I grew up with a nickname bestowed on to me for what I imagine was due to my fondness of Fluff. I was known simply as Jon the Fat, or JTF for short. My mom argues that I was never really that fat as a kid, but nevertheless I had the nickname and the expectations that came a long with it. When I talk about expectations, I want to be clear that no one was forcing food down my throat. It was more like I played to the notion that I was supposed to eat as much as I could. Spoonfuls of Fluff, an extra bagel here or there, half a pizza . . . whatever it was, I went the extra mile to maintain my name and reputation.
Since starting this blog, there has been a fundamental shift in the interactions I have on a daily basis with family, friends, and even people at work who are semiaware of my debatably questionable use of an old Linux box. Conversations rarely revolve around food anymore. More interestingly, recently people typically talk to me about health and fitness, about running and getting in shape. I am no expert, but there is now a perceived expectation that I am more knowledgeable and an authority on the subject. Admittedly, I have done a ton of research, but nothing formal. People tell me, markedly unprovoked, about their recent accomplishments, struggles, frustrations, and ideas all around health and fitness. Quite frankly, I love it. Seeing people get excited to talk about that kind of stuff willingly has been pretty motivating. I like providing people with an outlet to talk about working out.
So how did I go from Jon the Fat to someone people see as a relatively healthy person and reasonable source of knowledge on health and fitness? Beats me—it truly does. I feel that getting in great shape is a somewhat mystifying subject matter for a lot of people. It's something about which we will always ask questions, regardless of our fitness level. We all know deep down what we have to do: eat healthy, work out, and make good decisions. Knowing that doesn't translate into actually knowing how to do it or how to put it into practice. I am kind of pissed off at Nike for coining the phrase "Just Do It," because that's really all it is. I hate using that cliché, but honestly that's really all it takes.
I have always been interested in social dynamics, the interactions between people and groups of people, and seeing such a dramatic change in a relatively short period of time (just over seven months now!) has been really very rewarding. In my own family, seeing everyone get excited to run in Boston, seeing people working hard to train for the next race in June, and talking with my brothers about the 10k and eventual half marathon has been awesome. We are no longer the family that plans two meals ahead as we are eating the first (though that will be hard to break entirely!). Now the first things we talk about are either the Buffalo Bills and how they are going to the Super Bowl this year or running / 2FNs stuff.
My parents were back in town after their vacation this weekend, and on Sunday morning we headed out for another run. My mom threw down another 5k run as part of her training program, and she ran much more strongly than the first time I ran a 5k with her in Boston. Seeing her develop in such a short period of time has been awesome. We were joking a little about what is next for her after she finishes her first official 5K, and what made me smile is that she didn't say she was going to stop after she got to her goal. What she said really showed me that a fundamental shift had occurred in what she thought about running; she said she wanted to be able to go out and run a mile any time, just because. That is a long way from where she was seven months ago, when she was texting me very excitedly about running around the block without stopping.
I wanted to give a shout-out to some people who were racing this past weekend, as quite a few people did some pretty awesome things. First, to Mark for completing his first official marathon; congrats! Second, to Amy for another half marathon, which if you remember is her second in just a few weeks. Very impressive! Third, to Sue and her family for the Philly 10 Miler! Very cool; hopefully next year I'll be joining you guys!
Have you been working out and getting in shape and noticed any change in how you think or what you talk about with people?
Also, if anyone in the Buffalo area wants to start training semiregularly let me know, I'd be more than willing to head out for some runs with friends, regardless of ability. Everyone's gotta start somewhere!
Wall of text *crits* you, sorry!
Thanks for the shout-out! It really is funny. Like you, I just recently got into running (one of my high school friends recently reminded me of how I took PE during the summer so it would be over with faster), and I truthfully did not set out to inspire people. Yesterday, I cheered on my dad as he finished his 10-K, something that he wasn’t sure about at all up until probably mile 5 of his race. And every time a friend signs up for, or finishes a first 5-K, they tell me about it. I don’t know if my non-stop running talk is pushing them to make that decision or not, but it is pretty cool to see so many friends get excited about being active.
And I don’t know too much about football…but good luck with that Buffalo Bills to the Super Bowl thing…
Send our congrats to your dad! And hey, you gotta #Billieve!
You poor, delusional, buffalo fan.
Good luck reading about giants in NYC with Tebowmania!
Truly, hope springs eternal in Western New York.
Seriously though Jon, the idea that you are singlehandedly saving our family from the spectre of obesity and sloth has become one of my most common and favorite talking points when people ask me what’s going on in my life.
And I think you get it right when you say that it’s really been about changing the conversation. I loved having everyone here in Boston in April, when we got together around an activity like the race, and spending a lot of time outside, instead of the usual “let’s fill some time until it’s time to eat again.”
Also, major grats to Mark.
Even though I complained about the miles and miles we walked in Boston, it was pretty refreshing compared to just driving to the destination we were going to, doing what we were going to do, and then driving to dinner or whatever.
Next time maybe we can find a bocce court with a more desirable field of grass =P
Ok, I don’t want to get mushy, but I had to stop reading to get a tissue so I could finish reading the print. Jono, you are doing a fantastic job, so don’t stop
anytime soon. I know how hard it is to do a blog everyday, but you can see it IS making a difference. I do have to tell you though, I still can’t walk, my thighs are so chafed. Any suggestions from the true runners out there will be appreciated. I think I could knock a few minutes off my time if I wasn’t trying to cover my flab with my shorts the last mile! (And just don’t tell me Glide, although I promise I will try it again).
I wonder if duck tape would work…. =)
I think it’s very true that words speak volumes into someone’s life. My family used to (and, excepting myself, still does) joke that my brother was the “cleanup crew” and would eat whatever “leftovers” we would hope to have. He played into the “garbage disposal” act, eating everything that wasn’t nailed down. At the time he was very active, now he lives a sedentary lifestyle. My family still tends to think of his as funny, and they allow him to serve himself a ridiculous portion, though obesity, diabetes, and hypertension run in our bloodlines.
I’m glad that you and your family have moved past the labels placed on you to a healthier lifestyle. I hope one day to do the same with mine. I read your blog and am encouraged; keep up the great work!
Thanks so very much for stopping by. Your comments mean quite a lot to me. Being the person that used to play into the cleanup crew act, I can say that it is tough to break out of, but it is very possible. Love and support go a long way, but also reinventing family time, away from food really helped me.
I wish you luck and I hope that you can help get your family to where you want to be. Thanks very much for the comment!