The Backstory of Tom Kenobi

So every journey has a back story, the old “who, what, where, when, how and why”: Who are they? What got them here? What is driving them on? Where did they come from? When did they start? How did they make it this far? Why are they taking this journey? Am I right?

Well, let’s take a little walk as we stroll a small bit through my back story, this way you will know some of the who, what, where, when, how and why’s.

As a kid I was fairly active. Small, geeky, kinda cute but active. I was a military brat and spent a good portion of my formative years in Europe where I ran through acres and acres of woods with a handful of friends (we’re talking huge tracts of land), climbing trees, playing epic games of hide and seek, Robin Hood, and as military kids playing war…a TON. Seriously, how can a group of soldier’s kids not play war, right? Well, I don’t know what soldiers kids do now in this PC world, but we did and we did it A LOT, face paint and all.

Anyways… Did I mention I was small and geeky? You know what happens to kids who are small and geeky, right? I’m not saying it’s right, but yeah, you guessed it…a one-way ticket to bully-ville for the majority of my childhood and teen years. Early on, dad and mom got me into martial arts to help curb and cope with the bullying. It was another great place to stay active and vent my frustrations. It was the 80’s, Ralph Macchio was showing geeks everywhere that with a quick music montage, some fence painting and a loveable old Okinawan-born U.S. Veteran, you could be Crane-Kicking your way through the noses of the Johnny Lawrence’s of the world, straight to the All Valley Karate Championship!  You’re the best around, YEAH!

Wait…although I loved the Karate Kid movie and even though i got misty eyed as a young 8 or 9yr old watching Daniel-san win, and even though I thought (and still do) that Elizabeth Shue was hot, I was waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay more into BloodSport starring Jean-Claude Van Damme. “It’s time to separate the men from the boys.” Fight to Survive, baby! Kumite! Kumite! Kumite! Seriously, I recently watched BloodSport – it’s been probably two years since I last watched it – dated, yes, but still a fun movie to watch.

I’ve kept with martial arts since I was seven. My training has waxed and waned depending on the season of my life. Over time I’ve branched out, kept an open mind (Ha! Another Bloodsport reference!) and cross-trained with other martial artists and fighters over the years picking up a lot of valuable information and tools. I found a new focus for how I train, no longer associated with a sport art, I focus primarily on combatives (maybe more on that another time) and my focus there and in a few other areas helps me determine my goals and how I stay fit now.

After I married my first, current and only wife, a lot of my active nature went dormant, especially after we started having kids. I got kinda fat and happy.

Literally. I had planned on showing some pictures of me in this stage, but I couldn’t find any that truly reflected the “fat & happy” me at 235lbs+.

So a weird thing began to happen to me about six months or so into being married. I began to get these bad dizzy spells, vertigo-like. I mean, really ridiculously bad dizzy spells. They would come and go and were more of a nuisance than anything, until the day of my oldest daughter’s first birthday (just a few months past our first year anniversary). Then it got really, really bad, sent me to the ER, too! For the next five years the bouts were so sporadic that doctors were unable to diagnose it. They were bad like the one I went to the ER about, but there was nothing they could do. Then after one particularly bad spell at work, my coworkers called an ambulance fearing that I was having a heart attack -even though I told them very clearly that I knew what was going on and to call my wife instead- bless them, though, because if I wouldn’t have gone to the ER what happened next probably wouldn’t have happened! This time the ER doctor who was seeing me had the wherewithal to ask a few more questions about my symptoms/condition and I was referred to an Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist for a follow up appointment after being discharged from the ER. At that appointment, finally, I got diagnosed! I finally had something, a name, a target, something to fight against.

Meniere’s Disease. The devil’s own wonderful concoction of vertigo…that’s for sure! A few months prior to being diagnosed, I was hovering around 225+lbs and had put some money down in an office pool for a “Biggest Loser” type of competition where the person with the largest percentage of weight loss would win. I started doing some light exercises and tried my best at “eating right” and had dropped roughly 15lbs by time I was diagnosed.

Which brings me to helpful tip # 1! Are. You. READY?

Tip # 1 – Put your money where your mouth is!

More on this tip later, but I’ve found that you can keep pursuing goals and make great strides if there is something on the line. A bet between friends or putting money down for a race like the Dirty Dash can work wonders for motivation because it costs you something.

Of the things that the Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist recommended (like some natural supplements and a diuretic to get rid of excess water) was to monitor and then lower my sodium intake. If you think you have this issue CONSULT A DOCTOR, don’t try to self-diagnose yourself!

Which brings me to Tip # 2! Are. You. READY?!?

TIP#2 Watch your sodium intake!

Seriously! Have you ever tracked how much sodium one can take in during a day? Holy Hell! Besides the health benefits of less sodium, besides getting rid of all the excess water weight you are carrying around from too much salt, you’ll be surprised at how much you can actually taste things now that your food isn’t caked in salt! It’s like quitting smoking, your taste buds explode! Try to eat a “regular” french fry after deprogramming yourself from excess salt and you’ll spit it out like two year old! Your taste buds will begin to do a job they were designed for, enjoying good (real) food!

The ENT told me to cut down to about 2000mg of sodium a day, which is just shy of the “recommended” daily nutritional level of about 2300 to 2500 depending on your source of information. At the beginning, this was hard for me. I could plow through a Carl’s Jr. Super Star meal like a boss (easily over 2000mg). When I cut Kraft Macaroni & Cheese from my diet, the CEO and stock-holders of Kraft cried! Okay, maybe that didn’t happen… But still, I was an addict of that stuff! Doritos…gone. Maruchan Top Ramen…gone. Salty-good-party-in-my-mouth…GONE. Take a moment and look at the nutrition labels on your favorite foods & processed junk. Now look at the actual portion YOU take compared to the serving size. Getting the picture? In just under a month’s time I dropped another fifteen pounds! So now I was hovering right at the 195lb mark. With a little bit of plain jane walking, being mindful of what I ate – i still didn’t know a lot about food choices, but I was really watching my sodium intake and making small positive choices that added up along the way – I got all the way down to 185lbs! I’d lost so much that my wedding ring no longer fit and I had to wear it around my neck on a chain, seriously!

I hovered at the 185 mark for quite a while, grew complacent and stopped doing my light exercises and eventually gained weight again until I hovered back around 199lbs. I was still watching my sodium intake, by this time it was second nature to me, I didn’t have to crunch numbers. So, there I was June 2011, 199lbs and NOT HAPPY about it! Earlier that year I had another episode, again at work, so I was not happy for a couple good reasons.

Stay tuned!  In the next installment, I’ll show you how I went from this:

June 2011, 199lbs (now add about 35lbs to this picture and you can imagine what I looked like when I was “fat & happy”!)

To this:

October 2011, 182.6lbs

Yeah, I know it’s not P9000x or Twerkin’ Hip Hop Booty results, but for me it was a huge step in the right direction! Still is. That smile was earned.

Stay tuned!

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