I feel like there is a point in every overweight individual’s life when they have to decide if they are going to “settle in” to the lifestyle they have or make a change. For me, it was during the holidays of 2009. I was talking with my mom one evening and the topic of weight came up. It led me to ask her, “How much do you think I weigh?” I’m sure I got a typical, sweet motherly response to not worry about it, but I decided to weigh myself (probably the first time in years). I stepped on the scale and was terrified. I was 310 pounds.
I was in denial. I feel as humans, it is natural to convince ourselves that our situations are better or worse than they may be, but as soon as I saw that 300+ mark on the scale, I was honestly scared for my life. I knew that right then, at that very moment, I had to make a decision: continue living my current, unhealthy lifestyle of eating and drinking (with excess) whatever I wanted with very little activity or make a change for the better.
Deciding to make a change, I started by educating myself. I had attempted to lose weight in the past and was unsuccessful. I’d lost maybe 20lbs at the most about 2 years earlier, but ended up putting 40lbs back on. For hours each day I would read and take in as much as I could on the subject of weight loss and a healthy lifestyle. Every single reputable source all had the same guiding principles: there is no easy way out, YOU have to figure out what works for you, and it is going to be hard work.
There are a few things I realized very early on that I had to do to be successful. The hardest and most important was that I had to remove the negative influences from my life. Every single weekend up until that point I had spent drinking and eating to excess with a group of friends. I knew from educating myself that you cannot be “good” 4 days a week and see continued success, and then binge on the weekends. It just will not happen. You can try to convince yourself all you want that you’re being strict and consistent (goes back to the point about convincing ourselves otherwise) for a few days of the week, but if the weekend is a 2 day cheat meal, the best trend you’re likely going to see is your weight remain stagnant.
Outside of going to work and to the gym/walking trails for cardio (my only regret was doing cardio only for the first year…but more on that later), I was a total hermit. I very rarely hung out with any friends, I did not go out drinking, and didn’t go to any parties. Some of my friends gave me a hard time, one even ridiculed me and said I’m just wasting my time, but that just motivated me more. As difficult as it was, I came to terms with the fact that I had to be selfish when it came to my health and put it first. And as I learned more about weight loss and overcame every plateau (trust me, there will be a lot of them), I began to feel great.
Over the course of a year, I went from 310lbs down to just under 200lbs. I did not diet. I did it by educating myself and changing my lifestyle. Calling something a diet puts an end point on what you’re trying to accomplish, when in reality there is no end when it comes to taking care of yourself. Earlier I said my only regret was only doing cardio during that timeframe, but I take that back, I don’t have any regrets. At the time, I did what worked for me. However, after I lost the weight, I found my true passion with lifting weights and then CrossFit. I’m sure if I started lifting earlier in my weight loss journey, I would have had to change my food intake appropriately, but it would have been possible.
If I had to summarize a few of the things I have learned throughout my journey, it would be the following:
- Educate yourself and learn what works for you (there is a reason I did not get into my specific day to day around what I ate for the whole year)
- Be selfish, you only get one body. Separate yourself from negative influences in your life, the people who really support you will not go anywhere
- Understand that you cannot work out for 3-4 hours a week, be “pretty strict” with your lifestyle for 4-5 days, then eat and drink as much as you want on the weekends. Unless you are already very overweight, the best this approach will accomplish is maintenance of your current weight (and that is OK if that is your goal).
- This one is difficult because you truly have to be honest with yourself
- Lastly, just know there is no easy way to do it. Any goal you have will require hard work and discipline. Just like anything else in life, if it is worthwhile then you will need to work for it and you have to decide how important it is to you.
It has been about 7 years since I stepped on the scale and I weighed over 300lbs. Since then I have kept the weight off (all the way down to 185 at one point). I’ve gone through phases where I bulk up to almost 220 when I want to put on some more muscle and cut weight for powerlifting and strongman competitions or when I want to be leaner for CrossFit. Throughout all of these phases, the “diet” is never the same, it is constantly changing and my nutrition changes depending on my focus. Thankfully through my journey I also met my wife, Kelly, who not only shares the same passion for nutrition, wellness and fitness that I do, but has a heartfelt drive to help educate others for success.