I grew up with the bad genes. You know the ones I’m talking about. I was blessed with the luscious genetics that say, “hey, metabolism, run really slow! And wrap your bones thick in tasty fat!” After all, my brother and sister had the same parents as I did, and both of them resembled my father being skinny as a rail. I was the momma’s girl, nice and pudgy. Fat and happy. Growing up with all of the enjoyable mindset that comes along with being ridiculed and belittled throughout one’s school days, but after a while, it was pretty easy to ignore. And thus, I was convinced that I had a life cursed with some bad DNA and made the best of it regardless. Fat and happy, indeed.
Then one day, I woke up. Honestly, there’s nothing more to it than that. I simply woke up one day and noticed that my 25th birthday was swiftly approaching. It just so happened that Dateline did a special on weight loss that evening. It just all fell into place that quickly. I was going to fight against mother nature.
The big question remained how I was going to get from point A to point Z. Obviously, foods needed to change. I just started buying different groceries; that was the easy part. I still didn’t really know what I was doing, but I knew exercise was key. And man, did I ever hate the idea of exercise.
However, there remained one thing I did love: music.
The plans practically wrote themselves. Gee, how do I stay motivated to exercise? Why, perhaps I’ll plunk down huge cash money on a high-end MP3 player! Spending that much means I’ll use it. I’ll show it off. I won’t keep it tucked away. Of course, spending that much on a chunk of electronics meant I wouldn’t be spending that much on any exercise equipment. Besides, I was fat and I needed to start out slow. So, I strapped on the sweet iRiver disc player of might and I went for a walk.
Now, going for a walk when you’re a very overweight person is more than just tiring and hard work. It’s also an opportunity for all eyes of the universe to be on you, making you feel even gawkier than you could imagine. However, by putting on the headphones and cranking anything from Slipknot to Liz Phair, the entire world just disappeared. I was the one staring at them. There were no catcalls to try to ignore, no snickering to pretend not to hear, no obnoxious insults being hurled from god knows which direction. I could hold my head up and plug along for a half an hour. Then, forty minutes. Eventually, an hour.
After some considerable loss I began dating someone, and his first gift to me for Christmas was a pair of ass-kicking Sennheiser headphones. By this time, I had graduated from just walking to riding a stationary cycle and joined a health club. However, I still spent at least one day a week taking a walk, weather permitting. At this point, it wasn’t so much for the exercise; it was for the peace of mind and enjoyment of good music.
At home, focused on a million things coming and and out of electronic devices, there’s little time to just sit and enjoy music. Sure, I load up five or six albums to play randomly while I’m on the computer doing computer-y type things, but the music isn’t my focus; it’s just filling space. Taking a 90-minute or 2-hour walk, on the other hand, became a way to escape the trappings, obligations, and general bullshit of the universe. I spent many hours discovering some of my favorite bands and getting deeper into their music, like The Gathering and The Project Hate. I once spent an entire week listening to an entire CD-R of hair band compilations, after which I truly think I can never listen to Europe again without clawing my ears off. I made a disc of many Dream Theater albums and let myself bask in my love for them while I tromped all over town during the times when I needed something warm and familiar flowing through me. With my mother being Buddhist, I felt like I had finally discovered everything she had ever spoken regarding meditation. I walked without thinking about my problems or my issues with every day existence. I only occasionally would get distracted by a car who didn’t seem to understand a stop sign, but other than that, it was just me and the music.
It’s been nearly two and a half years since my journey began and I have more than achieved everything I set out to do. I can live a normal life of maintenance now, but I still haven’t stopped walking. I find myself randomly spacing off, thinking of which albums would work perfectly to throw together on a CD-R for my next long adventure on foot. I have gone so far as to choose music to fit my environment (to which I can only say this: Nine Inch Nails’ The Fragile is not particularly calming music for walking in a secluded woodsy area). I often fall back on old favorites, but sometimes the randomness of my mp3 storage will lead me to put in one disc looking for That Dog, but end up listening to Kittie. Or looking to hear Deine Lakaien, but ending up with The Faint instead.
There have been lovely times walking along the Mississippi River, cranking up those headphones, passing elderly people while strains of Fear Factory can easily be heard leaking from the sides of my head. I have watched people not notice the 4″ wide cups stuck to the sides of my head, attempting to give me pamphlets about saving the earth while I gleefully enjoyed some Ted Nugent. And there’s nothing like watching a bunch of people in a ghetto neighborhood apparently yelling and screaming at each other while drowning them out with Elton John’s Greatest Hits.
Regardless of the weight loss involved, I still recommend wholeheartedly to anyone looking for a few moments of zen in their lives to slap on headphones and go for a walk. I have gone walking with friends before, and while some good conversation is always nice and passes the time well, it just makes you come back home to wonder why you didn’t just have that conversation while out shooting pool. It just never mixed well for me. Walking was Music Time. Talking was Drinkin’ Time… but I digress.
Not sure where to start? Start small. No fancy mp3 player is necessary, even if all you have is a beat-up walkman and some Poison cassettes. It will be nothin’ but a good time. Walk around a few blocks. Avoid hills if you’re not ambitious; nobody is grading you. Choose a peaceful place with few distractions, and you’ll soon know exactly what I’m talking about. Just you and the tunes, and perhaps a decent pair of shoes to keep your relationship solid.
You’ll stumble in my footsteps,