There was a time when I was obese. I was 45lbs heavier, my BMI was 32 and I didn’t care. Not one bit. I would get off from work, drive to a Jack-in-the-Box and order a Bacon Ultimate Cheeseburger for the drive home. After eating the burger on the way home, I would arrive home and have a full dinner with the family. Of course, that was all on top of the hamburger I already had for lunch and a large bowl of cereal I had for breakfast. And there was the constant snacking throughout the day that included sunflower seeds (sodium), Pop Tarts (sugar), and assorted bags of chips (hello sodium again). I’m not proud of what I did to my body.
My wife gently prodded me to take care of myself. I did not listen. My son arrived and even though I knew I should take better care of myself, I did not. I continued to tell myself that I would lose the weight, that I would eat better and that I would exercise. But, I did not. My daughter arrived and reminded me that I should take better care of myself, I did not. My doctor gave me a choice: Lifestyle change or pills for the three things that would put me in the grave quicker than I should be headed there (high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol). In my denial, I chose lifestyle change. Then, I did nothing.
So, here I was taking three pills a day. I had one of those pill boxes that had a compartment per day so that I could remember to take my pills. It was not optimal, hell, it was not good at all.
I did some research and found out some of the horrible things that could happen if I kept up abusing my body the way I did. The worst was diabetic neuropathy that could affect the feet. The nerves slowly get damaged and then they don’t feel anything at all. Heat, cold or pain. Nothing. Add to that peripheral vascular disease, where the blood flow lessens the farther away something is from the heart and there is something of nightmares. Since you cannot feel pain, if you get cut on the bottom of your foot, you will not feel it. The lower blood flow means that the cut does not heal as fast and could lead to gangrene. Bye-bye foot. Not. Good.
One night, I was doing research on pedometers. Striiv and Fitbits. The next morning my wife coincidentally asks if I would like to get one. I did and it changed my life. I had a Striiv first, but returned it for a Fitbit which had more data - I have OCD when it comes to data and the Fitbit helped feed that OCD.
Ten things that I have learned:
- It is not exercise that causes weight loss, it is eating habits. Eat badly, I gain weight. Eat well, I lose weight. Eat a lot, I gain weight. Eat less, I lose weight. Eat moderately, I maintain my weight. Sure, exercise helps me keep fit, but it is not what helped me lose weight. I use LoseIt.com to track my food intake and it helps greatly because it has shown me just how much I have been eating.
- Given the above, exercise helps. I have found that keeping an exercise log helps me to keep on track with my running. Without one, I was going days and weeks without exercising. With one, I can see that I have to go running. Nowadays, I have developed a habit of running and I actually enjoy running, so the exercise log helps me to keep track of my progress and helps me to improve my running times.
- Don’t diet, develop a habit of eating right. I tried dieting before and failed. Dieting is a temporary thing, it is a limited time activity to lose some weight. It did not work for me. Don’t do fad diets (no carbs! paleo! atkins!). Ask yourself how long can you sustain that? For life? Probably not long, they are very short-term. And if you’re going to be watching what you eat (“oh, I can’t eat that bread, it has carbs”), why not watch how much you eat and enjoy what you eat. Figuring out how to eat and changing my eating habits was the approach I took and it is working for me. I figured out that I was a constant snacker and that I just ate too much. I changed those habits. Now I have developed a better habit and that is not a temporary thing nor a short term activity.
- Habits take time to develop. Eating badly and being sedentary were habits because I had been doing that stuff for a long time. It took time to form those habits, it took time to forget them and develop new (better) habits. The interwebs say that habits are formed in 21 days. I call BS. It took me a while to get into the habit of running and eating well. I wanted to quit at the beginning, but I kept going. Now, I run on a regular basis and actually miss running if I skip days. I still eat badly from time to time, but make up for it on other days.
- Reward myself. I am weird, I like eating dried prunes. I don’t know why, I just do. Somewhere early on in my journey, I decided that dried prunes would be my reward for running. If I wanted to eat one individually wrapped prune, I’d have to run, that was my reward. As small as it seems, this tiny reward does wonders. Running isn’t just about running, it is about earning that one tiny individually wrapped dried prune. Mmmm. You might like something else, like a small piece of chocolate. Whatever it is, it will help.
- Start slow. Really: Start slow. When I started, I tried running. It did not work. I gave up. I was so overweight and obese, my shins and knees would hurt from trying to run. After a while, I started just walking on the treadmill. I have the walks written down in my journal. One mile in 20 minutes. That was my workout. It was slow and it was a decent walk for me. I added incline and was proud. Then I started walking faster and longer. After I started losing some weight, I started jogging. I remember finally achieving a twelve minute mile and thinking that I could never hit a ten minute mile. Eventually, I was running 5k’s at a ten minute mile pace. I can now run seven and a half minute miles. I hope to get even faster, but it did take me a while to get to where I am.
- Get a scale, use the scale. The scale keeps me honest with my eating, exercise and health. It sits there and judges me every time I step on it. I welcome its judgment. I weigh in weekly at the same time (I do it after I wake up) and keep a log of my weight.
- Get a support team. Thank goodness for my awesome wife. She is my constant support team! Always there for me. She is awesome. My sister is also awesome, she challenges me to run faster and run longer distances. And my friends on the interwebs who all support me and challenge me (looking at you P and M). And of course my coworkers who also run and constantly prod me with their run times (J and T). Find people that do what you like to do (I found quite a few of my friends and family like to run, it’s great).
- Compare only to yourself. My running friends and family might challenge me, but the only person I compare my run times to is myself. I keep my exercise journal so that I can track that I am improving myself, that I am running faster than what I did before. The one person I want to beat in a race is myself, that keeps me going and that keeps me improving.
- Don’t give up. I gave up multiple times before I got to the point of actually developing good habits. It will happen, but keep going and don’t give up. Eventually, you’ll develop good habits also.
That’s me and my journey – which continues as I still have a few pounds to lose. I had been meaning to write about my journey for a while now. I really wrote it to remind myself of what I learned, but figured I could share.