I’m a little hesitant about writing this week’s column. Although I’ve shared a bunch of personal stuff with my 12 loyal readers over the past year and a half, I have never spoken specifically on this topic.
My mom and dad both had a sister. I have been truly blessed with two wonderful aunts. My mom’s sister, my Aunt Ellyn, died of a heart attack nearly four years ago. Aunt Ellyn was 70. My dad’s sister, Aunt Lucille lives in Philadelphia, PA, with my cousin Roz. She recently celebrated her 90th birthday.
Almost 11 years ago, I found out that I had a pretty serious health problem. Unlike my Aunt Ellyn who would regularly check up on me regarding all things family and health related, she never heeded her own advice. Aunt Ellyn refused to see a doctor, ever. My Aunt Lucille still texts and calls me regularly and has been much smarter about her personal health and wellness for as long as I can remember.
Both of my aunts are/were small in stature. My Aunt Ellyn would’ve certainly been called petite at just under 5′ tall. My Aunt Lucille may have been 5’3: tall in her 50s. Aunt Lucille was not a woman that would’ve garnered an unusual glance as she walked into a room or down the main shopping avenue of Far Rockaway. Oh yea, we all lived in Far Rockaway. Both my mom’s side of the family and my dad’s. It was really nice. For much of my adolescent years and well into my 30s, my 5′ tall Aunt Ellyn weighed well over 200 pounds.
Eleven years ago I was tipping the scales at 231 pounds. I don’t know if that was my heaviest weight, but at 5’8” tall, it certainly wasn’t my optimal weight. Just shy of 50, I was definitely heading in the wrong direction.
My wife Audrey will tell you that I am not only stubborn as a mule, but in my mind I’ve only been wrong once or twice in my life. There was no arguing with the scale. Like Popeye, “I am what I am.” Truthfully, something had to change and that something was likely going to have to be me.
Looking back, I like to think that I was the happiest, fittest, fat guy in Plainview-Old Bethpage. I still participated in sports, I went to the gym regularly and I was able to keep up with my growing kids in most any activity they chose.
The problem was that after playing a night time softball doubleheader in the POB Men’s over 35 softball league, our team, The Martyr’s would head over to Sluggo’s (now the Main Event). We’d celebrate, win or lose. Five to eight team members would start with nachos, wings and chicken fingers as appetizers. The waitresses would be directed to maintain filled bottles of beer and shots of tequila at all times. After the appetizers, we’d order our favorite burger with every cheese and sautéed topping you can think of. That debauchery went on for at least two hours.
If that insanity wasn’t bad enough, I think back to the bar mitzvah years. Weekends were spent bent over the frozen vodka slides, and smorgasbords, trays of pigs in a blanket and raiding the children’s buffet for French fries and pizza.
Do you get the picture?
Only in casual conversation did Aunt Ellyn or Aunt Lucille ever relate to me their 20-plus years of membership with the most well known weight loss program in the world, Weight Watchers. Ophray Winfrey is now a major investor and member.
Almost 11 years ago, my wife and mother-in-law took me kicking and screaming, sarcastically, under my breath, I made fun of the mostly women in attendance at my first meeting on South Oyster Bay Road next to the Arthur Murray Dance Studio.
I called both of my aunts that Wednesday evening in April 2006. They spent time with me telling me about their personal struggles and journeys over the years they spent at Weight Watchers. They shared with me how much their successes meant to them in their lives. Having achieved a healthy weight and “Lifetime Goal” weight loss.
This week’s column is a thank you to six women who have in many ways changed and saved my life. The four I’ve already mentioned: Aunt Ellyn, Aunt Lucille, my mother-in-law, Ruth, and my wife, Audrey. I could not have accomplished and maintained the healthier lifestyle I have without the two group leaders I’ve followed for almost 11 years. Thank your Laurie Z., and Connie S. for keeping me on track and pointed in the right direction all these years.
The center I attend is in the Fairway Shopping Center on Manetto Hill Road. It may seem benign to some, intimidating to others, don’t let it. I can only tell you that for me it’s been a godsend.