In November 2010, I weighed 440 pounds (200 kg). I was fat, lacked confidence and when it came to my own life, I lived in constant fear that I was having a heart attack every time I was short of breath. I had discretely and without doctor’s orders started taking aspirin daily because I knew it was only a matter of time before I followed in the footsteps of almost every other male in my family and had a heart attack.
With respect to my downward spiraling health, I had made the decision to medicate it and not treat it. Moreover, my food addiction was getting worse by the day. I was spending about $500 per month on fast food and another $200 per month on convenience store garbage like donuts, bagels and sugar filled soda. I would never choose to abstain from a food because it wasn’t good for me and I never even considered doing exercise for the purpose of fitness, but I was getting to the stage where even getting out of the car was a cardio workout.
I was in pain being on my feet any longer than 15 minutes. This made my job difficult (where I am required to do presentations and networking in social settings) and any time I received an invitation from friends, I had to think about if I’d be able to make it through the activity. I wore an ankle brace every day because my body was struggling just to hold my weight and was forced to buy whatever clothes I could find that could fit me due to a diminishing selection at my growing size.
I privately wondered:
On the outside I wasn’t an unhappy person. In fact, a majority of people around me seemed to like me and think I was a positive, happy person, but inside I was just living day to day. I had settled in life, love and was not long for this world.
It was at this time that I was preparing a lesson for a church group I was helping with and I came across a section in the lesson plan that taught that eating unhealthy food was a sin against the Will of God and it was a straw that broke the camel’s back. That may seem harsh, but it was exactly the kind of paradigm shift I needed.
SEE, I HAD NEVER EVEN CONSIDERED THE FACT UNTIL THAT VERY MOMENT, THAT FOOD AND MY ADDICTION TO IT WAS HURTING MY RELATIONSHIPS, SHORTENING MY LIFE UNNECESSARILY AND TAKING AWAY FROM THOSE THAT I LOVED MOST.
IT WAS TIME TO CHANGE.
But, then I passed a Del Taco the next day and that was the end of that (lesson here: failure sometimes happens). The morning after, I was reading on Reddit and found a story from an individual with a truly remarkable before and after picture. When my heart had been convicted the night before, I knew I had to change, I just didn’t know how. Reading this man’s story showed me a person who had actually done what I wanted to do.
That morning, I decided to get outside and go for a walk. It was 4am. When I returned home after what was probably a quarter of a mile, I was breathing so hard that my roommate thought I was having a heart attack. But I didn’t die. And that told me I could probably do it again tomorrow and I might not die then either.
A week or so later, I was blessed to have a friend enter my life who is an expert in nutrition and fitness named Bret. I nervously confessed to Bret my desire to lose weight and he immediately grabbed a notepad and pen and jotted down a meal plan that I used for the next 9 months that was largely whole foods. He gave me protein shakes to try. He was there when I needed to ask a question about some kind of food or exercise. He encouraged me and told me he was confident that by the following Christmas, I could be 100 pounds lighter. I believed him and believed in the sincerity of his desire to help. Even today, years later, I remember that day like it was yesterday.
I went to a local health food store, dropped a dime and filled a cart with meat, plants and vegetables. I brought it home, with a lunchbox that I have filled with food from my plan most nights since. I prepared food every night that was consistent with the diet and as a food addict, decided never to deviate from my plan for fear of relapsing. As with all things, I have had the support of my friends and family and that has made all the difference. From the beginning, I had three hard and fast rules for my new lifestyle:
After spending a ton of time researching and after a good 6 months of progress, I came across the Paleo approach to eating. This was early 2011 and Paleo was starting to catch on, but I think it’s sufficiently “mainstream” at this point that I don’t need to cover it. The short version is that Paleo is a whole food centric diet: meats, vegetables, fruits and tubers. Don’t get confused by the name and it’s not all about bacon. In fact, my plate always has more vegetables than protein on it and that’s the way it will always be. I abstain from Grains, Legumes and most dairy (Grassfed butter and the occasional high quality cheese).
For a more detailed account on Paleo, I’ll let Paleo expert Robb Wolf explain that.
After 9 months, I started some additional strength training and increased my proteinintake to facilitate muscle growth. Essentially, I started focusing on the compound lifts and made great progress with a linear progression system called StrongLifts which focuses on the following:
Well, if you’ll recall, my friend Bret dropped in my mind, the thought that I could actually drop 100 pounds by the next Christmas. When I first started eating healthy, the weight poured off of me. It’s clear to me now that my body wanted to be fit and I had been fighting it my whole life with my addiction. Despite hitting a few plateaus along the way, by the following Christmas, I had almost hit my initial goal weight. In fact, in just one year and 9 days and by Thanksgiving of the next year, I had lost 200 pounds on the nose.
On Thanksgiving, I ran in my first 5K and my entire family was there cheering me on at the finish line. There were my two beautiful daughters cheering their proud papa on, and inside I knew that I had become the man they would always know: healthy, strong and happy. Loved by others always, but finally by himself.
On the 18 month anniversary of my weight loss journey, I actually participated in the Wildflower Triathlon and although it was too far away for my daughters to attend, I was surrounded by some supportive friends and finished the race without too many hiccups (you can read the full account here).
Why was I so massively succesful? Well I’d love for you to poke around in the articles and see for yourself, but if I had to point out a few things:
This is my gym log for the first two years.
As you can see, I was devout in my attendance. I switched workout programs too often, which I would not recommend and actually regret. But the truth is that even imperfect activities done with ridiculous frequency get results, and I think you can’t argue that I got results.
CLEAR RULES AND NO CHEAT DAYS.
To this day, I still haven’t consumed a single sugary dessert since that day: no cake, no pie, nothing of the sort. I don’t think this extreme nature is necessary for everyone, but I was addicted to unhealthy food and I know that had I allowed myself “cheat days” (I hate that description because it makes you married to a diet or meal plan and gives you guilt even when you plan the deviation from normal). But ultimately, I know myself and where I personaly came from and being the person I was, I would have fallen off the wagon due to discouragement and cravings that would have come back. I was like an alcoholic and no one ever tells an alcoholic to once a week go do a happy hour and get it out of your system, so why would I do it?
I DID IT FOR ME.
This was the click that changed this time. See, this was not the first time I’d attempted a change, but this is the first time it stuck (I’ve been at my goal weight for almost two years now). Every other time, I did it for a girl or a suit or some other reason. This time I did it because I realized that I deserved to be healthy and happy and I deserved to live.
Did I have external motivation? Of course. I have two beautiful little girls who deserve to have a fit papa that they can run around the park with and enjoy life with. I like the attention that comes from the opposite sex now. I love being strong in and out of the gym. I get a rush from completing a new personal best or when I did my triathlon.
I love not having limits. I work for a construction company in marketing (I don’t actually do construction) so when a homeowner for the first time offered for me to go on a ladder and check out the damage in his attic, I said yes. The truth was that I don’t know enough about construction to actually know what I was seeing, but I was just excited to be able to climb a ladder for the first time in my life and walk around up there because a couple of years before, no one would have in their right mind invited me to climb anything.
In closing, please allow me to present the tale of the tape:
And the best metrics of all, my two beautiful babies can wrap their arms all the way around me when giving me a hug and sit comfortably on my lap without my belly getting in the way.
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