Today I’ll be talking about some real life issues in relation to the gaming community. I’ll be the first to admit that this will be a strange post in relation to our general topics discussed on the Paper Champion but this has been something that’s been bothering me for a while, nearly a year.
When I began my Magic gaming career 20 years ago, I was a skinny kid weighing about 175lbs. Over the years, through many circumstances including video games, Magic and other real world issues, I gained weight. Around 50lbs of it.
At the time, this weight gain wasn’t that big of a deal to me. Growing up thin, I liked having the extra pounds and being “bigger” but as the years went on the pounds added up and I wasn’t just “bigger” anymore. I was fat. Easy things became difficult. Tying my shoes was an uncomfortable experience, I would lose breath walking uphill, my ankles and knees hurt daily. I was horribly out of shape.
When taking a break from Magic in the late 2000s, I began to play World of Warcraft and my weight ballooned. My 175lb frame was now carrying 245lbs and my pot belly made my life even more uncomfortable and miserable.
One morning I woke up, tired and exhausted, I put my painful feet on the floor as I was up on the edge of the bed and said audibly, “I don’t want to feel this way anymore.” That was the day I did something about it and began looking into options to lose weight.
Collectable card game players are already at a disadvantage when it comes to weight loss. Many Magic players have a lowered self esteem to begin with and this multiplies as we continue playing what some people consider a “nerd game”. Most of us have at least one moment in our lives where we were ashamed to be Magic players when talking with others. Confidence among our ranks is typically lower and some of us use these games to mask or hide from our real world problems. Unfortunately, I’m starting to find this the rule and not the exception.
This combination, as well as the fact we play Magic in a social gathering, at tables creates an environment where snacking, drinks and food are commonplace at most casual Magic settings. I’ve even been to many competitive Magic settings where energy drinks, soft drinks, cookies, chips and even a birthday cake were provided or able to be purchased. Sadly, healthy options are not typically provided.
Eleven months ago, a fellow Magic player, who appeared to be a bit overweight himself, had photographs taken of overweight player’s butt cracks at GP Richmond. This betrayal to his own fellow hobby enthusiasts angered me and illustrated a serious issue among the Magic community. We are overweight and not afraid to show it. This bothers me and it should bother you too.
Being overweight causes serious physical, mental and emotional damage. Heart attacks are common with overweight people. So is diabetes, strokes, hypertension and sleeping disorders. Mentally and emotionally you can go into severe depression and even consider suicide. You may feel like you can’t do anything about it or hide your problem by delving deeper into your gaming lifestyle which just compounds the problem.
Only you can do something about your weight.
Research a a weight loss program that fits your lifestyle and taste buds. I’m a guy and i really like meat and cheese so in my research I found Atkins to be a good way for me to lose weight without feeling like I was depriving myself with food I didn’t like. It was difficult to remove the breads and pastas from my diet but the Atkins options were tasty so it wasn’t as difficult for me. Each program has it’s goods and bads so find a program that suits yourself. People facing obesity should contact a doctor about before doing anything due to any possible complications that may arise from a sudden diet change.
When I began my weight loss program, I mentally set a goal for myself. At the start of the day, I would weigh myself and take note of my weight. I would then tell myself, “I will lose one pound today.” I would then go through my day and do everything I possibly could to lose that single pound. the next day, i would weight myself again and see if I was successful. If I was, I would repeat the process, taking things one day at a time. If I didn’t lose that single pound or just a portion of that pound, I would do whatever it took to lose it that next day and so on. You will not lose 40lbs in a week and setting a daily goal is a good way to keep yourself in the habit of eating right. It took me six months to lose 40lbs.
Eat before you game. Going to your local Friday Night Magic tournament and snacking out is a big no-no. Eat a healthy, filling meal, something that will last you a few hours before you leave. If you need to purchase food on the way, all major restaurants have some very tasty and healthy options.
For god sakes, stay away from the energy drinks. They look cool, taste really good and give you an energy rush. The side effects are much more sinister. These types of drinks will keep you awake and not allow rest. the sleep you do manage to get will not be restful or leave you refreshed and you will wake up just as tired or more when you wake up. Many times the answer is to drink an energy drink to alleviate the feeling which creates a horrible cycle of unhealthy behavior.
Sitting for long periods of time isn’t healthy. Your heart is a muscle and if not worked out it will fail. After a gaming session, get up and do something. i would recommend some form of physical activity. Tablets can be strapped or Velcroed to treadmills and surfing the net or playing an app game while exercising is becoming a thing. As you exercise your body will become used to the extra work and it will become easier. It also gives you a natural energy boost afterwords.
Reward yourself for a job well done. If you meet your overall goal, purchase some cards for yourself or a new playmat. You could even set a goal to lose a certain amount of weight by the time the next major tournament rolls in and reward yourself with an entry is you make your weight goal. There is nothing wrong with bribing yourself into a healthy way of life.
Challenge yourself to go outdoors and find a new hobby. Magic isn’t the only thing to do out there. Hiking, biking camping are enjoyable things to do outside and are healthy for you. They offer exercising options that can’t be found during a kitchen table Magic match and the fresh air will do you good. Some of my most memorable casual Magic games were played at campground picnic benches outdoors. Get outside and tap some real mountains and forests.
I will not tell you that losing weight is easy. There will be many temptations along the way to fall into old habits and typically it takes three weeks to change your unhealthy eating ways. I can tell you that in time it becomes fun to ignore each food temptation along the way. Meeting your goals and gaining successes will bring you more self confidance and a better self image as you look in the mirror and notice the weight vanishing.
My hope is that someone out there reads this and chooses to take control of their eating habit like I did. I would really like to see a movement in the Magic community to shed it’s stereotype. We don’t have to be overweight, butt crack bearing, neckbearded nerds. We can be healthy gamers and have a great image of ourselves and live healthy well into the future. Being healthy feels so much better.
Take care everyone and see you next time.