In January 2018, I participated in a two-week immersion course called Instantaneous Transformation Costa Rica, hosted by Ariel and Shya Kane. The course took place on a beautiful, lush resort called Sueño Azul, in one of the national rainforests. When I arrived for the first week, I was assigned a room I would call home (room 26) and I subsequently “moved in.” On the following Saturday, after the first week concluded and we were getting ready for the second week, I was assigned a new room (room 53) to call home.
I remember gathering all my items and placing them into my suitcase. Since I am a frequent traveler, I have learned to pack with a minimal quantity of items including luggage. In this case, I had one suitcase and a backpack. Once I was finished packing, I bid my old room goodbye and headed off to my new one. I slung my backpack over my shoulder and lifted my suitcase (roller bag) off the bed. I walked out the door and headed toward my new room location, which was up a small hill.
I noticed I started to get winded. I felt the weight of the bookbag over my shoulder and the roller bag in my right hand. My pace slowed. I changed my roller bag to my left hand and continued to move forward. One step and then the next step. With each step, I continued breathing heavily as I walked. I was surprised at how winded I was getting. “Wow,” I said to myself, “this is hard.” Then I stopped for a moment to catch my breath. Panting, I thought to myself, “I can’t believe this is so hard to simply walk a hundred steps from one room to another with my luggage.”
And then it dawned on me. At my highest body weight of 330 pounds, I remembered checking in for my flight the week prior – I had lifted my suitcase onto the airline scale at the check-in counter and it weighed 35.6 pounds. In that moment, I realized by pulling my roller bag and carrying my backpack, my body felt like it was carrying around an extra 35 pound weight. No wonder I was so out of breath and needed to stop for a rest.
Then my thoughts flashed to an episode of “The Biggest Loser,” an American reality TV show. The premise of the show is this: 16 contestants split up into two or three teams and are paired up with a trainer to diet, work out, and lose weight, until there is one person left who has lost the most weight and is crowned the “Bigger Loser.” On the episode I remembered, the remaining four contestants were doing a physical challenge. Each of the contestants had lost a lot of weight in the show; one lost 80 pounds and another 60. A timed challenge, each contestant was asked to wear a weight vest with the amount of weight they had lost and then climb the stairs of a football stadium as fast as they could from bottom to top. “Ready, Set, GO!”
The contestants started out sprinting, but very quickly went to a steady stair climbing pace, as fast as each respective person could go, until each reached the top. Once everyone was at the top, each was given their respective time and told to remove their weight vests. Then they were told to go down to the bottom of the stairs and climb back to the top for a new time. The winner of the challenge was the contestant with the largest difference in time between the first climb and the second. As instructed, the contestants went down to the bottom of the stadium and waited for the whistle to blow. “Ready, Set, Go!” Each person ran up the stairs at a much faster pace the second time around and, as you can imagine, without the weight vest on, it was MUCH easier for them to climb the stairs and complete the challenge.
In the moments I watched the show, I remember thinking to myself it was a cool challenge. “What a great way to feel the accomplishment of losing a lot of weight.” I thought.
But at the time it was only a novel, imaginary concept – I had never actually experienced losing weight and then immediately putting the same amount of weight back on to feel the difference; the physical effect of how the extra weight felt and what it was doing to my body. Now, in Costa Rica, surrounded by palm trees and warm, tropical air, I started thinking about the extra stress that weight was putting on my heart, joints and lungs. And I couldn’t believe how hard it was to do a simple activity like walking up a small hill to change rooms.
Once my breath slowed to normal, I began walking again. And as I crested the hill and approached the door to my new room, I looked forward to putting my suitcase and backpack down and not carrying them anymore. I saw the metaphor the suitcase and backpack represented and how it related to my health. In that moment, I recognized that I didn’t need the weight anymore. I saw that having the extra body mass made things harder for me. And I saw I could make a choice. Instead of carrying around the extra weight, I could just “put it down.”