Tuesday, January 18, 2011

David Garcia is My New Hero

Back in high school I had a pal named Dave Garcia. David was friendly, and funny, and - most relevant to this post - portly. Actually, that's putting it mildly. David was a BIG GUY.

David and I were both thespians to varying degrees, and I once acted with him in a performance of Into the Woods. Beanpole thin, bright red hair, the kind of guy who might truthfully have a cow as his best friend, I was immediately typecast as Jack of the Beanstalk.

David was also typecast: He played the Baker. Just by looking at the cast, even a stranger would have been able to tell that David was the baker. He looked like the kind of guy who spent all his time consumed by, and consuming, sugary dough.

David and I didn't hang out much in high school, but I do remember the one time I came over to his house after school. Offering to make me a snack, he reached into his freezer and pulled out, among other things, a large box of deep fried beef taquitos. A snack to me might have meant 2 or 3. He emptied the box of 16, putting half on my plate and half on his. I was surprised but delighted at this unexpected gluttony. After all, I was a teenager and I could pretty much eat anything I wanted and stay thin. What I didn't necessarily realize at the time was that, for Dave, this wasn't a one-time treat. He ate like this all the time.

David and I both attended the University of Michigan, but we didn't really see each other much in college. We emailed back and forth about the then-dwindling quality of the Simpsons, and one time I went to his dorm room so he could critique me on an audition monologue I was preparing. But after that, I lost touch with Dave, and I didn't run into him again until our ten-year high school reunion.

Me with David (and a mutual friend) at our 10-year reunion

Just as I remembered, David was friendly and funny and boy had he gotten portly. As I said, he was always a big guy, but the years had paid their respects and Dave had to be pushing 400 pounds. I didn't care, of course. Dave was a friend and I didn't care how much he weighed as long as he was a good person. And if he was happy with being 400 pounds, then that's really all that mattered.

What I didn't know at the time was that David was not happy. In fact, it turns out David had been far less jolly in high school than I had originally thought. He had gone through some pretty rough patches. Depression had hit him pretty hard. And he wanted to make a change.

I know all this because David keeps a blog. The blog is called, “Keep It Up David!”, And it details his weight loss journey. How big of a journey, you may ask? Well, a year ago David tipped the scales at 402 pounds. Today, he is under 250.

Over 150 pounds in one year.

Any particular weight loss secrets? Yep. Four words: Move more, eat less. It is the simple wisdom of every person to have ever shed massive amounts of weight. Oh, sometimes they reverse it: Eat less, move more. Either way, it's four words and it works.

The problem, of course, is sticking to those four words. You need motivation and you need dedication and you need accountability. David is lucky enough to be a pretty optimistic guy after all is said and done, and he desperately wanted to lose the weight, so he had the motivation.

Accountability on the other hand, that is harder to come by. You need somebody there to report to. Be it a reader on a blog, or a best friend, or one's family, or… Richard Simmons.

Richard Fucking Simmons!

Sequined Serendipity

David had been some sort of production assistant on Ellen, and one day Richard Simmons was the guest. While David was helping with production, Richard gave David his personal e-mail address and told David that If he wanted help, Richard was there for him.

A few weeks of deliberating, a promise to e-mail Richard a food log listing everything David ate for the last year, and a lot of healthy choices and Richard "Slimmons" classes later, and voilĂ . Skinny Dave.

David returned to the Ellen show last week not as a staff member but as a guest. Ellen was stunned at David's new body, the crowd gave him a standing ovation, and the show gave him thousands of dollars in gift certificates to high-end clothing stores and Whole Foods. Watching the segment, I couldn't help but tear up as David revealed his new physique, and reveled in his hard work and fantastic achievements. See for yourself, and try not to shed tears of joys for my dear friend.

And yet, even as the tears fell, my next thought was a sobering one:

David Garcia is skinnier than me.

This is kind of a big deal because of what happens when you turn that sentence around.

Matt Schwartz is FATTER than David Garcia.

Today, although my Body Mass Index is still technically lower than David's, if the two of us took a picture together, I might conceivably be described as the Chunky One. Indeed, if our high school drama teacher were typecasting Into the Woods today, David might very well be Jack; I might very well be the Baker.

Talk about lighting a fire under me.

I have to lose weight. I know that. I have been overweight for the past several years, ever since law school. I don't feel good at 210. I don't look particularly good at 210. I know from experience that I look and feel my best when I'm below 190–and ideally 180. I've wanted to get back there for a long time. And seeing David accomplish such an amazing feat is enough to really inspire me to get out there and work hard.

And for the last couple weeks, I have been working hard! I joined a gym! I've gone five times, doing four weightlifting workouts and one killer boxing workout that left me panting and vomitous on the floor! And it sucked at the time but now every time I cough or laugh I feel muscles I didn't know I had, and it makes me happy! And already I can feel myself getting stronger, and more energetic, and even people at work have noted that I've started slimming down.

David Garcia used to be the Big Jolly Fat Guy. Now, he is the Amazing Energetic Inspiration. He has achieved "Biggest Loser"-level success. If he can do it, I can do it. And I'm lucky in that I've only got about 25 pounds to lose.

So, thank you Dave. You're an inspiration to us all, and I look forward to one day visiting you in Los Angeles, feasting not on deep fried taquitos but on healthy and delicious food, and maybe even celebrating my own weight loss success with you.

Cheers to old friend David Garcia, my newest Weight Loss Hero!