There is no greater feeling for the person who has been losing weight than to meet up with someone you’ve not seen for a while and look at the shock upon their face as they look at your new, slimmer body. I’m still on my journey and I’m still losing weight, but I’ve lost over 90 pounds in 7 months and that has led everyone I know to ask me how to lose weight.
In July of 2010 I began my weight loss journey. I’m a 6 foot tall male and I started off at 368 pounds. Truthfully, I’m not sure if that is accurate or not, because when you weigh so much you don’t tend to step on the scales very often to be reminded of how fat you are. But that is what I last remember I weighed so I just go with it. I was miserable. It was difficult doing simple tasks like tying my shoes or walking up stairs. Worse, when my nephew would come over and ask me to take him to the playground, I would tell him no because I didn’t have the energy. Even worse than that was the dreaded restaurant visit. I was so fat that I was unable to fit in most booths. Imagine my embarrassment when going out with a girl I liked and we had to wait an extra ten minutes for a table to open because I didn’t want to see her trying to squeeze my belly in a booth.
For years I was like this, living in misery but also living in denial. I looked in the mirror and I didn’t really see a fat person. I knew I was fat, of course, but I had convinced myself that it wasn’t that bad, that I was “pleasantly plump.” I always knew that was a lie, though, because when I looked at pictures of myself I could see how big I really was compared to the people next to me. I knew I needed to lose weight, but I didn’t know how to lose weight.
I needed an epiphany. I figured I would wake up one morning and say, “enough is enough” and I’d start living a healthy lifestyle. I waited for this epiphany for years. It never happened. For me it wasn’t a single moment that led me to start losing weight. It wasn’t about waking up and somehow being a completely different person. Rather, it was a snowball effect, and the snowball began rolling with a simple walk.
My neighbour came over one day and said she needed to lose weight and asked if I had any weight loss tips. I told her that I did not, but how about we just go for a walk and see how it goes? We grabbed our dogs, my black lab retriever and her great dane, and we walked about a mile around the neighbourhood. It only took about 20 minutes, but that walk changed my life. I was energized. It felt great, getting out in the sunshine and moving my poor neglected muscles. The fresh air was invigorating, the landscape was beautiful, the neighbours would wave – the world is an amazing place and you don’t get to experience such simple pleasures when you are overweight and confine yourself to sitting on the couch.
So the next day, a Tuesday, we went for another walk. This time we passed by the base of a long, steep hill. “We need to walk up that hill someday if we’re serious about losing weight,” I told my neighbour, thinking that we could probably try to walk it in another few months. To my great surprise came her reply, “how about we do it on Sunday?” I should have kept my big mouth shut.
I knew it was going to hurt. This is a hill that a famous local athlete would run up and down to train for the Olympic marathon trials. But I’m a competitive person and I have that stupid male chromosome that makes it impossible for me to back down from a challenge, especially when it’s a woman who makes that challenge. We started off on the long ascent up the hill and I was waiting for the soreness to happen. Soon I would surely have shin splints or blisters or muscle cramps. I kept walking and kept feeling great. We got to the truly steep part of the hill and we stopped before we would make our ascent. This was serious business and we were treating it like we were climbing Mount Everest. After a brief rest we began our climb and I discovered the true enemy of weight loss – my own thoughts.
“You can’t do it. You should turn around now, you’ve gone far enough. You’re starting to feel sore, that’s a sign that something is wrong, so go ahead and turn around.” My mind was torturing me, begging me to quit. As Newton’s Law says, a body at rest tends to stay at rest, and I discovered that if I was going to become a healthy person I would have to fight against my own self and break out of my comfort zone. I kept pushing up the hill and I won’t lie, it hurt. My muscles ached, my feet were sore and I was dripping with sweat, but we made it. There was no better feeling in the world at that moment. It may have just been the endorphin high I was feeling, but I was elated and knew that I would want to feel this rush again and again.
Over the next few weeks I would climb that hill again and again, each time fighting against the voices in my head telling me to stop. Eventually those voices grew quieter and quieter. There’s no use telling myself I can’t do it when I had already done it so many times, after all. I also learned that chanting a mantra helps put your mind at ease. It can be as simple as telling yourself over and over, “you can do it” or, for me, I found that playing the Rocky theme song in my head helped me push through the pain. After a while my walking partner dropped out and quit exercising, but I continued on, with the help of my high energy dog, of course.
So there I was addicted to exercise, but there was something missing: what’s the point of exercise if I’m still eating the same thing? If I’m going to walk up that hill, there’s no way I can continue eating all that pizza I had been eating. I began eating healthier not because I wanted to go on a diet, but because I wanted to feel better on my walks. I looked around for an easy weight loss diet, but discovered that the best diet is the one that made me feel good while exercising. Like with my exercise, I started very slowly with my diet. At first I simply gave up soda pop. After a couple weeks I wanted to do more, so I gave up pizza. The next week I gave up ice cream. I began to eat more fruits and vegetables and fish. Losing weight is not rocket science, after all. We all know that eating broccoli is good for you and that eating cookies is not. I made the simple changes in my life and I’ve been losing about 3 pounds per week since.
I am now able to comfortably fit in restaurant booths. I’ve put my fat clothes in storage and will soon no longer have to shop at the big and tall stores. I have even started a running program. I feel amazing and there’s no stopping this snowball. So now when I go out and people ask me the inevitable questions about how to lose weight and weight loss tips, I give them all the same answer: just start out with a simple walk.