Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Changing my lifestyle, and not dieting.

I mentioned in an earlier post about my weight issues. Back during the Christmas holidays, I came to the realization that I wasn’t fooling anyone by referring to myself as ‘overweight’ or ‘fat’. The truth of the matter: I was obese. With my 5’ 6” frame, I topped out at a whopping 251 pounds – an 1/8th of a ton. I had lied to myself for so long that I had convinced myself that I was just ‘big-boned’ and even worse, that I was ‘happier being fat’. Nothing was further from the truth.

With a BMI of 41, I classified as Category III Extremely Obese; just pounds away from being morbidly obese. My physician had already placed me on cholesterol controlling medications with blood pressure meds soon to follow. It was only a matter of time before I also ate my way into Type 2 Diabetes. You would think that these things alone would have been enough to motivate me to lose the weight and be in better physical shape; the facts only made me more depressed and continued to crush my self-esteem. But I did realize that I needed to do something, anything; I just wasn’t certain which path I should take. My doctor asked if I had considered Lap Band surgery. I had considered it, but I flat out refused to take it any further. Not to disparage anyone who has had the surgery, but for me, that would have been the equivalent of cheating. And I may be a lot things, good or bad, but a cheater has never been one of them.

Since it was Christmas time, I decided to put the issue on the back burner at least until the first of the year, you know, make it a New Year’s Resolution. Surely that would work, just like it had all those other years before – um, NOT. With what little self-esteem I had left, I planned our annual Christmas card, deciding to wear something black to make me look slimmer, at least for the holidays. I pulled out my Nikon, positioned Michel in front of the tree, focused, set the timer, and quickly stood behind him, trying to hide as much of myself as possible. (Picture an elephant trying to hide behind Pee Wee Herman, and you’ll have a good laugh.) After much reviewing of the some 50 shots (yes, 50), I decided on the one we would use – we’re both smiling, both of our eyes are open, and of course, the Christmas tree looked very festive. I pulled the image into Photoshop, and no matter how much morphing I tried, my double/triple chins just wouldn’t go away; nor could I do anything about the hot-air balloon that seemed to be emanating from my mid-section. To say the least, I was horrified. But we appeared happy in the photo, and Michel looked nice. I printed the cards, sent them out and proceeded to eat anything and everything within my reach.

And then by chance, or Divine Intervention – you’re call – a door opened in front of me that I could not pass by. We had travelled to visit Michel’s family for Christmas and over dinner the subject of weight-loss became the topic of conversation. Just what I needed – I was trying to enjoy my chocolate filled stocking and the big “D” word came up. Yep, D-I-E-T. What a buzz kill that was. The in-laws had decided to start a “Biggest Loser” contest at the first of the year and it would go until Easter. Each person was putting in $100 and the one who had lost the highest percentage of weight would win the pot. Okay, so my interest was peaked a bit, but I had paid for diets before, and lost the money and gained weight. That was a rodeo I didn’t want to revisit. But as fate would have it, Michel’s dad doesn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. I felt I was being badgered and bullied, but I finally said yes, if for no other reason than to shut him up.

Now there was $600 on the table, even though I was only in for $100…that $600 looked mighty tempting. That would be a $500 gain – I can’t earn that in my savings account in a year. It would put a dent in a nice vacation – with the economy being so soft, we’ve been reluctant to part with spare cash.  So in that moment, I decided I wanted the jackpot. And as an added bonus, I could gloat a bit with Michel’s dad that I whooped ass. The game was on.

That is how my current lifestyle change began – a simple wager among family for everyone to be a little healthier at the end of four months.  On Easter Sunday, I had lost a total of 46 pounds, or 18% of my starting body weight.   My pant size has dropped from a 44 down to a 34/36. I haven’t seen those sizes since I was 34! My BMI has dropped and now I’m less than twenty pounds away from just being ‘overweight’ instead of obese. If you could only see the grin on my face now as I type this post, you would understand how much better I feel about myself right now. I can see a difference when I look in the mirror, not just my physical appearance, but how I carry myself. My head is a little higher; clothes fit much nicer; and I’m smiling more. And best of all, the numbers from my recent physical exam came back – excellent on all counts; and at this pace, I could come off all the cholesterol medications by the end of the year.

Needless to say, I won the family contest and the cash. But three weeks later it seems I have won something more important: a desire to keep going, to lose more weight. I am now within 10 pounds of my graduating college weight (20 years ago today, in fact). The contest is over, and I easily could have gone back to my old, unhealthy regimen. But I haven’t. For the first time in my life, I look at food differently now and before I choose something to eat, I mentally ask myself just how hard am I going to have to work to burn off those calories. Are those few moments of tasteful pleasure worth the sweat, pain, agony that must come afterwards?

And that brings me to what prompted this post. Today was supposed to be my ‘rest day’ from exercise – 2 days on, 1 day off, 2 days on, with weekend activity outside the house (yard work, hiking, etc.). But instead of taking the day off, I worked out for an hour, sweated, and felt great afterwards. I can be proud of myself for sticking with it, going that extra mile. Money may have been the initial motivation, but now it’s the euphoria I feel from staying active. The endorphin rush has become addictive to me and I miss it if I go a day without it. That’s a feeling I’ve never experience before. My lifestyle has changed and continues to change for the better. I can see light at the end of the tunnel, granted I’m still in the middle of the tunnel, but I can see the end. And I’m still too ashamed of how I looked at 251 to post a full-body shot ‘before’ picture; maybe when I’m just ‘overweight’ and no longer obese. I’ll share with you in future posts how my progress is going and the things I have changed in order to be healthier.

Eat well, but eat smart.

1 comment:

naturgesetz said...

You were grinning as you typed this post, and I was smiling as I read it.

Way to go!