I was out at a local track the other night to do a workout with some friends. While they set up for some sprint intervals, I settled in to a slightly longer warm up so I could tackle some stair repeats. As I walked the track I watched my friend Michelle putting in a big effort on her sprints. Michelle’s lost over 100 pounds and kept it off over the last 5 years. As she ran her intervals, she was passing a guy who was also out walking the track.

He was struggling. At a guess, I figure he’s got at least 80 pounds to drop to get down to the point of comfort. I could tell he was breathing pretty hard. I wasn’t walking at a fast pace, but I passed him rather quickly. As he and I walked around the curve of the track and looked down the straight away, I could see Michelle slowing up for her recovery interval. For just a few moments, both she and the overweight guy were walking. In that moment, I could see past and future. It wasn’t that long ago that Michelle was the one struggling to walk down the street and back. If you’d asked her then what she’d be doing in 5 years, sprints at the local school track would not be on the list.

On my second pass, I tried offering a couple words of encouragement. He didn’t want to hear them. I don’t have to guess much about what was probably running through his head. He was tired, hot, and hurting. He’s on a track surrounded by people who are in amazing shape and probably have never been fat. He may have been thinking about grabbing an ice cream to drown his misery when he was done with his physical penance. He may have been wondering if he would ever be able to manage more than his turtle pace around the track. Even girls were moving faster then he was.

I don’t have to guess, because those are the thoughts that go through the head of every single one of us who start the journey towards weight loss. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in where we are that we can forget others have been there too. That’s the beauty of sticking with your program. If you keep working at it, eventually you do lose the weight. The thing is, once you lose it there are few physical reminders left over. You are smaller. You may have loose skin, but well fitting clothing covers a multitude of sins. You now look “normal”. In some cases you look better then normal. There’s no badge you wear saying, “I used to be fat”.

As he walked the track, he had no way of knowing that Michelle had been where he was right then. Every time Michelle passed him, he was looking at his possible future. Every time Michelle passed him, she got a flicker of the past.

I moved off the track to go do the stair repeats that were my workout for the night. When I finished my intervals, I moved back to the track to cool down. The man was still there, circling the track, head down, battling whatever the voices in his head were. As I came closer to him, he looked back over his shoulder and started crossing to the other side of the track. He stepped off the track, onto a poorly lit path leading back towards the darkness. I continued on and lost sight of where he went in the gloom.

I finished up my cool down and stretching and moved back towards the car to head home. Michelle had finished up her stair repeats and was stretching out under the glow of a street light.

Past and future.