5 Years and 40 Pounds
I moved to DC in the Spring of 1999, just out of college and ready for law school. I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, like all new law students – the world was at my feet and ready for my taking. In July 2001, we got married. I was 125 pounds and 5’7”. Not bad. I looked good on my wedding day, happy and filled with hope for the future. After law school, I clerked for a judge in DC while getting an additional law degree, specializing in tax. All of this to help me land the perfect big law job. It worked. In April 2004, we moved to Chicago for a job with a top tier law firm.
That was when weight and depression started to do me in.
I don’t know what, exactly, made me put on so much weight in Chicago. Was it the diet of Italian beef sandwiches, french fries, Mexican food (La Bamba’s “burritos as big as your head”), or was it merely my metabolism changing after I turned 25? Or, was it the weather: cold and dreary and ultimately depressing for several months out of the year. Okay, more than several. Our first summer in Chicago, the temperature never went above 90, until September.
I think it was a little of both of those things, but more than anything, it was sitting behind a desk for 60-80 hours a week for the first time in my life. I was working crazy hours with an unpredictable schedule. I could not get into an exercise routine. I lived in a high rise apartment for a year with a free gym downstairs, and never used it. Not even once. Eventually, I joined a proper gym, and set up an exercise schedule. Then, I quit the gym because I was not using it. Then, I joined again with a new resolution to be healthy. That failed too.
My routine instead included: 1) eat, eat, eat; and 2) drink, drink, drink. Chicago is a great city for food and we ate out a lot. When we ate in, dinner was usually accompanied by a bottle (or two, or three) of wine. We became interested in wine after moving to Chicago and had a 75 bottle wine fridge that we loved (Danby Designer 75 Bottle Freestanding Wine Cooler ) and two wine racks that could each hold 125 bottles. At our peak, we probably had over 200 bottles of wine in the house. We would buy wine by the case at Binny’s, and sometimes would come home with 3 or 4 cases in the back of our Mini Cooper. It was our hobby. During those long Chicago winters, weekend dinners were delivery and a few bottles of wine in front of the TV. It was not healthy. Particularly when it was way too cold to walk to the gym. To combat the cold, I even bought an elliptical machine for the basement, which collected dust. The wine fridge was used a lot more.
We broke up the monotony with some great vacations – our first trip to Asia, multiple trips to Italy. We loved it. We realized what it meant to see other cultures. To experience something outside of our “Crate and Barrel” lifestyle. It was our escape from reality but we would return back to the same unhealthy lifestyle: little exercise, over work, over eating, over drinking…
We never even saw our friends in Chicago. I was too tired at the end of the week to make plans. I found it difficult to arrange evenings out last minute, when I was at least up for heading out, as everyone already had plans. It was isolating. And, I was miserable.
We left for our first round the world trip in January 2009. I weighed in at just under 170 pounds. I gained about 40 pounds during my 5 years in Chicago. I was not clinically depressed, but not happy either. I knew I needed a change, because something was just not right with my lifestyle. We boarded a plane and visited 18 countries in 14 months. I was a changed person. And, healthier for it.
This post was originally published on Escape the Predictable Life.