(Quick Note: I am excited to share this blog post. I really believe this is my best post to date. I wrote this for Dynamic Performance Development and my good friend, Matt Espinoza. Matt is one of the best young trainers in the area and I have been fortunate to watch his handy work first hand. Check out his page by clicking here.)
“In a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks.”
A year ago I felt trapped. I couldn’t exactly tell you how or why I was trapped, but I knew for certain I was trapped. Whenever these thoughts would creep into my mind, I did my best to ignore them and focus on something else. But, these feelings were a legitimate warning sign. Much like the “check engine” light on your car, my feelings of being trapped were telling me that there was a problem. As I look at it now, I can see clearly what the problem was, but at the time, inside the situation, everything seemed so overwhelming. Now, I understand that most of what I’m going to be saying in this post, people will believe is just positive thinking nonsense, but my hope is that a few won’t. A few will see there is value to a shifting mindset and will work to begin improving their lives as I have. But first, a little backstory.
For much of my adult life, I have known about nutrition, but done nothing about it. I lived like there were no consequences for my eating choices and lack of exercise. When I was a kid, that was how I acted. All of my summer meals were either usually, macaroni and cheese with hot dogs, hot pockets, or top ramen. I would wash down these tasty treats with 4-6 sodas/day. But, I was young and active so I didn’t reap too much of the consequences. The problem was, I never established healthy eating habits, so when I got older I still ate like a kid, with massive health consequences. I was never in great shape, but no one would say I was fat in high school. But, once I got into college, yikes!
The term “freshman fifteen” is thrown around in a joking way, to explain the weight gain almost all college freshmen have in that first year. This term makes it easier for people to rationalize putting on weight in college because “everyone is doing it, it’s the freshman fifteen”. And, the dorm food you get is no help. Sure there is a salad bar and most of the time they offer a veggie (and this includes corn and beans, both not veggies). But, who wants a salad, when you can have pasta, pizza, and burgers? Also, many college students drink excessive amounts of alcohol, get too little sleep, have too much stress, and generally don’t care for themselves like they should. My main vice was food. I loved late night pizza runs. I was a big fan of seconds at the dining hall (no seconds on salad, or firsts for that matter). And during finals week, I was a huge fan of the late night dining hall hours that would allow me to get donuts, burgers, and soda after midnight. The weight I gained in this year 1997, is still causing me problems in 2012. And, each year it got worse.
I could see there was a problem, so I would get inspired and decide I was going to make a change. I would read a book, or see a speaker, or listen to a friend and I was gung-ho to get in shape. The only problem was, I wasn’t committed to a lifestyle change. The key to changing my fitness level was changing my diet, I was just never willing to do that. So, I would workout hard for between a week and a few months, and then give up because I wasn’t seeing the results I had hoped for. Each successive failure reinforced that I had no willpower and was too weak to change. I felt defeated and embarrassed, and continued in my unhealthy ways. And, as I started coaching basketball, and my life got busier, I had plenty of excuses for my poor food choices and lack of exercise. Each year for the last 4 years, I have put on an average of about 13 pounds a year. That’s 54 pounds! It’s crazy for me to think now, and people’s jaws usually hit the floor when I tell them at my heaviest I weighed myself I was 317 pounds. I was heavier than that, but at that point, I was too afraid to see what the scale said. If I was 6’10”, this wouldn’t be such a huge deal, but I’m 5’9” on a good day in shoes, so 317 means I resembled the mayor of munchkinland (I was basically a bowling ball). Even though I knew I was unhealthy, I was afraid to go to the doctor, and I made no attempt to change my habits because, remember, I had tried that already and failed. As I talk to people, I see that this is a common theme for many people trying to lose weight, but yet very few people talk about it.
Weight is a sensitive issue. It is not something people feel comfortable talking about, so it is almost a taboo topic. However, this is detrimental. When I was 317 pounds, I wish someone had of confronted me on my unhealthy ways, but everyone around me was being “polite”. However, it actually seems pretty impolite to watch as people you care about slowly kill themselves. So, I’m trying to talk about it honestly and put it all out there. Hopefully, that doesn’t offend anyone, I just want people to know that change is possible, and that anyone can do it. I was the king of the self-defeaters. I was like a horse with my self-defeating blinders on. Any message of hope was forced to pass through my skeptical lens and often rejected because, “I had heard it before, and I just can’t change.”
So, I lived at over 300 pounds for probably two years. I had to suck in my gut to fasten the seatbelt on the airplane to avoid “the fat guy” extension. I shopped for my pants in the “portly” section (true story). And, I always tried to pick the bigger side of restaurant booths to avoid the embarrassment of not being able to fit in the booth (which happened on more than one occasion). You would think with all of this, I would have been inspired to change, but I wasn’t. I instead focused on avoiding the problem and not thinking about it, because thinking about it caused that “check engine” light to go off again. Because of my size, I rarely went out, never dated, and spent nearly all of my free time in front of the TV. I’m not exaggerating when I say most weekends I would spend 10-12 hours a day in front of the TV. That is really embarrassing, but I know I’m not the only one that is like this. When you don’t want to go out, your options are limited. I remember how lonely and depressing this was, so I want to get it out there that people can change from that situation. I don’t want people to get the wrong impression, I didn’t feel like a depressed troll locked up in a basement feeling bad for myself, and eating Doritos. I was still functioning at a fairly high level at my job, and most people would probably say I was funny and nice, but I knew that in reality I was stuck in a rut. And yet, I did nothing about it.
That all changed in December of 2011. I’m not even exactly sure why. I decided things were going to be different, but it wasn’t a New Year’s Resolution, I didn’t think of that until I had already started. It just sort of happened. I know that there are specific things that helped that I will mention in a second, but the actual cause for me to decide to take action is still unknown to me.
The three most important steps I took in my lifestyle transformation are listed below. I hope they will help other weary travelers on their weight loss journey to find their way.
1. Surround Yourself with Positive People. Once I started losing weight, I knew I was going to need help. I wanted other people who were working on achieving goals to start meeting once a week so we could encourage each other to stay on track. So, I talked to a few friends and within a week I was meeting with a friend who had started his own business supporting thirst relief in Africa and South America, Matt who was running his successful personal training business, and others pushing themselves. This was huge. Hearing their successes and sharing my own created a really positive dynamic that pushed me more than I could have without them. Create this “inner circle” immediately.
2. Make It Public. The beginning of any habit change is the most difficult part and requires the most energy. Once your new behavior becomes a habit, it is much easier to sustain. So, in the first few weeks, making a contract on stickk.com really helped keep me accountable. The short version is, if I didn’t meet my weekly weight loss goal I was going to donate $15 dollars to charity. So, it was easy to think when I was tempted to spend 10 dollars on fast food that that meal could actually cost me $25. This really helped me, the king of no willpower, to resist temptation early on. Find a system that works and use it. There must be real consequences attached to it. There is no other way.
3. Focus on the Journey, Not the Destination. When I first started, I weighed 289.5.lbs. I wanted to get to 185lbs. I remember when I told people that was my goal, they looked at me like I was crazy. That’s okay, I knew I had to focus on the process and the results would take care of themselves. Now this is not to say that I didn’t get overwhelmed from time to time, because I did. I would take my eyes off of the little changes I was making daily and think about how much more I still had to go. The best thing I have found is to celebrate the weekly victories. If I lost 2 or more pounds for the week, I would focus on the fact that I was headed in the right direction. Sometimes I would find myself saying, “Three pounds?! That’s it! I’m trying to lose over 100, this is just too slow.” That kind of negative thinking is what helped to sabotage me in the past. When this came up, I would talk to one of my “inner circle” and they would help me get refocused on what matters.
I am not all the way there yet. I am about 65 pounds into my journey, with about another 40 to go. Again, I try not to focus on the destination, I just worry about making daily choices that support my goals. I still screw up a lot, but that’s all part of the process. I have learned not to beat myself up as much, and focus on the great things that are happening in my life. The weight loss has helped to spark changes for the better in other areas of my life as well. If you can relate to how I felt, leave a comment on this blog or head to my blog at https://fit2teach.wordpress.com/ and get in contact with me. I’d love to exchange emails and see if I could be a source of encouragement. I adopted a motto once I started my lifestyle transformation as a reminder of what I’m hoping to achieve, every day getting better. Every day, I just want to improve, even if it’s just a little bit.
EVERY DAY GETTING BETTER