I’LL START WITH A CONCLUSION: DIETS ALONE DO NOT WORK. YOU HAVE TO EAT PROPERLY AND EXERCISE REGULARLY. YOU HAVE TO ADOPT A DIFFERENT LIFESTYE.
HERE’S MY STORY:
Growing up, I always carried a few extra pounds, but never considered myself obese. In high school, I played football, basketball, and golf and was in decent enough shape.
Not until I reached college did the weight start pouring on. In the fall of 1992, I entered my freshman year of college and probably weighed 210 pounds and wore a 38-waist pant. I had a large frame and am six feet tall, so wasn’t overly worried. Certainly didn’t feel fat.
Over the next few years—probably due to too little exercise and too much cafeteria food, pizza, and cheap beer—the weight slowly–ok quickly–started to pile on. By junior year, I weighed 284 pounds and was squeezing into a 44 pant. I had gained 74 pounds in 2½ years!
While I was having a great time putting on the weight and playing collegiate golf, my studies took a back seat. Over the holiday break of my junior term, I received a letter from the academic dean suggesting I stay home for a semester and prove that I wanted to be in his school.
As it turns out, that was one of the better letters I ever received. I took it as a challenge. I enrolled in a local state college and spent the spring semester working hard at both school and on my weight. Not only did I excel in school, but by the summer, I had dropped a ton of weight.
To be honest, the first pounds were the easiest ones to lose. Given I had put the weight on so quickly, fortunately, it came off equally as quick. That’s not to say I wasn’t diligent about it. I took stock of the habits that caused the weight gain, namely, fast food, pizza, beer, and zero exercises. I decided to do just the opposite. I began a cardio regimen and went back to the basics with regards to food. I ate very boring and plain foods – turkey, mustard, and whole wheat sandwiches. Chicken and veggies for dinner, and eliminated alcohol and snacks.
When I returned to my original school the following fall, I had taken off 60 pounds.
I weighed 220 and was between a 38 and 40 waist. Still not where I wanted to be, but a great start.
During the next year and a half, I really enjoyed myself. I also learned how to balance school, diet, and fun. I graduated with my class in 1996 and only put back on 10 of the pounds I had lost—so I weighed around 230. Given that I didn’t deprive myself, I was fine with the weight gain.
Returning home in Connecticut, I submerged myself in work and exercise. Although very dedicated to living a healthy lifestyle, I didn’t know what I was doing. I went on the Atkins diet—eating mostly red meat, dairy, and eggs—and would do 30 minutes or so of cardio every day. I did not incorporate any weight training. Although not the right approach, I had gotten my weight down to 205 pounds and back into a size-38 pant—right about where I was when I entered college. I was able to sustain this for a number of years and continued on a high protein/low carbohydrate diet.
On January 3rd, 2007–the first work day of the year and after a long holiday season of red meat and vodka (there are no carbs in vodka)–I weighed 210 pounds and just felt lousy.
That morning was the turning point for me. I placed a call to a local fitness instructor and asked her if she would help. Lucky for me, she took me on.
Over the course of that winter, I worked out almost every day. I would work with my trainer two days a week (lifting weights, working on balance and core strengthening) and would do cardio the others. I also submerged myself in learning what an actual healthy diet was.
To say I went overboard is an understatement. I changed my diet completely. For breakfast I ate yogurt, fruit, and whole wheat toast. For dinner, I would have a 4-ounce serving of protein (yes, I weighed my food) two vegetables, and a whole wheat starch. I would cook an extra serving of protein, which I would incorporate into a salad for lunch the next day.
While working with my trainer, we would measure my body parts (waist, arms, chest, legs, etc)–at first every 3 weeks and then every 6 weeks.
During 2007, I went from 210 pounds to 175 pounds. Dropped my body fat ratio from 25.50% to 8.7%, and shrunk my waist from size 38.5 to 31.5.
Wanting a goal, I signed up for the Marine Corp Marathon that fall.
Although I had never been a runner, a dream of mine was to run a marathon. At first, it was unrealistic, but given this new lease on life, I actually thought I could do it.
Did it I did – actually in just over 4 hours. Upon finishing the marathon, my sister’s comment was “never say never” because if I had told her a few years earlier that I would finish a marathon – she would have said never.
Since then, I continue to eat well and work out both with my trainer and on my own. I quickly turned from a diet to a lifestyle–a very important distinction. I have completed 2 marathons, 3 half marathons, and a slew of other road races ranging from 5k to 30k. I am currently training for another marathon in the fall.
So, what have I learned over the last 10 years…..plain and simple….diets alone don’t work. There is no quick fix. Eating well and incorporating exercises into your daily routine is a lifestyle.
In our culture, people are always seeking the quick fix, the latest gimmick. And the vultures are out there willing to sell it to us. There is no black magic. The bottom line is: the calories-in need to be less than the calories-out. It’s very simple—a well balanced diet and plenty of exercise results in a fit body and a healthy life.
I know it sounds easier than it is, but it can be done—I am living proof.