I was a fat kid. I was a fat teenager. Blame eating habits, blame genetics, blame lifestyle, but the fact of the matter is, I was fat. Despite being overweight I was style active. I played soccer, I was involved in martial arts, I snowboarded, I constantly played sports outside with the neighborhood kids, and many other things.
Fast forward to college and the fat kid got fatter. Freshman 15? More like freshman 25. Towards the end of my freshman year, I tipped the scales at 225 lbs. At 5’ 9’’ I was definitely not slim. If this gives you a better idea, I was known for my Matt Foley impression (Chris Farley character on Saturday Night Live).
At this time, I was really only doing martial arts. I was a 2nd degree black belt in Tang Soo Do and traveled to classes twice a week with another black belt who was working at the university I attended. I had been a 2nddegree black belt for almost 5 years and my instructor told me I would never be a 3rd degree black belt if I didn’t lose weight. Pretty harsh, but true. Challenge accepted.
This was the start of my weight loss journey. Over the next 5 months I lost over 50 lbs and tested for my 3rddegree black belt at 165 lbs. I eventually got down to 153 lbs at my lightest but felt the most comfortable at 160 lbs. I maintained the weight range of 160-175 lbs for the next 20 years until the present time. More on that later though.
Everyone who had known me as the fat kid were now asking me, “what’s your secret?” Unfortunately, I don’t have a secret. I don’t even have a special weight loss diet, supplement, or exercise program to push. I will, however, go through what I did to achieve my weight loss goal in hopes that it may inspire others to do the same.
When it comes down to it, doing something that is challenging like losing weight comes down to pleasure versus pain. We will always do things that provide pleasure over pain. So, in order to lose weight, you need to identify the pleasure and pain associated with it. For most, the pleasure of unhealthy eating and being sedentary greatly outweighs the pain of exercising and eating healthy.
For me, the pleasure of being a 3rd degree black belt was strong enough to overpower the pain associated with eating healthy and exercising. The pain associated with not being a 3rd degree black belt overpowered the pleasure of eating unhealthily and being fat. Finding your pleasure and pain associations is the first step.
Luckily for me I have always been a very disciplined person. I just needed to apply this discipline to my new weight loss venture. What that looked like for me was a plan. I planned out everything: daily/weekly meals, exercise routine, goals, and weigh ins. It was helpful to have an event with a specific date to shoot for rather than an open-ended goal.
Along with being a disciplined person, I also had the advantage of already being an active person. I did not do any special, fad workout program. I did however do some sort of exercise every day, no exceptions. I opted mostly for running, biking, and sports like soccer, basketball, martial arts, and racquet ball. Would I miss a workout day on occasion? Sometimes, but not very often. I prioritized my workouts. I would plan my days in advance so I could schedule time to do them.
If you really think about, weight loss is a simple math equation: calories in < calories out. In other words, burn more calories than you consume, and you will lose weight. Today we have apps and fitness trackers to help with this but 20 years ago we did not. I did not write down my caloric intake each day, but I was conscience of how many calories as well as grams of fat were in everything I ate. I tried to stay under 50 grams of fat and 2000 calories every day.
This is actually easier than you think if you follow the following rules:
- No fast food
- No fried food
- No red meat
- No soda
- No juice
- No desserts/sweets
- No dairy
- No alcohol
As with my daily exercise routine, did I falter on occasion? You bet I did. These occurrences were few and far between, however. You may be thinking this is tough and too restrictive. You would be correct. Remember, the pleasure of being slim needs to overpower the pleasure of indulging in these items.
What about a scheduled cheat day? Nope. Don’t do it. You need a consistent routine and lifestyle change. You will then be thinking about and looking forward to that cheat day. You need to get in the mindset where you don’t even think about eating unhealthily. Cheat days may work for some, but not for me.
There are many strategies on how much and how often you should eat. For me, I stuck with 3 meals a day and made sure not to snack in between. As with all of the other things I did, this required discipline. If I ate dinner then went to a friend’s house who had food out, I would not eat it. Not eating socially is something that can be challenging but is important. We don’t think a cookie here or a handful of chips there make a significant difference, but they add up.
Many experts say you need to have self-compassion when trying to lose weight. I agree but I also feel that you need to be tough on yourself at the same time. You will miss a workout, eat something you shouldn’t, and overeat on occasion. When this happens, tell yourself it won’t happen again while not getting down on yourself. If you find yourself consistently getting off track, you need to reexamine what you are doing.
Doing all of the things I just mentioned help me lose over 50 lbs in 5 months. Once I lost the weight, I was able to keep it off because the pleasure of how I felt being slim was much stronger than the pleasure of overeating or eating unhealthily. The pain I felt being fat was much stronger than the pain of eating well and exercising.
I no longer needed a specific goal or event to maintain the weight loss. It did however provide me with the jump start I needed. After that initial 5 months of super restrictions, I eased up a little. I was still very conscience of everything I ate and maintained a rigorous exercise routine. I even indulged in a few late-night pizzas after a long night of drinking beer.
While I hope this post is helpful to others, one of the primary reasons I wrote this post is for myself. I currently weigh the most I have since this story took place over 20 years ago. While I am nowhere near the weight I was when I was a freshman in college, I still need to slim down a bit. New challenges certainly make things more difficult at this time: a pandemic, a chef for a wife, a 1-year-old son, and being 40 years old.
I am hoping that by writing this, I will take some of my own old advice and get back on track. I’m sure some things will need to be done differently and I look forward to writing another post in a few months with those successful updates.