This is the second part in a three-part series. To read Part I, click here.
More than three years had passed since I last made a valiant effort at trying to lose weight. During that time, I was dreaming of the great things that I wanted to try and accomplish in life. Many of those dreams seemed achievable, though others not so much. Some of those dreams seemed to be hindered by my obesity. Whether it was my self-confidence or the reality that it just wasn’t physically plausible; I thought long and hard about it and I finally felt mentally ready to try again.
There is a great quote from the movie Little Giants, “Football is 80 percent mental, 20 percent physical.” I think the same argument holds true about weight loss or any major personal challenge. Some may not realize that while you have to be dedicated both to healthy nutrition and exercise, if you aren’t mentally prepared to take on the challenge, any sort of success will only be temporary. After feeling mentally ready, I decided it was worth taking chances and chasing silly dreams.
For a person who has always tried to live a life of no regrets, I wasn’t taking the chances and chasing the dreams that I had always wanted.
I knew I had been successful before, but I also was painfully aware of my past failures. I knew how easy it was to be derailed; to see even the littlest bit of success be completely reversed. Knowing this and being afraid of failure again, I decided to be very quiet about my plan. This way, if I did fail, I was the only one who would know.
I wrote down goals. Some were related to weight, some were about life; and to be honest, some were goals that seemed like silly fairytale dreams. You know, the things that seem like there is not a chance of coming true. But you know what? It’s important to write those down.
Eating to Live, Not Living to Eat . . .
Eating to live, not living to eat. It’s quite the statement and one that I had never really thought about that much before. For much of my life, eating is what I did. It was enjoyable. It brought comfort, and put simply, it made me happy. Food viewed as fuel for the body was truly a foreign concept.
This is where being ready to mentally take on a challenge becomes crucial. I literally had to retrain myself on how I looked at food; and let me tell you, that was hard. Constantly looking at nutrition labels, searching the nutritional content of foods on the Internet and keeping track of what I was eating. This took time and energy but was instrumental to my success.
I didn’t want to be restricted by the food I ate; but what I was willing to be restricted by was the number of calories that I consumed in a day. What I mean by that is I didn’t care if I had a cheeseburger or some ice cream; but I had a self-imposed calorie limit each day and when I reached that limit, I was done. It is safe to say that if I had a cheese burger or ice cream, there really wasn’t much for calories for the rest of the day. Those days rarely, if ever, happened.
Keeping a food diary is important. I used myfitnesspal. For those with a Smartphone, you can find their free app and even if you don’t have a Smartphone you can visit the website. This app allowed me to keep track of my daily calories, and also keep track of my weight and exercise.
Having an electronic way to keep track on those three areas was imperative. It was always a constant reminder of where I was that day. It is easy to ‘conveniently forget’ that snack or extra serving during a meal. By keeping track of your food intake, exercise and weight, you give yourself the power of knowledge.
You will never feel guilty about the things you don’t know . . .
When I would eat a whole pizza, three donuts or whatever it was that I ate in large quantities, I didn’t know the nutrition content of it. While I knew it probably wasn’t the best for me, I didn’t know just how bad it was. Knowing and knowledge about the nutritional content of the food you are about to eat is important. Yes, I could have that cinnamon roll, but I knew that it had the equivalent of one and a half meals. Simply put. Knowledge about your food is power to make an informed choice.
While the amount of calories that I consumed on a daily basis was low, I became creative in making foods that I could eat without completely blowing my calorie allowance for the day. I did things like taking extra lean ground turkey, adding spices, then creating my own turkey patties and freezing them. I created my own spicy vinaigrette for salads. In essence, I learned to make flavorful foods that were fulfilling and made me feel content. I didn’t need to feel stuffed, but I needed to feel satisfied. What is the point of eating foods when you are left starving or craving more food when you are done?
Planning in advance also was important to my success. As Ben Franklin said, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” On Sunday evenings, I planned for the entire week of what I was going to eat. By planning ahead, I didn’t put myself in situations to make bad choices. If I had the turkey patty, fruit or tilapia already in the refrigerator defrosted; it was a lot easier to say, “Yup, that’s what I’m having.”
I tried to make sure that I put myself in situations where making the right choice was the easy choice.
A typical day for me was:
Breakfast: 325 Calories
110 grams of cranberries
20 grams of old-fashion rolled oats
1 container of Dannon Oikos nonfat Coconut Crème Yogurt
150 grams of Granny Smith apple
Lunch: 390 Calories
4 ounces of lean ground turkey patty with spices
Either stick of string cheese or Bel Gioioso snacking mozzarella
Chobani 100 apple pie yogurt
70 grams of raspberries
140 grams of peaches
Supper: 330 calories
1 tilapia fillet
85 grams of spinach leaves
200 grams of romaine lettuce
5 grams of Dijon mustard
50 grams of apple cider vinegar
10 grams of olive oil
5 grams of minced garlic
28 grams of reduced fat blue cheese
Hint: this is far heavier on the vinegar so letting it sit in the refrigerator overnight to thicken is important.
Snacks: 210 calories
3 cups of coffee
2 tablespoons half/half
2 pieces of string cheese
5 liters of water throughout the day
Daily total: 1,255 calories
As you can see, much of what I consumed in a given day is either measured by ounces or grams. When I started in August, one of the first things I did was get out my food scale. Just like the scale for the body, a food scale doesn’t lie. Measuring a half cup of frozen fruit, a cup of fresh spinach is difficult, but nutrition information not only gives serving sizes in cups, but also in weight measurements. For my experience, weight measurements were more accurate and less cumbersome because I weighed items in the container that I ate them out of. It was more convenient not to use measuring cups or bring them on the road with me when I traveled.
A Little Road Trip with the Farm Truck . . .
Nutrition is only one component to a successful weight loss journey. Exercise needs to play a role as well. Living in the village of Taylor with a population of about 500, having a well-equipped gym isn’t necessarily something we have an abundance of. It’s just the reality of the situation. I could have used that as an excuse, or I could try to do something about it.
Previously, when I had a gym membership, I liked using the elliptical. Okay, maybe liked isn’t quite the word I should use. The elliptical was the machine that I tolerated the most and more importantly felt safe on. Being more than 500 pounds, it’s not like I could use any piece of exercise equipment. There are some elliptical out there that I legitimately thought I would break within minutes of using; so I knew that I needed a commercial type elliptical that allowed me to feel safe while exercising.
Finding an elliptical wasn’t as easy as I had anticipated, at least one with the right price tag. This guy was on a budget and spending thousands of dollars on an elliptical was not an option.
For several weeks, I researched sites like Craigslist looking for the right elliptical for me. Then finally, the week before Labor Day, I FOUND IT! It was almost exactly like the one that I had used at the gym that I belonged to in Madison. It was a commercial True Elliptical and the best part, I talked the owner down to $900. Wow! What a great deal! But . . .there was just one problem, one very-long distance problem.
The elliptical was in a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri, not quite the 45-minute drive to either La Crosse or Eau Claire that I had hoped for. I knew that approaching my dad and point blank asking, “Hey, can I take the farm truck to Missouri to pick up an elliptical?” was a NON-STARTER!
Like many farmers who take pride in their farms, animals, equipment and also their farm trucks, my dad was no different. Our farm truck is in pristine condition with low miles. It’s strictly used for hauling cattle and wagons; very rarely getting outside of an hour away from the farm. To say that it was difficult getting the blessing to take the farm truck to Missouri is not an overstatement.
I came up with a plan. Labor Day weekend was coming up, and I knew that my entire family was going to my aunt and uncles in Mukwonago, near Milwaukee, a solid three and a half hours away. So I graciously offered to my parents to stay back and do chores, feed the steers and look after the farm. Who in the world would turn this offer down, right? Of course my folks were very thankful for my offer and gladly accepted.
You might think that I could have easily taken the truck without permission, but that is simply not how I roll. I did know, however, depending on how I phrased the question what my dad’s response would be. I knew if I kept the question simple, short, and most importantly, asked it really fast, that the answer would more than likely be, “Yeah, sure.”
So on Saturday morning after I fed the steers, I called dad and very quickly asked, “Hey dad, I found this elliptical that I want to get. Would you mind if I run and get it with the farm truck?” Without missing a beat, dad replied with a quick, “Yeah, sure, go ahead.”
BOOOOYAH! I had my permission. Once I had that, I quickly responded, “Oh, got to go. See you when you get home on Monday.” If he had asked follow up questions, I would have responded honestly. But he didn’t, so I was just going to go with that. The mission: permission, and I got it!
After watching a devastating Wisconsin Badger loss to the Louisiana State University Tigers, I decided to make my way down to St. Louis. I left about 2:30 a.m. on Sunday and was back in the farm yard by early evening the same day. The elliptical was at my house, and I was excited, but scared because now came the hard work – actually using it.
When my parents came back, I waited to see how long it took my dad to ask me where exactly I had gone with the farm truck. I saw him on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at the farm and there was not one question yet about where I had gone. I remembered thinking, “I’m home free.” Then came Friday. I went down to the farm and dad finally asked, “So where did you go to get this elliptical? Did you go to La Crosse?”
I knew two things at this point: 1) Dad had not done the math on the mileage or he definitely would have known that I had gone farther than La Crosse; or 2) Dad actually had done the math and he was going to see if I would admit to where I had gone. So I decided, let’s play a game of ‘how much does dad really want to know.’ I replied, “Ahh, little south of La Crosse.” I figured best case scenario Dad might leave it at that, or at worst, Dad would ask a follow-up question. You guessed it, Dad is not dumb, he had an immediate follow-up question. “So… like Prairie du Chien south?” he asked. I quickly replied, “Just yonder, real close…” Again, dad being a smart person followed-up, “Well did you go to Illinois?” I very proudly and profoundly stated, “In no such way did I go to Illinois.”
In retrospect, probably being that smart-ass backfired because at this point dad could tell something was up and finally said, in that ‘cut the crap’ tone, “Where did you actually go with my farm truck?” I was honest, and I said that I had taken the truck to St. Louis to get the elliptical. Dad’s head turned immediately from what he was working on and gave me the look.
I could tell by his face that he in fact had not done the math on the mileage of the truck. Dad quickly replied to my statement, “But… but, you said you didn’t go to Illinois?” I smiled back with a big-ole grin and said, “I didn’t… I went through Iowa.”
We get a good laugh about the story now, and Dad says it’s the best miles that truck has ever seen!
From that point, exercising on the elliptical became nearly a daily occurrence. When I first began, I needed to take it slow as it was hard to do even 10 minutes straight; and that was without putting any resistance on it. This is where persistence pays off. After two weeks, I increased the time to 15 minutes. Then I was able to add some resistance.
Slowly but surely over the next few months, I was able to increase the elliptical to a total of 60 minutes (two, 30-minute stints) at the most strenuous resistance setting that my elliptical had.
While there weren’t many people who I talked to about losing weight, I did reach out to one friend who had a background in physical fitness. The friend suggested that I incorporate things like push-ups, lunges, jumping jacks, squats, planks and tippy toes. So each day I wrote on a post-it note: 200 tippy toes, 100 jumping jacks, 60 lunges, 60 push-ups, 60 squats and 6 minutes of planks; and when I accomplished them I crossed them off. Adding these exercises was important to increase my heart rate during the middle of the day, and they also were things that I could do in my hotel room if I was traveling for work.
Out of the ‘extra’ exercises that I did, I will fully admit that lunges are what totally did me in. Even though they are easier for me to do now, I still contend that lunges were developed by the devil himself. If I go a few days without doing them, it feels like I’m starting over again. I know they are good to do, but dang, they can make a grown man cry!
My friend also suggested things that were so simplistic, but they were things I had never done or thought about before. The friend suggested things such as doing tippy toes or squats while brushing your teeth, parking in the furthest parking spot from the store or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. It sounds so goofy, but these little things add up in a big way!
I thank my friend dearly for the advice, encouragement and just being someone who I was able to bounce ideas off of if I was struggling or in a plateau.
Even the Smoothest Highways have Potholes . . .
There are a lot of things that I have to be thankful for during my weight loss journey, but let me tell you, there have been some bumps, potholes and what at times felt like possible detours.
In August 2014, I started the process and in September I incorporated exercise with the use of the elliptical. Through the month of September, I was losing anywhere from 7 to 12 pounds a week. Yes, I know this sounds like a lot of weight, but also remember that I was well in excess of 500 pounds. I was feeling good, I felt like I had hit my stride and all I had to do was to keep this up.
I was heading into the month of October with a lot of excitement. My sister was getting married on the first weekend of October. Much to my chagrin; not that she was getting married, but that she was getting married on the SATURDAY OF WORLD DAIRY EXPO. My aggie friends will understand. Anyway, I was pumped for the week and decided that I was going to crack down on my nutrition even more and I was going to ‘up my game’ on the elliptical. This week’s weight loss was going to be a rockstar number, I just knew it!
All week my nutrition was on point, I was killing it on the elliptical; I couldn’t wait until I weighed myself on Friday morning. Friday morning comes around and I go to my friend Bubba’s farm to weigh myself and . . .-2. Are . . . You . . . Freaking . . . Kidding . . . Me . . .
I felt stunned. How in the world could I be eating so good, working out so much harder and ONLY get a -2? To be honest, I wasn’t sad, depressed or down. I was FURIOUS! This simply did not make sense. I knew the calories in, I knew the calories out and dammit this -2 was bull! The whole day I was fuming. I let my expectation of what I thought I should have had, define what honestly should have been a great day; that I had lost another two pounds.
While during the day I maintained my normal routine of the food I ate and the exercise that I did. Then night came and it was time for the wedding rehearsal meal. On the menu was beef tips and gravy, baked chicken and all of the fixings. Ugh. I couldn’t hold myself back. That night I had this feeling of, “What’s the point, all of that work for a lousy -2. The hell with it, I’m going to blow it tonight.” So I did, and boy did I blow it. I had oodles and oodles of tips and chicken; and let me tell you I savored and devoured every single bite. Not once did regret, remorse or guilt enter my mind while I was eating. But I can tell you it was the very second that I had put down my fork because I was sooooo stuffed that I thought to myself, “What in the world have I done?” At this point, I had lost 57 pounds and at that very moment I felt like I had gained each and every pound back.
I had two choices at this juncture in my journey: 1) I could accept defeat, and believe that this is just who I am and how things are; or 2) I could fight, and not let this ‘detour’ be the end of the road. I chose to fight; and the day after the wedding I was back on par with my nutrition and I was back working my tail off on the elliptical. I didn’t know where diet and exercise was going to take me, but I knew this: I surely wasn’t going to let what happened the night of the wedding rehearsal be the end of my story.
For the most part, my employer and my colleagues have been fantastic! Really they have, but, from time to time it has created some awkward situations. In the role that I am in as a District Coordinator for the Wisconsin Farm Bureau, my duties require me to attend county Farm Bureau board of director meetings. The board of directors are mainly made up of farmers; and if you know anything about a meeting of farmers, more than likely there will be food, and at times a full meal with desserts and beverages.
The pizza, the pan of homemade dessert bars, the cheese and sausage tray, these are all items that in the past I would have gobbled up, but now these were things that definitely did not fit into my nutrition game plan. Going to these meetings and not partaking at first seemed really weird. Not only was there a huge temptation within feet of me, but there was almost this ‘expectation’ of eating. I mean why wouldn’t the big guy have some pizza and dessert?
I know that the weird or awkwardness was only in my head, but still, it honestly felt weird to constantly be saying no thank you to food. After time, I became quite fluent in kindly saying no thanks. I know that part of the reason I felt weird was because no one really knew what I was trying to do. Like I said earlier, very, and I mean very few people knew that I was even trying to lose weight. I didn’t want people to know for fear of failure. So I bit the bullet and just felt awkward for a while.
The other struggle was learning how to cope with these temptations within several feet of me. When it was just me at my house, I could control what was in the cupboards, fridge and pantry; however, when someone lifts the box of a hot fresh pizza, opens the cover of a pan of chocolate cake. Uff da. Houston we’ve got a MAJOR problem.
I had to devise tricks that made saying ‘no’ to those things easier. Saying ‘no’ to pizza, desserts and cheese and sausage will NEVER be easy, but I learned different ways to manage the temptations. The vast majority of my meetings were at night, so I brought my supper with me in my car and ate it prior to my meeting so that I went in with a meal in my stomach. I also had some string cheese sticks with me for ‘emergency’ situations where I was still hungry. I ate the string cheese in lieu of being tempted to eat whatever was in front of me. There are people who could have one cookie and stop. I am not one of those people. So I know that I have to work to not cave into those temptations. String cheese and gum have been my saving graces on more than one occasion. Eating my salad before the meeting, having the string cheese available didn’t get rid of the temptation to have pizza, cake or cheese and sausage; but what it did do was make the resisting the temptation doable or tolerable.
From time to time, I was in situations where I was at a meeting or conference when it was a plated meal setting. These can be tricky. Generally, these are formal situations, and it is not the easiest or the most comfortable feeling in the world to say, ‘no thank you’ to the food that is being presented. Normally, I would eat the salad and then say, “no thank you” to the main dish and dessert; however, at one meeting I wasn’t in the position to say no thank you before this gorgeous piece of beautiful steak was placed directly in front of me.
This had truly been the ultimate test of will power since the whole wedding rehearsal debacle. I had many things going through my head ranging from, “Come on, it’s just steak and potatoes, GO FOR IT,” to “Don’t you dare take a single bite.” This sounds odd, but it was as though I was negotiating with myself in my head. I can have the potatoes if I do this, I could have the steak if I did that.
Then there was the whole trying to estimate the calories of each of the different segments of the plate. I’m trying to compute all of this while yet maintaining a semi-coherent conversation with the rest of the people at my table. Needless to say, in this situation, I just ate the broccoli and left the steak and potatoes. While I knew I did the right thing because I had my meal that I had prepared back up in my hotel room, it still created that awkward situation where people asked, “Is the food cold? Is there something wrong with the food?” To point blank asking me, “Why aren’t you eating your steak and potatoes?”
At this point I still wasn’t comfortable with telling people why I wasn’t eating with them, so I just said, “I’m really not that hungry right now.” Truth was, I was very hungry, but I was hungry for the food that I had back in my hotel room and I had to buy some time until I could get there.
I don’t tell these stories because I am trying to embarrass someone or the situation, but they are the reality of the journey. The weird bumps and twists in the road that you don’t necessarily expect. I could have let every circumstance where others eating around me convinced me that I should partake as well; I could have let these situations deter me from what I knew was right for me. There will be awkward situations, make no mistake about it, they will happen but how you handle and react to them can have huge impacts on your journey.
In those situations, remember to breathe and remind yourself of what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and how far you’ve come! Don’t get wrapped up in the situation and know that it will pass and that everything will be okay!
The Face in the Mirror that Never Changed . . .
I’m going to say something that may not make a lot of sense to a lot of people, but to a certain extent, losing the weight was the easy part of my journey. When you have been ‘the big one’ your entire life, you literally know nothing else. It’s how your mind thinks and how you view yourself.
I was wise enough, that from the very beginning I started an Excel file that kept track of my progress. Every Friday morning, I weighed myself and then input the weight for that week into the file. I devised the program so after putting in the weight it would compute the pounds lost, percent of weekly loss, total weight lost, percent of total weight loss, average weekly loss, BMI, four-week average loss and the eight-week average loss.
This was very, VERY important to me particularly in the beginning. When you lose 50 pounds and you were in excess of 500 pounds, you really can’t tell the difference. But with this Excel file, I was able to see it and actually see the change on a weekly basis, but also the change from my starting point. To be frank, I had lost nearly 150 pounds before people asked if I had lost weight. My standard response was, “A few pounds, but still a work in progress.” I said that because that is honestly what I felt. I didn’t feel as though I had lost hardly any weight, and that there was still a tremendous amount of work that needed to be done.
The truth is that while the numbers on the scale showed that I was changing, I couldn’t see the change physically. Mentally I had changed the way in which I thought about food and exercise, but I hadn’t changed the way I thought about myself. When I looked in the mirror I still saw the 542-pound self. Honest to God, I really didn’t think that I looked that much different. I could put on a pair of pants and see the change, I could put on a shirt and literally be swimming in it, yet when I looked in the mirror it was like none of those changes existed.
As my journey progressed, it became much more apparent to people that I had lost a good amount of weight. I can’t tell you the number of people that told me, “You need to change your Facebook profile picture.” My Facebook profile picture had been my headshot of when I was hired at Farm Bureau. It’s actually a really nice photo of me, and I liked it a lot. I couldn’t understand why in the world people would tell me to change my profile picture. I would think to myself, “Sure, I’ve lost a few, but that is still me, that’s who I am.”
The reality was, that wasn’t who I was, but I couldn’t recognize it. For a while, I quite frankly became very defensive of the question. I knew that people weren’t intending it to come off in a negative way and that they were just happy for me; however, there was a time where I felt like it was a dig. Like I should have been ashamed of who that person was. I remember thinking to myself that I will never be ashamed of that person. That guy in the photo, “That’s the guy that walked the halls of the United States and State Capitols trying to make a difference. That’s the guy that has worked hard in his community. That’s the guy that decided to take a chance. That’s the guy that decided dreams were worth chasing. That’s the guy that took the very first step to where I am today!”
I felt as though people were viewing me solely for my weight, and not for what I had accomplished in life. I always knew that people talked about changing the Facebook profile photo in a positive matter, but that is honestly how I felt. I felt like I was losing my identity. I didn’t quite know who I was. For everything that I had ever known was changing. It was scary because people saw me differently, but I didn’t see or feel different at all. I was still Steve Boe. It was a serious struggle, and I didn’t know how to handle it. I just kept telling myself, “Yes, I’ve lost a few pounds, but this is still a work in progress. I’ve just got to keep going.”
As time went on, more and more people were having trouble recognizing me. Again, this was hard because while it was so obvious to others, in my head it was just a few pounds. Often if I was in a crowd of people who I hadn’t seen for a while, I would go up to people and start a conversation like, “Hey, how are things going at the farm? How’s the family? How have things been?”
I started these conversations with people who I have virtually known my entire life, but maybe haven’t seen in a year or so. At first I could tell on their face that they were clueless as to who they were talking to and then after a minute or two, I could literally see the light go off in their head and they could figure out that it was me. For some it was the sound of my voice that they recognized, and for others it was just the subjects we were talking about, that through process of elimination they were able to figure out who I was.
More often than not, I could physically see on their face once they figured out who I was. When this first happened I would think to myself, “How in the world could they not know me? How could they not recognize me, it’s not like I’ve changed that much.” It took me a while to accept the fact that to other people, I had really visibly changed.
My favorite example of this was in late August of 2015, I was attending the wedding reception of one of my high school classmates. At this point, I would have been about 13 months into the process and I had lost nearly 300 pounds. The classmate who was getting married and his brother, who also was a classmate of mine, were dear friends from high school.
I don’t get to see them very often, but the two of them and their parents were very near to me. I arrived at the hotel and as I walked into the lobby I saw the groom and he was talking with his family. I waited until he was done with photos and I then walked up to him, handed him a card and congratulated him. He kindly accepted the card and I started talking with him. As the conversation was going on, I’m seeing he is totally not realizing that it is me, Steve. He is absolutely clueless. I had never had this long of a conversation with someone where they hadn’t figured it out yet.
Finally, I just came out and asked him, “You know who I am right?” He said, “I’m really sorry, but I don’t know who you are.” I said, “I’m Steve Boe.” He laughed in disbelief and said, “No, you’re not.” I countered, “No, it’s really me.” He still could not fathom it was me. I literally had to get out my cell phone and show him my Facebook profile, and my contacts. Even after all of this, it was still hard for him to fully comprehend. He just kept staring at me asking if it was really me.
This was the first time where I legitimately thought I had drastically changed. I could tell by his eyes and the way he kept looking at me that he was in absolute shock. He just couldn’t get over how much I had visibly changed. I couldn’t get over, how he couldn’t get over how much I had changed. After he finally believed me, he took me over to his brother who was just as blind-sided, and then to his parents, who also did not realize it was me.
That experience at the wedding really helped me understand how I view myself, more than they will ever know. It wasn’t necessarily that I was able to figure out who I was, but it was more or less acknowledging who I wasn’t. It was at that time that I finally I accepted the fact that I wasn’t the 542-pound guy any more. That things really had transformed, even if in my own eyes I didn’t exactly know how much.
Live From New York . . .
As I was going along my journey, from time to time people would say things like you should send your story into Ellen, The Doctors, The Today Show, etc. To be honest, I didn’t give it much thought. I was just a simple guy who was on his own personal journey trying to make a healthier lifestyle for himself. I surely didn’t think this was worthy of attention, let alone national attention.
I have no problem talking about my weight and weight loss journey, but normally it has been on a one-to-one basis, and it’s because someone brought up the subject to me. I don’t shy away from the subject, but I never shined the light on it either.
After lots of convincing, and with a lot of reservation, I did submit my story to various outlets. Frankly, I did it so that when asked I could say, “Yup, I did that and nothing became of it.”
After I submitted my story, I went nearly two months saying exactly that. For all I knew, I was just a needle in a haystack. I felt that I had just as good of odds getting the winning Powerball numbers than I had of anything becoming of my weight-loss story.
Fully believing that nothing would happen, I just continued with the diet and exercise. That is what I knew, and that is what I was comfortable with. Besides it was harvest time now and we had soybeans that need to be combined.
I will forever remember the day and location when I got the call. It was Friday, October 16, 2015, and we were combining beans. During a break from combining my Dad asked me, “Hey you ever hear from any of them TV shows?” I replied with my standard line of, “I sent in my story to a few places, but that stuff doesn’t happen.” So I got back in the truck, the now infamous farm truck, and Dad got back in the combine. It was just then that my phone rang and initially I thought it was Dad calling and I began to wonder what in the world is wrong with the combine now.
As I looked at the caller ID, I saw that it said New York, NY. I have to admit, at this point, I’m intrigued. I’m thinking to myself, “Nah, it can’t be about my story, could it?” So I answered the phone and the gal on the other end says, “Hi, my name is Carlee from the Today Show.” In the back of my mind, I’m thinking, “No crap, this is actually happening!”
Carlee proceeded to ask about my weight loss, how I did it, how long it took and some other generic questions. Then she asked if she could get some recent photos. This was actually kind of a problem. I really hadn’t been one for getting photos taken. I tried to search my phone and Facebook and came up with nothing that was even remotely close to recent.
After we were done combining for the night, I enlisted the help of my brother and sister-in-law to take some photos. They obviously knew something was up as this is completely out of character for me. I’m not one to call them up and say, “Gosh, I feel like a photo shoot today, the lighting just looks spectacular.” Not really my forte! So I had to come clean and tell them what these were for, but I swore them to secrecy because nothing was a done deal and everything was just preliminary at this point.
As promised, that night I sent in my before pictures and I guess more importantly my most recent pictures. I went the whole weekend not saying anything to anyone, fully believing that nothing would become of it. I would rather not expect anything, than have a total let down. Or, at least that is how I was thinking.
Monday arrived and mid-afternoon I get another phone call from a different Today Show producer. She asked me, “If we fly you out here and take care of your expenses will you be on the show?” I was thinking, “So let me get this straight: 1) You’re paying to fly me out to New York City, 2) You’re going to cover the cost of the hotel, 3) You’re going to reimburse me for food expenses. Ummm. Let me think about this? Yeah, yeah. I think we can make this work!”
After that happened it seemed like a whirlwind of different things like getting vacation time figured out, making travel arrangements and working with the producers about additional information they wanted. There were lots of moving pieces, all happening in a short amount of time.
I received an email from someone who works with Joy Bauer, who is the nutritionist who runs the Joy Fit Club. They wanted to have some sort of an ag prop as a part of the segment and they were wondering how much does a bale of hay weigh. Now, I have to admit, that I was feeling a tad mischievous at the time and I remember thinking, “Should I have a little fun with this? I’ve got a really good feeling that they don’t know much about ag, let alone a hay bale.” So I replied back with a few questions. “Was this grassy hay? Alfalfa hay? Did they know if it was baled wet or what the percent moisture was?” I will completely accept that I was being a true smartass, but it was all in good nature. Needless to say I never got an email back.
The day came for me to fly to New York City, and to maximize my tourist time, I chose the earliest flight I could out of Madison on Sunday morning. I landed mid-morning in New York City and after I got my luggage I was told by the producer that there would be an individual there to pick me up. I initially thought it would be possibly some intern from the Today Show. I was wrong. Here was this very nice fellow dressed in a two-piece black suit holding up a sign that said, “Mr. Boe.” I walked up to him and I said, “I think you’re here for me.” Ha. The look on his face was priceless. Here he was dressed to the nines, and here I was with my red wing boots, blue jeans, button up shirt and a brand new John Deere hat. I remembered thinking, “Folks, we are not in Taylor anymore.”
The driver and I made our way out of the airport. He was a very nice guy who repeatedly offered to take my bag for me, but I was good. We walked out to the parking area and there sits this glossy, pitch black Cadillac Escalade. This thing was sharp. So of course I had to do the touristy thing and tell the guy, “Hey, take my photo with this car!” With a smile he took the photo of me and the car and then we were on our way.
As we were killing time, I asked the gentleman, “So, who have you ever picked up from the airport before?” He starts talking about Jennifer Aniston, George Clooney and all of these A-list people. I laughed and told him, “So, you drew the short straw today by getting to pick me up?” He laughed at my joke and then proceeded to say that all of the people he picks up are important. I gave him kudos on the nice follow up and save.
After I arrived at the hotel, which was located directly across the street from 30 Rockefeller Center, I wanted to get out and accomplish the one major tourist thing that I wanted to see. Of course there are so many things that you can see in New York City, but the one thing that I wanted to see was the World Trade Center Memorial. September 11 was my JFK, my Challenger. I can tell you exactly where I was when I first learned about it and everything that went along with that day. I remember it as vividly as though it was yesterday and I hope to always be able to remember it that clearly.
I spent more than four hours at the memorial and I could have spent even more. One of the feelings that I had coming out of the memorial is that as much as September 11 was an attack against the entire nation, it was a whole different ballgame for New Yorkers. I truly can’t fathom what it must have been like to be a New Yorker on September 11 and in the weeks and months to follow. I highly recommend visiting the memorial to those who make it to New York City. It really is time and money well spent!
When I was done at the World Trade Center Memorial, I walked around and took in the sites. I never really knew just how amazing New York City is. I would never live there, but I would definitely go back and visit. I saw Times Square, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and all sorts of buildings and places that you see on TV and in the movies. It was really fascinating.
Once I called it a night, I decided to go back to the hotel and chill for the night. The hotel was by far the smallest hotel room that I had ever stayed in, but it also was BY FAR the most expensive room that I had ever stayed in as well.
On the morning of the show, I was given instructions to go over to the Today Show studio, which was across the street from 30 Rock. I walked over, checked in and then I was escorted down to the initial green room. In the green room they had tons of food and drink.
It also was the day that they were doing Halloween costume ideas for kids. So there was just a ton of little kids with their parents all dressed up in Halloween costumes. It was loud and complete chaos, but it was fun to watch!
One of the questions I often get asked is, “Did I see any celebrities? The truth is, there was only one celebrity who I recognized and that was Matthew Broderick. There were other people in the green room where you looked at them wondering who they were, but I surely didn’t know who they were. Then they would leave the green room and you would see them on TV, which would have their name and what show they were on. I don’t really watch a whole lot of TV so it didn’t surprise me that I couldn’t recognize the actors or actresses that were on the show that day.
As it came time for Diane Stone, who was the other Joy Fit Club member who was on the show that day, and I to go to the studio, we first had to get hair and make-up done. This was a true eye opener for me. Fortunately, my hair passed their inspection without any tinkering, but yes, even I had to get powdered up. I whipped out my phone to take a picture of this because I definitely had some friends and colleagues who would get a kick out of this.
As I proceeded to take a photo, there was a loud booming voice, “PUT THAT PHONE AWAY. NO PICTURES ALLOWED.” Alright, alright. I put the phone away. I later found out, that is a huge no, no apparently.
About 10 minutes before we were scheduled to go near the studio and get mic’d, Joy Bauer and her crew came down to meet Diane and I. While I always figured that Joy was a small person based on how she looked on the TV, I never would have imagined just how tiny she really is. Diane and I were talking with Joy, walking through how the segment was going to go and she was prepping us with a few softball questions that could get asked.
Now this entire time, I never had any nerves. I really was cool as a cucumber. I absolutely just viewed this as an experience that I was going to lay back and enjoy; however, as we were talking with Joy and her crew, I saw Joy turn back to one of her staff and I overheard her whisper, “He doesn’t know about that yet!” At this point is when I started to get a little nervous. I was thinking, “What do you mean I don’t know about that yet?!” Then my mind started to wonder. “Maybe she had contacted John Deere and I’m getting a tractor? Maybe she told Chevy about my farm truck story getting the elliptical and they’ll pull back a curtain and there will be a Chevy Duramax truck.”
Oh the possibilities seemed endless. I was even thinking if they give me a tractor or a truck, I’m going to scream like a little school girl. Whatever it is, I’m sure it’s going to be cool.
Diane and I are now in the studio getting ready for our segment. The crew members are giving us instructions on when we are supposed to come out and other cues. But in the back of my head, all I’m thinking about is John Deere tractors and Chevy trucks.
Now, it’s show time. Diane and I got behind our respective screens and Joy gave the introduction to our stories. I was first, so Joy talked about growing up on a farm, what I did to lose weight and all sorts of other stuff, and then proceeds to say, “Come on out Steve.”
This was my cue to come out from behind the screen and they specifically wanted me to stretch my overalls out. I was so focused on coming out from behind the screen and stretching the bibs that I really wasn’t paying much attention to what Joy was saying.
Kathie Lee and Hoda threw a few softball questions but in reality it was like 10 to 15 seconds. Some like to tell me that I should have had more time, but hey, this is their show and I was extremely happy to be there. Then it came time. Joy said the magic words, “And we’ve got a surprise for Steve. Check out (I’m thinking check out his new JOHN DEERE TRACTOR . . .) in corn cobs how much weight Steve has lost. That is over 12 cases of corn on the cobs.” This, I think, was God’s little way of giving me a little dose of my own medicine for that poor producer who got my response to her email asking how much hay weighed. J Point well taken!
When the segment concluded and they went to commercial Hoda turned to Diane because that is who she was closest to, and Kathie Lee turned to me. Kathie Lee was extremely gracious and kind, and both of them looked very beautiful. When the Today Show ended, Joy stayed around so that we could get photos. It was definitely something that she didn’t have to do, but was very much appreciated. It is nice to have reminders of that day.
To see the Today Show segment, visit: www.today.com/health/joy-fit-club-member-drops-324-pounds-loses-over-half-t52171
After that, I was on my own. I knew I had to be back at the hotel at 5 p.m. to catch a ride back to the airport, but other than that I had the whole day to do whatever. One thing that I wanted to do, was I wanted to have a nice lunch and celebrate. I wanted to have a crab cake, something that I couldn’t get back home easily.
I asked a producer and she suggest the Sea Grill, which was directly across the street from the studio. Without thinking, I walked over to the Sea Grill, which is actually located underground overlooking the ice skating rink at 30 Rockefeller. I proceeded to walk into the restaurant and asked for a table for one.
The kind lady sat me in a corner by myself. I began to look around and I saw what people were wearing. I realized that this is no Applebee’s or Olive Garden. Everyone was decked out in very fine clothes, and I was feeling way out of my league. It was at this point that I began to wonder if I got put in the corner because I was in my jeans, button-up shirt and John Deere hat or if it was because of the fantastic view of the ice skating rink.
I’m going to go with, “I was given a really good view of people skating.”
Another reminder that I wasn’t in Taylor anymore came when I opened up the menu. Uff da! The crab cakes that I had wanted were $43 dollars. That was just the crab cakes. No fries, no potato, no side salad. Nothing! Just two crab cakes on a little bed of micro greens. I ordered the crab cakes, but I got to thinking that those may not really be all that filling. I also ordered a $17 bowl of wild mushroom soup. Hey, the Today Show was paying for this anyway, so why not?
With the meal being complete, I got the bill and easily paid the most for any meal that I ever have had in my entire life; however, I viewed this as a once in a lifetime experience as well, so I was just going to enjoy the ride. When I left the restaurant, I just walked around. There is so much to see in New York City that I just spent the entire afternoon visiting different places and buildings. I even had coffee at Trump Tower! I only got to see the atrium area, but that place is NICE!
Soon, it was 5 p.m. and time for me to find the guy again with the sign that said, ‘Mr. Boe’ and jump in another spotless black vehicle! My time in New York City had ended, but it was truly an experience that I’m so thankful that I had and that I’ll never forget!
Want to read Part III? Click here!