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Dead Man Walking
Setting Out for The Promised Land
By Bill E. Branscum   ©2001

On September 24, 2001, I weighed 210 lbs, my blood pressure was "through the roof" at 203/143 and my resting heart rate of 75 beats per minute was a pretty good indicator that even while "resting," my heart was working much too hard. I was a cardiac disaster waiting to happen. As they say in the prison system, I was a "Dead Man Walking."

A "Presidential Pardon" was out of the question, so I set about the business of orchestrating my own reprieve. I started the Body-for-LIFE "Challenge" and began trying to undo a lifetime of self-inflicted harm. One thing registrants are required to do in order to enter the "Challenge" is take their "before" pictures, front and back. That was pretty painful for me.

On September 27, 2001, the Body-for-LIFE boxes arrived. It only took a few days to get them, but I had been a little short on funds so I was late in ordering them. I was a bit dismayed to see that they had sent me several things I had not ordered, but the invoice revealed that both of the videos, the insulated cooler, the Journal and other things were included at no charge.

None of it was "cheap junk" either. Considering that hundreds of thousands of people compete, this company must spend a fortune on the things they "just throw in." The videos were inspiring and the insulated cooler bag was very well made. The Journal is a really "slick" publication that cost major money to produce. Everything these people do seems "First Class."

As I unpacked the boxes, it hit me that I had spent $500 on "stuff" - I have bought other fat loss "stuff" in the past but nobody ever convinced me to spend this kind of money. Color me a paranoid skeptic, but impressed as I was, I still couldn't help wondering . . . . you know?

If you're reading this, if you've bought into the various schemes, dreams, and other weight loss nonsense out there, I'll bet you know exactly what I was wondering.

Remember the "Chromium" thing - that garbage was expensive, but I'd have done better to lick the bumper of a '57 Chevy. As far as that goes, if I had the money my family has spent on weight loss "stuff" over the years, I could buy a cherry '57 Chevy! (Born in 1957, it's one of my life's unrealized dreams) You ever see American Graffitti . . . sorry, lost in the reverie - where was I?

Anyway, bear in mind that I ordered this "stuff" a little late - it arrived three days into my program. You cannot imagine how a 45 year old guy in my condition feels after three days of this BfL regimen. "Aerobic Solution?" What a marvelously pleasant way to say, "torture." I am an articulate guy, but words like wretched, old, depressed, down, miserable, pain . . . they just don't begin to express it.

Sometimes you can get all pumped up and then have it vanish. It's like running out of ammunition in the middle of a gunfight; the emotional rush evaporates. "Bang, Bang, Click" - and you can feel it when everything inside you runs out thru the soles of your feet.

There I was, sitting in my home office, with all this stuff on my floor, having a "moment" - a REALLY "bad hair day." All of a sudden, it struck me as funny. I have always enjoyed a wonderful ability to laugh at myself - I picked all my new "stuff" up and set it up so I could forever memorialize the moment on film.

It was a very bad day. I hurt all over and I felt pretty damn ridiculous sitting on the floor surrounded by my "stuff" having just shaved off all the hair that had covered my chest and stomach for thirty years. They say you don't have to, but look at those who've won. I felt as absurd as I looked - well, maybe not that bad!
The Newsweek, dated September 24, 2001, on the wall proves the date but I may one day claim that the fat guy is a homeless person I found in a dumpster who just happens to look a lot like me!

All kidding aside, sometimes, it's best not to allow yourself any illusions. The fact is, physically, I was a mess, but at least I was not yet dead. Frankly, I consider myself fortunate to have recognized that I was in a fight for my life while there was time to win it.

Having made up my mind to lose weight and get back in shape, that's a battle I know I will win; however, winning the BfL Challenge promises to be a lot more difficult. If you research those who have won the Challenge, you will note that they are all in great shape - this isn't a "weight loss" contest per se, it's all about the "transformation" to perfection. Lots of winners lost twenty pounds or so getting in great shape, but nobody ever won who lost forty pounds and still looked sloppy. Unfortunately, that may be bad news for me.

According to the body fat calipers they sent me, 34.1% of the 210 lbs I weighed is fat. That is to say that I am lugging around 71.6 pounds of fat on top of 138.4 pounds of lean body weight. I hate to agree that this is true but when I graduated from the federal academy years ago, I was in great shape at 136 pounds.

Given that I have 138 pounds of lean body mass under this 71.6 pounds of fat, and assuming that 7 percent body fat is competitive, I am going to need to weigh 148 pounds when this is over if I expect to have any chance to win. The bottom line is, I have 62 pounds of fat to lose; that's 5 pounds a week.

In his book, Bill Phillips says, "I have been researching this for years, and I believe most people can lose up to 25 pounds of fat in 12 weeks." (See page 119) In other words, whereas he says most people can lose 2 pounds of fat a week, I need to lose 5. Some might find the math discouraging - to me, it just means I am going to have to work a lot harder than most people.

My children and I have a meeting every evening where we talk about things. We talked about this and we were realistic - that's a good lesson too. Three of my children are too young to follow the math, but they know the difference between 2 and 5. We all understood going into this that we were facing an enormous challenge and the odds were stacked against us. That's important; it's altogether too easy to get "blind-sided" by realities we choose not to see.

There is a world of difference between being realistic and being discouraged. It is not possible to make viable plans, and plot reasonable strategies, in the absence of realistic assessment. That would be akin to making battle plans while choosing to ignore the opposition's troop strength and the logistics involved. To quote Bill Phillips, "Failing to plan is planning to fail."

We weren't planning to fail - or planning to lose either; I don't teach my children trash like that. I took advantage of this exercise (no pun intended), to teach my kids to take on problems by looking at them, from all angles, and seeing the facts for what they are, whether you want to see them or not. My youngest are 4, 5 & 6 but the underlying method is simple enough that they can understand it. It's the formula for life - identify the problem, develop the facts, set goals, make a plan and execute that plan. It's how you lose weight, or go to the moon.

Tip for Parents: Meet with your children every evening - schedule it, budget the time and make it a part of your life.

At my house, we meet after dinner with no food on the table, no TV or anything else to distract us. Everyone gets a chance to talk and everyone pays attention to whomever has the floor.

The general format is always the same here - "What was good about today, what would you change, do you need anything, are you looking forward to anything, got any good ideas, what's on your mind?"

We also have specific items on our agenda - lately, we have talked a lot about getting Dad in shape and the scheduling of our extra curricular pursuits.

This is not the time for discipline, it's a time for positive reenforcement, the perfect time to recognize achievements. Every family should do this; assuming you do it right, it's something your children will remind you to do and really enjoy.

The kids and I talked about all of this - we needed a viable plan. According to the program literature, the BfL staff is there to assist you with problems as they arise, so we decided that I would call April (Extension 4504), my assigned representative, to see if she had any suggestions to make.

Thankfully, their operation is not set up like the after sale service/support systems provided by certain computer manufacturers - "Oh, I'm sorry, this is sales, let me transfer you to service and support," followed by two hours on hold listening to "Notes to Nod Off By," only to find that their "expert" is the only person on the planet less capable of handling your problem than you are. First reverie and now rants - I guess I'll never make it as an author!

Anyway, the BfL phone was answered by a real live human being who connected me with April right away.

April, as it turns out, knows the program, the supplements, and the various modifications/combinations that can be tailored to suit your specific needs. We spent a long time on their toll free line discussing all the things we could do to modify this program for me. It's complicated, and I'll certainly share it with you if it works, but there's no use going into now. I will say that the only one who spent any money was the one who pays her salary and their phone bill. Like I said, it seems to be a "First Class" operation.

Once we had April's input, the kids and I got our heads together, looked at our strengths and made a plan where everyone has a part. Having the kids involved may ultimately prove to have been my greatest advantage. Who could imagine me skipping a workout where my 4 year-old was expecting to count reps and my 5 year-old was responsible for putting a "gold star" on the calendar each day that I successfully stick to our plan?

Today, as I post this, it is September 30th, 2001 - the end of my first week. The pain is starting to go away a little and I can almost stand up straight. Don't laugh - you do the first sit-ups and crunches you have done for a lifetime and see what happens! The fact is, I am feeling good about this.

This is something I have to do and I've got good help - the object is to make sure I am here for my children one day, but today they are here for me. Like I said before, the propensity to get fat is a monkey on your back - a 900 Pound Gorilla that robs you of your life while you're living it and humiliates you in the process.

Talk's cheap, especially since we are just getting started, but my money says we are going to show King Kong that he got the wrong part in our little "Rocky" movie.

Since I first started talking to people about their efforts to lose weight and their experiences with various programs, and announced my intention to try this on various news groups and single-parent forums, I have received a lot of e-mail. I really appreciate the words of support and encouragement.



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