Lots of people know they should lose weight and get in shape. But when it comes to actually doing it, each person’s motivation is different.
For Edward Pomeroy, it was all about the numbers.
“I stepped on the scale, and I remember distinctly it said 284 pounds,” the 39-year-old Bangor resident said in a recent interview. “That was the number that triggered my decision.”
That was four years ago, and Pomeroy’s health has taken a decided turn for the better.
Last week, he participated in the sixth annual Hope Triathlon — a 400-meter swim in Hobb’s Pond, a 13-mile bike ride and a 3-mile run — coming in with a very respectable 1:16:43, the 14th best time of 78 participating athletes.
It was his third triathlon of the year; the others were in Belfast and Casco. And in just a few days, Pomeroy will head to Manhattan to take part in the Nautica New York City Triathlon — a 1-mile swim in the murky Hudson River, a 24-mile bike ride and a 6-mile run.
At 170 pounds, more or less, he says he’s now in the best shape of his life. But that didn’t happen without a lot of work, a sustained commitment and the support of a network of new friends.
Pomeroy was active and athletic when he was a student at Hampden Academy. He married shortly after graduation and started a family. Life got hectic, and taking care of his own health fell somewhere near the bottom of his to-do list.
“I just let myself go,” he said.
Working overnights at a television station enabled him to stay home with his children while his wife worked, but it cost him his sleep. Meals became a seat-of-the-pants proposition.
“It was just easier sometimes to go to McDonald’s and get something cheap and fast as opposed to saying we’re going to go home and make a nice, home-cooked meal,” he said.
Over time, the mounting stress, lack of sleep, and poor diet took their toll on his marriage, Pomeroy said. Four years ago, he was divorced.
Trying to get oriented to his new life, he went to his doctor for a checkup. That’s when the scales told him he had reached 284 pounds.
“When I saw that, I said ‘OK, I’m done,’” he said.
“First, I just stopped eating so much,” he said. The trauma of the divorce probably helped. “I dropped 50 pounds,” he said. “But I still wasn’t healthy.”
Gradually, he started thinking more about his diet, eating regular meals with small portions. He guarded against eating out of boredom or stress.
“I told myself I had to find something else to do besides eating,” he said. “And when I had my kids over, I didn’t want to fill them up with junk food.”
He resisted their pleas to stop for fast food.
“I just said ‘No, we don’t do that any more,’” he said. They still enjoyed occasional treats. “But if we got a pizza, instead of eating four or five or six pieces — almost a whole pizza by myself — I’d eat a couple of slices and put the rest away. And then the kids and I would go outside and do something.”
A year after his divorce, Pomeroy was down to 190 pounds, He was living alone, except when his kids were with him. He still wasn’t exercising.
Then he got together with Rachel, a friend he’d known for several years who is now his wife.
“I probably gained a little ‘happy weight’ right around then,” he said, grinning.
Rachel’s brother, a former personal trainer, suggested Pomeroy join a gym with him. Pomeroy was reluctant.
“I figured I’d go in and everyone else would be in great shape,” he said. But when he went, he found plenty of other men and women just starting down the road to fitness. He developed a simple routine that included running on a treadmill and lifting weights. He got into it.
Pretty soon he was getting up early every day to run, then spending more time working out.
He met some new buddies at the gym, including one who mentioned he was going to participate in the Trek Across Maine, a three-day, 180-mile fundraising ride through some of Maine’s most rugged terrain.
“I didn’t know anything about cycling,” Pomeroy said. “Not how to shift gears or anything.” He went out and got himself a bike. He joined the Penobscot Cycling Club and found a group of supportive, like-minded cyclists.
“They were great, right from the get-go,” Pomeroy said. He began joining the group for rides a couple of times a week — up Copeland Hill in Holden or Kings Mountain in Orrington, or on flatter rides along the Penobscot River. He was still running and lifting weights.
Gradually, the idea of participating in a triathlon took shape. With the encouragement of his friends from the gym and the cycle group, he decided to add swimming to his routine, even though he had never been anything but an occasional recreational swimmer.
But the idea off stripping down to swim trunks in a fitness-oriented setting was daunting.
“I was self-conscious about my body,” he said. “I kept putting it off.”
Eventually, he bought a pair of jammer shorts and took the plunge. In time, with some pointers from his new buddies at the pool, Pomeroy developed an efficient freestyle and added regular lap swims to his routine.
He likes it, all of it. He’s down to 170 pounds and looks strong and trim.
“I’m having a lot of fun,” he said. “It’s just my lifestyle; it’s what I do. If I weren’t training for New York, I’d still be doing this.”
Pomeroy feels lucky; the motivation to lose weight, when it hit, was strong. He has had the support of his new wife, his kids — including his new 10-month-old — and a loose-knit group of fellow fitness buffs who have encouraged him at every step and stroke.
“I was miserable when I was big,” Pomeroy said. “I didn’t like the way I looked, and I didn’t like the way I felt. That number” — 284 pounds — “was enough to make me want to change. For me, it was the number.”