Hector is a name that has come up a lot in my conversations with Lisa Krantz over the last few years. When we first met in 2012 she was already well underway in documenting his struggle with obesity. Something she did for over four years total.
My own struggles with weight issues started to come to fruition around the same time as I lost over 100 lbs. After losing the weight, something in my mind snapped and I felt that I deserved the life I suddenly had created and began taking advantage of everything I had worked so hard for. I gained much of the weight back over the next year.
I met Hector for the first time hours before he died on December 8th 2014 in San Antonio, Texas. Seated in his chair, talking on the phone with a peaceful look on his face. When he ended the call he was delighted to engage with us. Over the weekend I had been listening and reading hours of interviews to help Lisa compile some of the video for the project on him.
When we met, I felt like I knew him in ways that I’m not even sure I know myself. I saw his pain and his fears. I felt my own weakness bleeding through his words. We talked for hours. About counseling. His childhood. His dreams and fears. I told him that I knew what I went through to lose so much weight the first time and that I didn’t want to have to go through it again. He said he understood and calmed my fears. I felt like a child at his feet. Listening. Absorbing all I could from what he had learned thus far about life. He was kind and genuine.
“Unfortunately, I can’t stop cold turkey,” he said during one of the previous interviews with Lisa. “That’s what makes it so hard, that you can never stop eating.” Something that he reiterated during our time together. He compared his life to a druggie having to take a pinch of coke every day. Or an alcoholic having to only take one shot. Every day. I had never thought of this before.
There was hope in his words that things were about to change for him. That maybe this time he would go through counseling with his new insurance. Maybe this time he would try fighting for himself and not for others.
“My life is a cautionary tale,” he said; a phrase that he repeated often.
I asked him what was the main point he wanted to get across from the project and without hesitation his response was that other’s would learn from his family and his mistakes in dealing with children who are overweight. When I told him that his story had already impacted my life, a big smile washed over his face. I kept thinking how brave he was to open up so much of his life to a journalist, to inspect and analyze, how much trust had been developed between him, his family and Lisa.
This is why I think his story is so powerful. As Lisa said at one point, his story is not just compelling because of what he’s gone through but even more so because of the way he articulates the struggle in all of us. His words are vibrant and breathtaking. He opened his heart to us in a way that we rarely do with those closest to us.
I am also inspired by the dedication and empathy Lisa showed while working with Hector. I believe in the power journalism has to change the world but it’s refreshing to watch it unfold before me on so many different levels. The way she interacted with the family the night he died was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen in journalism. She mourned with them, heartbroken, while still fighting to tell his story with the most impact.
May Hector’s story and Lisa’s work be warning sign to those of us who struggle with this and bring compassion to those who don’t.
RIP Hector. I’m blessed to have met you.
Click on this link to view Hector’s story by Lisa Krantz and the San Antonio Express News