Above, 2009 Decatur Beer Fest, somewhere in the neighborhood of three hundred fifteen pounds (photographer unknown).
My weight has been a consistent concern for most of my life. I have a rather large bone structure and what can probably be described as a barrel chest, so I’ve always been able to get away with carrying a few extra pounds. On a visit to Six Flags Over Georgia in eighth grade, I won some sort of trinket when a guy at the Guess Your Weight concession underestimated mine by about twenty pounds. In tenth grade, I was in a school play and there are photos of me where I’m relatively thin with very broad shoulders, which remind me of photos I’ve seen of dancers, which I’m not.
Below, striking my “Travolta pose” in a photo promoting “Blazing Guns at Roaring Gulch”, around 1979.
I was fairly chunky between age eight and ten, then grew several inches and lost most of this. I remained relatively thin throughout high school though my memory is that around the time I graduated, I was around one ninety to two hundred pounds, and at some point between high school and my first year of college I weighed around two hundred ten pounds.
Above, fifth grade (1973) and sixth grade (1974), a retrospective of bad haircuts.
While I lived in New York in my late twenties, I walked everywhere and consequently, my weight remained relatively low, around two hundred thirty at my lowest. When I returned to Atlanta a few years before the Olympics it was the summer when it started raining on July 4 and didn’t stop until after Labor Day, so I fell out of the habit of walking so much. Consequently, my weight went way up, and with it my blood pressure and glucose. I was never diagnosed as diabetic, however, and if I buckled down and lost some weight, my blood pressure came down as well.
Above, Brooklyn, NY, around 1990. Photo credit: Sylvia Aliaga.
This cycle went on throughout my thirties and forties. I’d occasionally knuckle under and take off the weight but would often put it right back on just as quickly. Around 2009, I reached a pinnacle of around three hundred twenty-five pounds with all the health concerns that go with it. I started consulting a dietitian and purchased my first digital scale in an effort to finally get a handle on the weight loss, and, for a time, I made sufficient progress. But, like before, I stopped and consequently, the weight came back.
Above, taking up more than a quarter of the photo in an improv class picture from 2009 (photo by Amanda Terlesky); below, a photo from Bacon Fest 2014 (credit: Dad’s Garage).
In 2017, my weight was in the neighborhood of two hundred ninety pounds. January of that year, I had cataract surgery and my blood pressure was so high, the nursing staff begged me to see a doctor about it. My first full-length play, Another Mother, had been chosen as the winner of the 2017 Essential Theatre Play Writing award, and I wanted to be there for the production, so I saw a doctor, and was diagnosed with high blood pressure and type two diabetes and placed on medication for both.
Above, January 2017, a few days before eye surgery.
I managed to get my weight down a bit, but the following year, I finally resolved to end the yo-yo cycle I’ve been in for most of my life. I started relentlessly walking and using an app to monitor my diet and exercise. I have always been able to get pounds off by exercising or dieting but I’ve never successfully combined the two. This time around, I did just that and started trying to modify my behavior by not eating out as much, and carefully monitoring my food intake. So far, the results have been very rewarding. My weight is back to a level it was around high school and I’m able to fit into clothing sizes I never thought I’d wear again.
Above, May 2019.
My most recent weight has been below one hundred ninety pounds for the first time since high school. It’s still an ongoing process to stick to it and not fall back into the same old patterns, but the progress I’ve made encourages me to do whatever it takes to maintain it.
Below, headshots from 2017 (top) and 2019 (bottom). Photo credit: Cathy VanSwartz Seith.