I’ve been overweight for almost all of my life. I was bullied over it as a kid, I was always picked last for sports and never felt particularly good about myself because of it.
By the time I was a teenager, it was just a part of my life. I had plenty of friends by then who didn’t seem to give it a second thought and while I wasn’t exactly part of the “popular” crowd in school, I got along with everyone just fine. So it’s not like I was traumatized by it. But deep down, I never felt good about myself.
There were a few times over the years that I tried to do something about it. I bought a home gym at one point but never really knew what to do or how to do it and it went nowhere.
After I got married, my wife and I started to run on a semi-regular basis but the same problem arose – I didn’t know what or how to do it and it quickly fell away.
Then about 15 years ago, I read a book called Body for Life by Bill Phillips and it intrigued me. It was all about people who had taken this Body for Life Challenge, which was the first time I had seen what I now know is fairly common – a 12-week fitness challenge.
It sounded like something I could do and better yet, it had some how-to information so I actually knew what I should be doing. I decided to give it a shot so I joined a gym, bought some workout clothes and started following the system. It took a month or so to get comfortable with what I was doing but over the next 12 weeks, I managed to lose about 50 pounds.
I went from roughly 215 down to 165. I felt better, clothes fit me and I generally felt pretty great. At the time, I thought I had made a permanent lifestyle change and I would never go back to the overweight, crappy-feeling version of myself that I had lived with for most of my life.
But life happens. My relationship with my wife had been a little rocky already and for some reason, changing my lifestyle had made it worse. Instead of supporting me and encouraging the change, she just got pissed off about it. It’s really hard to maintain something when the person closest to you, who you see every day of your life, doesn’t help support it.
It’s even harder when they actively criticize it.
So I gradually slipped back into some old habits. The diet was the first thing to go. I can distinctly remember going for coffee with some coworkers and thinking “I’m down 50 pounds, how bad can one muffin be?”
One muffin might not be bad but one every day of the week? Not so good.
I gradually started putting on the weight again. And shortly after that, I quit my job and started working from home so getting to the gym in the morning became more of a challenge. It’s one thing to leave the house early to go to the gym on the way to work. It’s another thing completely to have to leave the house at all when you’re just coming straight back there afterwards.
Over the next few years, I slowly crept back toward the 215 pounds that I hit at the worst point. Then I hit it. And then I kept going.
My marriage had continued to deteriorate (the lack of support for my lifestyle change was just a symptom of something much bigger), my business faltered and money became an issue as well. I don’t feel like eating was an escape from those things, as such, because it certainly didn’t make them feel any less stressful. But my diet suffered along with everything else and I never got any exercise.
This went on for several years until I was nearly 235 pounds in the fall of 2016. Then a couple of things happened that changed my life.
First, I got tired of never being able to find clothes that fit me well. I had gradually moved up the size chart over the years and I was looking at XXL for most things. The problem with most XXL clothes is that they’re made for guys that are big and tall. I fit the bill for big but not so much for tall. Nothing fit me right and I always felt like a slob, no matter what I was wearing. I got tired of dealing with this.
Second, I bought an Apple Watch. I bought it partly because I just liked the idea of it and partly because I had read an article by Jim Dalrymple of Loop Insight about how he had lost a bunch of weight after getting the Apple Watch. He said it had motivated him to start walking and tracking his health, and the before and after difference was astounding.
It took me a few weeks to warm up to the idea of tracking my fitness with the watch but by mid-December of 2016 I was starting to pay attention to those coloured circles that tell me whether or not I’ve met my fitness goals for the day. So I decided I was going to get back to the focus I’d had 15 years ago and see what kind of a change I could make.
I started walking every day to complete the exercise and calorie circles on the watch. I started with a goal of 300 calories a day and it was a challenge to hit some days. But I started to feel bad if I broke the chain and more importantly, I lost a few pounds. My goal has been set at 600 calories a day for a few months now and I typically get quite a bit more than that. It’s probably time to bump it up again.
I made a few other changes at the beginning of the year to help me with this goal. The biggest of which was my diet. Nothing too drastic but I cut out as much sugar as I could. Started drinking my coffee black, stopped eating desserts & sweets, cut out soda, etc. It was a hard change at first but I stuck with it and after a couple of weeks, the cravings started to subside.
I also started eating more vegetables and less processed crap. Started to replace the nachos, hamburgers, pizza and other such things with salads. It didn’t take long for the first 10 pounds to disappear and I was hooked.
It’s now November, 2017 and I’m back down to 175 pounds. I feel amazing, I have no problem maintaining my new lifestyle and the odd time I do eat some kind of junk, it reminds me a little bit of how I must have felt all the time when I was at my worst.
A lot of diets/weight loss systems have a built-in “cheat day” when you can eat anything you want, within reason. It’s funny but for the last month or two, I really don’t have much interest in doing that. It’s not that I don’t still enjoy the junk I used to eat all the time, it’s more that the benefits (immediate enjoyment) are outweighed by the costs (feeling crappy afterwards).
The other advantage I’ve found with not having these formal cheat days is that I can cheat anytime I want without feeling like I’m doing something wrong. If I go out for pizza with some friends or eat a plate of nachos while watching a football game, I don’t feel bad like I used to when I cheated on a day that wasn’t “officially” my cheat day. I get the idea behind cheat days but in my case, they seemed to work against me as much as for me.
I used to have a drink or two on the weekends and even that has mostly gone away. I still enjoy the odd beer when I’m out with a buddy and I still enjoy the odd glass of good whiskey but generally, when I think about having a drink I end up skipping it.
People are constantly asking me what I’m doing to lose weight. It’s funny, when I tell them I’m just eating better and getting some regular exercise, they often seem disappointed. As though they were waiting for me to tell them some magical secret. It seems crazy to me that people would rather look for a magic bullet than just make a few simple changes in their life.
I suppose I get it, it took me a long time to get to that point myself. But the fact is, there’s no real secret to losing weight. It’s just a matter of having more calories going out than you’re taking in, and making those calories you are taking in as healthy as you can.
I’m sure if more people understood that, the world would be a healthier place.