My entire adult life I have been in the overweight—or worse—category. I distinctly remember my weight in senior high being in the mid-190’s, and it only went up from there. Slowly, so as not to alert me that things were getting bad. The reason is fairly simple: I enjoyed eating, I didn’t enjoy exercising. In fact, I didn’t (and still don’t) enjoy many physically active activities at all. I vastly prefer sedentary things such as reading, watching movies/TV, gaming, and “doing computer stuff”.
What I wanted was something magic, something like fairy dust, to help me lose weight.
Occasionally over the years I would try to diet. Atkins, South Beach, Weight Watchers, what have you. I even bought an elliptical at one point, telling myself I’d use it while watching TV. None of that lasted long. This came to a head in late 2005/early 2006 when I finally cracked 300 and had to buy a pair of size 50 pants.
By spring 2006 I knew I needed to change something. Lots of something’s.
2006 was not the best year for me in many ways, but that is another story for another time. I tried yet another diet called Slim-4-Life. I can’t remember if I stumbled upon it on my own, or if one of my brothers recommended it. This particular diet pulls down allotted calories over time, promising the ability to eat “normal” food and not requiring a lot of exercise in the mix.
It seemed to be working, at least for a while. By the end of 2006 when we moved from Minnesota to North Carolina I was down below 220. A few months later I was below 210, though that had much to do with being violently ill and not being able to keep any food down for a few days.
But by mid-2007 it fell apart. The Slim-4-Life diet was still too restrictive, stress was beginning to raise again, and I had (once again) started work on my Bachelors’ Degree. It seems I can only focus on one life-goal at a time, thus my weight began to slowly creep up once again. By the beginning of 2010 I was back in the 240’s, hitting 260 by the middle of the year.
No way, no how was I going to ever need to wear those size 50 pants again, so I realized I needed to do something more permanent about this problem.
In August the light was at the end of the tunnel for my degree program, so I decided my next life-goal would be getting in shape (once again putting my dreams of programming on the side in second place). I joined a gym, Planet Fitness, and started forcing myself to go, though it would be about three more months until my school was done and I could develop an actual habit.
There is no magic to this, no fairy dust. Blood, sweat and tears is what it takes.
It was around this time that my brother Adam (currently @CeridianMN on Twitter) tweeted something to the effect that what it takes is more calories out, less calories in. This became my mantra. I remembered that my friend Jeff (@Squach on Twitter) had been tweeting about an app called LoseIt! (with the exclamation mark, very important), which I got and put on my iPod touch for tracking both calories and exercise. This became one of my most important tools.
I wasn’t very good at this exercising and tracking calories thing. In fact, I was very poor at it.
By the end of October, with school wrapping up, I was visiting the gym sporadically, and was not tracking my food intake properly, or at all. I know I was consuming over 2200 calories per day on average. When I did go to the gym I was not burning a lot, as I was lucky to make it 20 minutes on any of the machines, and could barely lift enough weights to make a difference. But on the plus side I had gotten rid of the “easy” weight and was down to around 245.
I decided I needed to force myself. I simply had to do what needed to be done. This takes an immense amount of self-control and will-power. I started to push myself, just a little bit. If I did 20 minutes on the treadmill last week, then I needed to do 25 minutes this week. I decided I didn’t need to track my exact calorie intake/output, but I did need to track “in the ballpark” numbers. No special diet or limiting foods at all, just tracking calories of what I did eat, keeping the net total below what LoseIt! told me my budget was.
Two weeks later, I hurt my back. Badly.
It was a at least two or three weeks before I could even contemplate going back to the gym. I was fuming the whole time as I knew I needed to make this a habit, and I knew it takes at least 30 days to develop a new habit. But as I recovered, I slowly stated going back to the gym. I decided to go in the morning, before work, waking up around 5:30 and getting to the gym before I realized I was out of bed.
By the time we took our normal Christmas drive to family up north (a trip which we sadly won’t be taking this year), I was finding a groove. While we weathered the 2010 Snowpocolyps at the hotel on the beach, I kicked things into overdrive. I was down another 10 pounds by the end of the year.
Slowly, week-by-week, I lowered my average daily calorie intake from well over 2200 to around 1800, while slowly pushing myself more and more. I flat out gave up on weights, focusing exclusively on a mix of Stair Master, treadmill, elliptical, and (occasionally) stationary bike as I aimed to increase my endurance and get myself into something resembling shape.
This was never easy. There was never any magic, there was never any fairy dust. Every trip to the gym was an act of will-power. Every meal was a wrestle with my desire to eat a little more instead of a little less.
Over the summer I got stuck on a severe plateau around 200 or so. A few people mentioned adding weights to my exercise routine. I didn’t have a lot of time to exercise in the morning, and the cardio burned more calories per minute then weights ever would. It wasn’t until another twitter friend, Corey (@corey_nagle on twitter), laid it out that I really needed to mix things up and throw weights into that mix that I really paid attention.
I came up with two different half-hour basic weight routines which I can vary a bit. I mix and match these with half an hour on one of the machines, usually Stair Master or elliptical. If I have time I’ll follow-up with treadmill, or if I can’t make it to the gym but really feel I need to exercise I do some treadmill at home. I don’t do the stationary bike anymore, I simply don’t like it and cannot force myself to do it. This has broken me through my most severe plateau to date, and allowed steady, if slow, progress in the downward direction.
I still don’t like it. I still have to force myself every step of the way. I still have to wrestle with my desire for a little more food rather than a little less. Though it is a little easier then when I started, it is still hard.
But I’m now down to just over 180. About 55 pounds down from a year ago today; about 80 pounds down from my North Carolina high in 2010; about 120 pounds down from my lifetime high back in early 2006. I’m starting to buy size 33 pants as the smallest I have is 36, which are getting to be too big. I’m okay with consuming about 1500-1600 calories a day average. My endurance is notably much better, and instead of pushing/pulling around 30-50 (40 average) pounds of weights I’m pushing/pulling 95-240 (120 average) pounds.
I still have a little ways to go. Medically speaking, I’m still overweight—the magic number is 172 for my height and build. My ultimate goal is to pass that and get a good distance away from it before settling into a maintenance routine. I still don’t like it, and it won’t be easy, but it should be done by late spring/early summer. I believe this time it’ll stay off as I’ve ever so slowly built up the habits needed to support this new body of mine. I’m even thinking about adding some kind of physical activity, such as 5K/10K training or a martial art (time becomes a limiting factor here—I still want to do programming on the side).
There is no magic to this, no fairy dust. I simply must do what needs to be done.
Finally, I want to—I NEED to—send out a huge “Thank You!” to anyone who has offered words of advice, encouragement, and/or congratulations, whether it be on Twitter, Facebook, or RealLife(™). Also thanks to the Twitter #Plus5CHA community for inspiration as well. This really does help, perhaps more then you know. I’ll try to remember to revisit this topic in the spring, let y’all know where things are at. Until then, I’ve got food to avoid and exercises to do…