I was asked recently to complete a questionaire to which I was very happy to do. What I didn't expect was the journey it took me on as I worked through the questions and formulated my responses accordingly. This was honestly fairly tough to get through at times and took me several weeks to complete.(partly due to life in general though)
As I read and re-read and re-re-read this, I felt like this was worth sharing. This isn't an easy journey, the struggles are tough, but you can win. It is my hope that I can inspire ONE person by sharing this.
This has been edited by several people so I can't take credit for all the writing, but it is still my story. Thank you to my wife Chelle and to Bruce for the edits made.
Section 1 questions. What was your childhood like? When and how did you start gaining weight? Was it something you were aware of? How did it make you feel? How did it affect your life, relationships and goals/career? Did it alter your personality or outlook on life? How did people treat you? Please provide an example of how someone treated you/commented on your weight.
Answers - I grew up in a very small town in Kansas as the youngest of 5 children. My siblings were much older so they weren't really playmates. One of my favorite things to do was play “kick the can” for hours with kids in the neighborhood. I got very involved with Drum Corps/marching band in the 5th grade. I spent 18 years traveling nearly all summer nationwide with Drum Corps. This was a very demanding activity with long rehearsals outside in the heat. I was active and fit. I even taught this activity until the late 90’s, which kept my weight down. Looking back now, I wasn’t eating healthy; I was just active and working it off. I didn’t start gaining serious weight until I changed career paths and got a desk job. I became less active, still ate a poor diet, and my weight climbed slowly. I kept having to buy new pants. I didn’t like feeling myself getting out of control, but I didn’t have the will to do anything about it either. Then I lost my Mom in 2005. She was one of my best friends. I went into a deep depression, ate my way through it, and rapidly gained a lot of weight. I was probably 230 when she passed and quickly went to my top measured weight of 264. After that point, I just couldn't bear to look at the scale. I kept getting bigger, and my wife and I agree that I reached 275 at least. I felt embarrassed. I was tired and grumpy all the time. Gaining weight affected every aspect of my life. I had two young daughters who wanted me to wrestle on the floor or play in the back yard. I simply couldn’t do it. I wasn't giving my very loving and supportive wife the best a husband has to offer. I had no will to help with household chores or play with my children. Some days, I struggled to get out of bed. The only person that ever treated me poorly due to my size was me. I hated my new appearance and how I felt. I knew my health was poor. I knew I needed to make changes, but I had no will to do it. I beat myself up. It wasn’t until I hit bottom emotionally that my wife understood my self-imposed mental torture. On the outside, I was a happy, fun guy always pulling pranks at work. On the inside I wasn’t healthy or happy. I started walking twice a week for a month, but it wasn't enough to turn things around.
Section 2: Food Philosophy Questions - How did you view food (as comfort, solution to boredom etc)? How did this view affect you and your loved ones/family? Where did the eating habits stem from? How did you feel emotionally?
Answers - My view of food has been through just about every cycle imaginable. My mom prepared delicious but not necessarily healthy food. She did try to get me to eat fruits and veggies, but wasn't strict so I ate what I wanted. When I got out on my own, I viewed food as a convenience, grabbing whatever would be easiest to grab and sitting in front of the TV watching sports with my wife or at friends' houses. Meals always seemed to consist of simple party snack foods, nothing remotely healthy. Not sure I ever used food as a solution, but I would certainly eat when I was bored. No one in my family did anything different so there weren't positive influences, and societal influences didn't help. But I only blame myself for the habits I developed. Initially when I started gaining weight, I used my desk job as a lame excuse for weight gain. Sure, sitting all day didn't help. But I made no effort to offset it by being active. It eventually caught up to me. I had struggled a little with depression, but fell into a deep depression after my mom died, which made me even less active and more drawn to comfort food. I realize now I was addicted to food.
Section 3: Eating habits Questions - How much did you eat for all meals, snacks, etc? How did it escalate? Where did you usually eat and how often? Were you at all concerned? How did your weight hold you back in work, society or relationships? Did it affect your goals in life?
Answers - I'd always eaten until I was completely full or beyond full most of the time. From a calorie perspective, I honestly have no idea how many I used to eat on a daily basis. I didn’t track them, I didn’t read labels, I didn’t care to be informed before. We ate lots of fast food, and when we did eat at home, I would eat seconds and sometimes thirds. I remember when I was probably 10 years old, I had a paper route and would stop every day for the next 5 or 6 years on my route to get TWO Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups a day. That addiction carried on for years, and caught up with me when I got the desk job and lost my mother. Food was my solace. I wasn't concerned by my health, and nearly always had a snack in my hand. My weight never held me back in my work that I can remember. But it was affecting what I could and couldn't do with my family. It affected my mood, making me grouchy all the time. Having a very short temper negatively affected my wife and daughters.
Before daily intake
Mock rundown of what you ate for:
Breakfast: (items varied, but here are some of my favorites)
Sonic Breakfast burritos a lot, tater tots and large drink
Sonic Pancake on a stick
Honey buns(with the white icing)
Lunch: (some of my favorites)
Entire small pizza
Chinese food (lots of it) -- Chicken and Rice, The greasiest messiest, yummy fat filled Chicken fingers I'd ever eaten. I would get the meal with 6 fingers, 2 cups of brown rice and an eggroll. THEN I would cover the whole mess with sweet and sour sauce.
McDonalds – Quarter Pounder with Cheese, Super-size Fries
Burger King – Whopper, onion rings, large Dr. Pepper, tacos
Dinner: (some of my favorites)
Same as lunch, unfortunately!
Dr Pepper all day
Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups all day
Section 4: The turning point Questions - Emotionally and physically, what was the most painful part of being overweight? When was the moment or time you realized you had to lose weight? How did it effect you emotionally? What motivated your decision? How did you take steps towards that goal? What were your family and friends’ response?
Answers - The most painful part of being overweight was physical. My legs hurt, my back hurt and I had/have neck problems due to my weight. Emotionally it hurt when I looked in the mirror because I didn’t like what I saw. I knew for a very long time that I needed to make changes, but made only meager attempts, never fully committing myself to changing and taking back my life back. My motivation was and still is my wife and daughters. They deserve a happy, healthy, fun, loving husband and father. On December 28th, 2009 I made the decision to become the man that they deserved and the man I deserved to be. When I made the decision, I changed everything I was doing. I told my wife and daughters I was going to start trying to lose weight. My wife was VERY supportive and began cooking healthy meals at home. We started looking at food labels. We stopped buying so much processed food and learned how to eat healthfully. Taking steps toward the goal wasn’t hard. Once I finally made up my mind, I went for it with everything I had. I knew it would be work, but I was and still am willing to do the work. I didn’t tell many people initially; just my family and some co-workers. When people started seeing the weight loss, questions started coming, about how I was making it happen. The support was always there among my friends. When I hit the 80+ lost mark, people were surprised to hear I’d had no surgery. I'd always tell them, “Why would I do that when I can work it off and be healthier for it?” I had acquaintances whom I hadn’t seen in a while that I had to re-introduce myself to because my transformation was so drastic!
Section 5: Losing the weight Questions - How did you start losing the weight (specific diet and exercise routines)? What helped you lose the weight (diet system, support network, mantra etc..)? How long did it take to start losing weight? How long did it take to lose over 100 pounds? What were some of the difficulties you had? Did you plateau? Who/what was your support system? Is there a certain motto that stuck out for you?
Answers - When I started my journey, I joined SparkPeople.com after hearing about it from a friend at work and I cut my calories to around 1200-1400 a day. I fully believe SparkPeople.com saved my life. I started tracking everything I ate. I started eating much less and much healthier. Their nutrition database is massive for tracking food and it’s very easy to use. The people of SparkPeople support each other via forums and that is an incredible source of focus, accountability and inspiration. I started walking a lot. I would get out of bed at 4:30am to go for a 3 mile walk every single morning. I took 15-20 minute breaks at work to go for walks. These walks were in the tunnels under downtown Dallas near my office. Then when I got home I would walk another 3 miles. I did the work I knew was necessary. I walked 3-7 miles a day for most of January 2010. By the end of January I had already lost 20 pounds. That was already 1/3 of what I wanted to lose for the entire year. Having that success was a great motivator. I pushed myself even harder in my workouts. Then I got an elliptical and started using it every day and increased my time as I progressed. I continued my daily work-break walks. In May 2010 I ran my first race, The Warrior Dash. What a rush, I was hooked on running. I ran my first official 5k in July of 2010 and never looked back. Also in the Summer of 2010, I added HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workouts to my schedule. These I did in my makeshift home gym I had set up in my garage. My wife joined me for these workouts as she was in the process of losing over 65 pounds herself. These workouts validated how far I had come. I was stronger and energized and healthy for the first time in at least15 years. It took me 349 days to lose 100 pounds, and I had an 8 week break of no workouts due to surgery. I can honestly say I didn’t really have many difficulties during the weight loss phase. I was working so hard and was so focused, it just happened for me. I probably plateaued at about 95 pounds lost, but mostly because of the surgery I had. I developed a sports hernia and had to have that repaired, after I ran my first 10k. I have run over two 5k’s, 6 or 7 10k’s, 3-15k’s, 7 half marathons and 1 full marathon. My personal success factors are as follows. 1. You MUST know what/how much you are eating (track it) 2. Shut up and Sweat (work it off) 3. Do it every single day. It’s really that simple. I still follow these three success factors today as they STILL WORK.
After daily intake
Mock rundown of what you now eat for:
[Note: Below is food tracked on a recent, typical day]
Green Leaf lettuce that I cut myself (about 1 cup)
Green Pepper, yellow pepper and onion (about 2 table spoons each)
2 tables spoons of Kraft Light Catalina dressing
3 ounces of grilled chicken breast
¼ cup brown rice
Baked Alaskan Cod fish (about 2 ounces)
Mediterranean Couscous (about ¼ cup)
One piece of whole wheat bread
Great Value Sweet & Salty Peanut Chewy Granola Bar
8-10 baby carrots raw
3-4 fresh strawberries
Few bites of fresh pineapple
(please include serving sizes)
Section 6: New food outlook Questions - How do you now view food and health? How has your new lifestyle changed you? Do you feel better about yourself? Has your weight loss affected other goals or your relationships? What’s the best part of being healthier, slimmer? Do people treat you differently? What advice do you have for people struggling with their weight?
Answers - My view of food and health has done a 180. My current view and motto of food is: ‘I eat to fuel my body, not fill my body’. Food is critical to our survival obviously and we MUST have a relationship with food. I now have a relationship that I can trust. Today we eat at home most of the time and I have one serving only. Leftovers are put away for another day. Do I still indulge? Absolutely. The difference is that I recognize those times as an exception and not the rule. I know how to move past it. I also know that my health is my responsibility, and that I have to work at it. Good health doesn’t just ‘happen’ for most people. We all have to manage our relationships with food on a daily basis. I still struggle some days. It's been an emotional journey.
It’s one thing for me to be ‘skinny’ but it’s an entirely different thing for me to be healthy inside and out. My lifestyle has changed me into a much happier, much more energetic, more positive person. The lifestyle change has affected my entire family. My wife has lost 70ish pounds herself by doing the same things I have: Eating right and working out. Our daughters are much more aware of junk food and fitness as well. We visit health food stores and farmers markets as a family, something we never did in the past. My confidence is sky high and I feel great about myself. My weight loss has driven me to be passionate to help others realize the same feeling of success and happiness. My relationships are better across the board, simply due to my internal happiness. There are so many things that are so much better since my transformation it’s difficult to pick one, but it's probably giving my wife and daughters deserved a better husband and father. I can play with my daughters, run, ride bikes, etc…They have a hard time keeping up with me! That’s awesome. I have the energy to help my wife with household chores. I can’t say that I get treated differently by my friends and family, but I have gained a whole new set of friends. Runners! I have joined the Dallas Running Club and it has been a huge source of joy to hang out and run races once a month. I have also made friends all over the country via SparkPeople.
My advice to others who are struggling with weight loss, in addition to my personal success factors above, is to ‘stay the course’. You might be struggling, you might be losing very slowly, but stay the course, keep working hard, keep eating the right foods, you'll get results. Never give up. This is an emotional journey as much as it is a physical journey. Take note of the emotions and your relationship with food. Knowing how you treat food is crucial for your success.
Link to my video about my journey: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v
and a few before and after pic