It all started with a revelation in the Puerto Rican rainforest this past January. I was hiking with a group of writers from Vermont College of Fine Arts, threading through the lush green trails that crisscrossed the east side of El Yunque. With walking sticks in hand, we made our way as the bright, morning Caribbean sun filtered through the palms in lacy patterns, and birdsong trilled overhead. Sounds idyllic, doesn’t it? Well, I wouldn’t know. I was too busy huffing and puffing, staring at the few feet of stone-strewn ground ahead, praying that the guide would call for a rest break soon.
At a certain point as I trailed behind the group, I stopped to catch my breath, hands on my chubby knees, and looked up to see my friend and colleague who suffers from MS two miles ahead, waiting for my sorry ass. Ashamed, I hauled my 215-pound body along the trail, focusing only on the next step, one step at a time, trying not to cry from exhaustion and humiliation.
I’m not sure how I finished the hike, it’s all a blur, but I did, and that night, as I lay in bed with twin ice packs on my arthritic knees, tears pouring down my face from the pain, I realized I was too young to feel so damn old. Not to mention that the week before we had left Vermont for the island, I had been diagnosed as pre-diabetic. I snored so loudly that my husband sometimes had to retreat to the couch and I couldn’t share a hotel room with anyone on the trip. And, worst of all, sometimes I woke up choking and gasping for air from sleep apnea. The situation was starting to scare me. Really scare me, like zombies and spiders scare me. But it was then, that night in that eco-lodge twin bed that I decided: Next year, when I returned with the next group of students, just weeks before my 50th birthday, I was going to meet that milestone with 65 fewer pounds on my body.
Today, eight months later, I’m closer to keeping that commitment than I ever imagined I could be, and I’m more than halfway to my goal. So why start blogging about weight loss now? Well, I’ve made promises like this before. I can’t even tell you how many times. How could I be certain that in that moment in Naguabo, Puerto Rico, I’d actually hit bottom with my eating and weight gain? That something really had shifted? And if I embarked and then failed, as I had so many times before, how could I do so in front of so many people? But from the day I got back to Vermont—January 10, 2012—the process of transformation began.