BodyImage4Justice is pleased to begin our Allies Week with this story of change and empowerment from Rob Alvarez.
About a year ago I was getting terrible headaches. So, naturally I went to my doctor. When I got on the scale I realized how heavy I was. It was not good feeling to watch the larger weight move over another notch. It took my doctor about five seconds to figure out what was causing my headaches. My blood pressure! I mean, my blood pressure was off the charts. It was scary high. He said to me, “You’re too young for medication, you need to correct this with diet and exercise.” Needless to say this only increased my stress. I spoke to a friend, and he and my partner researched what to do. They came through and helped me develop a plan.
For the first time in my life, I started looking at more than just the ingredients but also at the nutritional facts on food labels. My focus was sodium, but I started to understand what I was eating. Wow, we eat crap all the time! But still, I only focused on the sodium. I started exercising daily because it was good for my blood pressure. I started to think about my physical health and state of being. Then one day I looked in the mirror and was shocked by what I saw.
What I saw made me reflect, and I noticed behaviors that weren’t always there. For example, at the beach (love the beach and go every chance I get), as soon as I got out of the water I wrapped myself in a towel or put on a shirt immediately. My clothes became baggier and baggier. I had lost some confidence, and anyone who knows me could testify to my confidence and my belief in myself.
First I got sad. I fell into a self pity trap. Then I became angry with myself for allowing this to happen. And finally, I had a plan. For years I had thought, “I need to be the man I ought to be instead of the man I am.” My plan had five parts. Lose the weight, get healthy, live true to my principles, be a better role model, and get my confidence back.
I lost over forty pounds. My blood pressure is great. I stand up for what I believe in and do what’s right, even though I know that when you fight injustice you make your life more difficult. I became more firm in my resolve to think of things in terms of social justice. I hope I am a better role model for my boys. They are becoming young men, and I hope I have not missed the mark. I am proud of them. They see me battling to get healthy and they have been wonderful and supportive.
There was a pivotal moment for me. One day during the summer my nephew and his girlfriend came for a visit. We went to the beach and swam, walked the boardwalk and just had an awesome day. When we got back to the house, there was a long line for showers, and me and my two boys threw on dry clothes and sneakers and went for a two mile run. A year ago I couldn’t have done it. It felt so good to know that I was able to do it! (I could never keep up with my son if he didn’t wait for me.) It was great to run together, all three of us. Now I am going to do a 5K run with Jalyn next month. Being a better role model is a constant work in process that requires constant reflection.
My confidence is the part that is the area that I have made the least progress. The doubts are ingrained. I have been programmed with insecurities, as have so many other people. Those have been with me for so long that it may take a lifetime to undo the damage.
I am living so much closer to being the man I ought to be rather than the man I was.
– Rob Alvarez