Maroon 5 has always meant a lot to me.
They were the first band I saw live in concert. We packed into a college arena to hear Adam Levine belt out 2005 tunes about love, heartbreak and getting over a lost one.
Little did I know that seven years later, Levine and his alternative pop band members would help me drop 90 pounds and impress the girl I so passionately adored.
From out of the womb, I was a heavy baby. Folklore from the family said I floated between 9 and 10 pounds heavy upon first entering the world. Growing up in a small New England town with a population less than 20,000, many of my elementary and high school classmates always knew me as the fat kid. My recreational basketball coach referred to me and another heavy kid as “The Twin Towers.” Other sports coaches championed for me to play football or take up wrestling. I was rolled down the hill in a blood red fleece jacket and called “the frosted gumball."
This isn’t that unusual of a trend in modern-day America. Overweight kids have reported seeing high rates of bullying and teasing, a new survey found. And kids’ waistlines haven’t gone down too much in the last couple of years. Though they aren’t expanding, a new study found that they’re holding steady with about one-third of kids ages 6 to 18 being labeled as “abdominally obese,” according to HealthDay.
Some parents may not even realize that their kids are obese. Nor do some kids. And parents have been cautioned on putting their kids on diets, since it could result in eating disorders for adults and youngsters, according to the annual meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior.
I always knew I had a big body. Words like “husky” or “big-boned” were equal to “fat” and “wide-load” in my mind. My mom knew I was overweight and tried her best to get me to drop the pounds. My aunt was especially honest about my size, telling me on nearly every occasion that I had my life together, but I needed to lose weight — which can be damaging to a person's health, especially in young girls, according to an article on Deseret News National. My cousin always looked to help me drop pounds, saying my life would change greatly if I did. But no matter how many times someone suggested I lose weight, I stayed with the status quo.
I watched girls blow by me and find other hunks to hold onto. I was always put in the front seat of the car because I was too big to squeeze into the back with my buddies.
I watched the scale tick up and stop dead cold on 309.
That’s when I decided to make a change.
In summer 2012, I had an internship in Erie, Pennsylvania. Without many friends — other than my roommates — to spend time with, I decided to take up a new hobby: running.
A recent study by the Stanford University School of Medicine found that people are gaining so much weight in America because of lack of exercise, and not because of their diets. People are staying still, causing the calories of the sinful sugars to conjure added poundage to the gut.
Running helped me buck that trend.
I didn’t necessary write myself a diet — though I did increase the amount of fiber — and ate mostly what foods I wanted. Burgers, grilled chicken, hot dogs and tuna fish sandwiches made up most meal lists. The diet didn’t matter. It was the exercise pattern — running for an hour for six days of the week — that helped shave off pounds.
But how did I keep the regimen going? When it’s storming outside and all signs are pointing towards staying inside instead of speeding over to the gym, how did I keep myself going? What was my motivation?
Motivation has helped people lose weight and has been a source for many in getting rid of their guts. The U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health found that motivation is the missing factor in people losing weight. And when motivation is enhanced — like, say, wanting to impress a girl — there was a significant more amount of weight loss.
At first, Maroon 5 — specifically its song “Payphone” — was my motivation and acted as a reminder of the girl back in Massachusetts. But I soon came to find that it wasn't so much the song, nor the girl, that was really driving me to lose the weight.
I was my motivation.
Every time I stepped onto the treadmill, the song that found its way from my Spotify playlist into my ears was “Payphone,” Maroon 5’s summer hit that featured Wiz Khalifa and made its way to the top spot on the Billboard 100 list. The song was about someone spending all of his or her money, time and energy on someone and wondering where everything went wrong. That same situation was very similar to what I had been going through in the summer of 2012.
Before the summer started, I had been pining over a beautiful, political hipster. She was miles ahead of me intellectually, and she was as snarky as she was honest. We got along famously, telling jokes that only we understood. Our comedy was our own. Nobody understand why we were so close, since most of the time we’d bicker back and forth like an old married couple.
And though we shared passionate moments together on occasion, there was something holding us back from taking that next step. Her previous boyfriend had been the cat's pajamas — a thin, finely dressed ’80s-music-hating hipster with a slick haircut and a corduroy jacket. That’s the piece I was missing. We had the chemistry, but I just didn’t have the body.
“Payphone” helped me get there.
Every time I stepped on that treadmill and heard the song, I thought of her and how the weight loss would be enough to convince her that I was the guy for her. That all the efforts and work I put into the weight loss would be a sign to her that I could be the man she wanted me to be.
But even more so, the song was a way for me to put stock in myself. Levine sings, “I've wasted my nights/You turned out the lights/Now I'm paralyzed./Still stuck in that time/When we called it love/But even the sun sets in paradise,” showing that he’s getting over the lost love. Similarly, Wiz Khalifa, who raps a verse in the song, expresses, “Swish, what a shame could have got picked./Had a really good game but you missed your last shot.”
More than words, music has been linked to motivation in the past. Music's rhythm and beat can affect the way you view the world, studies have found. And the flow of music, experts say, can take you out of the regular world and make you focus on your exercise. So while the music may be what you believe to be motivation, it's actually just making you focus on your own workout and your own motives. In a way, you are your own motivation.
“Payphone” was a way for me to put stock in myself and instill confidence in my mind. It started as a motivational song to prove to her that I was a different man. But over time, it became about me being comfortable with the person I was and embracing me.
The song pushed me — and the scale — down to 219 pounds.
When I ran into the girl for the first time after returning home from Erie, we got coffee at a cool café that was the cornerstone of our rural college town. She shaded her eyes with sunglasses. I was dressed in a two-sizes too big red polo and a pair of baggy jeans. I told her I lost weight in the summer. Her reply was, “You did?”
I smirked it off. I knew I had. Her perception didn’t matter.