“I’m SO embarrassed,” I thought to myself. I looked at my daughter. I could see the disappointment in her eyes. I was crushed. I knew she was, too, but an 11-year-old little girl would never say that to her dad. “It’s OK Dad. We can go do some other stuff,” she said. I wanted to cry. Honestly, later that night, I did.
This wasn’t where I planned on being at the age of 40. So overweight and out of shape that I couldn’t even fit in a roller coaster seat. My wife and I had taken my kids to Gatlinburg for vacation and my 11-year-old, “daredevil” daughter could not stop talking about riding the roller coasters. All week long that was all I heard. And when the big day at Dollywood, came I couldn’t fit into any of the rides.
Marck Rucker lost 120 lbs. in 17 months after an experience at an amusement park with his daughter led him to a complete lifestyle change.
I promised my daughter on that trip that the next time we came back things would be different. I was determined to change my life. I was going to get fit and healthy. I was going to change everything immediately and become Superdad. But it didn’t happen. The desire to change was there, but the motivation to do so was lacking.
I continued on my downward health spiral for another year or so after that trip. I had developed sleep apnea and was forced to use a CPAP machine to regulate my breathing at night. I was on high blood pressure medication. I was also, most likely, borderline diabetic. I say “borderline” simply because I was too afraid to address the issue with my doctor to find out. I honestly didn’t want to know. At my highest weight, I was 365 pounds. Well, I think I was actually closer to 385, but I also stopped weighing myself. The weight I remember from the last time I stepped on the scale was 365.
And then one day, I happened to reconnect with an old friend from high school on Facebook. Anita was always such a great person. She was also someone who had battled weight issues her entire life, like me, maxing out at almost 400 pounds. But something was different about her. She had changed her life. Through diet and exercise she had managed to lose, at the time, almost 180 pounds. (she has since gone on to lose a total of 240 pounds).
I became intrigued with her story. We talked back and forth about how she did it. I was so amazed at the difference in her. And the fact that she had done it all through healthy eating and exercise absolutely blew me away. I thought “If she can do it, then I can, too.” But I didn’t.
And then came the 2011 Super Bowl. My wife and I spent the evening with friends and I, of course, ate and drank too much. I woke up early the next morning and felt terrible. I had eaten so much that I had made myself sick. And at that moment something clicked. I realized that if I didn’t do something RIGHT THEN that I was going to have a very short life span. I’d leave my children without a father and my wife without a husband. That thought terrified me.
So I immediately got to work. I decided that the best way to change my life was to make small changes. I had tried to change in the past, but I always tried to do everything all at once. That plan usually worked for about two to three weeks and then I’d fall apart. Any weight I had lost would immediately be regained and usually more. I started with small changes to my diet. After a month of dietary changes, I added exercise by walking. After about a month of that I began the “Couch to 5K” program. From there I moved on the “Bridge to 10K” program, a half-marathon, a full-marathon, an Olympic distance triathlon. On Aug. 26, I’ll compete in Ironman Louisville.
I’m still amazed at how this incredible journey started and how far it has taken me in just 17 months. I’m down to 260 pounds and feel amazing. My blood pressure is normal, my sleep apnea is gone and my symptoms of diabetes have all disappeared, as well. People have asked me “what made you change?” Honestly, there is no single answer.
I’ve thought about what happened. What it was that made the switch flip. I’ve come up with something of a multipart answer. I had the desire to change. The experience at Dollywood and the promise I made to my daughter provided that. I also had the inspiration provided by my friend Anita Mills. Those two elements, combined with the realization the morning after the Super Bowl that my life had to change, I believe are what led to the creation of my “perfect storm.”
I know there are many people out there who have the desire to change. Now I hope that I can do for others what Anita did for me. I want to provide the inspiration. It’s my way of “paying it forward.”
Good luck to all of you on whatever journey you happen to be on. Just know that with small steps you can achieve anything that you set your mind to achieve.
Mark D. Rucker is an attorney from Lexington who spent the majority of his adult life struggling with weight issues. As a result of his unhealthy lifestyle and weight, he suffered from high blood pressure, sleep apnea and was borderline diabetic. In February of 2011, at the age of 42, Rucker weighed over 365 pounds. It was then that he decided it was time to change his life. He now hopes to use his experience to help inspire and encourage others to begin their own journey to health and fitness. By focusing on his “small steps” philosophy, Rucker believes that anyone, at any age and in any physical condition, can change his or her life.