As you can see from the picture, I have made quite a few changes over the past 6 years. This article is not to pat myself on the back, but rather lay out a basic frame work of what I did, how I did it, and how others can change their lives by changing their habits, because it really is that simple.
About 7 years ago I was in the worst shape of my life. At 6’2” tall I was weighing in at about 250lbs and 30% or more body fat percentage. I was smoking 2 packs of cigarettes a day, eating McDonalds for breakfast, random fast food for lunch, and everything I could get my hands on for dinner. While writing this I started to think about my old breakfast, a number 10 (steak bagel sandwich) with the hash brown, 2 breakfast burritos and a Dr. Pepper. That is how I started every day!
Because I was an athlete in my younger years I was completely offended when a doctor (at my first yearly check up in YEARS) told me that I was obese. Other than that I seemed to be healthy, but that comment stung and stung hard. Not hard enough immediately however because I continued living the same way for a while longer. It wasn’t until I moved half way across New York that I started to actually change anything.
My move to Syracuse was what really got me going. A lot of things changed very rapidly. The place I lived (obviously), a new job, a falling out with an entire group of people that I came to love, and really a bit of boredom in my new home. I decided that I was going to start by quitting smoking.
I didn’t want to be that guy that quit smoking and gained a bunch of weight. The doctors horrible diagnosis of being obese still rang in my ears and I did not want to add to that problem so I also decided to take up running. I should point out that when I say running I really mean “running”. It took me over a month to be able to run 1 mile without stopping. I would run as far as I could then I would walk. I repeated this process every night until I hit my goal of running 1 mile, then I started pushing for 2. I had always wanted to run a 5k so that was what I thought my end goal was.
*** For those that are just starting out, a couch to 5k program is a great way to get started and ease you into things***
By the time I finally hit my 5k distance I had discovered a discouraging injury. I had planter factitious in my right heel and it quickly became debilitating. This was probably due to the fact that I ignored it for months because I did not want to stop my momentum. It didn’t matter too much at this point however, I had quit smoking and was down about 30lbs in a matter of months and was feeling good! I knew I couldn’t run for a while so I began to research how to properly weight lift.
Throughout my running and lifting journey, I was embarrassed. I thought that these trainers at gyms would look down on me, make fun of me behind my back, and that I would never be able to achieve the things they did. This hurt me more than I can describe. If I would have worked with someone at either of these points in my journey I probably would have avoided a few injuries and sped up the timeline a little, but with my loaner mentality coupled with my embarrassment I just went at it alone, but I read A LOT of books, articles, and blog posts to go at it the best that I could.
Once I found a weight lifting program that made sense to me I started going to the gym 5 or 6 days a week and really started pushing myself. I started modeling my weight lifting habits on those that were body builders, even though I really did not want to be a body builder. I learned what a compound lift was, what lifts hit each muscle group, and how to properly alternate the muscle groups throughout the week. After about a total of a year I was down about 40lbs total (210 range) and I was feeling more athletic than I had in years.
Now I would love to tell you that it was all training, and that is all I had to do to cut some weight, but that is not the case. I needed to change the way I was eating daily, which sounds obvious. I was fortunate that ANY change to my diet at the time was a healthier move, but again I started researching ways to go about this. Realistically I should have been seeking help for this, but this is all hindsight.
I went through a variety of different phases during this time. High protein and low carb, calorie counting, macro counting, fasting, and so many other variations that my head and body where spinning. Finally, through lots of reading and “experiments” with diets I learned that food is not bad! It is just the types of foods that can be bad and I needed to learn to stay away from them. Today, and for quite some time now, I am just mindful of what I eat. I eat a lot more natural foods, watch my portions and try not to obsess too much about them. I want to be comfortable and healthy, not obsessive. It has turned into a nice mix of foods that I enjoy and I do not hate myself completely when I do spoil myself with the occasional pizza.
It would be wonderful to say that this has been a consistent way of life for me over the past 6 years, but it has not. Life happens. When my daughter was born she became my focus, not so much working out. My healthy habits of good eating had an impact though and I did not revert to type. I would make my family healthy meals each night and even made my daughters baby food from the veggies I grew in my garden.
Now that my daughter is a little older I have been able to embrace training on a new level. Now it is not a struggle for me to reach a mile or two while running. I ran a 5k this morning before work and in a break from writing this. Weight lifting is something I truly enjoy doing and now I am setting goals for doing things that once seemed impossible for me to do!
Even more important is the impact my healthy lifestyle is having on my daughter. At 4 years old she has already ran her first 1 mile race (a 15:59 time that beat her fathers first 1 mile “run”) and we have plans on hiking her first mountain. She regularly lifts her toy weights while I lift my real ones and her favorite snacks are grapes, oranges, cucumbers and carrots. Because of the changes I have made, she stands less of a chance of falling into the hole I was in. The girl doesn’t even know what pop (or soda for all you non Buffalo folks out there) tastes like! It is truly a beautiful thing to see her grow up and not feel bad that I am teaching her unhealthy habits. Instead, she knows the basics of how to live a long healthy life and really has not seen a different option!
If you are just getting started like I did just a few short years ago I am writing this for you. I want you to know some of the mistakes I made and changes I needed to make in order to make this a permanent change and not just another yoyo style diet.
First, stop looking for the quick fix! Too many times I meet people that are starving themselves to drop 30lbs for a few months just to go back to the life they were living and gain it all back. Consistency is key and you need to change your daily habits to make permanent changes! Start small and progress so that you do not get defeated easily.
Do not be afraid of asking for help. Trust me, I understand what it means to be self-conscious about how you look. I spent YEARS away from the beach and the pool because I didn’t want to take my shirt off in public. This is actually something that is still nerve racking for me because of how embarrassed I was years ago. Now that I am a trainer and a coach I am able to understand where clients are coming from with this self-conscious feeling. I also know that there are many other trainers out there that have a similar experience. There is nothing to feel embarrassed about when it comes to changing your life! Reach out and people will be there to support you and hold you accountable. The more you surround yourself with healthy people, the more likely you are not to slip back into your previous state.
Lastly, when things do not go your way remember why you started or how far you have come. I am not where I want to be, but that is because I have pretty high expectations and goals today! It is easy to get down on myself and think I should just give up. Seeing the picture of me from 7 years ago was a huge kick in the ass to never quit! Be proud of what you have done and where you are at and strive to improve! If I can do this so can you.
I genuinely hope this article has helped at least 1 person, and I thank you all for reading. In the upcoming weeks I will cover some other topics that will include things like healthy eating, best ways to train, what 100 pushups a day can do, and so much more. If there is anything you want me to cover, you are curious about, or you have an interest in feel free to leave a comment below!