About 20 years ago, I won an audition to play trombone in an Air Force band. I was overweight, and so I lost 60 pounds in two months to qualify for Air Force basic training. Yes, I literally lost a pound a day over the course of two months! There were several factors in my favor. First and foremost was a job waiting for me as soon as I met the physical requirements. In addition, I was playing in the Ohio Light Opera. The Ohio Light Opera is a summer lyric theater festival that houses and pays its musicians. After an initially heavy rehearsal schedule, the workload is pretty light. With food and housing taken care of, my only responsibility was to show up for rehearsals and shows. That left a LOT of free time. I walked 8 miles and worked out every morning, practiced the trombone, played shows, and spent a lot of time being hungry. Looking back, I can see that my circumstances were absolutely perfect for someone motivated to lose a lot of weight. It was surreal to step on the scale every morning and watch that number go down every morning.
I also had the benefit of a 26 year old's metabolism.
These days, as I lose weight once again, I don't have any of the benefits I enjoyed that summer with the Ohio Light Opera. My schedule is erratic as I juggle gigs, rehearsals, music engraving, lessons, and a church music job.
The biggest challenge is trying to lose weight while eating out. It's tricky, but it can be done. I eat mostly at home, but I often eat out when gigging, teaching, and working at the church. The key for me is to plan ahead so that I make good choices.
When you play gigs, particularly restaurant gigs, you usually get fed. Since a meal is often part of the payment agreement, you sometimes feel like you want get your money's worth. It's not that different from the mindset most of us have when we pay for a buffet. We want to load up that plate! Instead of searching the menu for a hefty meal, I'll go for a salad and a low calorie appetizer.
There are a couple restaurants that I visit regularly: a local Mexican place across the street from where I teach lessons, and a Blimpie near my church. The Mexican place is fairly inexpensive, and I used to order three tacos, rice, and refried beans. (And then I would leave, feeling like I'd eaten a bowling ball.) Now, I just order a couple fish tacos. My meals at Blimpie have always been healthy…except for the cookies I always ordered. Now, I skip the cookies.
So far, in spite of a crazy schedule with a lot of eating out, I've managed to lose 19 pounds. My biggest challenge this summer will be the UUMN conference in Dallas. I'll be eating on the road, staying at a hotel for four days, and meeting lots of other musicians and music directors. There will be an enormous temptation to indulge. Just as I do at home, I'll have to plan ahead, seek out restaurants with healthy foods, and be vigilant.
- 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 and have been music director at Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation since 2011.