It was 6:00 on a Thursday. I had finally arrived at my house after just failing one of the most difficult tests imaginable. Luckily, a delicious looking dinner was patiently waiting for me on the kitchen counter. It was time to load my plate; topping it with a juicy burger accompanied by layers of delicious, creamy mac and cheese and a large cup of coke. And man, did it taste phenomenal. Phenomenal enough to drown all my worries… at least until my plate was empty.
Sound familiar? This was an issue I went through regularly just a few years ago. It was a time in my life I can now say I was unhappy. I was immensely overweight, lacking self-confidence, drive, and motivation that held me back from… everything. My weight was literally weighing me down both physically and mentally. So I made a change.
Do not get me wrong; I failed more times than I can count. It took time before I reached the point to where I can confidently say I succeeded. Heck, to this day I have days I still feel like I let myself down. But there is a big difference to my failures now and my failures from the past. By going through multiple breakdowns, I have come to realize it is more than possible to get right back up and stand on my two feet again.
I have always wanted to share my journey; my struggles, background, and my process to becoming a happier and healthier person. It is my hope that sharing my story will motivate at least one person to take that very familiar and difficult first step. So here it goes…
Growing up, I was always a high-energy and athletic kid. There was nothing more than I loved than being outside biking or running around. Even as a kid, I always had this intense passion for the challenge and competition. Competitive sports fueled this passion. This was unquestionably my saving grace. It kept off the weight.
Eventually, my love for competition and challenge eventually led me to a completely new and rising avenue. Something that started with my generation and has risen to popularity: video gaming. Unfortunately, video gaming doesn’t quite have the health benefits that sports provide. While I did perform countless mouse clicks and keyboard strokes, it did not exactly equate to burning calories.
From active to sedentary; my weight skyrocketed… rapidly. My waist continued to expand and eventually reached the point to where strange marks began appearing around my midsection. Later I discovered these marks will stay and haunt me forever. Looking back now, it really was just simple science; the calories were coming in rapidly while not coming out. But as a kid, how was I supposed to know any better?
Needless to say, I grew up eating unhealthy snacks and meals; a problem that still challenges me today. I still have that continuous craving for my favorite childhood snacks every time I walk by the oh-so-tempting cookie and dessert isles in the grocery store. Those ooey and gooey Cosmic Brownies, frozen Swiss Cake Rolls, and slightly warmed Honey Buns. If I could realistically eat nothing but these delicious treats without consequences, I would be a very happy man.
I have a deep deep love for food. To this very day I can still vividly remember my staple meals growing up – Hamburgers with gravy and mash potatoes, Chicken Parmesan paired with angel hair pasta, barbecue chicken and wild rice, and my all time favorite: homemade pizza roll. Sounds super healthy, right? …Right. Well this wasn’t even the worst of it. I could go on and on about the frequent trips to fast food chains, frozen meals that were stockpiled in our freezer, and junk food we had layering our pantry shelves. But I’ll spare you from any more of my endless rambling.
My poor diet continued all the way to my college years. The numbers on the scale continued to go up while my confidence levels continued to go down. At the young age of 22, I eventually reached an all-time high of 255 lbs. during my junior year in college. Keep in mind I am also pretty short for a male standing at just about 5’8”. So my weight at the time easily put me at an obese BMI range.
If you’ve never been extremely overweight, let me tell you something. It. Is. Not. Fun. Let me reiterate. It sucks! There are few things worse than carrying around a hundred extra pounds. I will never forget the embarrassing feeling of sweat dripping down my forehead from a five minute walk to my next class, the uncomfortable feeling of barely being able to fit in my classroom chair, and the disgust I felt looking at the person reflected in the mirror. Avoiding the mirror became a staple part of my life.
I have to admit that my weight was not the only thing holding me back in life, but it was definitely the biggest factor. I have a natural shyness. Even to this day I can still come off as a little too aloof. So coming out of my comfort zone has never been an easy task. And it is especially not easy when you are not comfortable in your own skin.
At a prime age of my life, I had yet to have a serious girlfriend. How could I care for someone when I didn’t even like who I was? I hated myself for thinking this. But I knew it was the truth.
Friends? Yeah I had a couple. A couple that I was never especially close too. I was the type of student that would go to class, listen to the lecture, and leave the campus immediately. Sure, if a classmate initiated a conversation, I would be friendly and sociable. And I sincerely wanted to talk with students my own age. But I never made myself particularly approachable and would absolutely no-way, no-how step outside my invisible comfort bubble.
Graduation was also nearing. It was my junior year and I had come to realization I would soon have to enter a magical realm called ‘the real world.’ No more living on the internet, mooching off my dad, and avoiding people at all cost. It was soon a time where I would have to sell myself to advance my career. I remember repeatedly asking myself if I would I really be able to do that with my current level of self-confidence? My response was always the same: doubtful. Sure I might be getting a really nice engineering degree when I graduate, but I knew that a degree could only take me so far.
So I knew it was time to make a change. I knew I had to make a change.
Remember that Thursday night I mentioned in the beginning of this post? I do. It was May 7, 2012. A day I will never forget. It was the day I decided to begin my journey. I am still not sure to this day what triggered my decision, but I’m glad I did. It was this decision that would change my life for the better.
Unlike every other time I started a diet, this time was a little different. I decided to take it slow. I started by spending my first couple of weeks doing nothing but research. I spent hours every day reading article upon article about fad diets, magical weight loss pills, and other nonsense that too many of us fall for – myself included. Eventually, I ran into an article that brilliantly cleared everything up for me, an article I discovered on none other than a forum – Bodybuilding.com.
This article was one of many resources that potentially saved my life. It was literally a “Dummies” guide for losing weight the right way. I learned about calories in vs. calories out, how the body uses a certain amount of energy every day regardless of activity level, and how to calculate that number. I am not going to go into details on how this works being as that is not the nature of this blog post, but I most certainly will help guide anyone in the right direction if you’d like to reach out to me.
I will say with full certainty that knowledge is power when it comes to long term weight loss. When you truly understand how the body uses the energy provided by food, it makes everything so much clearer. I knew why I was eating what I was eating and why I should make an effort to exercise, which I’ll get into later. I did not start out by weighing your food and perfectly counting all your calories, which definitely wouldn’t have hurt, but I did make sure to have a general idea of the amount calories I was consuming. This knowledge was eye-opening.
I just could not believe two chocolate chip cookies at Subway were more calories than my loaded 6-inch sub!
I knew taking control of my diet was the next step in my journey. I needed to eat less processed food and start cooking my own meals. But I didn’t know where to begin. I was a young college student that had no clue how to cook even a simple chicken breast. So I went on one of the greatest free resources out there and learned how to cook healthy meals – Youtube.
I started my cooking adventure learning tips and tricks from a fairly popular YouTube channel called Michael Kory. This guy was around my age and did an amazing job explaining how to cook simple, healthy meals. The videos were made by a college student for a college student. It was perfect. I learned how to make healthy pizza, lean buffalo burgers, and make some pretty amazing chicken quesadillas. When I started to get bored with my meals, I simply went back on Youtube and watched more healthy recipe videos.
My daily meals no longer consisted of starchy pasta, fatty frozen foods, or high-caloric sauces. I replaced them with fiber-rich carbohydrates, lean proteins, and much healthier condiments. Keep in mind; I do still splurge on a cheat meal here and there. I also let myself have something sweet daily. Having a balance of healthy and comfort food is an absolute necessity to succeed. I binged more times than I can count during my journey because I started out by limiting myself too much. Yes, that is possible and it’s an issue a lot of people fall for. After multiple binge cycles, I self-reflected and realized is important to have good relationship with food.
I started letting myself have a snack every once in a while. When I was craving an ice cream cone, candy bar, or cookies, I let myself have some. I understood that those calories were not the end of the world. I knew if I continued to deprive myself for too long, that single ice cream cone will turn to a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and those handful of chips will turn into an entire bag of chips. I have been there more times than I can recount, and it has been by far my biggest mistake during my journey. One of my binge sessions easily set me back more than a week.
I knew that exercise was not a required element for weight loss; however, the effects of cardio on the body are truly something special. If I was going to make a change, I needed to attack more than just my diet. So I began doing cardio slowly. I started by taking a short thirty minute walk at a manageable pace. I quickly noted that by doing cardio, my mentality was changing. It was helping me stay on track. If I was going to spend the time to work out, I sure as hell was not going to gorge myself on a ton of junk food to ruin that effort. It was a win-win situation.
As months passed, my workout began to slowly intensify. I will never go as far as calling myself a runner; just based on the fact that I hate running to this day. But I was noticeably picking up the pace and raising the incline. There was nothing better than that feeling of knowing I was continuously making progress. But I had a problem. Cardio was all I was making progress in. I left out an important piece of the puzzle, arguably the most important piece. One that was required to reach my end goal.
Resistance training; The benefits of doing strength training had never even crossed my mind because I was so focused on dropping the pounds. So while I was losing fat, I was also losing all of my muscle mass. I was definitely in a much healthier place in my life. But, aesthetically, being skinny fat did not make me look much better than when I was fat.
I was in a complete rut. I continued to reach all these weight loss accomplishments I never would have imagined I’d be able to attain. My initial goal of reaching 180 lbs., turned into a goal of reaching 150 lbs. My goal of 150 lbs. changed to a goal of 140 lbs. So why was it that while I was almost at my goal, I still hated how I looked in the mirror?
I was definitely skinny for my height. So much so that everyone around me would consistently tell me I need to stop losing weight. But all I could see was flab and I wanted it gone. The problem was, I had no muscle definition. So I went back to my initial step and began reading up on beginner weight training programs. I read in detail about the famous 5×5 beginner program as well as a few other well thought-out plans. After I was confident to take the leap, I finally signed up to a nearby gym and was ready to begin my new routine.
I was both excited and intimidated to try something new. I could not believe how little muscle mass I actually had until I actually began lifting weights. I used to lift weights when I was overweight and during that time, 15 lb. dumbbells were never even on my radar. So I was a little upset when they were giving me such a difficult time. But I knew like everyone else, I had to start somewhere.
I tried to forget about all the buff dudes carrying around gigantic fifty pound dumbbells in each hand. Chances are they have been training their bodies for years, and here I was just starting out. So I turned a common negative into a positive. I used my misplaced embarrassment as a way to motivate myself; knowing that one day I will be able to graduate to that intimidating rack full of the heavier weights. I knew if I remained consistent and worked hard, the results would follow.
My strength slowly but surely continued to improve. I felt a huge since of accomplishment every time I added additional weight to my lifts. Those 15 lb dumbbells quickly became 20 lb and 20 lbs eventually became 30 lbs. This progression continued until one glorious day when I finally did it. I had graduated to the heavy rack. I felt such a sense of triumph when I was able to do my usual reps with 40 lb weights. But I did not want it to stop there. Lifting was now integrated into my life, and I will continue to strive to better myself.
… And the struggle continues.Save