Robert Rivard and Monika Maeckle at Glacier Lake National Park, September 2013. Photo by Mike Maeckle.
Robert Rivard and Monika Maeckle at Glacier Lake National Park, September 2013. Credit: Courtesy / Mike Maeckle

One pound a month, every month, for 30 months. One by one, I gained 30 pounds from the day the Rivard Report launched in February 2012 to July 2014. The weight gain was the byproduct of a 24/7 work existence, waking up every day, and often at night, trying to create something out of nothing.

Today the Rivard Report is four employees and 20 regular freelance writers and photographers. Our audience keeps growing and with it our ambitions. It’s been one of the most rewarding and demanding endeavors in my 37 years of work as a journalist.

In the process, I’ve lost the level of fitness and the pride that went with it. I’ve run marathons, I’ve cycled century rides. I’m still active, especially compared to most men I know my age (I’m 61). But I hate the way I’ve let myself go. I don’t remember which morning inspection in the mirror, which missed workout, which midnight editing session finally made me reach the breaking point.

I finally decided enough was enough. I wanted the old me back.

This story is the first in a series of exactly how I have set about regaining my form. That means sharing more personal information than most people, including me, care to share. Like my weight. Like bad days and setbacks. Like quitting drinking until I achieve my weight and fitness goals and renew my contract with moderation as a lifestyle.

I hope to motivate others in San Antonio, a city weighed down by an obesity epidemic, to pause in their own lives and consider making life-renewing changes. Whatever privacy I surrender will be worth it.

Of course, I could fail. I could fall flat on my face in front of a whole city. That’s not my plan. This is a story where I believe I know the ending even before I finish the first chapter. I’m familiar with failure, and actually unafraid of it. If I stumble, I’ll get back up. The hard part will be writing about it.

Like many intended journeys back to good health and fitness, mine started on Jan.1, a New Year’s resolution to reverse the effects of nearly two years of workaholic existence. That meant no drinking alcohol (calorie-rich red wine is my particular weakness) and consistent, daily exercise until I achieved a weight goal of losing 30 pounds.  Afterwards, it would be all things in moderation.

The author on a B-Cycle sporting a Local Coffee logo near the Alamo Plaza. Photo by Cindi Snell.
The author on a B-Cycle sporting a Local Coffee logo near the Alamo Plaza. Photo by Cindi Snell.

I stand just under 5? 10? and weighed 205 pounds at the start of the year. Losing height with age and spinal deterioration is no fun. A successful laminectomy in 2006 restored me to full functionality, on and off my road bike, but it didn’t stop the discs in my lower back from continuing to wear out. The burden of extra weight doesn’t help.

I made some progress in the new year, but I didn’t change my work habits or the frequency I ate meals at restaurants, combining food with business. By March 1, after two months of not drinking, my weight hovered around 200 pounds. I gave up.

A month or so afterwards, I walked into One Lucky Duck, a juice, shake, and raw, vegan food takeaway at the Pearl. The name caught my attention, even though I knew little or nothing about juicing, “cleansing,” or raw food. I’ve known a few vegans and I occasionally eat vegetarian, but One Lucky Duck was unfamiliar territory for me. Behind the counter, a nice young woman, her arms a mosaic of interesting and distracting tattoos, asked if she could take my order or answer any questions. I was outside my comfort zone. I thanked her and left without ordering.

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 a zucchini and heirloom tomato lasagna. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Days later I turned to my favorite healthy eating and fitness blog, Celebrating Health, written by Claudia Zapata. I first met Claudia, a registered dietitian, in the late-1990s when she was working as a spin coach and nutrition counselor at the Concord Athletic Club.

I recruited her to write a bi-weekly nutrition and fitness column for the Express-News, where I served as editor, and a long friendship and working relationship was born.

Claudia Zapata. Courtesy photo.
Claudia Zapata. Courtesy photo.

The headline on Claudia’s blog that day startled me: Cleanse this: 3 days of raw food and juice. She had beaten me to the punch, subjecting herself to One Lucky Duck’s three-day cleansing program. I called her and she readily agreed to let the Rivard Report republish her article.

Then fate struck again. Rackspace co-founder Pat Condon introduced me to a young Trinity grad named Mitch Hagney. Together they had launched LocalSprout, an urban farm growing hydroponic leafy greens in a near-Eastside industrial space. I was intrigued, paid a visit, and did a story. Their first customer? One Lucky Duck. I knew a higher force was sending me karmic messages.

Still, months passed. The Rivard Report was setting traffic records and reaching new revenue marks each month. Readers and friends often remarked I must be having great fun. Well, yes, sort of. In truth, I was flirting with burnout, working ridiculous hours, missing too many team rides with my Third Street Grackles cycling team, still gaining weight, and drinking every night after work.

I was stressed out and food and alcohol were my medications. Medication that only made me feel worse. I wanted breakfast and lunch to stop being business meetings and appointments. I wanted to eat less, drink less. What I really wanted was to get a good night’s sleep for a change, and wake up able to wear clothes in my closet I hadn’t touched in two years.

Added to everything else was the stress of building a new house downtown designed by our son, Nicolas, who was living and working in Rwanda and not exactly available to help complete the project. It would be time soon to move. Was I going to let all those clothes go as we downsized, or was I going to do something about myself?

It was July 1, 2014. My weight had climbed to 212 pounds, the most I had ever weighed. My Body Mass Index (BMI) had reached 30 percent. I was borderline obese for the first time in my life, a fat man in a city of fat men and women.

Coming next: A return to One Lucky Duck and a meeting with owner Noah Melngailis.

*Featured/top image: The author Robert Rivard and Monika Maeckle at Glacier Lake National Park, September 2013. Photo by Mike Maeckle.

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Robert Rivard

Robert Rivard is co-founder and columnist at the San Antonio Report.