I was planning to write today about what I wish I would have majored in in college. However, as I looked in the mirror to brush my teeth, it reminded me of something I’ve been wanting to write for a long time. Here it is…
I am wearing an ugly yellow flannel shirt today. (Don’t worry, you didn’t accidently end up at bob’s fashion blog.) I’m wearing it because it’s cold, and as far as I know I’m not going to be out and about today.
The shirt is still in my closet, despite the fact that I don’t like it much for one reason…it didn’t used to fit me…it was very tight in the chest, and restricted the movement of my arms. As you can see from the picture, not only could it stand to be ironed, it is way too large. That makes me feel good.
My body is weird in a couple of deceptive ways.
First off I tend not to look as old as I am. When people hear I have a child in university, they frequently say I don’t look old enough for that. (Then I’m guessing they start thinking, “well, if he got his wife pregnant while they were teenagers..” they actually come out and say to Liz, who also looks younger than she is, “you must have gotten pregnant very early.”.) Of course, regardless of how old I look, Liz & I had our first kid when I was 28 & we’d been married almost 4 years. (for those of you not so good at math, that makes me 46…and less than 4 years away from joining AARP.)
The other deceptive thing about my body is that I am heavier than I look. (of course that might just be the fact that I wear baggy clothes & still refuse to tuck in my shirts…unless I’m looking for a job of course.) However a few years ago a friend described me as “lanky.” That was something I’ve never heard. (for those of you who are thinking, “But I’ve always thought you were fat,” please keep your comments to yourself)
When I was a kid, my mom took me to the New York Store in Dunkirk for a sport coat. The salesman hollered across the store to another clerk, “I need something in a husky.”
From that point forward, I was thin for only a short period of time during college…but that was due to a pretty severe depression where I lost 40 pounds, and got down to about 170…(and the word used to describe me at that point is usually gaunt.)
Fast forward 15 years and I was 35 and already past 250 pounds, thanks to a sedentary lifestyle and a love of bread and fried foods (and if the bread was fried, all the better).
For years I’d tried to lose weight (mostly via exercise rather than diet) and nothing ever worked. I’d lose a few pounds, get injured, discouraged, or extra hungry & the weight would be back on in no time.
A couple important disclaimers before we continue.
First, I still have about 20 pounds to lose. While the first 50 were relatively easy, these last 20 have been resisting me for about 8 years.
Second, this is not dieting advice. And I’m not saying if you follow these steps you will lose weight. I’m simply saying this is what I did. While some of the principles might help…you have to find something that works for you…and there is something that’ll work for you.
1) I Found Someone Who Would Be Honest With Me
I started hearing about BMI around this time. I did the math and discovered that I was obese. Then I read articles about pro athletes whose BMIs also showed them to be obese (muscle weighs more than fat of course, but obviously not my issue).
When I’d mention to people that my BMI said I was obese, they’d see me in my baggy-untucked shirts and say, “you’re not obese.” And I’d feel good about myself, and have another doughnut.
Then I went to see my doctor for my annual physical and he gave me the following professional diagnosis: “You are fat, and getting fatter every year.” (At least he didn’t call me husky)
I needed that to reverse the trend my life had been on for 15 years.
2) I Began Exercising
I spent a lot of time sitting at a desk. One of the biggest keys for me was getting off of my butt and moving around. While I did put some time in a gym, it wasn’t a lot…brisk walking has always been the go to exercise for me. A side benefit is that I’ve found I do my best thinking while I’m walking rather than at a desk.
3) I Started Thinking Long-Term Not Short-Term
When I dabbled with diets previously, I would starve myself for a month, notice almost no difference & quit. When I was 35, I looked at a friend about 5 years older than me and decided, “I don’t want to look like that when I’m 40.” For some reason that little decision helped me to stop trying to lose 50 pounds in 2 months.
Not only was that far more realistic, it was far more healthy.
4) I Thought Lifestyle Change, Not Diet
I do not have much of a sweet tooth…candy has never been an issue for me. However, I love Doritos, and doughnuts, and bread, and pizza…you get the idea. When I worked at the grocery store in Albany my morning coffee break consisted of 2 cups of coffee, 1 apple fritter and 1 sour cream glazed doughnut (my mouth watered as I wrote that sentence).
Every Sunday after church I’d grab some of the left over doughnuts and take them home to snack on over the course of the day.
What I realized was that regardless of how much weight I lost, if I went back to the eating patterns I had established in my life, I would gain in all back in no time. So I decided I ate like this for 35 years of my life and enjoyed it, for the next 35, I need to do something else.
At the same time I knew I needed to find something that I would be able and willing to do from that point forward. Food is a pretty big part of life, and eating only stuff you don’t enjoy…no one who has a choice can do that for very long.
The vast majority of diets fail. In fact most people not only gain all of the weight back, they gain more. If you don’t address the way you eat, the short-term diet will simply be a blip on the radar and end up hurting more than helping.
5) I Focused On Carbs Not Calories.
I’m guessing this is where I’ll lose some of you, but as I mentioned, I’m not prescribing anything, this is what worked for me.
As I was researching various diets (think more, “this is what my diet consists of,” rather than, “I’m going on a diet,”) what seemed clear to me is that I had an addiction to carbohydrates. I read through the list of symptoms & had to say, “that’s me.”
So I decided to settle on a low-carb diet. I understand this is not for everyone. At the same time, much of the arguments I heard against it were based on misunderstanding…for example people would often assume I ate no carbs…or that I only ate meat and cheese. The fact is, I was now eating more vegetables than at any point in my life…
I also discussed this with my doctor and he did regular blood tests to ensure that my body was responding well…and it did. Not only did I lose the weight, my blood pressure went down, and I stopped having that mid-afternoon slump.
I tried other styles of eating as well…I loved South Beach. The food was great…but it felt like I was spending hours every day preparing meals. I didn’t have time for that.
Over the past few years I’ve switched to a slow-carb diet, which helped me knock off a few pounds that I’d put back on, but since we arrived in Ireland, for a number of reasons, I’ve just been eating whatever is set before me, but I’m getting ready to finally address these last 20 pounds.
8 years later….
So it has been about 8 years since I weighed in at over 250….while I’ve been as low as 195, I’ve spent most of the past 7 years somewhere between 205 & 215, but never more than that. I’ve always been a bit leery about sharing too much because what if I gain it all back? Well, after all this time, I think it’s safe to say, if I gain it back it’s because I stopped doing the things I’ve listed above…and you’ll probably find me with an apple fritter in my fat little fist.
To close this off, I wanted to list some of the benefits I’ve found in having lost the weight I did. I mentioned throughout some of the benefits of losing the weight, and changing how I ate…no more mid afternoon slumps, lower blood pressure, less foggy brained, and ability to think more clearly. There are a number of others…
- While I was never diagnosed with sleep apnea, my breathing while I slept would keep Liz awake thinking I was dying. I don’t do that anymore, and I sleep better over all.
- My back doesn’t hurt any more.
- I have more energy.
- I had diverticulosis. This is something rarely found in people under 40. I had it in my early 30s and it led to my colon rupturing. I have had no flare ups since I changed how I ate.
- I rarely get stomach cramps anymore.
- I don’t sweat nearly as easily.
- I rarely get sick.
- Old leg injuries don’t flare up nearly as often.
- And I have a much better understanding about how various foods impact my body.
I mentioned earlier that the first 50 pounds came off relatively easily…nothing in the process however was easy. It was a difficult switch, but every little success along the way encouraged me to keep going until it got to the point where going back to how I used to live would be difficult.
It wasn’t easy, but it was definitely worth it.