What Flying Lessons & Barry Manilow Teach You About Weight Loss - Mercy Medical Center

What Flying Lessons & Barry Manilow Teach You About Weight Loss

Posted on: August 20, 2013

What a mixed bag of a week. I sat here with so many jumbled thoughts, I experienced real difficulty in deciding what to write about. I had a setback again this week. Actually, I think we could call it a relapse. My rescue-swimmer skills were again put to the test, and again I came up short. I feel thrust into these untenable situations, cornered and emotionally held hostage, and I have no solid way to cope with it.

I know some people just go catatonic in these situations. Some people become combative, some just shut down and head for a favorite hobby or activity.

I just head back to food and drink.

So, the bad news is I gained three pounds this week. The good news is that I am handling the weight loss setback much better than my life setbacks. I guess I feel like I am getting a little better each time. I learn a little bit more about how to deal with it.

My Adventures in Flight School

I mentioned in earlier blogs that I have a private pilot’s license. While I haven’t had the money to fly in years, I like to think I still retain a large measure of knowledge and skill. I still read flight magazines and am constantly on aviation websites, engaging in continuing education courses. In short, it is in my blood and isn’t ever going to leave. Flying is a part of me, whether I can actually take to the sky or whether I am stuck on the ground flying only in my imagination. But I remind myself that the most valuable lesson about flying is that it wasn’t something that was given to me at birth.

When I took my first lesson, I was filled with a mix of joy and fear. Flying in a small plane is a truly unique experience that always instills a bit of fear the first time. I quickly got over the initial panic of hurtling through the sky in a very small, very lightweight piece of aluminum. Actually, I got over it in about 15 minutes.

I watched as the flight instructor next to me worked the hundreds of switches and dials. I watched gauges whirl, numbers crawl across LED displays, gyros tilt and pan to and fro. I saw engine related instruments measuring things with abbreviations I could not decipher bounce up and down with the revs of the engine.

I took all this in and thought, “How on earth am I ever going to learn all this?!”

It was too much. I threw myself into the coursework and was quickly overwhelmed. I would track down a complete understanding of everything, at once, like some sort of demented choose your own adventure book. I would learn about the “pilot tubes” that would reference the vacuum system and then try to learn about the vacuum instruments. Then those would reference other instruments as backup, and so I would learn about those, and so on, and so on.

My instructor had to continuously back me down. She reminded me all the time that mastering this skill took time. We would learn one small bit and learn it well enough that I knew it backward and forward. Then the next piece of knowledge would dovetail into that, and I would add another little chunk to my growing pile of piloting skills. Still though, that fear lurked behind every page of my instruction books.

This turned into real life fear when it came time to solo. There is that horrible moment, alone, at 3,000 feet above the ground, when self doubt crawls out of your flight bag and perches on your head. That moment your brain takes every single mistake you have ever made in your life, rolls them into a ball and says to you, “Really? You? The person that screwed up all these times? You are going to trust YOU to safely navigate and land this plane? Just forget it dude. Call for help on the radio. Get talked down to the ground and, if by some miracle you land in one piece, walk away from the airport and never come back here.”

But you know what? I did it. I told myself that there was no one else up in the plane but me. So if I wanted to live and safely navigate this machine back onto the ground, it was up to me. I reassured myself that my instructor was very competent, and she would not have put me in this position unless she was confident I had the skills to do it. Especially since the plane I was renting retails for somewhere around $190,000. I assumed that even if they didn’t like me, they wanted their plane back in one piece.

I took that fear and shoved it to the side so hard I think I actually felt it leave the aircraft. I completed my flight and many more after that. There were moments where I was reminded of the respect required for the dangers involved, but the fear never came back.

In fact, I became so proficient at piloting an airplane that I actually passed my FAA pilot examination with a relatively low amount of hours in the air.

You thought flying was complicated? It’s a cake walk compared to navigating! At least I know what to do when the GPS unit dies!

Learning to Lose Weight Is Like Learning to Fly

So what does all this have to do with weight loss, you may ask? Well, I mentioned earlier that I learned a valuable lesson in that I was not given my knowledge of how to fly at birth. I made a conscious decision to pursue that skill. More importantly, I didn’t acquire the ability overnight. It didn’t happen in a week or a month. It took the better part of a year. In fact, I continued to learn long after I actually got my license. Even though I am not currently flying, I am still learning today!

So on a week such as this, when it is easy for someone like me to just say, “I can’t do this,” I have to remind myself that the weight didn’t go on in a day, or a week, or a month. It took a long time. Taking the weight off is not going to happen overnight either. This is a process that is going to take awhile. There will be successes and setbacks.

It took me a long time to learn how to land. It is like riding a bike in that it is probably about 60% technical skill and 40% seat-of-your-pants feeling. To say I had setbacks would be putting it mildly; I once bent the rear tie down hook in half during a landing attempt. While gaining three pounds isn’t as scary as that, it is still a disheartening setback. With landing, I kept at it…and eventually mastered it.

Those moments of fear still grip me when it comes to weight loss, but I feel like I’m getting closer to mastering the skills I need to kick that fear out of the plane. Much like my solo, the responsibility for my safety and health is up to me. No one else is in my head to do this for me.

Even Barry Manilow Has a Place in My Weight-loss Plan

So after a (hopefully) thrilling talk about fatness and flying, let me leave you with a great moment from my week. As part of the Mercy Weight Management program, I go once a week to weigh in, get my vitals checked, have a blood draw if needed, meet with the doctor, get my OPTIFAST products, and of course attend the weekly class.

The class has actually been interesting. The content is mostly things you already know, but the conversations and support that it creates between the attendees is just awesome. It has been very inspiring to share with other people in the exact same situation.

Last week, we were talking about ways to stay motivated and active. One of the suggestions was using music.  The idea being that having music playing helps get you going when you exercise. It can be a big motivator when doing chores too! Being the cynic I am, I had to ruin the party.

I said, “Well, it still comes down to choice, doesn’t it? I mean, music isn’t by default a motivating factor?”

The reply was,”Come on, you don’t think doing the dishes goes faster when you have the radio blasting?”

“No,” I said. “I think me standing by the sink and listening to Barry Manilow would just leave my crying and looking longingly at the food left stuck the plate from the meal I wasn’t allowed to eat.”

This started a conversation on what I had against Barry Manilow. I said, “I have nothing against Barry Manilow, but I challenge you to find me a situation where Mandy could be blasting and having a motivational effect.”

So this week, after class, one of my fellow OPTIFAST participants took me aside and gave me a gift she picked up at a yard sale while thinking of me. In honor of my fellow OPTIFASTers, I am on plan, happily sitting at my desk, about to eat my OPTIFAST bar, while listening to Mandy, and feeling inspired.

Thank you!

Return to Mercy Weight Management’s blog each week for an update on Eric Buwala’s weight-loss journey! If you’d like to lose weight for improved health and live in or near Stark County, Ohio, take the next step today!


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