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Get out there and live.

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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Hands down, the one question I get asked the most is "What made the difference this time?" What separated this weight loss attempt from all of the others? In other words, why did I succeed? In reflection I can tell you it has nothing to do with counting calories, restriction or doing everything perfectly. The difference was choosing to live again. Deciding that life begins today and not at some mythical moment in time.

In short, dieting sucks. There is nothing positive about it. The whole premise is based on the fact that something is wrong with me, wrong with how I look, or maybe my health is going down the drain. It's all negative from start to finish. Who can live within a paradigm like that for very long? I know, I tried to and failed. I was 385 pounds. I had chest pains, chronic fatigue, high cholesterol, and the only thing I dreaded more than a long stair climb was to climb stairs with an audience. A close second was to have someone see me try to tie my shoes...equally bad. Yet, in spite of all of this, doctors couldn't scare me into another diet. I couldn't be nagged into compliance. The more one nagged me, the more rebellious and set in my ways I became.

I love my chicken wings, pizza, Chinese, and fried foods and NO skinny, white-smocked, pencil neck geek is going to take them away and make me eat bunny food. I'm still breathing, I'm still upright, and therefore I don't have a problem. Period, end of, pass the ketchup please.

You cannot take something that a man loves and finds comfort in and replace it with nothing but discomfort, restriction, and burdensome obsessing over every little detail. So what made the difference? I fell in love. For love, a man will cross oceans, climb mountains, and do some of the craziest things just to further himself in his cause. No sacrifice is too great, no effort is too much. Those habits I would have gone to blows to defend were willingly surrendered when love entered the picture.

Let me explain. When I started my job at the mine, I spent SO much time in a dump truck. I only got a 10 and 20 minute break in an 8 hr shift. The rest of that time was spent with my butt squarely planted in the drivers seat.. It got to the point that I wanted to go walking, not for weight loss, but just to get a little fresh air and movement. Then I noticed things. I noticed how fresh the air was after a rain, the pine smell of a damp forest, how beautiful it was to listen to the birds sing farewell to another day. I would feel peace and contentment. I would also miss this if I let it lapse. Reasons why I missed didn't matter, I still missed it and I would long to experience that again. You see, life will pull you away, but love will bring you back.

As I got more fit, walking was not enough. I bought a mountain bike and then the affair with fitness really heated up. I was well over 300 pounds at this time still but life just got more exciting. The woods and the beauty therein was awesome. I was feeling more like a little kid, exploring, wanting to make it over the next hill. Life was no longer just drudging along from one shift to the next, was no longer being measured by empty energy drink cans. Life had some spice, some speed, some fun. A funny thing happened. As I became more active, my weight started to slowly fall. Funny, all I was doing was having fun. I mean after all, dieting sucks, but this.... this is fun :)

I began reading mountain bike magazines, I gobbled up what I could about my new passion. Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery and this was no different. I wanted to experience what THOSE guys experienced, the fun, the awesome rides, the coolness of it all. Most of all I wanted to LOOK like those dudes. That was about the time I started in with a personal trainer. I also started jogging. I remember when I was in the military, I would go for a (infrequently mind you) jog and how awesome it felt. As inconsistent as I was, I remember how it FELT and wanted that again. That was when my trainer suggested I try a local road race.

Several months later, I crossed the finish line of my first race, a 10k (6.2 miles). With that finishers ribbon in my pocket, I was 10 foot tall. I had done something I had never done before, even when my weight was not a problem. With each race I would feel alive, in the moment, and most of all, I was a champion. The affirmation, empowerment, and self-confidence I gained from finishing something that I trained for is a feeling that I never got from stuffing myself while watching a movie. This was real and I wanted more. Once you taste personal victory, everything else becomes a cheap substitute.

Up to this point, you will notice the absence of the word diet, or restriction, or calories. The first step of my success was that I became emotionally connected to exercise in one form or another. I was more into what it did for me and how it made me feel. Most of all, I was growing as a man and I liked what I was becoming. I had gotten into living life not dieting. As I became more intense about what I was doing, my nutrition had taken on new purpose. I now had a reason. I call it purpose driven fitness. Everything I was doing revolved around being a better runner, cyclist or swimmer because I LOVED what I was doing and wanted to get better at it. That involves honing my nutrition. When you start crafting your approach that way, the pounds will follow. It is a far cry from restricting myself because I hate how I look or feel. I do what I do because if I want more of the thrill that personal victory brings, I need to bring my "A" game and I can't do that if I am constantly making the wrong choices.

Now it comes down to choices. Eighty percent of the time, I am wooed by the memories, the thumping of music at the finish line, the thrill of doing something epic. The other twenty... "Yes, I'll take fries with that"... and I'm perfectly ok with it, hey, I'm still human.

What makes me successful? I train and eat with purpose. I love being out there, I love living life. As a result, the side benefit is that fitness also translates into my everyday life. What ever your activity of choice is, excel at it. Feel it as you are out there whether it is cycling, hiking, running, swimming or whatever, find your passion. When I (often) stray, passion calls me back. Having something or some event to shoot for gives far more meaning to a workout than doing it just because you have to or worse yet, because you are unhappy with who you are.

Through this process I have learned that when I take care of myself first. I have spent so much of my adult life like a worker bee, laying down all of my life’s energy for the collective good that I wound up on the bottom with nothing left. Experience your best life now. Find your passion, what makes you feel alive, and go for it. When you do so, you will find that you are far more able to give. You only have one shot in life, make it count.

Look at the race results of a major marathon or triathlon. I have noticed that, over the last several years, the lists of 60-70yr+ old age group finishers are GROWING.... Maybe my name will be there one day. What better goal to strive for? I'll take that over the certainty of an oxygen tank, a needle, or pining away in a nursing home somewhere if I neglect my health. When the excitement of the race is over, the rush, the thrill of accomplishment is past, the quiet chirping of birds still awaits.

The simple enjoyment of being alive, the warmth of the sun on my face as I jog a quiet forest trail, or unwinding from a stressful day on my bike is all there to greet me every day. It is the simple pleasures of just being out there that got me in, they are also the things that get me to stay. I love this new life that I now live.

I challenge you to get out there and see what I mean.
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