Dungeons & Diets: A Bard's Adventure Into Better Health

I am a man of a rapier wit, a tongue like a razor, and the charm of a 20th level Paladin. I have a larger-than-life personality. I say these things not because I am a conceded ass, but because enough people have told me so that I take it as truth. I also use my bombastic persona to compensate for a pretty glaring issue.

You see, I'm fat. Fat fat. Like, "Our next contestant on The Biggest Loser" fat. Last November I tipped the scales at a whopping 430lbs (197.77kg for my metric friends). That's a stone's throw away from being 500lbs. (226.8kg). That's a quarter ton.

 "We're gonna need a bigger bard."

I've never been small. When I was a kid, I was quite the little plumper. By second grade I was tipping in at 100lbs. (45.36kg). This was due to a childhood eating and drinking all the wrong sorts of things. Colas, fried foods, potato chips, salty everything, and chocolate. All those and in large quantities. By the time I was 12 I could polish off a whole large pizza by myself. I can't blame my parents too much. They game from a different time when people didn't live past 65 and cooked everything with butter.

"If you could taste racism, it would taste like butter. Sweet, salty butter."

It didn't help that I didn't eat good things to counter all the bad. Vegetables (aside from potatoes) were unheard of. I ate fruit so rarely that at one point I lost the taste for apples. To make matters worse, I was picky, so aside from eating crap-food, I was unwilling to try new food... you know, healthy stuff.

As I got older, I continued my bad habits and amplified them. Fast Food, greasy pizzas, fried chicken, and anything deep-fried became my regular diet. It is surprising that I am alive at all right now. I would have figured my arteries would have looked like a grease trap at a McDonald's by now.

Long-term effects were had, though. I suffer from some pretty heinous back pain on occasion (but with the gut I am toting around, it is not very surprising). My ability to move around has been diminished. Not as bad as some, but enough so I can't do all the things I want to do. I cannot sit in a lawn chair without fearing for its safety.

Scariest of all, though, I developed severe sleep apnea. For those of you fortunate enough not to be hip to the lingo, sleep apnea is when you stop breathing for periods throughout the night. It lasts only a few seconds at a time, but it can lead to restless sleep, thickening of the heart muscles, and death. The big d.

 "100% medically accurate, like The Human Centipede"

Mine was brought on by my weight. Apparently, my jiggly jowls press down on my throat at night, causing me to stop breathing for an average of 113 times an hour. So now I sleep with a mask attached to a machine that keeps me alive.

Hmm. I enjoy wearing black. I require a breathing apparatus to stay alive. Some people think I'm evil. Who does that remind me of...

"I find your lack of healthy choices disturbing."

I was a mess. So, I decided it was time for a change. No more could I continue down the path I'd set down upon, with its delicious cheese-coated streets. I had to make some serious alterations to the way I did things. For my family, my friends, and for me. I needed to get my shit together.

"And so I did"

I had tried dieting in the past, with bouts of exercise, but I always fell back into that vicious cycle to returning to food. So, for inspiration, I turned to the sanest, most rational outlet that I could think of; a made up fantasy world where the laws of reality don't apply...

 I had played many an RPG character in the past. Each of them had been stalwart individuals in great health and hardy constitution. I got to thinking that maybe there was more to this than just pencils, paper, and dice. I got to pondering, thinking about what exactly an adventurer had to do every day. The more I thought, the more their physique made more sense.

So I decided to be an adventurer, rather than just play at being one.

Adventurers do a lot of stuff. They plunder tombs, fight goblins, and occasionally rescue someone. But that did not seem like the workout schedule for someone whose idea of strenuous activity was getting up to go into the other room.

 "You're just... gonna have... to wait a minute... so I... can catch... my breath."

Instead of the rough and tumble, I set my gaze on the routine. The everyday things adventurers do, you know, in between adventures. The things that are common place. If nothing else, it would help me get into character.

What Does An Adventurer Eat?
This is more of a "What doesn't an adventurer eat" sort of thing. I took to my fridge and pantry, looking over the foodstuffs I had laying around.  

  • Things A Good Adventurer Could Do Without...
    Soda/Cola/Pop (My weakness)
    Baked Goods
    Greasy Food
    Deep Fried Food
    Too Much Crap With "Breading" (I'm looking at you, fried chicken)
    Bread (well, at least a little in moderation)  

  • The Things A Good Adventurer Needs...
    It takes a lot of energy to save the world three times a week. I would need the kind of food that propels an adventurer forward. Basically, the food pyramid. 

"Oh Marylin Manson, you delight and educate."

This is pretty straightforward for the rest of the known universe, but it took me a few go's to get it mostly right. Still working on it a bit. Don't judge me.

Well, now I knew what I had, and what would work. My biggest problem, though, had always been how much? Portion control was a skill that I didn't put a lot of points into. But adventurers do it all the time. That is why they mark them as "Trail Rations" on your character sheet, and it's in increments of days. The food is rationed for the day.

That seemed like a smart move. If you planned your whole day's worth of food right from the get go, that removes any chance for unnecessary snacking, which is usually what dismantles diets quickly. So, I plotted some calories and cut all my portions in half. After all, unless you have a handy haversack, you only have so much room in your pack.

However, I know that temptation lives out there. It lurks in the dark places with all the delicious smells. Sure, I could deny myself the fatty, greasy, awful food, and I would be better for it. Or, I could allow myself a weekly cheat. A little goal to aspire to. Something to look forward to as I spend the week counting calories and avoiding food traps. Even adventurers who come in off the road are prone to a little excess when the settle down in the tavern at night. It is only human to want to indulge in these kinds of behaviors.

So I implemented a cheat night. A lone night during the week where I can take one meal and make it into a delicious cavalcade of sinful delights. Picking the day was a no-brainer; game night. Let's face it, as a whole, our  community doesn't exactly paint themselves as exemplars of healthy eating on game nights. Pizza, chips, take-out, you name it. We like out junk food when we start rolling. Few are the times I have seen a veggie platter at the game table (it's rare, but it happens). Being surrounded by the aromatic bouquets of the decadent spread typically found on game night is enough to make anyone fail their will save.

And that's okay. We're not all paladins of iron will. But deciding when you stumble and fall helps to ensure that you only do it once instead of making it a constant struggle to keep balance.

How Does An Adventurer Exercise?
Adventurers tend to roam from place to place often. Unless you have a horse, which I am lacking, you had to walk to your destination. You needed to do this every day. So, taking a page from the players handbook, I took to walking. I started small and worked my way up. I find that nature trails and scenic locals help in the process. It gives your brain some time to relax and take in some pretty impressive sights.

 "I actually live 10 minutes from this."

If you take after the monk or the barbarian, I suppose you could take to running. Building up that base land speed and endurance. I'm not quite there yet, but it's an aspiration. I've been eyeballing Couch to 5k as a means to take the adventuring lifestyle to the next level.

After that, I'll start taking my walks late at night on the bad side of town to simulate traveling down a bandit-ridden road. Muggers beware! I carry little to no cash on me!

Class Training
I sometimes ask myself, if I belonged to a class, which one would I belong to? Each has their own flavor and abilities, but they also each offer something interesting in the way of exercise.

Barbarian and Fighter: Strength and endurance are the bread and butter of this martial duo. Running, swimming, and weightlifting would round out the physical prowess these classes. Training in certain weapons might also be fun. Taking up archery, attending a fencing class, or just going out with some friends and some boffers (PVC pipe wrapped in insulating foam and duct tape) and beating the hell out of each other could be fun ways to get into the class mentality while still doing something active.
Druid and Ranger: Getting in touch with nature is always a good thing. It's soothing, peaceful, and fun. Hiking, swimming, archery, and mountain climbing are all great physical activities. For extra added fun, go camping. Not fake camping. No campgrounds. Unplug, go off the grid and do yourself some real roughing-it-in-the-middle-of-nowhere camping. Or, if you want something more social and more violent, take some pals out into the wild and paintball.
Cleric and Monk: Finding one's self and getting in touch with a higher power are pretty difficult to quantify into physical activity, but I think with some meditation, yoga, and martial arts (perhaps tai chi), you could nail down everything and possibly have a religious experience.

Rogue: Criminal activities require a lot of physical exertion. Running, aerobics, acrobatics, and really anything that helps with agility and cardio. Fleeing from the authorities can be difficult work.
Wizard and Sorcerer: Screw these guys. Always sitting around. Go for a walk, you lazy asses. If you can manipulate reality to your will, manipulate yourself out of your chair and do something!

But I fall into a different category. I'm a Bard. I talk a lot, occasionally sing a tune. But moreover, I am the most versatile class in the game. So I'll do it all! Slowly but surely I am working up my bardic repertoire to tackle all the physical challenges. A new membership to my local Y will help in tackling a bunch of these. And since it is summer here stateside, there are plenty of great days to get out and about.

The Effect
I've been working at this since January. Little by little I've hammered down on a lot of my bad habits like a dwarf with an anvil. That is why I am happy to report as of two days ago I have officially lost 46lbs. (20.86kg). I've dropped a couple pant sizes, found myself with more energy, and I am feeling great. And if I keep it up, I can only imagine how much better I'll be feeling. The long-term goal is to get down to a respectable 260lbs. (117.93kg). What? I'm 6'5", 260 is pretty good. That would make me lighter than I was in high school. And I was pretty dapper in high school...

"At least, I think I was."

At that weight, I should no longer be a slave to the CPAP machine, my heart health will be secure, and I will look ever bit as dashing and sexy as I think I am. Mind over matter, friends. So, here's hoping that a little less of the bard means a little more of the bard.
On a side note: Voting is up for The ENnie Awards, and you can vote for your (hopefully) favorite Bard under the Fan Favorite Publisher section. I'm not saying assign me a 1... but I am not not saying it either. Go forth, vote for your favorite publishers, and give the Bard a little love!

Roll well, my friends,
+Ed The Bard 

And Special thanks to my Epic-Adventurer Level Patrons
Levi Davis
Michael Stevens

Would you like to support the bard in another way, and still get some pretty cool stuff out of it? Kick in the door to the Open Gaming Store. They have a mountain of affordable aids to help you be all the player or Game Master you can be. Just tell them Ed The Bard sent you.

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