The Problem With The Black Robe

The problem I’m about to write about is not the black robe, despite what the title of this post might suggest. The problem is how comfortable the robe made me feel. How little exercise I got. How overweight I became. 

These were the problems, not the black robe. 

The problem started in 2012.

I was a much thinner man, with a head full of hair and a heart full of aspiration. I was 27 and about to become a nontraditional student. My goals were a tad on the ambitious side, perhaps. Nothing too big, I thought to myself: I just want to be a doctor. How hard can that be?

The problem was my schedule. 

I worked as a certified nursing assistant at a retirement home where the schedules were all over the place.  Somehow, I needed to fit my full days’ worth of classes and labs into this convoluted working schedule. On top of that, I had my hobbies.

I’m not going to lie here and say that I exercised every day; I’m not going to tell you that I was as lean as The Flash, or as muscular as Super Man (yes, these are my comparisons; I’m a child). However, that being said, I managed to make my schedule as a CNA work. I still took long walks every day, and had an acceptable weight for my height. 

I was okay, and I was proud of that. 

The problem started with my new job. 

I switched from that nursing assistant job to a job as an over-the-phone interpreter. It was a job I had done before, but this time I could do it from home. No long commutes, or unnecessary walks. “I’ll save time and money,” I thought to myself. And so it began.

The problem was exacerbated when my wife presented me with a gift…


…the black robe. 

It was so comfortable! I barely noticed when I would sit for the entirety of my 7-hour shift, including breaks, enjoying the comfort of my robe. Just me, the computer screen and the voices in my head. They came from the phone, I should clarify here, the voices. I was an interpreter, after all.

The problem started to show as I took more classes. 

Between work and school, I found just four, perhaps five hours, where I could actually sleep. Every other moment of the day was scheduled for class, homework, or actual work. I found myself exceedingly hungry. And after a full shift of talking non-stop, I wanted to eat all the time. Every hour or so, I was starving. And so, I ate.

The problem became obvious when my clothes no longer fit. 

My shirts were too tight. My pants could barely close. I had to buy bigger clothes. At first, I thought they had shrunk. Perhaps my wife is just terrible at doing the laundry? Wasn’t giving me the black robe bad enough? It didn’t occur to me that I had decreased my daily walks to an occasional stroll. By the time I was in my junior year of college, the walks were practically nonexistent. The smaller my clothes got, the slower I became. Not just at walking, but at everything. It suddenly took me longer to memorize things for school. Walking up flights of stairs, I felt like I needed a non-rebreather mask with at least 10 liters of oxygen waiting for me at the top.

The problem was time. 

I just didn’t have it. There was no place in my schedule to waste with just walking or even cooking. Fast food became my daily menu. There was a time when my wife and I could go to any fast food joint and just say, “Give me a number six and a number 7 please,” and it just made sense. A new language had been acquired — the tongue of the menu items. It was so much faster than actually cooking. Effortlessly we would move from sitting at school to sitting in the car to sitting at home to sitting in bed to lying down and sleeping, having grown tired of all that sitting.


The problem became apparent to me when I went in for my yearly checkup and saw my stats. 

I had steadily gone up five pounds for every year of college. At just 5’6’’, I weighed in at about 173 pounds. That might not seem like a lot, but for me it was. Considering that my ideal weight was supposed to be around 149 pounds, I had managed to gain at least 30 pounds since I’d started college. Thus, a degree was not the only thing I was gaining in school.

The problem was not the black robe.

But it helped. 

It was so easy to just be covered up, comfy in a chair; it was easy to forget the importance of movement. I became slow, heavy and weak. I went from being able to do over 50 push-ups to barely being able to do 5. Walking a short distance wasn’t a joy anymore; going up stairs felt like punishment. But I knew that I had to start doing all of these things again. Today, I’m at 155 pounds, and it hasn’t been easy getting there. 

I’m still five pounds over my ideal weight, but I exercise daily. Since I began incorporating activity in my life, I have become faster, and retained more information from my study sessions. I’ve also cut down on the fast food. 

It might seem that there is no time for activity, but often that misconception is the problem that starts the problem. Sitting down for hours does not mean one will actually study for that long. It’s best to keep moving. By maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle, you’ll almost certainly avoid the pitfalls of blaming a piece of clothing for your weight issues. In fact, your clothes might just stop shrinking. The sudden decrease in judging eyes staring at you as you answer the door at 2 p.m. with a black robe on won’t hurt, either. 

If only those eyes knew that the black robe was the least of my problems.


John Andrew

Osteopathic Medical Student - 2nd year (OMS II)
2d Lt, United States Air Force
Vice President, Psychiatry and Behavioral Health Club
Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences

John Andrew