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Rollercoaster (of Emotions)

My daughter and I stand in front of the sign reading "Dominator" - for the rollercoaster of that name at Kings Dominion theme park
Photo used with my kid's permission

CONTENT WARNING: health, body image

I recently posted about some of my health improvements. My doctor, of course, focused a lot on my losing weight for a while, but I can't keep a scale in my house; it’s bad for my mental health. I focused on healthier eating and exercise. Sure, I expected that I’d lose some weight over time as part of those behavioral changes, but I wasn't trying to lose a number. I wasn't chasing a target weight.

But I did have two goals related to losing weight.

Rollercoasters, man. I love 'em. I remember a rare vacation with my family when I was six-and-a-half years old, traveling to Williamsburg, VA (years before we’d move to the Commonwealth). We visited Busch Gardens where I was *furious* at my height preventing me from riding The Loch Ness Monster. Back home in New Jersey we lived a short distance from Six Flags Great Adventure where I longed for the day when I was tall enough to ride the classic wooden coaster, Rolling Thunder.

As a teen, I eventually travelled to Kings Dominion north of Richmond and finally enjoyed a slice of what rollercoasters had to offer. Anaconda, The Hurler (RIP), Shockwave (also RIP), Outer Limits, and especially Rebel Yell (now the less problematically-named Racer 75), running backward. I loved them all. I was fortunate that my wife also loves rollercoasters, but unfortunate that I was already starting to get a bit bigger shortly after we married.

A few years later, my wife and I spent the weekend in Williamsburg with a couple of college friends. We visited Busch Gardens and went on all sorts of rides. For the most part I had no issues until we went to ride Apollo's Chariot. This was the first coaster I encountered with a deep bucket seat, and no matter how hard I tried, I could not get the restraint to lock closed. After fussing for several minutes, I had to get off the ride while my wife and friends went ahead without me.

The humiliation! The shame I felt, in front of my wife, friends, and a thousand strangers (who, let's be honest, probably didn't even notice) having to get out of the train because I was too big to ride. I wasn't getting any smaller, and that experience was so scarring that I stopped trying to ride most thrill rides, let alone rollercoasters. For *years*.

Once my daughter was a few years old, our family started visiting Busch Gardens on the regular - mostly because we had access to free lodging in Williamsburg on occasion (thanks to my mother-in-law), but also because Valerie and I both remembered loving the rides and park itself. Even when our daughter was too young for rides, my wife would still enjoy the rollercoaster in the park. I mostly just hung out with our kid. But then that kid started growing up and started to love rollercoasters, too. Here was something we both loved, but I still couldn't share it with her directly. I don't resent my wife riding with her all those times - they should be able to share this excitement, too. But this was one of many things I couldn't share with my family because of my health at the time.

The first weight/size goal I had is pretty vain, honestly. No, I don't want a "beach body" or to look good naked. But when you’re over a certain size, you clothing options kind of suck. Even if you find something from a quality and/or reputable brand, I feel like clothing designers and manufacturers sort of give up on actual structure and fit for larger body sizes. I wanted to be able to buy clothes that fit well—not because they flatter my body—but because I wanted comfortable clothing without feeling like I'm walking around in a denim pillowcase. Fine, I'm starting to find this goal fulfilled. Hooray for me, I guess.

The *second* goal, however, may sound more silly. But it really was for me to lose enough weight that I could ride rollercoasters with my daughter. I missed them enough on my own, but I wanted so badly to be able to share that with my kid that it’s one of the main reasons I wanted to get a bit smaller. And today we visited Kings Dominion for the first time this year.

Several of the marquee rides in the park have test seats now, to help avoid exactly the humiliation I felt in my 20s. Last fall I couldn't quite get some of these test seats to work for me, but I could feel and see that I was close. Today, I passed every test seat. We were at the park for nearly 6 hours (holy smokes, I'm tired), and I was able to ride old favorites that are still around, as well as some newer top-flight rollercoasters. And I rode every one of them with my daughter.

It was a spectacular day.