Nfld. & Labrador

Downsizing: Taking on an uphill battle in my own backyard

In the final instalment on his efforts to control his weight and life, Dave Sullivan climbs iconic Signal Hill in St. John's, and reflects on how far he's come.

In his series finale, Dave Sullivan climbs iconic Signal Hill ... and reflects on how far he's come

'Signal Hill was the mountain I would never climb,' Dave Sullivan says, although that has changed during his new approach to healthier living. (Heather Barrett/CBC)

Have you ever sat back and thought about something you’d love to do  but then you think, “God, there’s no way I could ever do that"? 

For me, that’s hiking up Signal Hill. It’s 500 feet high and it’s probably the most famous landmark in St. John’s.

However, Signal Hill was a roadblock for me. Friends would head out to hike up the hill or around the trail, but I’d back off and go down to the basement for a burger or two.

After a while, no one would bring up a Signal Hill hike as an option because it was clear I was in no shape to do that sort of thing.

So Signal Hill became a point of shame. Shame that I wasn’t healthy enough to make it to the top, and shame that I’d let myself slip to a point where I couldn’t do the things so-called normal people could do.

My body just wasn’t capable of attempting that. It would damn near kill me.

Signal Hill was the mountain I would never climb.

Until today. So why today?

Because I’m ready

I look out my office window every day and stare up at this hill. At some time, you have to face what you fear the most, or else it will always have power over you.

That time is right now. 

I’m sucking wind like a Hoover on a shag rug, but I’m gonna make it to the top.

This body, the one that I’ve filled with poison for so many years, is propelling me to the top of this mountain.  And for the first time in my life, I’m proud of it.

It’s funny where my mind goes when I’m under duress. For almost my whole life I’ve been ashamed of my body.

For decades, I’ve viewed my body as broken, an eyesore that should be covered with as many layers as possible.

But here’s the thing.

This body, the one that I’ve filled with poison for so many years, is propelling me to the top of this mountain.

And for the first time in my life, I’m proud of it.

I’m getting stronger every day, mentally and physically.

It’s a lifelong journey

But I can’t become complacent. It’s easy to feel as if I’ve accomplished something, with compliments flying in from across the country and people telling me “You look great.”

My journey isn’t over yet. Truth is, it never will be. 

This — what I’m doing now — this is my life. This is who I am.

I continue to search for ways to improve. The big difference these days is that when problems arise, as they do, I have the confidence to tackle them head-on.

I have no doubt in my mind that I’ll lose the weight. But what I’ve discovered  is that this isn’t really about the numbers on a scale.

It’s about living.

From here on out there’ll be no more hiding from mountains — real or imagined. Now I just fix my eyes to wherever it is I want to go. And climb.

And standing here at the top of the oldest city in North America. Looking out over the streets that I call home — it hits me, like a signal in the dark.

I’m alive.

This is what it feels like to be alive.

About the Author

Dave Sullivan is a writer and ad creative proudly living and working in St. John's.


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