“I’ve pretty much always been overweight. Even in kindergarten, I was pudgy! I steadily put on the pounds and by high school, I easily tipped the scales at more than 250 pounds. By the age of 25, I was over 300 pounds and miserable. I would go on a diet, have some success initially, then expand to new heights in short order. I never really questioned why I kept gaining weight. I suppose I began gaining weight after my parents divorced when I was young. Looking back on it, I believe I was using food as a comfort. It never judged me and it was always there. Having a bad day? This Reese’s cup will lift your spirits momentarily! When the feeling of sugary happiness faded, I’d quickly head back for another Reese’s cup. I believe I’ve always had an addictive personality. I received my first gaming console at age 6 and I was hooked. My addiction to gaming only grew as I aged. By the time I was 19, I discovered MMORPG’s (massively multiplayer online role-playing games). This new vice lasted until I was 26, and I would use these virtual worlds to shun family obligations, friends, college, and just escape from the world. Luckily, I was able to break this addiction and start living in the real world. Unfortunately, my sugar addiction never faded during this time. The truth is it only worsened because drinking soda and snacking is the perfect complement to gaming.
When I finally decided to start living as a productive member of society, my eating habits only worsened. I’d settle for fast food as it was quick and easy. Cooking for one person seemed like a waste, so why not go grab two double cheeseburgers, a large fry, and a large coke? If I did cook at home, I’d cook easy meals loaded with carbs. I ate what I wanted when I wanted it. If I wanted a large Sonic Blast at 11 p.m. I’d go grab it. I didn’t care what I looked like nor did I care what I was doing to my body. Obesity, Diabetes, Thyroid issues and high blood pressure are prevalent in my family history. At age 35, I was tired all the time and unhappy with my life. So, I made an appointment to have a physical done in March of 2016. When I saw my lab results I knew I was in trouble. My blood pressure was high, my blood sugar was high and my A1C was in the diabetic range. My cholesterol was sky high and I weighed 334 pounds! Despite these sobering results, it still wasn’t enough to wake me up.
To be completely honest, I’m still not sure what prompted me to start making changes. I started watching YouTube videos about weight loss transformations. I’d see people that were my size or even larger who made great strides. I’d go to bed wishing I’d wake up and magically be smaller. I knew I was killing myself with my choices and I really didn’t want to die…
In October 2016 I started my fitness journey first by cutting out sodas and cutting my portion sizes. I started logging everything in MyFitnessPal. I knew that making small changes at first would be more sustainable than trying to change everything at once. Looking back over my life, I’ve always had a problem with motivation and I’d never follow through on my goals. I’d start something and never finish, so I tried doing some at-home workouts but I knew my motivation would suffer and I would stop unless I had some accountability. I called up my local gym and set up a free training session on Columbus Day. I remember having problems sleeping the night before because I was worried. I was afraid of what everyone would ‘think’ about a fat guy hitting the gym. The first session was tough and it reinforced how far I had to go. The delayed onset muscle soreness was so bad after the first session I thought I would die!
I signed up and started working with my trainer three times a week. The first session I weighed in at 320 pounds and by Nov 16th I was down to 297 pounds. I couldn’t remember the last time I was under 300 pounds and my motivation never faltered. I started incorporating cardio 3 or 4 times a week into my fitness routine. I started doing intermittent fasting along with a low carb, high protein diet. As my weight went down I started feeling better and was continually amazed at what I could do. By January 4th, 2017, I was down to 281 pounds. By May I was down 75 pounds and I was doing things I never thought I’d be able to do. I went from being winded by walking up a flight of stairs to doing Burpees, Squats, and bear crawls. I even started taking tennis lessons! I continued to increase my activity and tried to be as active as possible. By the end of 2017, I weighed 198 pounds. I can’t even remember the last time I was under 200. I went to the doctor again in November of 2017 for another physical. My results were night and day! My A1C was normal, my blood sugar was normal, and my cholesterol was greatly reduced. By early January of this year I had hit 194 pounds, meaning I had lost 140 pounds.
I had become addicted to seeing the number on the scale drop. I had traded my food addiction for a gym addiction, granted this is a much healthier addiction and it’s one I can live with. However, my addictive tendencies meant I would restrict my calories as much as possible to keep seeing results. In my mind, a lower number validated my journey. This was not a sustainable path and I knew I was in trouble when I started feeling tired again and started noticing hair loss. I had finally hit a wall and started seeking help. Though I had lost the weight I still had an unhealthy relationship with food. I had allowed the pendulum to swing too far in the restrictive category. In February I talked with my trainer and we decided to take a break from focusing on weight loss. I switched my diet up to start trying to gain muscle. It was tough. My inner voice kept saying, ‘I’m going to gain it all back’ and that ‘I was regressing.’ By April I was back up to 210 pounds and I felt stronger and most importantly, I felt like my relationship with food had finally started to change. Today I’m back down to 194 pounds and I feel much better about where I am mentally.
The journey I’ve started is a long-term, never ending road. About halfway through my journey, I knew I could never go back to my old eating habits. I knew that my ‘diet’ would not have an end date. This means I had to have a shift in the way I viewed food. I could no longer use it for comfort. Food is nothing more than a means to fuel my body. It gives me the energy to do the things I enjoy. I still struggle sometimes and I know I will fail but I know this is a long-term race. Everyone believes that weight loss is nothing more than a physical change. A battle of willpower or a simple numbers game. However, I argue that it is just as much a mental change as it is physical.
I know I’m in a much better place than when I started this journey. I know that physically I have changed a good deal, however, I still feel like a fat guy trapped in a smaller body. This is understandable. I’ve only been in this smaller body a fraction of my existence on this earth. Losing weight is not a magic bullet and it will not suddenly make you happy. I’m not saying this to discourage anyone from starting this journey, I’m merely stating that unless you tackle the mental issues as to why you’ve gained weight, then the chances you will regain it greatly increase. We need food to survive so we can’t ‘quit it’ like we can other vices.
My life has improved dramatically since I started this journey. I can do things I never thought I’d do. I ran my first 5k earlier this month! I have endless amounts of energy and for once I’m excited about my future! I no longer worry if I can fit on roller coasters and be forced to take the embarrassing walk of shame. I don’t worry about being judged as I walk down the street because of my size. The only negative voice I hear is my own as I am my own worst critic. I know there will always be something that I am unhappy about, some flaw that I’ll notice. My quest now is being able to notice my flaws and accept them and counterbalance the perceived flaws with something positive. Due to my large weight loss, I have loose skin and it definitely wreaks havoc on my self-esteem. One of my goals is to have skin removal surgery. I’m working on accepting my loose skin for what it is. It’s a side effect of my addiction to food and it’s a battle scar showing my progress. I know when I started this journey I wanted to have the perfect body, but does that even exist? I know we all have flaws. I’m just working on trying to accept what I can’t change and work on what I can. Life is a journey and all I can do is try to continue down this path of self improvement. The truth is, I know I’ll never be a finished product and I have to accept that. That does not mean I’m going to give up this journey and retreat back to my addiction. It means that I will always be working to improve myself.
If you are contemplating starting your own weight loss journey, begin now. Don’t wait until tomorrow! Just be prepared to tackle more than just the physical aspect of weight loss. I don’t ever want to go back to the person I was before. This means I can’t become complacent and I have to keep focused on my long-term goals. The truth is that I’m not special. If I can do this, anyone can do it! When I think about the first steps in my journey I’m reminded of a quote from The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. ‘It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.’ It’s true when I started this journey I didn’t know where I’d end up and in my wildest dreams, I didn’t think it would end up being this good! This journey would not have been possible without the support of my family, friends, and trainer. They stood by me when I struggled and cheered my successes.”
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