Eric Sprott: 365 days, 100 pounds and a life renewed
It’s embarrassing that I remember the details, but I clearly recall the excitement I had for the first day of the college football season one year ago.
It’s cringeworthy now, but a large part of it had to do with what was on the menu that day. Among my other junk-food purchases to celebrate the start of the season, I had picked up some jalapeno-flavored Fritos, which I imagined would go perfectly with the French onion dip I bought to stuff my face on college football’s opening weekend.
As I settled in to watch Clemson’s season opener against Kent State on my couch — mind you, I was out of the sports department covering several news beats at the time — I tipped the scale at 375 pounds.
That’s right — 375 pounds.
In between bites watching the Tigers that afternoon, I noticed a strange feeling — or lack thereof — when I was guzzling some Powerade straight from the bottle. But, like an idiot, I decided to ignore it and eventually rationalize it was a figment of my imagination.
What it was, however, was the first signal my life was about to change — and I’m happy to say, for the better, as it’s not lost on me that I fended off an early exit from this world.
Today, as we celebrate the first full day of the college football season, I more so remember the one-year anniversary of my life’s turnaround, and I marvel at about much my life has changed over the last 365 days.
As of last Saturday, I’m happy to report I’ve lost 100 pounds over the course of the last year, as the scale read 274.2 pounds last Saturday. And while I’m proud of how far I’ve come, I have to add that I’m in no way, shape or form done with my weight-loss journey yet. In control of my health for the first time in my life, I have much bigger goals ahead of me now.
After ignoring my symptoms through the evening and into the night following the Tigers’ win over Kent State, I woke my wife up at 3 a.m. after I was resigned to the fact I had suffered a mini-stroke. Throughout the day, as I knew things were deteriorating, I was not yet ready to face some harsh truths about my health — thus, the inexcusable delay in addressing what I was experiencing.
I was admitted into the hospital for several days due to my catastrophically high blood pressure. It was stroke level, as it took days — including some time in the ICU due to the high-grade medication that was being pumped into me — for it to come down to an acceptable level.
And, fortunately for me, that numb feeling in my lips — along with a crooked smile, a watery eye and the inability to whistle — was nothing more than a minor bit of Bell’s Palsy, which was cleared up quickly and was of little concern to my doctors given the severity of my high blood pressure.
For years I ignored my health. I knew I obviously wasn’t in a good place given my size, and out of fear I hadn’t had a physical since high school. I also avoided any trips to the doctor like the plague, as I toughed out nearly every illness I had for more than 15 years without antibiotics because I didn’t want nurses and doctors ragging me for my weight, and surely, my blood pressure.
My time in the hospital certainly wasn’t enjoyable as I came to grips with my new reality. Granted, I held up pretty well — I even took part in my fantasy football draft from the ICU, and I blame my terrible season for having to draft in such conditions — but I knew I didn’t ever want to be back in that position again.
The Bell’s Palsy was a gift — a wakeup call for me to get my life together without the repercussions I could have faced with a stroke, a heart attack or whatever else could have come my way.
A complete overhaul of my diet — a low-sodium diet, lots of water and no more junk food — coupled with three trips a week to the gym have done the trick, as I’ve lost the weight the old-fashioned way with diet and exercise.
I lack the words to describe how much better I feel at my lowest weight since college — the last time I weighed myself had been the summer of 2006, when I was 286 pounds. There’s no more getting winded walking across parking lots or climbing stairs amongst the numerous other positive changes. It’s truly liberating.
So this morning, when I go down on the field prior to Clemson’s season opener against Furman at Memorial Stadium, I won’t dread having to hike back up the stairs in the blistering heat to get back to my perch in the press box.
It’s nothing I can’t handle now — something I couldn’t imagine would have been the case just one year ago.
So today, as I celebrate the return of college football, I also remember how fortunate I am to be around to enjoy it — and not only that, but my family, which includes two precious little boys who need their dad in the picture for the foreseeable future.
And if I can impart some wisdom upon you, please be sure to take care of yourself and don’t ignore your health like I did. It’s not lost on me how fortunate I am to be alive, and I know I was given a second chance when I feel like I probably didn’t deserve it.
Second chances don’t come around often. I’m not going to waste mine, and I hope none of you have to come as close to the brink as I did before addressing whatever may be plaguing you.
And remember, If a hack sportswriter like me can get things turned around, anyone can.
Sports editor Eric Sprott is an award-winning reporter and columnist who began freelancing with The Journal in 2006 before joining the staff the following year. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @Journal_ESprott.