“I’ve been big for as long as I can remember. As early as kindergarten, I was the biggest kid in my class by a considerable margin. While I was generally well-liked by my classmates and tended to get along with most kids, any time an argument or disagreement would arise, the antagonist didn’t have to think too hard to hit me where it hurt. ‘Fat Boy’ and ‘Shamu’ were go-to insults whenever a disagreement amongst my cohorts began to escalate. While all children go through some sort of teasing or bullying growing up, when the source of the criticism is so precise and repetitive it begins to embed itself into their psyche. As much as it pains me to say it, these insults became a cornerstone of my identity throughout my childhood.
My father spent 30 years as the head track and field coach at the local high school, and for a large portion of my life was the fittest person I had ever met. My brother Brock and I would watch him exercise and copy everything he did. We would run, play tennis, jump hurdles which my father made for us out of PVC pipe, and do calisthenics. My father tells the story that I was doing pushups before I could walk.
Because of my size and strength in relation to my peers I began to excel at sports and by middle school I had found my niche. I started to embrace my weight and crafted nicknames for myself which would take the sting away from some of the teasing, ‘Heavy T’ and ‘Fat Travis,’ which surprisingly actually started to stick. Although I would laugh about these things on the outside, inwardly I will still acutely aware that I was the ‘Fat Kid,’ even if that is no longer how I was perceived by my classmates.
By the time I graduated high school, I had won three state championships in track and field, broken numerous school records in track and weightlifting, and was being recruited to compete by some of the top colleges in the nation. After a brief stint at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, I transferred to the University of Florida, and then again to Florida State University in Tallahassee to compete on the track and field team as a hammer thrower.
College was where I began to really pack on the pounds. Now that I was no longer playing football my cardio dropped to only what I was forced to do by my track and field coaches (not much). Within six months of leaving for college I had put on forty pounds. I kept my sights on competition and paid little attention to my weight. I was performing well and that is what mattered to me at the time. I was very aware of my size, even embarrassed of it, but I did not see a reason to change my behavior as long as I was competing well.
In the spring of 2010 I graduated, and the wheels came off the wagon completely.
My entire life I had been obligated to lift weights and exercise. Suddenly I had none of that and I had to rely strictly on self-discipline. I began working a full-time, sedentary, retail job. I fell into a deep depression and I began eating more than ever. There were months that went by when I would have upwards of five Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Biscuits for breakfast, a foot and a half long hoagie for lunch, and 5 bacon cheeseburgers for dinner (Sadly, this is not an exaggeration).
Over the next 7 years, my weight yo-yoed up and down. I had some great results from juice fasting, I tried counting calories, sometimes I would even get motivated to go to the gym for six months or so. But nothing was ever sustainable.
Then, I found the motivation I needed…
I met the love of my life in April of 2016. After a year of dating we were married in August 2017 and shortly after we conceived our first biological child (my wife has two children from a previous marriage that I have grown to love as my own).
My joy at becoming a father was hampered however by a few overwhelming fears.
I had gotten some blood work done a few months before the wedding and was horrified to discover that my crazy fast food binges and increasingly sedentary lifestyle had begun to manifest themselves in my health markers. Nearly every marker which came back was negative and according to my doctor, they were only going to get worse unless I made a drastic change to my lifestyle. At the age of 30, I realized I have very well lived over half of my life.
Would I be able to participate in physical activities with my children? Would I be able to walk my daughter down the aisle? Would I even see them graduate from high school?
It was time for a change!
I joined a gym and committed myself to working out at least 3 days a week and finding every opportunity I could to go for long walks. I also began researching intermittently fasted ketogenic diets and their benefits reducing all-cause mortality, increasing cognitive function, and being sustainable over long periods of time. On January 1 of this year, I began my ketogenic journey. By the end of January, I had started a new career as a public-school teacher. Although this career decision came with a significant pay reduction, the additional time which I gained to spend with my growing family and to focus on my health far outweighed any negatives. No amount of money in the world is worth my family. And it feels good to know I am benefitting my community by shaping the minds of future generations.
The first few months of my new lifestyle were no walk in the park. Despite being incredibly strict with my diet and working out between 3 and 8 times per week (not including all the walking) the scale just didn’t seem to want to move. After an initial weight loss of 19 pounds in the first 3 weeks, it took an additional 11 weeks to lose the next 9 pounds (I actually saw weight GAIN in 5 of those 11 weeks). To make matters worse, my wife (who was 6 months pregnant at this point) was eating all of the delicious foods she and the baby wanted, directly in front of me.
I began to wonder if this diet was really going to pay off for me and thought more than once about giving up. Then I would look at my wife’s growing belly, I would think about my daughter, I would ruminate on my love for them, realize that this was bigger than me, and I would recommit myself to ‘stay the course’ (a mantra which I recited often during these early weeks).
In my mind there were only two possible reasons the weight wasn’t coming off. Either the thousands upon thousands of keto evangelists online were all lying (which seemed highly unlikely), or I was building muscle at about the same rate I was burning fat (which I didn’t even know could happen on a carb-less diet) which was causing my weight to stall.
Boy am I glad that I stayed the course!
In mid-April things turned around for me in a major way. My best explanation is that my body finally reached a point that it was carrying as much muscle mass as it could comfortably handle, and the scale finally started to reflect what I was feeling and seeing in the mirror. In the next two months I dropped 40 pounds. I have more energy than I have ever had before, and my health markers look phenomenal.
I began this journey so I could be the father that my soon to arrive daughter deserves (by the way, she is due to arrive next week, on July 7, 2018!). But the energy, and new lease on life that this journey has given me has surpassed anything I expected when I began 6 short months ago. I now fully intend to not only be there for my children, but for my grandchildren and great grandchildren as well.
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