I’ve finally done it — I’ve reached one of my milestone goals and weighed in this morning at 200 pounds.  When I started out this journey back in March, I topped out at the heaviest I’d ever been and that infuriated me. After a lot of discipline, exercise, eating better, and counting calories, I’ve dropped 25 pounds in four months time — and it feels fantastic!

Earning everything

beer, food, and biking helmetUp to the point that I’d started this journey towards a new me, I pretty much ate and drank whatever I felt like having with no real limit — save asking myself the practical question, “if I eat one more bite, will I puke?”  Most of the time I thought I was eating reasonably. Most of the time.

But appetite is not an accurate gauge for anything — it’s not a unit of measurement that you can count on to keep your consumption in check. In my case, left unchecked, my appetite led me to a depressing 225 pounds [my healthy target weight is around 160–170 pounds].  Sure I wasn’t morbidly obese and I wasn’t so large that I couldn’t see my own feet, but big enough that those size 36 jeans were starting to tighten up on me. It was bad enough that I had to go from a size 34 to a size 36 jean, but slow, continued weight gain led me to the prospect of having to up my wardrobe to 38s. I think that was enough to tick me off and provoke me to change my lifestyle.

I think everyone needs some sort of catalyst to get them to make lifestyle changes — it may be tightening jeans, the desire to impress others, or worse yet some bad news from the doctor. For me it was a combination of things that provoked me and spurred me on to make some pretty big lifestyle changes. Sure the tightening clothes ticked me off and started me on this journey, but it was also the depression about my self-image and feeling rotten about myself. I had come out of a really rough winter, sick much of the time, feeling fat and sluggish, and just hated what I had become. And no one had the power to change anything about that, but me.

The road to the new normal

So as February of 2015 passed and the long arctic winter kept trudging on, I felt a faint spark within me that something had to change, and now. So it started with dancing with my kids using XBox’s Dance Central Spotlight game and trying to dance for about 30 minutes a few days a week. And that was a fun way to get my sluggish ass off the couch and start moving. You’ve always got to start somewhere — and for me it was a fitness related video game.

a chart of my weight loss history showing loss, gain, and then the slow road of losing it back again
I had once before tried to lose weight using MyFitnessPal, but as you can see I gained it all back within months.

I had also picked back up with MyFitnessPal and began the daily discipline of logging every – single – calorie that I consume and burn. It may not be 100% accurate… in fact, I count on that fact and have tried to compensate by making a minor adjustment in the application settings. I originally started out with a weight loss goal of 1 pound per week — and that was working out OK for me, but decided to up my game to 1.5 pounds per week to ensure results. My rationale behind that decision was that even if I had a bad day and didn’t quite hit my goal, I’d still be on track to lose at least a pound (or less) that week — it’d still be weight loss and not weight gain. 

By-in-large, I have been extremely successful and have managed to keep that average of a pound and a half per week. Four months later I’m weighing in at 25 pounds less than I started and I notice it in every way.  I have more energy, I’m struggling less with depression, I am looking thinner, I have more enthusiasm for doing physical things with family and friends, and life is looking much more palatable than it did four months ago.

My only problem now is a relatively good one — I’m going to have to go back to a size 34 soon here. 🙂

The power of four simple words

You can do it! Those words have resonated through the community of people that I’ve surrounded myself with on MyFitnessPal — other people in similar circumstances that are trying to get their eating, their fitness level, and their life under control. We’re all in the same boat — we’re counting our calories, trying to eat healthy when we can, and exercising.  Some are biking, some are running, some lifting weights, some walking — we’re all doing a little something and we’re all logging our food and drink.

The best part about it is that a number of people in that community — including myself — have been able to connect up, see each others’ progress, encourage each other daily, and see results. Diet is an irrelevant term, in fact it’s entirely counter-productive to our goals and is practically an obscenity. We are all on a quest to establish the new normal — a life of exercise, eating within our means, and keeping close tabs on how much we consume. It has been rewarding to both give and receive encouragement from others that are in similar circumstances and making the same sorts of life changes. We see each other completing our food and fitness goals, staying under our calorie limits, losing weight (or gaining for those with eating disorders), and making their life awesome one day at a time.

I’ve noticed how both the genuine encouragement that I give out (and receive back) has made a world of difference. Once in a while I get feedback from others that they’ve really appreciated all the encouragement and that it’s significantly spurred them on to keep at this. For myself, it’s been a great source of validation — seeing everything from huge kudos on massive calorie burns on bike rides or runs, to props for completing my daily log and progressive, healthy weight loss.

It’s become a sort of new “life mission” for me — to try and be a small catalyst to help others around me on their path toward a more healthy lifestyle. And it feels great to be a part of that process, even if it simply amounts to sincerely telling someone four simple words: you can do it!

You can’t live on credit — the interest will kill you

A healthy life is not a buffet — you can’t just eat whatever you want and with no limits. A great analogy for me as of late has been comparing my health and fitness to my bank account and credit cards. Each week I know that I earn so much from my job and that’s what I basically have to work with.  If I’m smart, I’m finding a good balance with socking away money into savings and spending only the available money that I’ve earned on bills, expenses, and discretionary spending. A healthy lifestyle is similar — based on your activity level and various physical traits (your income), you have a relative range of calories to work with and consume (your spending) to keep your body functioning, fuel your activities, and keep you healthy (living within your means).

But once in a while you see that thing that you just have to have — and you really don’t have the cash for it — so you slap it on the credit card. If you’re not self-disciplined, you may not see a lot of harm in continually throwing things on the card — tickets to the movies, those clothes you saw in the display window, a new phone or tablet that just came out, that TV or computer you impulsively decided to pick up.  It all starts to add up, and quickly (think weight gain).

From a health and wellness perspective it can be similar. You go to that BBQ joint and gorge yourself silly, get invited to a party the next day and there’s food everywhere in front of you. The liquor store had more than a few of your favorite beers or wines on sale and you decide to pick up a few more than you usually do and enjoy them all that very weekend. You feel the munchies come on at 11pm and gorge yourself with chips and salsa and wash it all down with a cold beer. Oh, and I’m pretty sure that 2am snack where you snarf a couple chocolate chip cookies doesn’t count, right?

Eventually that becomes the new normal — you eat a little bit more than you should at those parties, you snack in the evenings or late at night, you drink a bit more than you intended, and you honestly don’t notice the increased consumption because it feels normal. Over time, this excessive spending grows into a mountain of debt. You try and ignore it — throw the obligatory minimum payments at it — and just sort of pretend that it’ll go away some day.

But it doesn’t. The debt keeps growing and the interest keeps mounting and mounting.

Perhaps one day you wake up and realize, why am I throwing away so much  money in interest every month? Or to return from the analogy to the actual topic at hand, why am I eating so much and how the hell did I become so overweight!? It’s time to make a change and get angry about that debt and the compounding interest.

Once you hit that calorie limit for the day, you’re throwing stuff on the charge card — and unless you’re able to work it off later that week or in the following month to bring you back to a zero balance, you’ll be paying interest on those choices. To pay that debt off — to lose that weight you gained from eating beyond your means — you have to take more out of your daily budget to pay against that crushing debt (reduce your calorie intake to a safe level where you start burning fat and losing weight).  It takes a lot of discipline and a lot of time depending upon how much debt you have to pay off (or how much weight you have to lose).

It’s not a perfect analogy — and honestly, there doesn’t need to be one. But the feeling is nearly identical for me. The anger, the feeling of helplessness, the overwhelming emotions all associated with being under crushing debt — it feels identical to the overwhelming task of trying to lose a bunch of weight that you gained from irresponsible living. And that journey — the discipline of paying against your credit card and trying to bring that balance back to zero — is nearly identical to the journey of getting yourself back to a safe and healthy weight level.

The analogy may or may not work for you, but for me it is strong imagery that keeps me in check. I’ve been down the road toward a debt-free life once before, and it’s not easy. It requires a lot of discipline and sacrifice, and the end result is rewarding when you reach your goal.

If I can maintain this discipline of watching my calorie intake, exercising to stay fit and burn off fat and tone my muscles, I should be on track to reach my goal of 170 by sometime this coming January or February. That prospect excites the living hell out of me. I haven’t been that weight in a long time — and I cannot wait to make that the new normal!