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From fat to less fat (a journey)


Since college, I've been a pretty large guy. I'm relatively tall (almost 6' 1"), and once college was over, and the regular job thing kicked in, I started putting on weight. It didn't all happen overnight, but eating poorly and a general lack of exercise made sure that I was gaining consistently.

I like clothes, shoes, style. My style is odd, but there are definitely things I dig. However, earlier this summer I was beginning to notice that my 2XL t-shirts wouldn't really fit after they were washed. Things I had bought a few months ago were too tight for me to wear. I had actually started wondering if I should wear 3XL size shirts. Besides having this major blow to my ego, I felt sickly all the time. Even walking around felt painful. I would take naps after work so that I could have energy to finish up the day. I was a fucking mess.

A big part of it, as I look back, was how we are fed in America. At this time, my wife, kid, and I would eat out a bit. When you go out, instead of them serving you what is a serving, they would serve you some monstrosity of a portion, to make sure you are getting value. A proper serving of a hamburger (no bun or anything), is around 3 ounces, which is approx. 213 calories. When the hell was the last time I ate a 3 ounce hamburger?

One Tuesday in June, I couldn't sleep. I felt disgusting, as well as disgusted with myself. I felt frustrated sitting at work with all these active people, who could go out at lunch, play soccer, ultimate frisbee, or go bouldering, and then come back and work the rest of the day, totally fine. I found getting out of bed to be the most strenuous thing I did. I couldn't keep up with my amazing son, who is high energy all the time. I had had it. I hated myself, and knew it was all my fault.

That night, as I lay in bed, feeling like a beached whale, I decided to make a change. I went downstairs to my office, plugged in my Jawbone Up that I had bought the previous autumn ("to get fit", though I hardly used it), and downloaded the C25K app. By this time it was about midnight. I could barely sleep because I felt excited that I was going to change my life.

The next morning, I woke up at 5am (so less than 5 hours sleep), put on a pair of sneakers, some music, and started the first day of the C25K app. I wanted to die by the end of it. 60 seconds of running with 90 seconds of walking for 20 minutes? This torture was the worst thing ever, I'd never be able to keep it up. I hadn't really ran since high school, and badly at that. How was I going to do this now at 37? Somehow, I got through it (though I think I walked extra than the app told me). Amazingly, when I drug my ass into the shower after I didn't feel horrible. I went to work, and think I crashed around 8pm that night.

I did this for a couple weeks or so. On July 12, I decided to get on the scale in our bathroom. (I never used scales.) I was fucking huge! 272.3! I thought I'd be around 240 or 250. Not that far on the way to morbid obesity. I was totally fucking crushed. (In hindsight, I wish that I had weighed myself at the beginning of this whole thing, I really wonder how bad I was from the get go.) On that day, a few more things changed.

  1. I started keeping a detailed log of everything I ate. (I switched from Jawbone to Fitbit. I like the community features, and Fitbit doesn't end of life their devices as quickly as Jawbone).
  2. Not eat like shit. This basically means cut down on my portion sizes.
  3. In addition to the C25K app 3 days a week, the other 4 I would get up and make sure to at least walk in the morning.
  4. No fucking excuses.

I wound up getting a lot of pain in my left knee after a few weeks of running. Even though it hurt for a few weeks, I pushed through it and kept exercising. The me from before starting this would have stopped the whole kibosh on that. I saw my doctor about it, and he was super helpful. He said the pain was from a lack of flexibility (makes sense), and trying to effectively force a lot of body mass on my knees when I ran. He showed me some stretches, and had me use a bike for a week instead of running. No pain since! He also said to max out my caloric intake around 1800 calories per day.

Around this time, I started getting pretty serious. I joined a gym, as the impact was less on my knee than running on concrete. I made sure that each day I didn't eat more than 1800 calories, and the food I was putting into my body was as natural as possible. I didn't care about carbs, or gluten, or any of the fad crap. What I did care about was making sure I wasn't filling my body with a bunch of excess sugar, especially high fructose corn syrup. I went through the kitchen cabinets, and tossed a trash bag and a half worth of snack foods, candy, cookies, and other garbage. I also eliminated caffeine in my diet entirely. (Getting my wisdom teeth out, and being in pain already made this process very easy.)

So all of this change happened in a pretty quick amount of time. Instead of focusing on video games, or other geeky pursuits, I have poured my spare time into working on my physical well being. The satisfaction I get from doing this, and having people tell me I'm looking skinny (skinnier, I'm still big), and being able to wear clothes that I couldn't fit into a year ago is huge. Being able to try new things, such as bouldering, or being able to keep up with my kid while we are running around is a wonderful feeling.

In a list, here is what I do every week.

  • Get up at 5:15am.
  • Monday, Wednesday, Friday. Go to the gym. Run for 30+ minutes. (Still using the C25K app, just finished up week 5.) Then do weight training for another half hour/40 minutes.
  • Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday. I go to this lake nearby and walk 2.5 miles. I try to keep the walks so that I'm walking a mile in under 16 minutes.
  • Every day, I make sure that I move at least 5 miles. (I used to care about steps, but now my focus is on moving 5 miles a day, not on steps.)
  • I eat 3 meals a day. Cereal in the morning (all natural with 2% milk. I hate skim!). A lunch and dinner that is low calorie, but tastes good. I eat pretty much whatever I want, but I follow serving sizes pretty strict. A kitchen scale and measuring cups are used with every meal. If I go out, I estimate as best I can, and tend to put things on the higher calorie side.
  • Keep all that food around 1800 calories (I keep to this almost every day. 1800 calories is a lot of food if you do it right. While I was on vacation 2 weeks ago I strayed one day, but was okay with that.)
  • If I want a snack, it's fruit, or some kind of protein bar.
  • Drink at least 64 ounces of water a day. My average right now is 84 ounces.

Since July 12, what has all of this added difficulty gotten me? While before I was 272.3 pounds, I'm down to 241.5 pounds, and have lost almost 10% body fat. Over 30 pounds in less than 2 months, and I'm not starving myself. 2XL shirts (depending on who makes them) are starting to look big on me, and I'm going to have to replace them with 1XL shirts. I can run for 20 minutes without having to walk or stop. I have more energy every single day, and get really bored just sitting (though by 9:30pm I'm pretty fried and need to sleep). I don't feel like I'm constantly sick, and wake up every morning pretty energetic (though 5:15am is still 5:15am).

My ultimate goal is to be down to 160 pounds, give or take. This goal I'm splitting into 2 stages. Get to 200 pounds first. Once that is accomplished, get to 160.

Other goals: I want to have a flat stomach, with definition. I want to be able to do more physical things outdoors, and be able to keep up with other people, if not excel. I want to be able to wear styles of clothes that are not made for larger people. I want to look at myself in the mirror and not feel grossed out.

The funny thing is while I've been doing all this, it doesn't seem like a lot. I think because it all happened in stages over a period of weeks. I didn't switch all of it in one day. If I had I would have failed already. If I tried some diet fad bullshit I would have failed. I need to rethink my relationships, the one with my body, the one with food. I had to unlearn a lot of bad habits I gained about eating (it is okay to not finish what is on your plate if you are full, eat slower, one serving is enough for anyone, listen to your stomach when it says you are full). My wife says I make this look easy. I don't think it's easy. I think it's the only thing I'm focusing on besides working and my family. I really can't focus on multiple things and succeed, but this one is a priority, since it effects everything else I do. I think it's worthwhile.

I hope in a few months I'll be able to revisit this and talk about how I'm down to 200. No, I don't hope. I'm planning on it.