“On Father’s Day 2018, I celebrated a full year of an incredible journey. This time last year, I took my first steps towards a version of myself that became positively unrecognizable to many. Throughout my 35 years of life at that point, I had never been what the average person would call ‘fit.’
For most of my childhood, I was not overweight, but not athletic in the least. I was shy and tended to be antisocial, preferring the company of close friends or solitude. In my later high school years, I started to fill out, which led to significant weight gain within a couple of years from graduating. After years of wandering through college and less than gainful places of employment, I had become quite heavy.
As I finished college and was in the middle of a spell of unemployment in my mid 20s, I was feeling pretty bad about myself. When I got back into the workforce, I continued to be fairly unhappy with myself overall due to my appearance and lack of confidence. To make matters worse, the restaurant I spent four years working hard for was being difficult. I worked for tough, abrasive people. They tended to insult and threaten when I didn’t meet their expectations. The experience did teach me how to do some amazing things with food and helped me to develop a thicker skin.
In addition, I had a very rough track record as far as romantic pursuits. I was unable to maintain a relationship for more than a few months and had quite a bit of difficulty initiating them.
One of my favorite escape methods for dealing with things in that time period was to take a long walk by myself. This actually led me to lose a fair amount of weight and feel better for a while. In my third year at the restaurant, I met the woman I was meant to spend the rest of my life with.
In spite of my anxiety and poor confidence, she loved me dearly and was my number one fan. She came out of a five year relationship with someone who hardly noticed her. We spent many days a week together, regardless of the fact that she worked thirds and I worked mornings. The fact that I had a half hour drive between my home and job to her place did little to deter me.
Within two years, we were married and expecting our daughter. I had a more fulfilling job working at a food service marketplace that was open to the public. While struggling financially, we were managing and loved each other so much.
Heading into my 30s, my health was definitely declining. I was hovering between 230 and 260 pounds at 6-foot, 1 inch in height. The alcohol habit I had picked up back in the prior restaurant job had not improved. Regularly, I was putting away two cases of beer each week. I was bloated, fatigued, and increasingly unhappy with my situation, financially and emotionally. I felt like I was coming up short as a husband and father.
After two years at the market, I procured a much higher paying job with benefits as a union food service worker. The position was blocks away from our home and fit nicely into our lifestyle. However, the physical nature of the full time job made it increasingly difficult to keep up with. Everything hurt and I was always exhausted, never having energy for family recreation time.
My third year there, I was ready to change things. I did not want to be unable to keep up with my daughter – currently five years old – as she experienced new and exciting things. My wife had used a calorie-counting program successfully for some time, and I decided that would be a good place to start.
Father’s Day 2017 was my first day of logging meals in My Fitness Pal. Four days later, I procured an annual membership at the local community center. At first I had no plan other than losing weight by any means. My starting weight was 245 pounds, and I was able to quickly lose several pounds a week by just going hard five days a week. I did a half hour or more of cardio and several sets on the resistance machines each session.
Early on, I experienced a nasty knee sprain that left me hobbling for weeks, but I was undeterred. By autumn, I was a solid thirty pounds lighter and felt much better. Then I was able to get to the next level via some amazing fitness programming via the Reddit fitness community. I used a Push/Pull/Legs split that placed a premium on free weights. Since I had never trained with barbells properly in my life, the idea was terrifying. However, I pushed on and got amazing advice and support from the trainers there and the wealth of information on YouTube and Reddit.
In addition to the vigorous training, I seriously cleaned up my nutrition. I focused on protein and added more and more whole foods. I cut my alcohol intake significantly. After losing over 60 pounds – my lowest weight was 176 – I had changed my focus to building the foundation. Cycling between maintenance and surplus calories, the last few months have seen a significant increase in strength and muscle mass, while actually making me look even leaner.
My wife is regularly astonished at the new features that appear each month, but also noteworthy is my amped up personality. I’m more confident, outgoing, and assertive. The daily correctional work I perform prior to lifting has also improved my posture greatly; no more rounded shoulders or extreme forward head.
At the age of 36 years (37 in August), I have the energy and appearance of an athletic student from the local college and am very excited at the thought of how my progress will be a year from now. There is no magic bullet to fitness, but small changes one after another lead to amazing results!
The improvement goes well beyond the physical. Intense and focused training has given me the gift of patience and tempered my attitude positively. My daughter will grow up seeing the benefits of keeping an active lifestyle and healthy diet. She will also see how enjoyable self-improvement can actually be. I plan on keeping her friends’ parents guessing my ages well into her high school years!
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