I've had weight issues ever since college. I was active through high school, and simply being a teenager was enough to keep weight off. When I was a freshman in college, the cafeteria at my dorm had all you can eat soft serve ice cream. Ice cream is my biggest weakness, and I gained much more than my "freshman 20."
Since college, my weight has been up and down…mostly up, but sometimes down. Before my last year in college, I decided to do something about my weight. I began running and lifting weights during summer break, and I was down to 210 pounds and looking pretty good by the time the fall semester began. I continued lifting weights and exercising through my short career as a teacher, got into bodybuilding, and was even considering entering an amateur bodybuilding contest. (For those of you who haven't met me in person, I'm a tall man with a large frame. On most guys, 210 is overweight, but on me it looks just right.)
After a short, unsuccessful teaching career, I went to grad school at Kent State University for a master's in trombone performance. During this time, I started gaining weight. I was so into practicing, performing, and studying, that I neglected to exercise, and soon I was buying bigger pants. It also didn't help that within walking distance of the school there was a Taco Bell, a pizza place, a Chinese restaurant, a Denny's, and a Ground Round!
A few years after that, I lost weight again after winning the Air Force band audition. I had to lose 60 pounds to be qualified to enter basic training. I was playing in the Ohio Light Opera at the time. The OLO is a summer music job. I played trombone in the pit orchestra. It was an easy schedule, and my mornings were free. To lose weight for the Air Force, I walked and walked and walked. I walked 8 miles every morning, rain or shine. By the end of the summer, I had lost 70 pounds, I was running, and I was one of the fittest recruits at basic training. There were two main motivators that helped me lose weight that summer. 1) I had a good job waiting for me as soon as I could shed the pounds. 2) There was a very pretty oboe player named Andrea Gullickson who walked with me every morning. Guys, if you had Andrea waiting for you at the tennis courts every morning, you would've been walking, too! I've always regretted not pursuing that relationship, but hey, what can you do?
I was very fit in the Air Force, partially because I had to stay below a certain weight, but mostly because I discovered that I liked running. Most people will only run if they're trying to catch a bus or they're being chased by a tiger. I ran because I enjoyed it. I entered several races and eventually clocked some decent times. My personal best for a 5K was 19:30…not world class, but certainly not slow.
After the Air Force, I ballooned again. Once more, I stopped exercising, and the weight crept up and up. I lived in Chicago for a few years. Although I gained a lot of weight, it never got totally out of hand, because I walked everywhere in Chicago. I didn't need a car. I could walk or take a train to anywhere I needed to go. I met Katherine through a mutual friend while living in Chicago. We were soon married, and I moved to Dayton to be with her. Suddenly I was driving everywhere again, and I started gaining more weight. We moved to Atlanta, and I kept gaining.
Katherine divorced me a few years ago, and I went on the "divorce diet." I did pretty well, cycling and walking. At one point I had even started running, but I think that was my downfall. I was trying to recapture my glory days of running in the Air Force, and I soon started running more and more, pushing myself too much. I caught a bad cold and stopped exercising for a week because I was too tired.
After I recovered from my cold, I lost the motivation to exercise again, which is too bad. I had lost 70 pounds and was nearing my target weight. So here I am again, obese and 43 years old. Today, this very day, I've decided to lose the weight once again. Today I saw a man in the grocery store who was so fat that he needed a motorized cart to get around. Watching him at the checkout line, I realized this could be me in another 10 years. I have back problems, and in the past few months, my knees have progressively been getting worse. I don't want to end up motoring my way around the grocery store or dropping dead with a heart attack before I'm 50. I don't feel I'm being overly dramatic when I tell you that I've been digging my own grave with a fork and spoon.
It's time to fix this problem once and for all, starting today. The most embarrassing thing is that I've known how to lose and maintain weight all along. I've been into both bodybuilding and running, and at one time I was a licensed personal trainer, so I know all the steps I need to take. I just haven't been doing anything about it. This will start with a better diet…in with the meats, veggies, fruits, and water, and out with the Ben and Jerry's and chips. (I'll miss you, Ben and Jerry.) Time to start taking that daily walk again. Fortunately, humans are designed for distance walking, and even a fat dude like me can walk.
I have two main motivators for losing weight, and I'm planning on occasionally reporting my progress in this blog as an additional motivator. The first motivator is health. I'm 43 years old, and I'd like to spend at least another 43 years happily making music. The second motivator is not, unfortunately, a pretty oboe player waiting for me near the tennis courts every morning. The second motivator is my new music career. It's a sad fact that many people listen with their eyes. Think about all the attractive pop stars with questionable talent and model looks…Britney Spears, for example, whose initials just happen to be B.S. Looking good won't make me a better musician, but it'll make me more attractive to potential clients and fans.
So there it is. Once again, it's time to literally walk my ass off!
- Tom Godfrey
- Atlanta, GA, United States
- When I suffered a lip injury that ended my career as a classical trombonist, I thought my life as a musician was finished, but I fell in love with music all over again when Santa gave me a guitar for Christmas in 2003. Even as I was struggling with my first chords, I was planning a new performance career. As a trombonist, I performed with the Heritage of America Band at Langley Air Force Base, the Ohio Light Opera, and in pick-up bands for touring acts that included Rosemary Clooney, George Burns, and the Manhattan Transfer. Reborn as a jazz guitarist, I sing and play my own solo arrangements of jazz classics, am half of the Godfrey and Guy duo, and hold the guitar chair in the Sentimental Journey Orchestra. I have been a freelance music copyist since 1995, served as Director of Music at Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation from 2011 to 2017, and currently serve as Contemporary Band Director at the same congregation.