My trainer asked me yesterday, “so what was that moment for you when you really decided to change”?
I knew the answer, but it was long, it was complicated, and it was complex – and it was kind of emotional. I tried to keep it to a few bullet points, but it got the gears going for writing this.
I’ve been changing a lot over the last two years. Also, my politics have been moving slightly to the right. It’s a personal thing, and yes, I still have a lot of positions I share with you dems out there. But there might be one key thing I was able to determine that attracted me to the Republican party as well as has been the inspiration for my weight loss.
You see, all growing up, I had lots of influences that were giving me bad food all the time. It was learned behavior. I wrote about this a little before – that it was also emotionally driven. If I had a bad day, I ate to pick my mood up. Nothing like having a crappy day and then getting a delicious pizza or cheese steak to perk you right up. If I had a good day, I’d want to celebrate with my friends or family….and get the same foods. I blamed my weight on other things. If people made me feel bad, I felt justified mentally to then eat something. It went on and on with rationalizing it.
It was always someone else’s fault. I did my part and exercised. But other people were making me feel badly. And THEY were the ones imposing a mental state on me and I was justified in addressing this with my “food” medicine.
And here’s where personal accountability came into play.
Because I was really not in to Clinton, I told myself, for the first time, I’d watch the Republican debates. I’d honestly be open to listening, no matter how painful the rhetoric with the bible was. And what I found was often people talked about “picking yourself up by the bootstraps”. The more and more I listened, the more this philosophy attracted me – not the rest of it. I had just spent 10+ years rebuilding my career, getting two master’s degrees, 10 IT certifications, and did everything right. Well, mostly. I worked HARD for where I was. And, I started to feel that others could perhaps take that long, hard journey themselves if they wanted to ear more money. You see – this is the land of opportunity. If you want to work hard, you can earn more. I was not in line, at all, with the $15 per hour McDonald’s employees. I worked at Burger King in high school. Simple job, but it took 2 weeks of training to get up to speed. Not everyone is cut out for college, I get that. But I started thinking that if people somehow took responsibility for all of their own actions, most people might not need the government to subsidize their life – eventually. Now, before I get hate mail, I’m not advocating for removing welfare – I’d just perhaps like to promote a different message to people to get them in a direction to be more self sufficient. Look in the mirror. Do everything YOU can.
And then I kept looking in the mirror.
I then was starting to realize that this was something I needed to address. It was MY responsibility as to what went into my mouth. It was MY responsibility to let people make me feel a certain way – I had a choice in that matter. I could also walk away. I could disengage. I could shut off a certain part of me to not feel pain.
My journey started in early August, 2016.
For most of the summer, I had felt severely fatigued. I felt “sore” all the time. The best way I can describe how I felt was from an article I read about how sugar crystals are like sandpaper on the inside of your arteries. Like everything was inflamed. I needed to take advil a lot before bed just to sleep. Despite my biking from time to time, and the occasional run downstairs, my eating was terrible. I didn’t really know where to start. You see, “I know everything”, as my wife likes to point out in deep sarcasm. I knew HOW to lose weight over the years with every gimmick out there. But it just came back. Most of the time, it came back worse than when I started. I needed help this time, and for the first time, I really wanted to seek help in my journey.
In late August 2016, I was having the yearly drinking summit with the fraternity brothers. I started smoking 2 weeks prior (I had smoked for a few months again earlier in the year) and I was trying to get prepped. Nothing like smoking a lot in one night and getting bombed. You wake up with a headache and it ruins your weekend. So I show up, and I think I was the only one out of the 6 of us that smoked. I was expecting at least half of them to smoke. I got wrecked for a few days, but didn’t eat egregiously.
I came home, stepped on the scale (48 pounds ago), and that day was the last day I smoked. I had started watching some YouTube videos a few weeks prior, and in my type of fashion, I came up with a complete strategy to deal with my situation.
But I digress….that morning I came back 5 pounds heavier than a few days before (yes, I realize it was probably mostly water, but I was bloated and inflamed)….I started to take into account:
- every morning I’m sore and achy
- I have heart burn a lot as well as acid reflux
- I have frequent headaches, most likely from the smoking
- I sleep horribly because of the smoking and food
- I am 200 pounds overweight according to charts for my height. I’m not going to live to 45 if I don’t do something, and quickly.
- I have a child I need to provide for and give as much love to as I can
- I have a wife I need to provide for and not leave her in the lurch
- I have people at work who depend on me for their livelihood
- I feel like I might be starting with the diabetes
- I am now getting older, and my body cannot handle the lifestyle of a 22 year old
- I am responsible
That last part resonated with me….this time.
You see, I’m sure many of you who have lost weight over the years for one reason or another. A breakup, someone made you feel badly, etc.
But when I looked in the mirror, and really, honestly, whole heartedly felt:
****today could be the day I die****
That is powerful. That is the sit that gets you going. It’s no longer 20, 30, 50 years down the road – or even 5. It’s now. It’s today. It’s within the hour. When you FEEL as bad as I did, and then you recall….
“a year and a half ago when I was doing that vegan stuff for a few months…I felt great”.
It wasn’t the vegan part, per se, as much as it was removing a lot of the garbage and exercising. I wanted to chase that feeling I had one morning. I had exercised again in the morning on a couch to 5k, and had been eating a lot of oatmeal. I felt at peace with the world. Tranquility. Life was “slowing down”. My blood pressure was either a little low or really normalized. Low heart rate…
I wanted that feeling again.
So many things were colliding…I had my contract soon running out, but I was also finishing graduate school, again. I told myself, when I’m done this, I’m going to fully commit to it. And I did.
I feel like someday I have a book in me, with how to transform your life in 10 years or some shit like that. That all being said, I have a few “phases” and “rules” below that helped me along.
- Research and find what works for YOU. I did a lot of the youtube videos. The fitness models helped out a lot. Why? Because most of these people don’t walk around with a 6 pack at all times. You learn a lot about body fat percentage, lifting, etc. I learned I could not cardio myself out of a bad diet.
- Food prep. I love to cook. But not every night, especially when time is one of the reasons you have that you cannot cook every night. Learning to cook is a big deal, but learning how to cook massive portions to then refrigerate/freeze is another art form in itself. If you watch a lot of these videos, you could make 20-30 meals in about 2-4 hours on a Sunday. Think about that. Instead of cooking 2-3 times a day for 2 weeks, you could cook once for 2-4 hours and get it all done quickly.
- Weight training. When Sept hit, I was doing a LOT of cardio. I dropped my first 10 or so in a month by running my face off. And then the stress of all of the miles hurt my foot and then got me looking at swimming and hire a trainer. It was my best move yet. First, a trainer just isn’t someone to yell at you to lift more weights…lol. They are like a personal fitness coach. I knew how to lift a weight. But these people help you with how to eat, how to lift, what to do. That being said, my attempts to cardio myself thin were somewhat in vain, as my trainer got me eating the proper amount of food ad reducing the cardio to then build muscle. I was eating maybe 1800 calories a day and running/walking about 3-5 miles a day. That path I’ve been down before 200 times. You lose weight to start, then hit the wall. This time, she started me on 2800 calories and lifting twice a week. And the weight keeps coming off.
- Long term. I went into this with a 3 year plan. All too often, I’d lose 5-6 pounds in one week and start down the mental path of mathematically figuring out when I’d be “happy”. I said in a sense, “fuck that”, and realistically wanted to rebuild my life over 3 years. I’m roughly 6 months in and 48 pounds down. And the 48 pounds is fat – as I’ve upped my water intake and have the print outs from a $5,000 scale showing I’m losing fat and gaining muscle. So it might be 60 pounds of fat down and 12 pounds of muscle/water. I’m ok with that result in 6 months.
- Life changing. I have been trying to “unlearn” a lot of my habits. Mainly, MOST of my meals are being replaced by healthy meals. I’m trying to have a means of doing this and sustaining it for life, not 2-3 years.
- My job. I spent a lot of the last 20 years being a super techie or tech lead. I now have 80 people below me, and I’m treating my food and fitness as part of my job. While sometimes in my personal life organization looks chaotic, in my work life, I’m spot on. So – during the week, I’m treating this as part of my job, meaning Monday-Friday I’m on the clock. This is making eating my soup over lunch pretty easy. When the weekends come around, I’m having some mental rules to allow myself to eat whatever I want – but stay within my calories. So if I KNOW I plan on going out on a Saturday night, I might bank 1,200 calories for dinner and work out a lot during the day. The 1,200 calories might then be 2 slices of pizza and some French fries. And get this – when you do this once a week to yourself instead of every day, you don’t wake up feeling like crap all the time. And….if you don’t deprive yourself of it, you don’t then binge on it after 3-4 months.
- Changing what I want to do with my life. I have always loved athletics. I decided what I want to do with my life was to spend a lot of the rest of my life doing this. Dropping weight has helped me also with this, as I loved to bike. I cannot wait to get out there in a few weeks and bike 20 miles. I can’t wait to take a nice spring day and go running 3-4 miles at Cousel Park with my music jacked up. I want to play my team softball again this year from time to time with work. I want to hike in the woods on a trail for 5-10 miles. I want to go camping. I want to be active all the time. I want vacations where I can snorkel, run, bike, explore. I want to go skiing with my son next winter. I want to run 5ks. I want to play tennis again. I want to compete. I want to be out there. I’d prefer to have my wife along for the ride, but if I must do this myself, so be it. I want to live. I want adventure with this life, and I needed to change my body and my life to do this.
When I look in the mirror now, I see myself in the future beyond 41. And 45. And 50. I see a thinner face. I see a happier person. I see someone with a real future. I see someone who is not in pain as much. (Except for those goddamn leg days which hurt soooo good!)
I see someone who took accountability for his life, and made the changes he needed to make to live life.
It was my fault. And I changed it.
So can you.