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Monday, May 2, 2016

Bliss battles obesity with cross-country walk

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Jason Bliss has a found a surefire way to lose weight: Walking across the county. Since starting his journey in June, he has dropped around 100 pounds.
(T-G Photo by Brian Mosely)
With obesity becoming a growing concern for people across the country, various weight loss methods like pills, diets and exercise programs are becoming more and more popular.

Or you can try what Jason Bliss is doing -- walk across the country.

Bliss, or Jaybo as his friends call him, has seen hard times as of late, suffering from deep depression following the collapse of his marriage, as well as declaring bankruptcy due to those problems. He spent some time in Virginia in an attempt to get his life back together and then headed up to Boston to visit his friends, Chris Hartz and Bryan Clark.

By this time, Bliss weighed in at 380 pounds and was considering moving to Boston for two reasons -- financial opportunities and a way to shed some pounds since he believed he could walk everywhere in the city.

Instead, Hartz put another idea into Jason's head -- walk across the country. After some discussion, Bliss thought it was a great and fun idea. So the three flew to Myrtle Beach, S.C., to visit a friend and prepared Jason for his long trip.

"I was looking for something to jump-start my life, lose weight, build my faith ... I want to see the country," Jason said. "I'm looking for a re-birth."

With Bliss in the red financially, Hartz and Clark supplied everything needed for the trek, a backpack, tent and cell phone to keep in touch and to provide updates.

Jason has definitely seen results on the physical side, losing close to 100 pounds since embarking on his journey on June 18. He plans to weigh himself when he gets to Murfreesboro YMCA to check on his progress.

Wednesday, Jason was enjoying the hospitality of First Baptist Church in Tullahoma that provided him with a place to get cleaned up and a chance to talk to folks about his journey.

He will be in Lynchburg Friday and plans to walk to Shelbyville on Saturday. Jason was disappointed that he missed the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration by one week, but he said that had been typical.

"Every time I roll into a small town with a banner announcing a festival, I'm two days late!"

His trek can be viewed at his website at www.jaybowalkin.com. With several updates per day, those interested in his journey can join him and keep track of where he's walking.

"The whole purpose of the website is to raise awareness about obesity," Jason explained. "I mean, 380 pounds, c'mon, I like to eat ... I had tried to lose weight before, you try one thing or the other ... I may be extreme, but look how much weight I've lost."

Messages go to his website via his cell phone, where photos, stories and videos are posted detailing his cross country trek. A typical entry was made outside of Hillsboro this past weekend reading: "2 miles to go to gas station Found some water. Then I'll take a big break and charge my phone (almost dead). Six miles total left today. All my muscles are very sore. The little muscles on my sides at the hip are in terrible pain. I stretch them, but it does nothing."

Not only is Jason posting as he goes about his journey, but people can leave comments on the site which are sent directly to his phone, so when Jason is in town this weekend, he will be able to accept any invitations he receives.

Jason said he has done away with the stereotypes he once held about people who live in different parts of the country, saying that he has not met a single unfriendly person in the two months he has spent on the road.

"Not one bad person has come up and threatened me or anything," he said. "Everyone has been extremely nice."

He also finds new interests with every situation he encounters, wanting to live on a houseboat, raise horses, or live in a cabin in the woods.

Bliss also said he was socially conscious at first of what people thought of him when they saw him sleeping outside or going down the road, but not now.

"Last night I slept on the sidewalk. I don't care what people think anymore."

Bliss is pacing himself during the trip, walking in the morning and late afternoon to avoid the hottest part of the day, and setting up a campground somewhere different every night. The middle of the day is a rest period set aside to find more water, recharge his cell phone and more importantly, recharge himself.

His diet has consisted of health food and bottled water. At the first of the trip, Jason was averaging six to eight miles a day, but now he feels he can to 15 to 20 per day. Jason is pacing himself and when he's not walking, he's busy studying scripture.

The physical changes are apparent. Jason says the soles of his feet "are like steel" due to all the blisters and callouses he has suffered since June.

"They are 100 percent armored," he joked.

The major difficulty has been the heat, which, according to Jason, he describes as tougher than getting used to all the walking.

"I don't have a break, I can't go home to an air conditioned house. I live in the heat."

Jason hopes to end up in San Francisco sometime next spring, but for now, his next big goal is to meet Hartz and Clark and members of his family in Nashville for a couple of days of rest before hitting the road again. On Sept. 22, a gathering will be held at the Wildhorse Saloon to celebrate his feat, to which he is really looking forward.

"I haven't seen a familiar face from my past in so long. For me, it seems like I've been doing this for six or seven months instead of two," Bliss said. Also, his brother Emilio will be joining him for the Nashville to Memphis part of the walk.

From Memphis, Bliss will walk to Little Rock and then to Dallas, where he may hold a "half way" party, "but I'd rather go to Las Vegas and have it there." Expenses for his family and friends to travel out to meet him is another concern.

Bliss also said that changes have been made to his route that have him avoiding the Rocky Mountains. Many concerned people who read his website were contacting him, warning him not to attempt a path over the mountains.

"If I went to the (Great Smoky Mountains) Smokies and fell and broke my leg, a Boy Scout troop would probably be by a few minutes later, but up in the Rockies, it's almost a guarantee I won't be coming out."

He will steer south toward New Mexico and make it to California from there.

When he reaches the end of the journey, the fun won't stop there. Jason plans to rent some motorcycles and with his friends, retrace his steps and show them all the places he's been over the past year.

Ultimately, the goal is reach his target weight of 180 pounds.

"I've always been big ... middle school, high school ... I've never weighed under 200 since then."

The experience of the walk has also changed his mental outlook on life.

"Instead of the desire to just sit around and play video games, I don't know if it's the weight loss, but I have a lot more energy now," Jason explained

"Looking back, I've lived life in a closet. I just focused on partying and drinking and that was the wrong place to put all my passion. I had no idea what one person can accomplish and I can feel worthwhile in my life.

"And I'm really enjoying the walk now."

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