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Al's Journey


Al's Journey
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My Dad and I in 1954 I was born in Loma Linda, California in 1951. It didn't take me long to find out that I liked to eat. As you can see in the 1954 photo, before my third birthday I was already developing a bit of a stomach. It wasn't much yet, but it was going to have a future with me. My father, who is next to me in the picture, turned 27 that year, and he was fairly thin. A few years later he also would have some problems with weight gain, but he was in pretty good shape in 1954.

Boxing Al in 1957 I turned 6 in 1957. It was the year that I started first grade, and as the picture shows, I had already developed a noticeable stomach bulge. I can still remember one day, around this time, when I ate several plates of spaghetti, while the adults kept commenting on how they couldn't believe that I could ever get that much food into my little body, they were laughing, but I was only getting started. A few years later I won a contest at summer camp when several of us boys tried to see who could eat the largest number of the little 1-serving boxes. I was up in the teens somewhere when we finished.

13 Years Old in 1964 While this picture is not the clearest, it is about the only one I have left of me in my early teens. I was about 13 in the picture, and I had kept my stomach bulge well nurtured; it was alive and well! I loved to go to "31 Flavors," the ice cream store that nearly everyone calls Baskin-Robins now. My favorite ice cream would change from time to time, but the two flavors that I remember best were licorice and peanut butter. One time my grade school class had an outing and we stopped at "31 Flavors" for a cone. I finished mine and asked for a second one. The school chaperone said she was not going to pay for everyone to have 2 cones. I said that was no problem, I would pay for it. That is when she put her foot down and said, "No." However, you can see that the stage was already set for a definite food problem in my life.

I should note that I was a very active boy. I loved to play baseball and was out running around all the time. I played the game very well, learning to hit both left-handed and right-handed, which I do even still today. It is very fortunate for me that I was athletically inclined. If I had not been, my eating would have caused my weight to run wild. As it was, I ended up being on the heavy side all of the time through grade school, but I could still participate in all the sporting activities that I wanted to. I was never a fast runner carrying that weight, but I could compensate by getting a quicker than average start on things.

The fall of 1966, right after turning 15, I headed off to Milo Academy, a high school boarding school. I weighed 175 pounds and stood 5 feet 11 inches tall. (BMI=24.4) I had done some growing recently, which had used up some of my fat, but I was near the upper limit of "normal."

High School Freshman and Janitor: 1967 At high school, I learned how to play basketball. I had fooled around trying to throw a ball through a rim before, but I did not know how to play the game, or what the rules were. I learned the game. Milo is located in southern Oregon, and it's wet from November to March, and sports were almost all done indoors, with basketball taking front stage. I was at the gym whenever I had some free time, and the gym was open. Since basketball is a great method of getting exercise, and my eating was done nearly exclusively in the school cafeteria, which only served vegetarian food; as the years went by, I got into pretty good shape and I grew very thin.

Senior, Singer, and Jock in 1970 By the time I graduated in 1970, I had been a member of the school basketball team for two years, and started at the center position for part of my senior year. My weight had fallen for a time to about 155 pounds (BMI=19.3 or borderline underweight) in the middle of my senior year, when basketball was at its peak intensity, but when I graduated it was about the same as when I first arrived at Milo: 175 pounds. The only difference was that I was 4 inches taller, which made 175 look very thin. (BMI=21.8)

It was fairly easy to eat in a healthy way at Milo, and my room was up a couple of flights of stairs, which ran up and down many times a day. I would go months without ever getting inside a car; we walked everywhere we needed to go. So, it was not surprising that I left Milo in good shape, thin, and looking healthy.

Overweight in 1972 So what happened? I got married, started working for a living, in a world where you could buy a Sara Lee's Pie for 25 cents, and then eat the whole thing! I ate tostados, heaped up with cheese, and peanut butter spread thick on my sandwiches. I hit Jack-In-Box on the way to the drive-in movies, and had all the ice cream that I wanted. The results are shown in the picture. In just two years, I had had a new son (who will be turned 35 in January 2007), and I put on 40 pounds. I worked in a very dirt friendly environment, and when I got home from work, I was often covered in it. This picture was taken before I could hop in the shower, but I included the picture here because it shows the terrible change that had come over me, and in such a short time. The safety net had been removed, and I was drowning in the real world of fattening foods, while trying to deal with a marriage that was always on the verge of collapse.

Navy Recruit 1973 In 1973 my son Glenn turned one, two days later Dad died in a horrible accident, six months later Grandma Coon Died, and a month after that my Grandpa Coon died. A month after that, I enlisted in the US Navy. As you can tell from the picture, taken right after boot camp, I lost all of the excess weight I had gained. When I signed the papers to enter the Navy, I still had a few months before I actually was going to go in. So, during the summer of 1973 I went on a diet and dropped 20 pounds from 210 down to 190. I was highly motivated to avoid the abuse that I was sure would come to me if I showed up fat to boot camp. During boot camp, I lost another 20 pounds and I graduated from basic training close to the same weight that I had been when I graduated from high school. Once again, I was thin and trim!

Dotti & Al in 1975 Thanks to the active lifestyle in the Navy, I was able to keep my weight down to a healthy level for quite a while. In 1974, my ex-wife left me six months after I had entered the Navy. Now what? Amidst my depression and feelings of loss, I filed for divorce in May, but then in September, I met my soul mate for life: Dotti. She turned my life around! In this picture taken in early 1975, you can see that my weight was not out of hand. And of course my lovely Dotti was looking really good! For several years, I was far too active to gain a lot of weight.

Midway Islands in 1977
In 1977 I started taking Karate on Midway Island, and then when I transferred to Naval Air Station LeMoore in California, I went to another instructor and started in again. (See Karate Photo 1, Karate Photo 2, Karate Photo 3) I was still in my twenties and my weight problems seemed to be far in the past, without a single cloud apparent on the horizon.

In El Paso, Texas in 1981 I got out of the Navy, for what ended up being 2 years, and spent one of those years working for Technicare, maintaining CAT scanners, in El Paso, Texas. In the picture, it shows me about to turn thirty, leaning on my company car, a new Olds Omega. Right above my head, not visible in the picture, is a basketball hoop, and I used to use it regularly for exercise. At this point in my life, excess weight still had not returned to dominate my life. As it turned out, even though I loved the job, we hated El Paso, and soon we moved away, and I ended up reenlisting in the Navy.

By 1984, the Navy had tightened its weight standards, and I started to feel the pinch. They wanted me to weigh less than 190, and I was tending to stay between 190 and 200. I played a lot of racquetball at that time, but I was eating more too. My weight would start to creep up and then I would fight it back down. I was always on the verge of being classified as being "obese” by the Navy.

Dot & Al in 1984 On occasion I crossed that line, and then I was forced onto what they called the "fat boy” program where I had to go out and do mandatory exercise. I would get my weight back down to get off the program and then it would creep back up again. In this picture, which has always been one of my favorites of Dotti and I together, it is not easy to see that I am struggling with my weight. But the day was coming when it would be easy to see!

ET1 Coon onboard in 1986 In 1986, I transferred to the USS John F. Kennedy. In this picture I am two months into a 7-month Mediterranean cruise, where I dropped my weight all the way back down to 175 again. I had not gone that far yet in this picture, but you can see that I am thinner than I was in 1984. I was depressed, being away from Dotti and the kids, and I was not eating well at all. I was going up and down dozens of ladders every day, and getting a great deal of exercise. The weight just fell off. But, after being gone for over 7 months, it scared Dotti when I got back home; because it was not a healthy weight loss, and I looked like a skeleton. It was not long after returning to the States that I had my weight back up to 190.

Al & Sons in 1988 In 1988 I got out of the Navy for good, after 13 years of service. My weight was starting to creep up just a bit, and my belly was expanding slightly; as you can see in this picture, taken with LeRoy and Glenn, my two sons, during our move to Massachusetts, at a stopover at a Maryland rest area. Things were about to get worse for my weight, because I was no longer bound by the Navy weight standards. The civilian company I was going to work for did not have a "fat boy” program, and now I was on my own to choose what my weight would be.

36 inch waist in 1990 In 1990, I transferred over to the Training Department in my company, and I was scheduled to teach two, 2-week classes in August. One was to be in Corvallis, Oregon, and the other was in Pocatello, Idaho. I drove across the country from Massachusetts, and taught the classes and drove back. This picture was taken during the first of the two classes, when I dropped in to see my mom for the weekend. Once again, being separated from my family, I was not eating well at all, and dropped weight rapidly. The picture shows me wearing 36-inch waist pants, the last time that I was able to wear them until I completed the weight loss phase of my journey in 2001.

On the drive home, I suffered a stress induced medical event, that my doctor tells me may have been a small stroke, as a result of all the smoking I had been doing while driving, the coffee I had been downing, and the overall stressful nature of my life for the past 8 months. (I had changed jobs, Dotti had 3 surgical procedures, Mom had been diagnosed and treated for cancer and I had not had a healthy trip at all.)

Quick-Gain artist in 1990 As a result of the medical scare I quit smoking in October of 1990. By December I had really packed on the weight as this picture shows. By January 1991 I had jumped up to 226 pounds.

Once the smoking crutch was taken from me, I finally could see what an eating problem I had been covering up all those years by smoking. Now I had to face the new challenge but I just didn't know how to do it.

You can track the way my weight went over the next 5 years by looking at my 5-year weight chart. (Click Here)

LeRoy & I in 1992 In 1992 I went on a diet, and I dropped my weight all the way down to 192 pounds at one point, but it was like a ball bouncing. My weight came down fast, hit bottom and then went right back up again. This picture was taken in the Notre Dame Basilica in Montreal, Canada, and I weighed in the 190s. (Unfortunately the camera caught LeRoy with a silly look on his face but it was the only picture I could find of me at that time. Sorry LeRoy!) You can see that I am much thinner than I was in the December 1990 picture. I remember telling people at that point that I finally felt like I had finished smoking, because I had gotten my weight back down. But I still did not understand. I thought "a diet” was the answer, and "a diet” is never the answer!

Quit Cake in 1993 In November 1993, I celebrated 2 and a half years of being smoke-free. Dotti bought a large banner that said, "Congratulations,” and she made a cake for me, which I am holding in the picture. It is easy to see from my belly, my face and my legs that I am once again pushing 230 pounds. The diet was a complete failure!

Moving West in 1995 In the summer of 1995 we moved back to the Pacific Northwest. This picture, showing me at about 235 pounds, was taken in Salt Lake City, Utah as we made a stop at the Mormon Temple on our way through. I was completely at a loss as to what to do to lose weight. I went through another cycle or two of dieting but each time I rebounded back up to about 240 pounds.

Conference Talk in 2001 This cycle continued until Dotti's First Annual Conference. I gave a talk at the conference about how to use your willpower to drive the tools in order to quit smoking and to lose weight. I wasn't struck with the irony of the fact that I was so overweight, and telling others how to lose weight, until I looked at the pictures after the conference. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks.

May, 2001: Al, at start of journey
On May 12, I began my weight loss journey. I stepped up on the scale that Saturday morning to read that my weight was 239.5 pounds. That was 50 pounds more than what I wanted to weigh. Imagine filling up a gallon jug of water, and carrying it around with you all day. You would be pretty tired of it by day’s end. Fill up two more, and then carry three of them with you for the day. The extra weight is going to tire you out in a hurry. But 3 gallons of water only weigh 24 pounds. You would have to fill up 6 one-gallon jugs and strap them on your back in order to carry 50 pounds of water with you; that is a serious extra burden to drag around with you. Is it any wonder that I was tired all the time?

September 2001: Al 205 lbs This journal is here to document my journey. I wrote a day-by-day discription of my weight loss phase, and for the first year of maintenance. I then did weekly updates for 5 years. My jouney continues and so will this journal. I hope that you will find it useful in motitavting you in your own journey and maybe you find an idea or two that will help you along the way.

In the picture on the left, you can see that my weight is 5 pounds over my main goal. I was smiling because I was already feeling much better, and much happier with the way I looked. But when I hit goal, the journey was just beginning. Come and join me, by following the links above.





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