Thursday, August 18, 2011

For Anna by David Ozab

I connected with David on Twitter and he is a great encourager. In a world where people can be most concerned with promoting their own self-interest, it's a delight to meet someone who encourages others. David suggested sharing this piece after I started running and I am so glad that he did.


'Fahrenheit Roller Coaster' photo (c) 2010, Michael Gray - license:
A year ago today, Julia, Anna, and I were enjoying the dollar ride day at the Lane County Fair. As we stood on the Midway, amidst the crowd of families, deciding where we wanted to go next, Anna caught sight of the roller coaster.

"I want to go on that!"

Anna was only four, but she's tall for her age. She was tall enough to go on the ride but she needed an adult to go with her.

"I'll take you," I said. "I love roller coasters."

"Yay!" She jumped up and down the whole time we were waiting in line. Finally, we made to the front. Anna climbed into the car and I squeezed in next to her. I sucked in my gut and lowered the bar. Good thing I hadn't eaten in a few hours.

Every time we hit a turn I thought I would squish Anna, but she didn't seem to mind. She was having too much fun.


We got off the ride--she was excited and ready for more, while I was just grateful I hadn't thrown up. We took Anna to more rides--ones she could go on by herself--and I couldn't help but notice that Julia seemed sad. We talked about it the next day.

"I want to take her on the roller coaster," she said, "but I can't. Not like this anyway."

You see, Julia and I had both let ourselves go over the last several years.  Busy lives, sedentary jobs, and poor eating choices had left us both severely overweight. But men's and women's bodies are different. I could still manage to get on the roller coaster--all I had to do was suck it in and try not to breathe too deep until the ride was over. Julia couldn't suck in her hips, and she couldn't go on a roller coaster.

We made the decision that day to change our lifestyle choices and get healthy again. Neither of us were interested in dieting or in gimmicks--they never work. Instead, we focused on common sense changes, like smaller portions and better choices. We cut out junk food and sodas, cut back drastically on fast food and sweets, and cooked at home almost every day. On our rare trips out to eat, we looked up nutritional information and planned our orders ahead of time.

The weight loss came slowly at first, until October when Julia starting tracking calories, then the pounds cascaded away. By April, we had lost a combined total of 110 lbs.

Then we hit a snag. Like many Catholics, we gave up candy for Lent, which wasn't a big sacrifice as we'd already limited ourselves to no more than a serving of dark chocolate per day. But when Easter hit, we both gave in an had a creme egg. It's been a battle since then, but the scales are still moving in the right direction.

So where are we now? One year later, we have lost a total of 160 lbs and we are hoping to hit the 200 lb mark by the end of the year. My doctor lowered my dose of blood pressure medication in March and hopes to have me completely off meds by December. I've extended my life expectancy and, God willing, I will get to see Anna grow up, graduate from college, get married, and have kids of her own.

Now when I see pictures of myself from last year, when I was around my peak weight, I wonder why I didn't start sooner. It hasn't been easy, but it hasn't been as hard as I thought it would be. Then I stop myself and remember that I can't change the past, but I can keep doing the right thing in the present and the future.

We both can. For Anna.

Have you made any major health changes? What were your motivations?


David Ozab is a freelance writer and stay-at-home dad from Eugene, Oregon. When he's not wrapped around his 5-year-old daughter's little finger, he's a Contributing Editor at About This Particular Macintosh (, a Guest Contributor at MyEugene (, and an opinionated loudmouth on his blog ( His writing has been featured in errant parent ( and will appear in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Devotional Tales for Tough Times (Due out in October) and in an upcoming issue of Catholic Digest (Date: TBA). He is also on Twitter (@davidozab), but isn't everyone?


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