Saturday, January 15, 2011

Turning Point

Take a long hard look at this picture, because I can't.

For those of you who know me, you know that I am a HUGE fan of the human spaceflight program. I have dreamed of being an astronaut since early childhood, and the moment captured in this photo was as close as I will ever get. I was about to do a run in the Space Shuttle motion-base simulator at Johnson Space Center in Houston, alongside STS-127 pilot Doug Hurley.

It was one of the most exciting moments of my life, and THE most embarrassing. Because of my size, I could get only four of the five safety belts fastened, no matter how hard I tried. Astronauts in their pumpkin suits and with parachutes on their backs can do so without a problem, but not me. There I was, trying desperately to jam the belt in place, with an honest-to-goodness astronaut standing over me, trying to help.

More than six months later, I still shudder at the memory.

Luckily, we proceeded with the sim run. Over the next 90 minutes, I was an astronaut training for an upcoming Shuttle flight. Doug was seated on the commander's side of the cabin, and me on the pilot's. We did two launches and five landings at both Kennedy Space Center in Florida and Edwards Air Force Base in California. It didn't take long to figure out that as a Space Shuttle pilot, I make a darn good journalist.

Words cannot truly express what being able to do that meant to me, but for all that excitement, I walked away from the sim building very discouraged. I had been too fat to buckle that harness. That knowledge hurt, and I knew that as hard as it was going to be, I had to make a serious change. I had to lose weight.

Since that day, I've lost 53 pounds. I started walking on a half-mile track behind our local Y, at first a lap and then two. I did two miles and sometimes three. I walked in one 5k race, and then another. I've started lifting weights in recent weeks, and I play racquetball as often as I can.

I don't know that I'll ever be considered "skinny," and I don't really know that I would want to be. All I'm sure at this point is this.

I'm trying.

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