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Today I want to share with you my journey of weight loss, where I was back then, and where I am now. It’s a story worth telling because if I can help you in any small way, then I can be happy knowing I’ve influenced you to improve your life, wherever you may be in your weight loss journey.
I had always been a pretty skinny kid in high school, and I didn’t really notice that until freshman year of college. You could say I was somewhat oblivious to my own body. Early in my freshmen year, before the “Freshman 15” had kicked in, my buddy woke me up and snapped this picture because of my wild hair:
This hair WAS pretty funny!
When the pictures got developed (Yes kiddies, gather ’round the fire while I tell you all about how film still had to be developed back in 2001!), my friend showed me the picture.
“Dude, you look buff in this picture!” – He said.
Wait, who? Me?
“No way! Look at my gut, it’s huge!” I replied.
This was the first time anyone had said I was in shape, or even that I looked good physically. I couldn’t fathom the thought that I was good-looking at the time. I never played sports. I never worked out. I pretty much struggled to get a passing grade in gym class! I always thought I had a pretty round gut, truthfully. I wasn’t ready to take a compliment like that, and so I didn’t. I rejected his words and came back with negativity.
Flash forward to 2005: Three years of college and LOTS of calories later. Though I never really weighed myself much through college, I estimate I was up over 200 lbs by graduation on a 5’5″ frame. My only saving grace was that I still was walking everywhere in college. On graduation day, I looked tired, exhausted and sad on what should have been a glorious day.
Shortly after graduation, in 2006, something started to click for me. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired and I needed a change. I missed the old me from the freshman picture. Putting this weight on happened gradually over several years, and it was going to be a long, tough slog to get most of it off.
In a span of over a year, after several gym trial memberships, many grocery item mis-adventures and scavenging magazines and articles online for health advice wherever I could, I came up with some core lessons that weren’t in the magazines or articles I read, but nevertheless helped me tremendously:
- You’ve got to push yourself in the gym – News Flash – Working out is going to hurt, especially if it’s been a while since you’ve done it. Sometimes, it even sucks hard. But when you push yourself …when you really go beyond the limit of what you think you can do… then there’s this groove that comes. You get to a point where you love the feeling of doing good things for your body, not just in the gym, but in the kitchen and in the other parts of your life. Listen to those signals of pain and pleasure and get comfortable with knowing them for the rest of your life.
- Start exercise with activities you are comfortable with – When I first entered a gym solo with tons of people, I was a nervous wreck. What if I don’t use the machine right? What if I put too much weight on the machine? What if I use too little weight? What if that hot girl over there thinks I’m an idiot because I’m not using proper form? Instead of worrying about all this, I started with machines I knew how to use from gym class, and then after 3 sets on them I’d hop over to a new machine I’ve never used. Sitting at the “comfortable” machine gave me time to study the “new machine” from afar. Pretty soon I had developed a few full-body workout routines just by scoping out new equipment. I may have looked dumb a couple times, but I always ended up figuring out how to use the equipment properly after a few tries. (Side note: I also learned that almost no one is judging you at any gym, ever. If you’re nervous that people are looking at you, do yourself a favor and forget that thought now. Trust me, most people are so wrapped up in their own workout they don’t spend time or effort noticing you, and if they do then they honestly have more issues than you.)
- Food is 80% of the fight – Gym time is important, but food is the bigger part of the equation. Have you heard of the 80/20 rule where 80% of the work comes from 20% of the effort? You can easily demolish a great workout with the right meal, so don’t reward your workout with bad food. Really study about what you are putting into your body and be conscious when making each meal choice.
- Sustaining weight loss is tough, too – For those that lose a lot of weight quickly, once the weight starts coming off, the new battle becomes keeping it off. Many people experience yo-yo diets where the weight goes away and comes back. From experience, I will say it is easier to keep the weight off than to take it off initially, but know that this will be a new battle for you as well once you start reaching your goals. Making educated and smart choices with food & exercise goes a long way in navigating this long haul.
- Learn to take a compliment – This is a vital to your attitude, especially in the beginning of your journey. When I started losing pounds over a short period of time, people I didn’t even know at work were complimenting me on this weight loss. More than a few people came to me, and I finally had to start learning to positively respond to the compliments. If only I could’ve done that years ago in college. You want to nurture the confidence of your weight loss with humility and know that you are doing something great that others may genuinely want to learn about from you. Put your knowledge to good use and share your advice with those wanting to learn.
I’m not a physical trainer, I’m not a professional weight loss coach. That doesn’t change the fact that I still shed an unhealthy weight and lifestyle, and I have consistently kept the weight off for over 7 years.
These days, I find myself spending most of my time running. I hit a couple 5K’s a year, some 10K’s and Half-Marathons, and my favorite race is Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati. I’m planning to run my first Ultramarathon this June, it’s a 50K. Running used to burn my shins to the point where I thought they’d explode, now running relaxes me.
Although running has become second-nature for me now, I always like to keep things interesting with different apps, products and services.
RunKeeper and Fitbit apps help me track my progress and log what I’m doing, but I also like writing down runs on a Day Runner planner to ensure they get scheduled and look at workouts from a weekly perspective. I enjoy watching VEVO music videos and listening to 8tracks Radio music while on the treadmill. This year I’ve also been turned on to Superfeet insoles by my friends at Fleet Feet Cincinnati.
Lastly, remember that you don’t need a big budget to get started. The right equipment is nice when you can afford it, but my first pair of running shoes cost me $30. I was using gym trial memberships for almost 3 months and paying next to nothing in cost. When I strength train, I use Cardio Workout DVD’s like Jillian Michaels – 30 Day Shred
instead of expensive gym memberships, Kristin and I even saved more money by getting our copies used at Half Price Books. Don’t forget that it’s free to run outside! You really can work out on even a shoestring budget. You also don’t need to be a pro athlete to have a reason for working out, it’s something that everyone should do. So get out there and start doing something.
I can’t wait to hear how you are changing your life too! Leave a comment below and let me know what is working for you.