The Third Street Grackles pose for a photo during the Tour de Children ride in Helotes. Photo by Ed Purvis.

I finally cracked on Day 57: For late breakfast after a working field trip to Phil Hardberger Park with my son, Alex, I ordered the huevos a la mexicana plate at Panchito’s, and later that evening, while serving as a judge for CANstruction at North Star Mall, I joined the other judges and organizers and wolfed down some mall pizza.

A double meltdown after nearly two months of careful eating and regular exercise.

Like I say, I cracked. I began my wellness and fitness program with the aim of losing 35 pounds of fat gained during the 35 months of the Rivard Report’s existence. I had become a full-blown workaholic at a startup that was growing fast and wouldn’t let go of me.

I didn’t see Day 57 coming. It just happened. I’m sure there is some deep psychological explanation. I didn’t go looking for it. I just got back on my horse, which happens to be a road bike named Col, and resumed my uphill quest.

Today is Day 70 and my weight is down more than 25 pounds, from 210.6 on July 14 to 185.2 on Sept. 22. On Sunday about 20 members of the Third Street Grackles cycling team, which I helped found in 2005, rode the 64-mile, Tour De Children, a hilly, out-and-back event from Helotes to Boerne (see top photo). With every ride I’m gaining endurance and speed, and carrying less weight on the bike.

I have a sweet carbon fiber bike helping me up those hills, but I’m reminded of what Tom Eastwood, a longtime Bike World legend who rides his bike to work on Broadway from his home in Boerne every day, told me some years ago. I was looking over very expensive road bikes and asked his advice on the least expensive way to reduce the overall weight.

“Eat less, drink less,” he said. Never mind the bike.

Two months ago, on July 14, I started a self-designed fitness and wellness program with the aim of returning to a more balanced life. My goal was to lose 35 pounds to reach my ideal weight of 175 pounds. I’m a bit under 5? 10?, and have what I’ve been told by a medical professional is “an aging athlete’s body.”

I began with a week-long program at One Lucky Duck at the Pearl, where I ate and drank only meals, juices and shakes prepared there, all raw and vegan. That certainly served as a metabolic catalyst and a morale-builder with some fast weight loss, which were gains, if you know what I mean. I also learned a lot more about healthy food choices, and was especially reminded that really healthy food can be delicious and satisfying, too.

One Lucky Duck employees and sisters Naila Safont (left) and Stella Shafer pose a photo with a "Hot Pink" shake and zucchini and heirloom tomato lasangna. Photo by Iris Dimmick.
One Lucky Duck employees and sisters Naila Safont (left) and Stella Shafer pose for a photo with a “Hot Pink” shake and zucchini and heirloom tomato lasagna. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

In fact, I decided to stick with One Lucky Duck as a sort of home base, and 3-4 times a week I still drop in for a shake, a juice, or a salad to go. At the outset, I also stopped all alcohol consumption (red wine and beer are rich in calories) and stopped eating meat. That took some mental preparation.

Over time I have reintroduced lean meat into my diet, but only a few times a week. To celebrate the return to San Antonio this past weekend of our oldest son, Nicolas, our youngest son, Alex, prepared a grilled feast of venison back strap and wild dove. It tasted amazing, perfectly seared and sauced. It was a rare treat and thus all the more anticipated and savored. I crave meat on occasion, but mostly I crave leafy greens and steamed vegetables. My palate has changed with my diet and my weight.

Last week, Monika, my wife and I dined at Il Sogno at the Pearl to celebrate our 33rd anniversary, another year on life’s path with experiences that have ranged from deeply satisfying to seriously frustrating. A friend of mine recently remarked on the occasion of her 40th anniversary, “We’ve been happily married 30 years.” It was spoken with humor, but I thought it was one of the most honest things I’d ever heard.

Both of our adult sons, Nicolas and Alexander, moved back to San Antonio this year, a gift we never expected to celebrate, yet we can’t seem to complete a house we are building.

Co-owner Maureen Weissman greeted us at Il Sogno’s door and sent two glasses of bubbly prosecco to our table in honor of the occasion.

“What are you going to do?” Monika asked.

“I’m certainly not going to send it back,” I said, and we toasted the milestone. Thank you, Chef Andrew and Maureen. The next day it was back to the program, and so it goes.

My goal is to ride the Oct. 11-12 Bike MS: Valero Ride to the River, a two-day, 160-mile cycling event, at 179 pounds or less. I’d like to reach or surpass the 175 mark by my birthday, Nov. 17. If I do, I will have restored my fitness, and achieved a healthy weight in the space of four months. That gives me three more weeks to lose at least six pounds, and two months to lose 10 pounds. The weight came off more quickly at the outset, so my goals are aggressive, yet achievable.

Top fundraisers Team Velo Valero keeping a smooth pace and working together during the 2013 Bike MS: Valero Ride to the River. Photo by David Rangel.
Top fundraisers Team Velo Valero keep a smooth pace and working together during the 2013 Bike MS: Valero Ride to the River. Photo by David Rangel.

(This year our team will surpass the $500,000 mark in funds raised to fight multiple sclerosis. You can support our cause with a donation, small or large, by clicking here.)

At age 61, I can sense my slowing metabolism. Weight gain comes easier; weight loss comes harder. Muscle mass just disappears, slowly but surely. My decision to write about my program elicited two kinds of responses. One is people saying they didn’t realize I was overweight. The second is overweight people telling me they were inspired to try again themselves but preferred not to say so publicly.

Both reactions say something about society today. We live in a fat world. Dr. Thomas Schlenker, a friend and fellow cyclist, and the city’s top public health official as director of Metro Health, has written an article for the Rivard Report that we will publish Wednesday. We are inviting other community experts to address the same subject and how we are fighting the obesity and child obesity epidemic that is gripping our city.

If you have something to add to the public conversation contact us at hello@rivardreport.com and we will work together to publish you. You don’t have to be an expert.

San Antonio’s obesity is a crisis most people and most parents are ignoring, a community emergency without flashing lights or sirens.We pay far more attention to highway traffic accidents than we do our own public health.

As Dr. Schlenker notes in his article, San Antonio has improved. Our obesity rates are down, and not incidentally, our per capita consumption of sugar drinks is down. But we are still a fat city. More of us are fat than not fat. When Schlenker tried to sell City Council a few months ago on a sustained public service campaign to reduce obesity by reducing excess sugar drink consumption, he was met with resistance. The campaign went unapproved and unfunded.

Interestingly, the three largest sugar drink manufacturers — Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and the Dr Pepper Snapple Group — made a pledge in New York at the 10th annual Clinton Global Health Initiative to cut calories in their products by one-fifth over the next decade. The companies were acknowledging the role they play in the fueling the obesity crisis, an admission that tobacco companies took decades to make, only after intense government pressure. It’s a start. If we are going to address the problem locally, we will need those who make and market these products to help address our own city’s obesity crisis.

From Director of San Antonio Metro Health Department Dr. Thomas Schlenker's presentation, "Obesity in San Antonio: Change in the Right Direction."

From Director of San Antonio Metro Health Department Dr. Thomas Schlenker’s presentation, “Obesity in San Antonio: Change in the Right Direction.”

We are so fat that a man at least 35 pounds overweight — me — didn’t look fat relative to everyone else around me. Flash back 50 years and I would have looked big. No longer.

The second reaction is equally interesting. Very fat people, many of them morbidly obese, have told me that I have inspired them to embark on their own weight loss and active lifestyle programs, yet they prefer to keep that information private. They are too self-conscious to share that information in a posted comment or in writing their own story, they say. It’s as if people think they can hide their weight issues. That’s understandable: We’ve learned not to see what is all around us. We are a world of fat people getting fatter. It’s become socially acceptable and easy to rationalize.

All of us have prejudices and one of mine was toward fat people, who I thought were either lazy or lacked self-control. Some undoubtedly are, but as someone who succumbed to fatness and is now fighting my way back out, I understand the larger forces at play.

Our culture encourages obesity. We’ve engineered a world built for driving rather than walking. Our cities are uglified with fast food franchises lined up for miles along the expressways and main streets. Whole aisles of processed food products in our grocery stores and box stores are nutritionally deficient and unhealthy unless consumed in such moderation that most of us are better off avoiding processed foods altogether. “Convenience stores” serve up junk food to people who can gas their cars and fuel themselves and their children with one short stop. Schools, for all the talk, serve up industrialized food heavy in starches and carbohydrates and spend little time educating students from a young age about nutrition and other life skills.

This week we received an important update from SA2020, former Mayor Julián Castro’s initiative to help transform San Antonio over the course of a decade. Public health, wellness and recreation are important goals in that initiative. There is a long road ahead.

I have a way to go in achieving my goals and, once there, maintaining my wellness. San Antonio has much farther to go to achieve it goals. At this stage, it is too early to say with any certainty that the city will make it.

*Featured/top image: The Third Street Grackles pose for a photo during the Tour for Children ride in Helotes. Robert Rivard is second from left. Photo by Ed Purvis.

Related stories:

Month One: Pursuing Health and Balance

Week One: Rediscovering Good Habits

San Antonio’s Bike Advocate Assesses City’s Progress

Southsider Reflects on Potential Bike Lane Removal

Cleanse This: 3 Days of Raw Food and Juice with One Lucky Duck

Sunday Síclovía to Highlight Southside, Million Pound Challenge

Robert Rivard

Robert Rivard

Robert Rivard is editor and publisher of the San Antonio Report.