnight Domino’s to the mix.
But I didn’t care.
No one would ever know I was gay.
Yet, everyone knew I was miserable.
I remember – after decades of burying my pain in food, after that fried chicken dinner – my mother turning to me, and grabbing me, as I helped her wash the dishes. “You deserve to be happy, Wade! I’m not happy, if you’re not happy. And we haven’t been for a long, long time.”
I wept my entire drive home to St. Louis, but it marked the first time I didn’t stop to buy a bag of Funyons and a Snickers to eat on the way back.
When I got home that night, I stood in front of my bathroom mirror, studying my body.
Who was I? Where is he in here? This is not Wade. Why didn’t I deserve happiness?
I sat down on my couch, ready to eat a bag of Cheetos out of depression, when a Nordictrac infomercial happened to pop on. For some reason, I looked at the lean, fit body on the TV, and thought: Why can’t that be me? I got up and ordered one immediately.
After one week, I lost a pound. And then another.
But, more importantly, something deeper, more weighty than the scale registered: I realized for once that the physical is intimately intertwined to the spiritual and emotional. To be happy, I had to be healthy, inside and out.
So, I confronted my deepest, darkest demon, and I came out. It was the hardest moment of my life. My whole life I had feared that everyone I loved would reject me simply for being who I was. I believed I would be abandoned and left alone. I let fear rule my life. And that is why I ate.
The journey wasn’t easy, but it was necessary. I learned to live rather than die a little more every day. And I learned my fears weren’t totally reality. Eventually, I was embraced. I was loved. I was open, and whole. I was, for once, mentally, emotionally, spiritually happy.
And the physical followed in short time.
The Nordictrac turned to walking, which turned to running, which turned into a gym membership, which turned into healthy eating. When you work hard to be fit, you don’t sabotage it with bad food. You don’t want to sabotage it with bad food. It’s the same way when you are mentally and spiritually healthy: You don’t sabotage yourself with bad decisions.
I became a different person. I found love (a partner now of 15 years). I followed my passion, quitting my job and becoming a fulltime (and bestselling) author. I have never been happier. As my mother would tell me: “I lost one son, and I lost my other for a very long time. What a blessing it has been to see him finally blossom.”
I urge anyone battling their weight to look at their inside, first and foremost, before their outside. There you will find your answer.
As a bestselling author and occasional trainer, I tell everyone that it’s OK to be scared – of life’s challenges and obstacles, of love, of losing, of heartbreak, of the gym – but it’s not OK to be afraid, to let that fear define you.
My motto has become the following: “What would you do if you could not fail?”
Remember that … and then close your eyes, jump off that bridge, and you will fly toward your own happiness.
I can still remember the moment I finished my first marathon, finishing in 3:28:38.
My mom was waiting for me at the finish line with roses, a kiss and tears in her eyes. “You made it!” she told me.
And that, truly, said it all.
“Go-Going with the Go-Gos”
An excerpt from Rouse’s first memoir, America’s Boy
When you’re as fat as I am, it takes people a very long time to notice and then acknowledge that you’ve lost weight. 20 pounds off my total body weight is a lot like asking people to notice that Tammy Faye is trying out a new eyeliner. People also fear that they will jinx you by saying something too early in the weight-loss process, that, at any moment, they might round the corner at work and find you eating a jelly donut, the pressure just too much to take.
I pedal my ass off on my Nordictrac every night after work, listening to the entire front side of the Go-Gos, which lasts exactly 23 minutes. After a few months, I can tell I am peaking, so I decide to put man over machine. I take to the streets, speed walking rather slowly around my neighborhood. My speed and endurance quickly pick up, and I am jogging two miles, then three, then five. I run at the local park and go an hour. I am good at this, I think. The inner peace I find running alone – finally coming to peace with myself – is inspirational. It will culminate in the completion of a marathon, my running, for once, actually having a finite ending point.
For the first time, the pieces in my life feel connected: the mental and physical, the emotional and the spiritual. Everything clicks. I do not want to eat poorly anymore. I find comfort in exercise and not food. I have in sight the most important goal of my life: to get healthy on the outside and the inside.
Most importantly, I have outed myself to myself. I am amazed that it took three decades, but I don’t care anymore. It’s about tomorrow and the next day and the future. For once, it’s not about the past. Each day is a step closer to my own self. This motivates me to work harder. I go to the doctor, I read books on nutrition and exercise, inhaling them like I used to inhale Cherry Mashes.
Once I have come to terms with myself, I feel an inner spirituality spark in me, an inner light shine that I have never felt before. This sounds like hokem, I know, but I finally feel OK about who I am. And this serves as the driving force to get in shape – I have nothing left to hide. I must become comfortable being “naked,” inside and out.