If every journey begins with a single step forward, then Ross Leitz has run an incontrovertible marathon.
That’s not an easy thing to do when you’re a 6-foot, 4-inch grizzly bear of a man who once weighed nearly 500 pounds and currently resides in the foodie and drinkie capital of America, that great city of all temptation — New Orleans.
Since it’s unlikely many of you know Ross, I’d like to introduce him to you, and then explain why I think he’s such an inspiration on so many different levels. He’s certainly an inspiration to me and could very well be to you also — particularly if you’re struggling with any kind of serious problem and want to take back full control of your life.
Ross isn’t just losing weight and getting healthier, though that alone would be a reason for celebration. He’s in the midst of turning his whole life around. What makes him courageous, in my view, is his utter selflessness, brutal honesty, and willful exuberance in sharing the good days and bad days and the days in between with us in his daily lifestyle updates, which are posted regularly on Facebook. He’s even created his own self-motivation page, named “Restoring Anatomy.” There within his private motivation group of family and friends, Ross fills us in on practically everything he’s doing as it pertains to his mental and physical well-being — whether it’s eating right, taking daily walks, or just in something he feels he needs to communicate. Ross also candidly reveals some of the challenges he’s faced, which many of us can identify with firsthand.
Indeed, I very much understand and feel the brutal pain of taking step after step, in the heat and humidity, moving one foot forward, and then another and another, to the constant consternation and occasional abuses of others, some of whom point and some of whom laugh, you and I and others out there the easy targets and vehicles of amusement their own sense of boredom. Sure, it would be much easier to just say, “fuck it,” couch-potato yourself back onto the sofa holding a remote control in one hand and a half-gallon of ice cream in the other, spooning your way into blissful bloat.
That I continue to endure this daily ritual weighing in at a reasonably fit 225 is tough enough. I can’t even imagine essentially stacking two of me — which would be 450 massive pounds, and then packing on another 30 on top of that — then huffing it along a roadway with the humidity so thick you’re gasping for air. Ross started doing that a few months ago, and he’s still at it. According to his latest post, he’s now up to 3.8 miles in his brisk walks. That’s pretty damned impressive when you think what it’s like to live in Southern Louisiana, in August.
Ross also shares many of the healthy meals he’s now eating. He knows he can’t be perfect. A lifetime of self-defeating habits can’t be wiped out in an instant. Like the running path, progress is made in baby steps. From what I can tell, Ross appears to be enjoying lots of tasty and healthy food, while continuing to make progress.
A brief interruption is warranted here. I’ve previously stated that overweight people are really the last victims of overt discrimination in our society. We laugh at them openly, often at their expense. We judge them brutally, especially women. What’s ironic is there are so many of us in this category. About a quarter of all Americans are now classified as “obese.”
That said, I’m defensive of the rights of heavy people. If they want to go through life being overweight and risking the consequences, they don’t need any more derision from the rest of us, including many who were simply lucky enough to be born with better genes. I for one, eat and drink massive amounts of calories. I should weigh far more than I do. To some extent, I’m just lucky.
Ross has been unlucky all his life. He found that carrying lots of weight didn’t just post obvious health risks. Perhaps even more important, he wasn’t happy. More specifically, he wasn’t happy — with himself.
So, a few months ago, Ross decided to do something about it. He chose to make serious changes in his life.
As of today. Ross has made remarkable and steady progress. He’s dropped 50 pounds. That might not seem like a lot of excess weight, but go and lift a couple of dumbbells at a gym some time and then tell me that shedding 50 pounds isn’t impressive.
Earlier, I wrote that Ross was an inspiration. He’s not just that so much for the weight loss, even though most of us can appreciate the pain it took to drop from 485 to 435. What I admire most in him is the brutal honesty with himself and with us, and the conscious decision he made to make changes in his life, and then share them in the hope others might also benefit. I felt the connection.
When I started this webpage three years ago, I thought deeply about what I wanted my motto to be which would, in a few short words, sum up my philosophy of life. It took some research, but I found it. There, affixed to the top page reads, “faber est quisque fortunae suae,” a Latin phrase which loosely translated means, “every man is the artisan of his good fortune.” In other words, we can control our destiny, if we put our minds to it. By inference, we can also change society and the world. I’m convinced of that, which forms the basis of secular-humanism.
Alas, we cannot control many important things that shape our lives — like race, nationality, what economic class we’re born into, what health ailments we inherit from our ancestors, invasions, plagues, wars, and a host of other genetic and extraneous factors. But we can control our own actions and try to make difference.
It all begins not just with a single step forward, but a decision to do something. Ross Leitz has done that, and a whole lot more.
Postscript 1: A few months ago on May 6th, Ross tipped the scales at 485. Here’s a “before” photo he recently posted on Facebook:
Postscript 2: Now, here’s the “new” Ross at 435, continuing to slim down, looking much healthier, while still enjoying life. Keep it up, Ross, you’re looking great.