The Biggest Loser I Know
Most of you have probably heard about the reality show The Biggest Loser. It’s about grossly overweight people who compete to see who can drop the most weight by the time the season is over. It’s a tough, intense road, but contestants get some help: they spend 5-6 hours a day working out under the supervision of a top-notch celebrity fitness trainer, eating meals custom designed by an expert nutritionist. There’s also the added accountability of having a national audience monitor their progress. But perhaps the greatest motivation—other than gaining self-respect and a sense of accomplishment—is adding pounds to their wallet. The winner of The Biggest Loser gets a fat check for $250,000.
Well, in my house, we have our own Biggest Loser. His name is Bobby Bennett. I’ve known him since he was a junior in high school, but back then, there was a lot more of him to know. He weighed 290 pounds. Nowadays, he’s getting ready to graduate from college, he’s got a good job prospect on the horizon, he’s an avid runner who will compete in a marathon next month, and he’s 81—81!—pounds lighter. And he lost all that weight without the help of supervised training, a national television audience, or the promise of a cash reward. Sure, he had some encouragement along the way, through friends and family—and he would tell you that God helped him, even though he struggled with faith at times—but other than the Almighty, the only constant companions that Bobby has had along the way are Desire, Determination, and Discipline.
His story is an inspiration to me.
Growing up, Bobby—as he’s told me—was the “fat kid” in junior high and high school who was teased brutally and mercilessly. That, as anyone who has ever been on the wrong side of teenage cruelty knows, can leave wounds that persist well into adulthood. When Bobby entered college, he found some acceptance, but it came with the pressure to party—too much. Bobby had to drop out of school and, in the months afterward, found himself virtually friendless, depressed, alone, and sacking groceries, working double weekend shifts at Dillon’s because—why not?—he didn’t have a social life.
On an epic night, however, about three years ago, Bobby made a decision: the fat would have to go. And life would have to change.
While he chose not to alter his diet dramatically, he did add one new and constant habit to his lifestyle: he started to run. And run. And run. And run.
In the beginning, he would run at night, because yes—even in nice, small-town Manhattan, Kansas—there are jerks—the real losers—who yell from their cars and heckle overweight runners. Many a night, whether clear or rainy, warm or frigid, Bobby would put one foot after the next and huff-and-puff, huff-and-puff, his heart pumping, the air circling fast through his lungs, carrying his weight away.
At first, few thought he was serious about his goal. But after the pounds started running away—10, 15, 25, 35—people began to notice.
About a year ago, Bobby and I went into Kite’s Bar and Grill to grab a bite to eat. We were served by a waitress—we’ll call her Erika—who was a very pretty girl and a very popular person when she and Bobby were in high school together. At first, she took his order without acknowledging who he was. But halfway into writing the ticket, she looked up—experienced a moment of realization—and exclaimed, “Oh. My. Gosh! I didn’t recognize you!” And with a true look of admiration, she added, “you look amazing!”
Bobby, of course, made absolutely no response. Why? Not because he’s rude, but because he was just not used to that kind of attention—especially not from pretty girls.
Well, in my opinion, he better get used to it. Because even though his confidence level is higher, it is still in process, and he has yet to fully realize that he has a whole lot to offer. Not just to women, but to the whole world.
Bobby is a rare kind of guy. He knows a little bit about everything, whether it’s about military history or baseball or eighties arena rock. While he can be a bit too straightforward sometimes, he is an extremely real and authentic human being. Underneath his sometimes gruff and defensive and no-nonsense exterior beats the heart of someone who truly cares about other people. He doesn’t want shallow relationships. He wants real friends. A couple of great girls have—I think—discovered that about him, and that’s why they enjoying running miles and miles with him every week.
(Someday, I think there will be an awesome girl who will run all the way down the aisle with Bobby. For now, though, he’s got this crazy idea that any age under 30 is too young to get married.)
But the thing I like most about Bobby? Remember what I wrote about his desire, determination, and discipline? Well, those qualities all add up to the most amazing thing about Bobby Bennett:
He doesn’t give up. Ever.
And, in this life, so full of ups and downs, hallelujahs and heartaches, isn’t that the most prized characteristic a person can possess? President Calvin Coolidge once wrote:
“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race”
And Winston Churchill, the legendary prime minister of Great Britain, who rallied the English against the Nazis in World War 2, said that the greatest counsel he could give anyone in life was this:
“Never give up. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever give up. Never give up!”
Through sheer persistence—and the grace of God—Bobby Bennett, my housemate and friend, is well on his way to losing one hundred pounds, and has begun a transformation in his life that I believe will continue to grow fuller and richer throughout the rest of his life. He has not used the past as an excuse to give up on the future. In everything, he presses on and on and on.
And that’s why he’s the Biggest Loser I know.
Posted in Memoirs, Stories, and Anecdotes