I had always been fat. Except for a brief period of time between the ages of 3-6 years, I had always been overweight.It seems when I was younger, a child, it was thought of as cute, baby fat, we all use that term, and, we all try to use it the same way. Oh, it’ll come off, its just baby fat. Well, mine didn’t. In fact, as soon as I started University in 1988, my baby fat decided to start to have babies of its own. I would say that in that first year of University I gained well over 30 lbs. and the race was on.
I never gave much conscious thought to the fact that I was fat. I was never really ridiculed for it, never felt left out because of it, never really had any self-esteem issues with it. Ask almost anyone that knew me and they will tell you that ego was never much of a problem with me, if anything, I had a little too much ego for my own good. In retrospect, I think that a lot of that ego came from overcompensation, that inside I knew I was fat, and not the most attractive I could be, so I adjusted my attitude to be all bluster and laughs, a much easier task than changing the way I was living my life.
Life continued, I got older, and at the same time I got bigger. It’s funny how the mind works. I was constantly buying bigger clothes, without really questioning it. I seemed to have myself convinced that I needed the bigger clothes because I was a growing boy, mind you, this was in my 20’s and going into my 30’s, my growing should have been long done. But the waist expanded, the mind narrowed, denial and a refusal to see what I was becoming took a firm hold on my senses and my actions. I started to unconsciously avoid the camera, started to wear layers of clothes, buying sweatshirts and jackets too big for me in an effort to make myself look smaller. I was doing all of this without knowing it. The mind is an incredible machine, the ways it can make you see and do things that are outside the reality.
Finally, August 25th, 2001, on my 31st Birthday, my cousin and his wife threw me a party. There were pictures taken and around a month later I received them via e-mail. I couldn’t believe what I saw. Who was this fat man sitting there; it couldn’t possibly be me, could it? I looked like I had a spare tire around my mid section, and not a small car tire either, but one from a Mack Truck. I have never been so moved by a photo in my life. I must have stared at it for an hour, not able to process the image; it went so far against what my mind had convinced me I was. This wasn’t a good-looking man who was big and burly, like a wrestler or something, this was a very fat man, looking unhealthy who was heading for medical problems in the very near future. I made a promise at that very moment to do something about this person, to help him in any way I could. It would be hard, and it would be a battle where the fat man fought for his life. I knew how stubborn this fat man could be; I knew it wouldn’t be easy, I knew I was in for the fight of my life.
The very next day, Sept 16th 2001, I joined Weight Watchers, and shock number two awaited me when I stepped on the scales… 297 lbs… I was flabbergasted, struck down; I made them weigh me again on another scale… I thought maybe 260-265, but this was so close to 300 lbs. that it was 300 lbs. in my mind. That moment was a fragile one for me, a pivotal one, I sat through the first orientation meeting in an absolute haze… 300 lbs… 300lbs… 300 lbs… it kept swirling through my mind like a storm, scattering all other thoughts. I felt nauseous, confused, angry, depressed… it was possibly one of the most challenging moments in my life.
So, I began, I began with a vengeance, I swore off the junk that had gotten me to this place. I moved my rear. I dedicated myself to creating a new man, killing the old one forever.
What it Takes to Change
This is the one truth I have discovered. There is no blanket program that each and every person will experience the exact same level of success with. Oh, there are some that are great helps and have been proven to work when adhered to, but not everybody experienced the same level of success. Each and every one of us is an individual, with unique make-ups and histories. It is unrealistic to believe for one minute that any program will deliver the same results at the same speed to each and every person. Once you have this idea established in your mind you can move on and discover what it will take to make your own success story. Am I a success story? I guess in many ways I am. Surely to lose 115 lbs. in 18 months is a great success of which I am very proud. But I don’t feel in my mind that I am a true success yet.
The main reason for this feeling is also my number one reason for the success I have experienced to this point. I set goals, and re-evaluate those goals each and every day. I set daily goals, weekly goals, monthly goals and yearly goals. I write them down, and I repeat them as my own mantra. I look at myself in the mirror every single day and ask myself one question “Have I done all I can today to meet my goals?” More often than not the answer is no, I haven’t, but I always give myself a positive answer as well. I could have done more, but, I have taken another step, and today I am that much closer to my goal.
What are the goals I am setting? Well, they vary. In the beginning it was mainly diet related. I would set a daily goal NOT to eat anything that would set me back. Also, they were weight related. I would tell myself that I am going to lose 2 lbs. this week, and 10 lbs. this month, and 50 lbs. by a certain date. This helped a lot in the beginning, it helps a lot now to look back and read in my journal how I reached those goals, how it felt at the time. These days the goals are different. They are still diet related, but now it more to the tune of, Today I will eat 200 grams of protein. They are still weight related, but in regards to what I lift in my workouts, not what I dropped on the scale.
The point is, goals change, they shift with you, and you have to be flexible enough to realize that you need to change them. I can’t begin to underestimate the importance of a journal. Keep track of your goals every day; write down your successes and your failures. Keep a running log of what you eat, what you did in regards to exercise, how you feel… everything. It is probably the most valuable tool you will have. It keeps you honest. It gives you a blueprint for what worked, and what didn’t. It will tell you when it is time to shake things up. It will become your best friend, and your worst enemy as it tells the story of your journey.
Any thing will do as a medium for your journal. I kept track of mine via a web page. I now many people who keep a traditional paper journal and I even know one person who recorded their journal on tape. Do whatever works for you, but just make sure you do it.
I’m not going to tell you what to eat and what not to, how much or how little, whether to have a cheat day or not. All these programs, be it Weight Watchers, Atkins, whatever, they do that. The single most important thing I am going to tell you about food is this: know it. Study all the sources. There are many of them out there. Know what foods contain what, know what the foods you eat do to your body. Research nutrition; find out what the things on the labels mean. Its one thing to pick up an item and read the label and understand the words, but quite another to understand what the words represent.
Be aware that many foods that you may think are good for you are not. I have come to an understanding with my food; I try to eat nothing that comes from a can. Whole foods that prepare myself, fresh when possible, organic when available and I cook it all myself. I know many people whine about this, saying things like “I don’t know how to cook”… learn, or “I don’t have time to cook”… make time. You can spend 5 minutes at a drive through, but it takes less time to make a salad, not much more time than that to grill some salmon. Any excuse you make not to do it is just that, an excuse.
I bet many people who say these things are the same people who manage to find the time to sit down and watch their favorite TV show each and every night. Prepare your food ahead of time, take a couple of hours on the weekend, or an hour even, and cook, freeze it, then it’s simplified. I would not let myself make excuses about this. If I can do it… you can do it too. On the topic of cheat day. The principle is that you set aside a day to eat what you want. I don’t believe in it. I think it’s a crutch, it’s like a heroin addict saying that I’ll stay off it all week but on Sunday I’ll binge. It works for some people, people stronger than I would say. But I don’t do it. I do have a treat meal. Not every week, but when I really want it. And I always ask myself before hand if this is really what I want. More often than not I don’t, but when I do I have it.
Don’t let lapses throw you off your track. If you have a day where things are going all wrong, where you didn’t do the exercise you intended, or you ate something you shouldn’t have, for whatever reason. Don’t let it derail you: it happened, move on. Don’t beat yourself up over it.
As for exercise, try to start small. I started by parking the car further from the door of whereever I was going. Then I graduated to walking around the block, then I walked hiking trails, then I started at the weights. You see, it’s an evolution.
Nothing will discourage you faster than trying to do something that you are just not capable of doing. I would have collapsed if I tried to do last September what I am doing this September. Find something that you like to do, walking, biking, weights, gardening, swimming, or aerobics. The key is to find something that you do not dread having to do. (A little aside here, trust me when I say if you don’t much like it at the beginning, you’ll come to love it when you start seeing the results, I know I did).
Always challenge yourself with your exercise, run a little faster, walk a little further, lift a little heavier. The body and mind will conspire against you here. Your body is an amazing machine that will adapt to the pressures put upon it, your mind will convince you that the workout is much better because it was easier this time. Ignore them. You should feel pushed every time, you should, feel like you’ve accomplished something every time. Support from others is a wonderful thing; if you have it, embrace it. But remember that the true support and dedication come from you. It’s your body, your life, your future that you are trying to build.
There is another side to this coin as well: you may find that there are people who will resent you for trying to change yourself. I was shocked and somewhat hurt when I discovered this for myself. It’s a hard truth to swallow when you discover that people aren’t happy for your change, that some people are actually hoping you fail, so they can jump forward and say I told you so. Ignore them, or embrace them as well. Use their negativity as inspiration, show them what you are made of, and make them eat their words. These people are the minority, but they exist. Just keep in mind at all times that this is for YOU!
There’s a lot more, but these are the basics, and I’ll boil them down into point form on more time.
- Set goals
- Keep a journal
- Educate yourself
- Move your body
- Eat, but eat smart
- Keep the focus
- Maintain intensity
- Ignore distractions
- Embrace success
Visit Cory at his website, Evolution.