PHOTO: COURTESY OF MARQUIS MURRAY
I wish there were more pictures of me with my kids, but somehow I always made sure to be the one taking the pictures. Behind these little cuties was a 270-pound body that, if I’m being honest, I hated. At the time this photo was taken, my boys had just turned one. There should have been lots of photos of the celebration, but I was in the worst shape of my life. I was ashamed of my body and felt like I couldn’t do anything about it, so I always hid when the cameras came out.
Every day, I’d make a deal with myself that I’d start exercising tomorrow, or Monday morning, or the beginning of next month. After eating that third McDouble burger, I’d tell myself that I’d go for a run that night to work it off. Spoiler alert: Monday morning never came, and neither did that night run. My workouts always got pushed back. Before having kids, it wouldn't have even been a question: Exercising every day used to be my way of life. I wasn’t feeling like an all-star parent—in fact, I was feeling like a failure. This wasn’t the way I’d envisioned fatherhood.
When we found out that we were going to be the parents of twins in my wife’s second month of pregnancy, I couldn’t have been more excited. At our first ultrasound, I laughed out loud when the OB-GYN said with a smile, “I know you guys aren’t experts or anything, but there are two in there!” I had always wanted to be a father and, secretly, I’d always wanted twins. We decided that I’d take a seven-month parental leave and stay home with my wife, Thalita, to take care of the kids.
After the boys were born, we spent our days at home in a constant cycle of feeding, burping, changing diapers, napping, rocking them to sleep, cleaning the house, doing laundry, sterilizing hundreds of tiny bottle parts, pumping breast milk and getting some much-needed rest. The days just folded into each other.
Until you become a parent, you can’t comprehend how real and vicious sleep deprivation is. You forget what day it is, your limbs don’t feel like they’re attached to your body and you lose all concept of reality. Your only reaction is to give in and burst out into tears. The boys were born nearly five weeks early (which is typical for twins), and the endless feedings and early morning diaper changes were gruelling. I ate whatever I could whenever I had the chance.
When you’re eating just about anything so long as it will give you energy for the next few hours, you tend to reach for whatever will take the least amount of effort to prepare. After a while, the late-night frozen lasagnas, leftover casseroles and irregular sleep schedule started to add up and my clothes started to fit differently. You know how your favourite pants are tight for a couple of hours after being in the dryer and they start to feel “normal” again throughout the day? Yeah, that stopped happening. At the end of the day, my pants were just as “snug” as when they came out of the dryer, but I’d just put on a sweater and some comfy sweatpants and problem solved. That was until my friends started to notice and make comments about my new “Dad bod.”
I embraced it. After all, I was a dad, and nothing was more important than being home to raise my boys and support my partner. Even if it meant that I missed a few days (or months) at the gym (who has time for that anyway?), I’m a father of twins! This has become my life, justifying my choices and getting further away from the me of yesterday.
I’d often hide behind my kids in pictures or simply not take them because I didn’t want to see myself like that or have my kids look back and remember me that way. Thalita would constantly remind me that we needed to take more pictures with the kids. We were fine taking pictures of them, but I often left myself out.
When it was time to return to work, I told myself that I’d start going to the gym again. I remember being embarrassed at the thought of my co-workers seeing me. What would they think of me? I started going back to the gym one or two days a week and was on a pretty good schedule, that is until it got hard. The reality is, I had to make a choice every day to head home after work and be a parent or take time away from my family to work on myself. The decision may seem like a simple one to make, but I had a hard time with it—any time I took away from the kids (for myself) meant that Thalita was home on her own with two fussy babies. On top of feeling guilty, I was just plain tired.
Daily routines like a hearty “drive-through” breakfast and a “quick lunch” just became part of my schedule. On longer days, I’d get a bag of chips for later. I needed to fuel up because, when I got back from work, Thalita needed me to be “on” and ready to jump back in. I’d fallen into another rut. I kept having visions of Monday-morning workouts. But guess what happened next? Nothing.
Mondays came and went. My clothes got tighter and tighter, I was becoming short of breath and simple tasks like tying my shoes and putting on my socks were becoming more difficult every day. I hated it. I hated myself.
I have a bad heart and a family history of diabetes. If I continued the way I was going, it would only be a matter of time before my family history caught up with me. I knew I had to change. My boys needed a father—one who was active in their lives and encouraged them to live healthy lifestyles, who would cheer them on at their games and, more importantly, who was alive. When Thalita and I celebrated our fifth anniversary last September, she posted our wedding picture on Instagram and it was a throwback to a happy, healthier Marquis. It was my wake-up call.
When you’re walking down a dark road and you don’t see any end in sight, sometimes it’s just better to turn around and start again. I did just that. I needed help, so I called my local gym and set up an appointment with a personal trainer to start working out with me three days a week. This was the beginning of my recovery: I gave permission to someone else to take my health into their hands. How many times had I tried on my own and failed? I needed help.
After eight months of working out five days a week, listening to Thalita’s constant encouragement and making a decision to completely change the way we both ate, I’m happy to share that I’m down 45 pounds and on my way back to a more familiar me. Sticking to a consistent exercise program has meant setting my alarm for 5:30 a.m. and heading to the gym every morning. This was a hard change to make because I was not only making a mental transition but also training my already sleep-deprived body to function (and perform) on even less sleep.
Ultimately, I knew the change was a necessary one if I was going to have any sort of success and become a better parent. I want to be a dad with energy to chase his kids around the kitchen, play airplane, tie his shoes and walk (or run) up the stairs without being out of breath. And I’m getting there—and I have the photos to prove it.