Near my Atlanta apartment, where I live four days a week, there's a steep hill. If I want to go somewhere—to work, to the bus stop, to the excellent gastropub or market a few blocks away, I have to climb this hill.
After six months in this apartment, I thought I would have this hill licked. But it defeats me every day. I may be making a mountain (and a metaphor) out of this hill, but when I'm winded, when my hamstrings are screaming, when I lean against the light poll to gather myself at the top of the hill, it seems like a mountain.
I'm no stranger to hills. In April, I hiked 30 miles along one of the toughest sections of the Appalachian Trail in two days. Carrying a 40-pound pack, I climbed more than 4,000 feet of elevation change.
When I walk to work, it's three miles uphill (walking home is a breeze!).
But this hill bothers me. And I think I know why it has become emblematic of my weight and fitness level.
When Scott Mowbray asked me to join him in his quest to shed unwanted pounds, we joked about the last time we did this together. I was 34. Scott was not. We made a bet about who could lose more -- and did it publicly. In our mano-a-mano diet scheme, I smoked him. But this time is different. Scott will probably smoke me.
Six years ago, I was fit and fat (yes, you can be!). Now I'm just fat. And this hill reminds me of it every day. I no longer run like I used to. My body is older and slower. And being over-the-hill is just around the corner; I turn 40 in September.
Since that initial weight-loss competition, I've tried to lose weight a dozen times. I've often been successful. And then I find myself back where I started. At the bottom of the hill. When I tried losing weight at the beginning of this year -- with some goal of achieving my high school weight by the time I turned 40 (fail!) -- I got as far as the scale in my bathroom.
For this attempt, I'm not focusing on competition, bets, and male ego (what's left of mine). Instead, I'm focusing on this hill. I figure I need to lose about 20 pounds to be at a healthy weight (and just a few pounds off my high school weight) -- and it starts by getting over this one hill.