So far, I have lost a little over 27 lbs, and I’m going to talk about that a little bit here. I realize that the subject of weight gain and weight loss is one that everyone takes a little differently and a little personally, so please understand that I’m only speaking as myself, for myself.
Here’s the good news: the results.
That’s the chart I use to track my weight. It’s trending downward at a pretty good clip. This represents the trend my weight has taken as a result of all the things I discuss below.
But before I got there, I had to decide that it was time for a change. This is not a decision that came lightly.
About a year ago I got on the scale and I saw a number that made me really uncomfortable. It’s not a mind-blowing number when it comes to weight. But it was a number that I had in my head as an “I’ll never get there” kind of marker. The sad part is that at the time, I wasn’t surprised by it at all. I knew I was on a trajectory towards poorer and poorer health.
I tried to get serious about working out. No… no. I told myself that I was getting serious about working out, but I really didn’t know what the hell I was doing. I had the idea that I could “power through” and “just make it work.”
Session after session at the gym and some of the weight started to come off. But I didn’t change anything else about my lifestyle. In particular, I didn’t change much about the way I ate. A mocha with a sausage biscuit in the morning. Anything on a bun for lunch. Dessert–mandatory. And, of course, after working out, I had to “feed those muscles.” And there were cocktails. Always cocktails.
1. I Decided to Give Up
I quit drinking in April, but replaced a lot of that with stress eating instead. All the weight I initially lost found a way through my workouts until the two of us met again, that number on the scale and I.
This time, I just gave up.
I didn’t give up on improving, I gave up control. “Fine. Somebody else can tell me what to eat from now on, because I clearly can’t do this.”
At that point, I ordered a book on dieting and just said to myself, I’m going to do whatever is in this book. I had heard of this particular diet before. I had heard that it could get results. I even know someone who was a case study in the book.
But none of that matters. What matters is that I stuck with it, through thick and thin.
It was a deep act of letting go, putting someone else in charge of something as personal as what I eat. This was insane–I know what I can do! I know what I can eat!
It turns out, I knew exactly what to eat to satisfy years of cravings and urges, but not to nourish my body in a way that kept me lean.
2. I Decided to Forgive Myself
As I started to figure out my new meal routine, I took a little time to look back over the last 15 or so years over which I put on this weight. I had:
- graduated college
- convinced an amazing woman to marry me
- moved up in my career
- become a father
- screwed up in my career
- survived my own screw up
- struck out on my own as a consultant
- reached new peaks in my career
- connected with countless designers and colleagues
- become a father again
- mentored other designers
- struck out on my own as a consultant again
…and a lot of other big things. So, I realized that, yes, I am proud of what I have done so far.
As for my health, I have made some mistakes, some more serious than others. I drank–sometimes too much. I ate a lot–almost always too much and almost always a lot of junk. Most importantly, I did it all without caring what long term effects could arise. I knew what the consequences were, but I just didn’t care.
A pound here and a pound there just wasn’t a big deal. But a pound here and a pound there over 15 years had put me on a certain trajectory and I felt guilty about the fact that I knew it was bad but didn’t do much about it that whole time. I’m not an idiot when it comes to food: I know that cramming down a pint of Ben & Jerry’s or a bag of cheddar pretzel combos (omg so good) isn’t good for me. I know these things. But I did them anyway and I enjoyed every second of it.
Now, overweight and unhappy, I had to reconcile the fact that I basically got myself into this situation willingly. I ate that food. I drank that booze. And here it is, staring right back at me through the scale. I had no one to blame but myself.
So, I realized, in short, that everyone makes mistakes and some of us make the same mistakes over and over and over again. I looked back at what I had done to my body over the last 15 years and forgave myself. I realized I didn’t make good decisions, and I could have done better, but I also accomplished a lot during that time. I had to see that the past is in the past and the only way to improve my situation was to let go of the guilt that was holding me down.
I don’t want this to sound like I just woke up one day and all was forgiven. It was torture to grapple with the fact that I was in a shitty situation and that I was only there because I had got myself there. I felt like an idiot. The decision to forgive myself came slowly. It wasn’t easy.
This gave me the raw materials for improving myself: an open mind and a clear conscience.
3. I Decided Not To Try Too Hard
And so it goes on. I am at peace with the fact that I drank and ate myself into this situation in the first place. Nut now I have a plan for dieting and I follow it.
I heard someone say that in losing weight, the weight loss is not the goal, the lifestyle is the goal. I tend to agree. There is a huge machine that is out there for the sole purpose of getting your attention and then convincing you to shove booze and junk food down your gullet in amazing quantities. Tuning out those signals are key, and for me it took about a month or so. But now that I’m there, the force of habit allows me to look beyond those dietary needs, just meeting those as part of my day rather than a mission unto themselves.
At this point, the good habits have taken hold. I don’t have to work hard to keep my eyes on the prize. I have enough momentum at this point that it’s easier to seek out healthy options for lunch. It’s easier to leave the snacks at night. It’s easier to get up early so I can make myself the healthy breakfast I need. I’m unfocused, doing the right things out of habit without having to think so hard about it. That’s the key.
It’s easier, but it isn’t easy.
So now I think: Have a little faith in the plan and see what happens. Do better each day. Don’t be hard on yourself.