My family moved from Arizona to the Denver area a couple of years ago. We were energized by the beautiful weather and beautiful mountains and took advantage of the paved trail near our house. My wife, Anita, and I would take our son out and go for walks almost every evening. Because of the elevation here, we had to get used to living with a little less oxygen in the air and walking was part of that.
As our first summer on Colorado’s front range was coming to and end, we knew that our frequent walks along the trail were coming to an end. We talked about buying a treadmill and turning one of the rooms in our basement into a little workout room so we could continue walking during the winter months. After some research, we decided on a Horizon GS950T and made the purchase.
Anita used to take a kickboxing class when we lived in Kansas, and her heavy bag was gathering dust in the garage. We hung it up in our new workout room along with the treadmill and a crappy old exercise bike we had gotten for free. I moved a shelf into the room to store shoes, towels and boxing gloves on and we were set. We used the treadmill very often at first, and less over time. It never became a coat-rack, but it would often go a week without use.
During that winter I started getting really depressed. Although I have never been diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) I’m clearly prone to it. In addition to the mental depression, I just didn’t feel physically well. My weight was right around 270 and there was a dark cloud hanging over me.
Sick And Tired
Because I was “sick and tired of feeling sick and tired”, I started to examine the state of my body and my mind. Over years of slowly gaining weight, I’d grown accustomed to seeing a fat man in the mirror. Actually, I was in the habit of not looking at myself because I didn’t like what I was seeing.
In our bathroom, the entry to our walk-in closet is a floor to ceiling mirror. One day after I stepped out of the shower I toweled off and then really looked at myself. It wasn’t easy to do. I was fat. I was heading toward obesity and it was making me sick. I had high blood pressure, frequent headaches, acid reflux and back pain. There was no question that it was time to either do something about it or end up having a heart attack or a stroke.
Emotionally and mentally I was in pretty bad shape too. I was feeling anger at myself for allowing my health to deteriorate so far. There was a lot of anger and resentment left over from some supposed friends screwing me over in a business deal. At the time I was following politics pretty closely and allowing that to stress me out and bring more anger into my mind. And then dealing with my special-needs son was stressing me out too.
Toward the end of March I started mentally coaching myself and getting psyched up to start working out. More than ten years of bad habits were pulling me in the wrong direction, and I had to forcefully push aside unproductive thoughts and laziness and get ready for a change.
My mindset was that going into April I would be putting myself through a military style boot camp. It was to be four weeks of mercilessly keeping at it and working through any pain or thoughts of quitting. Every day I’d been doing 30-40 minutes of walking and running and my legs were starting to hurt like hell. Plus I was getting sick.
After fifteen straight days of working on the treadmill I had to take a day off. The following couple of days I walked and ran while I was sick and then I just couldn’t do it any more. The treadmill alone wasn’t going to cut it for me, and the exercise bike we had was such a piece of crap that I couldn’t use it without banging my knees on the handles constantly.
Finally I joined a gym so I could have access to weights and other cardio machines. After going a couple of times I got tired of having to stand and wait my turn to use the machines and cancelled my membership.
At the end of the month, despite losing 25 pounds I felt like I’d failed. It was about about another week before the exercising stopped and I was back to my old ways.
During the summer I tried a couple of times to get back to it, but my heart wasn’t in it. The drive to get healthy was still there, but after putting myself through hell for a month I wasn’t anxious to repeat the experience.
When summer ended and it started to get cold, I could feel my seasonal depression coming back. My eating got out of control and I wasn’t working out at all. I still hadn’t dealt with the black cloud hanging over me either. By the end of the year I’d gained back ten of the pounds I’d lost.
The New Plan
My previous fitness plan was horribly flawed, but it had gotten me off my ass and I’d learned a few things that worked as well as a few things that didn’t work. For my new plan, I threw out the things that hadn’t worked and added some new ideas to the mix.
We replaced our junky old exercise bike with a Horizon RC-30 and purchased a weight bench. Instead of being limited to the treadmill, I would now have options.
What I needed was a strict, but not draconian exercise and diet regimen. It had to be structured enough for me to stick with it, but have enough variety that I wouldn’t get sick of it.
I try to be in bed by 9 o’clock every night and asleep by 10 so I can be up and rested at 5 o’clock to work out. Getting enough sleep makes a difference, and it had been something I was not particularly good at. Every morning I get up, use the bathroom, weigh myself and then write it down on the calendar in our little gym.
My workout requirements are this: do something every day for at least 30 minutes. Depending on what I feel like, I can lift weights, ride the bike, run or even just walk. Yesterday I ran for 30 minutes and walked for 20, which was a new record for me, so today I gave myself a break and just did a brisk 30 minute walk. It wasn’t a strenuous workout, but it met my personal requirement of “something”.
As of today, I’ve done a workout 30 days in a row. Not only do I feel fantastic, I have no desire to stop. Sometimes I’ll even take a walk on the treadmill in the evening as a relaxed secondary workout.
Being physically active is starting to be fun again, and that’s a big deal for me. When I reach my weight goal, I plan to reward myself by buying a bicycle and starting to ride again.
Better Eating Habits
When I began working out again on January 1st, I also changed my eating patterns and habits. My current daily eating schedule includes three meals and three scheduled snacks. I eat six times a day, and I’m never hungry. At the beginning of the month I sat down and wrote out a list of foods that I would allow myself to eat for breakfast and lunch. Then I made up a ton of snack bags for my snack times.
At breakfast or lunch time, there’s no question about what I’ll be eating. I just pull up my list and pick something that looks good and then I have that. Everything on the list is a food I like so I never feel like I’m sacrificing or suffering. Also, my diet doesn’t exclude anything other than soda pop, which is really just water with a lot of salt and sugar in it. Rather than thinking of the way I’m eating as a short term thing to help me reach a certain goal, I’m thinking of it as a new set of habits for life-long health.
My snack bags are things like unsalted cashews or almonds, ‘Nilla Wafers, pretzels, graham crackers, triscuit crackers, rice crackers, flavored mini rice cakes and goldfish crackers. Again, these are all things that I like. I’ve just pre-measured out the servings so I don’t eat too much.
Mental and Emotional Habits
The new thing I’ve added to my plan is harder to nail down. Eliminating political news from my daily life has helped improve my mood considerably and I rarely even look at the news in general. It’s depressing.
Another thing that has helped improve my mental state has been reaching out to a few people who I felt anger or animosity for, apologizing for my part of whatever conflict we have, and just letting the rest of it go. Abraham Lincoln said, “The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend” and I’m doing my best to practice that. This is an ongoing process, but it does feel good to forgive someone who has done you wrong.
I’ve made an effort to read more, just for pleasure. It’s a nice escape and generally elevates my mood.
What I’ve Accomplished
In just ten months, I’ve changed my weight from 266 down to 231. This months alone, I’ve dropped nearly twenty pounds. I’m proud of myself and yeah, I’m bragging.
Not only do I feel better now that I’m not carrying around an extra 35 pounds, I also look better and have more energy. Plus, when I look at myself in the mirror, which I now make a point of doing every day, I feel good about what I see. I’ve got another thirty-one pounds to lose, but I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished so far.
My new eating habits are starting to become second nature. I do think about what I’m eating a lot, and I am keeping a food journal to track what I eat, but I can see that eventually these new habits will become such a part of my life that I won’t have to think about them.
The plan that I’m on isn’t perfect. Maybe the perfect plan doesn’t exist and that’s fine.
In February, I’m planning to continue increasing the intensity of my workouts. Along with that, I will be adding a special 5am “pre-workout” snack. From five to six I’m going to make a specific point of meditating for 30 minutes, then stretching before hitting the gym at 6.
My weight loss goal moving forward is a pound a week. Currently I’m losing 3-4 pounds a week, but I know that’s probably not going to be sustainable. If it continues that would be fantastic, but realistically I don’t expect it.
Writing on the blog five times a week wasn’t working either. I’m adjusting that goal to at least once or twice a week. Talking about what I’m doing is important to help keep me motivated, but trying to write every day was becoming too tiresome and repetitive.
What I’ve accomplished, anyone can do. In fact, most people can probably do it faster and better than I have. I’m not a health expert or a dietician and I don’t have any special insight into all of this. Anybody who wants to lose weight, eat better or brighten their mood can do it. All it takes is admitting that it needs to be done and then getting off your ass and doing something, anything, and then adjusting the plan when you realize you’ve screwed up part of it.
There are a hundred excuses for why you can’t do something, and if you focus on them, talk about them, think about them and believe them then you’ll never get past them. I did that for years. Only when I finally made a rude gesture at all those bad thoughts and habits did I start improving my life.
So how did I turn the corner and lose 35 pounds? By being honest with myself and then getting off my butt and doing something about it.
If I can do this, you can too. You and I, we can do anything.
Comments are open. Hit me with your thoughts, suggestions and questions.