Let me please introduce myself…
My name is Daniel W. Cisek and I’m a gamer. I’ve been a musician and a Disc Jockey on a top-rated Connecticut radio station. I’ve been playing games and enjoying comics and music all my life, starting with the Holmes version of Dungeons & Dragons I bought at some long ago Pennsic War (IX maybe?) with money I made selling daggers and knives for my father. I enjoy all aspects of the hobby, collecting, playing, Gamemastering (which is my main role) and even owned my own game store. I’ve wormed my way into some of my favorite settings, getting myself into the Deadlands Noir core book (Savage Worlds) and the upcoming Death and Taxes by Lesser Gnome. I had a love letter to one of my favorite games, Hackmaster, published in the letters column of KODT. I own the original painting for the DCC Wizard cover. I designed a tile for the board game The Duke by Catalyst Game Labs that was given out as a prize at Gen Con for the first tournament held at a major convention for the game. I’ve played with some of the greats at cons, including Clint Black, Ernie Gygax, Merle Rasmussen, David R. Megarry and Jeff Combos. I’ve played more game systems and in more game worlds than I can even count.
I love this hobby and I’ve wanted to find a way to give something meaningful back to the community I’ve been a part of all my life. I originally started this blog as a way to do that. It was my “Gen Con” blog. I reported on the convention as I attended, moving on to Gary Con as well. But for reasons I didn’t understand until recently, the blog had been stagnant for a while, to the point where the podcast I was developing at Gary Con (“Grognarok” – named in tribute to those old school gamers I admire most) has become months late and still has yet to see the light of day (the interviews I conducted with John Harris of Prolific Games along with Zach Glazar and Lloyd Metcalf of Lesser Gnome fame at Gary Con will still appear here in the future).
What I haven’t mentioned, is that in addition to gaming for decades, I’ve also been morbidly obese for decades. Growing up “the fat kid,” I was wearing a size 36 jean in fifth grade eventually graduating to the whopping size 58 pant and size 5X shirt I wore until just recently.
We need change and we need it fast…
Recently, the term Grognarok has taken on a new meaning to me…still a tribute, just a different kind. I love this hobby with all my heart, but I fear for its future and our mass extinction. Grognarok is coming. Grognards are getting older, fatter and doing very little to keep themselves healthy. I know this because I’ve been guilty of that myself for most of my 44 years here on Earth.
If we don’t do something now, treat ourselves better and collectively find a way to get healthier, we are going to see major problems and chasms within our community. The recent plights of James M. Ward and Tom Wham are on my mind. And myself? I was almost a quarter ton a few months ago. A. Quarter. Ton. That number puts things into perspective, as did the reality that my doctor’s scale couldn’t even register my weight beyond three dashes, “- – -.” I’ve always known that I’ve needed to lose weight, going on several diets over the decades with the same result. The diet would end and I would gain back even more weight than I had lost. I knew if I did that one more time, I would be 500 pounds and sure to die in a horrible manner, so I wasn’t willing to even consider it. I had looked into surgery, but was deathly afraid of it. I had some problems with my blood a couple years ago that caused me to walk around with a hemoglobin of 7. That’s about half the blood needed in your body. That almost wiped me out. (Guys, don’t be embarrassed to tell your doctor you have a bleeding hemorrhoid, it could save your life.) I was in a dark, dark place with no light at the end of the tunnel. Stinkin’ thinkin’ as someone I know once put it.
I remember a few months ago standing in line at a CVS with some “groceries.” Butter, half and half, soda and Swedish Fish. I wasn’t standing more than 2 minutes in line and my legs were shaking, I was pouring sweat, I was about to pass out. I knew it wasn’t the problem I had with my blood, although it still causes me issues. I knew it was because I was fat. Not just fat, morbidly obese. I also had a pretty ugly incident with fat shaming I won’t go into here. I was fat, dying and I needed to fix it. The problem was, I was petrified of rebounding diets that would only undo themselves to even greater consequence, I was afraid of surgery and I was too damn stubborn to listen to people.
I was eating a lot of food, although I always convinced myself I wasn’t. For breakfast, I’d make some eggs with processed American cheese dripping off of them, cooked in a bunch of butter, along with four pieces of toast. I’d drink my coffee with half the mug being half and half and four scoops of sugar. At lunch I’d get a steak and cheese or cheeseburger with a Coke and fries. To which I would usually add a grilled cheese to help “tide me over.” On the way home from work, I’d stop at Wendy’s and grab some of those dollar menu items, two chicken sandwiches and two cheeseburgers. Small price, small consequence, right? For dinner, I’d usually get some form of Italian fare including an appetizer, entree and a grinder “for lunch tomorrow,” which never made it to the next day. And dessert. All the while never touching water and only drinking things like Coca-Cola and Gatorade. I would never drink diet soda because when I was young and had it for the first time, it left a horrible aftertaste. “Only real sugar for me from now on” was my proud, youthful, ignorant mantra. Although I was right that ingesting those chemicals isn’t any good for you.
The chase is better than the catch…
Enter my family, my wonderful wife and her parents. In a desperate plea for my life they offered to send me to a nutritionist. I didn’t think it would help, I didn’t want to change my life (although I desperately desired to change), I didn’t want to work at it, I didn’t want to use the DDP Yoga program I had bought a couple years prior, I didn’t want to give up my Coca-Cola and candy. And pizza. And cheeseburgers. And chicken parmesan. And pasta. And tiramisu.
But I called one. She didn’t get back to me right away and I thought, “Hey, I called.” A few weeks went by and she got back to me, explaining that she wasn’t taking new clients and offered to suggest someone else. “Yeah, sure.” I replied sarcastically. She gave me a number, which I called to once again go through the motions, and left a message. “I tried. At least I can get everyone off my back. It’s not my fault they won’t contact me. I didn’t want to do it anyway. I don’t like being forced to do things.” But she did call me back, and that call turned out to be one of the most important things I have ever done in my life. I just didn’t know it at the time.
Victory or die…
That first meeting with my nutritionist was a real eye opener. My wife tells me that my body language said it all. Arms crossed, ready for a fight. She said she wanted to begin with a “food interview,” whatever that meant. “What do you eat for breakfast?” she asked. I explained the breakfast I previously mentioned, ready to have to defend it. “Okay, keep the three eggs, but lose the cheese, cook them in oil instead of butter, and add veggies, ok?” I was floored. I could still eat three eggs? I didn’t have to fight for them? My wife tells me that here, my body language transformed – my position to defend morphed into one of cautious negotiation. Hmmm. “What about lunch?” I explained. “Ok, have a sandwich if you want, just make it turkey, ham, or something unprocessed, add veggies and have a salad.” I can eat bread? I decided to push it. “Can I have a hard boiled egg with my salad too?” “Yes, have a hard boiled egg with your salad.” This wasn’t starting to sound too bad…in fact it seemed manageable. “Dinner?” I left out the part about Wendy’s – that’s a secret between you and me. “You can still eat pizza if you want but instead have two slices. Not half a large pie.” I can still eat pizza? Now I’m thinking this has to be a joke. She went through various other suggestions, like no more soda and drink water, which I knew was going to be said, so I didn’t fight that. Frankly, knowing I could still eat my eggs in the morning and still eat pizza trumped the soda worries.
She explained that our taste buds change, and that what would seem good to me now wouldn’t taste the same as it once did. That’s an important concept – if my tastebuds were still capable of change, maybe I was too. The most important thing she taught me that first day was that I wouldn’t be on a diet. I couldn’t be on a diet. If I was going to do this I needed to change my life, my whole way of eating. “Diets end,” she said, “and you can never stop eating well. You can never diet.” This was the key I needed to learn. The key that would unlock the entire conundrum of obesity. I needed information and here was someone willing to give me that knowledge so I could learn to eat like a damn human being should. For the past three months, I have listened to her. I go back and see her every two weeks and guess what? I’m down over one hundred pounds. One. Hundred. In. Three. Months. I now know my place in our community. I need to share this information. I need all who read it to understand that change needs to happen now. Grognarok is coming, and it won’t be pretty. Arm yourselves. Call a nutritionist, listen to the advice. Seek support from your loved ones and friends at your gaming table. Learn to eat again. Do it together.
Next time: What the hell do I actually eat now? My recipes and…giveaways! (Thanks Lesser Gnome!)
Currently listening to: Bad Magic – Motörhead, The Book of Souls – Iron Maiden and Golgotha – W.A.S.P.