If I’m honest about my weight, I’ll say that it fluctuates. I’ll lose weight and gain weight. At my heaviest, no one ever notices except those closest to me. Really, probably no one notices except my wife. This year, I found myself startlingly close to the top weight of 260 pounds that I had reached while working as a high school English teacher. There are a couple of details that I remember vividly and unhappily about that time. My belly touched the steering wheel of my Ford Ranger when seated in the cab. My shins hurt terribly when I tried to jog, so bad that one time I laid down on the sidewalk, groaning for the pressure and discomfort to go away. I would think nothing of starting the day with a triple venti mocha, burger and fries for lunch, a venti mocha frappucino, and dinner out, sometimes with desert. I was definitely ignorant of the calories I was consuming.
In short, I started counting calories using a Palm Pilot (remember those!) program called Calorie King. (The Calorie King program still exists as a website and an app.) I took control of what I was eating. I lost a considerable amount of weight, down to 215 or so, where I plateaued. I might get down to 205 or so, but I would bounce back up. After I met Darlene, and her autistic son Marcus, I tried a gluten-free diet at the same time that we tried a gluten-free diet for him. Symptoms I had been experiencing for nearly ten years – that had stumped doctors and dermatologists and had defied antiobiotics and steroids, disappeared within thirty days. This was a life-changing experience for me and I learned that doctors don’t know it all, and definitely don’t know all about you. Doctors seemed interested in practicing “average” science where they prescribe what helps most people, than practicing excellent medicine in which remedies should be and could be customized much more significantly for the individual.
The gluten-free diet helped weight loss quite a bit and, I was able to lose more, but never really lose the belly fat around my middle. Then I experimented with ideas from Tim Ferris’ Four Hour body, namely the Slow Carb diet. Once I eliminated white carbs from my diet, and with the help of his PAGG stack group of supplements, I saw a noticeable reduction in belly fat.
Later, I read Finding Ultra, by Rich Roll, the ultramarathoner, and turned my gluten-free, slow carb diet into a vegan diet. I always thought I needed meat in my diet. Here was an ultramarathoner not just living, but competing on avocado sandwiches. I was riding my bike to work at the time, and I remember feeling that if I didn’t have a chicken breast or some type of protein in my lunch, I wouldn’t be able to make it home from lack of strength. Yeah, this was 2010. Another example of ignorance in my life around the food I was consuming. I removed meat and dairy from my life and although I had weird comments like “Are you sure you feel alright?” from my mom and overly concerned friends who let me choose the restaurant if we were going out for fear I couldn’t find something to eat if they chose a restaurant, I didn’t really experience any negative effects. I went about my business. And still managed to find my weight creeping up on me. I mean french fries are vegan, right?
So far, all this is about weight and appearance, and the tie to my health and fitness is less clear, though it follows that the lighter I am, the less stress I’m putting on my body, particularly with running. Below is a picture of me in June 2013, when my weight was somewhere in the 198-201 pounds range, on the morning I ran my best 5k time of 20:35. I was working with a running coach and had set a goal of breaking 20 minutes in a 5k race. Things were going in the right direction. Later that summer, I got injured and experienced six months of frustrating sciatic nerve pain. Along with that pain came failure after failure of traditional medicine to provide relief or produce healing. With the inactivity of that injury, came weight gain and lowered fitness. I’ll write more about the road to recovery from sciatic nerve pain in another place. Earlier this year, I joined Weight Watchers, with some immediate benefits – I lost 10 pounds in the first three weeks. Once again, I had been deluding myself about my calorie intake. I mean, hummus is vegan, right? My downward trend didn’t last and I let work pressures and busy schedules choose my food for me, rather than me planning ahead what I would put into my body. While Weight Watchers didn’t totally work for me, it seems like it does for many. This time around, I find I care more about what I’m putting into my body, than just how much I’m eating.
And to be honest, I think I have to confess that for a long time – the last twenty years – I valued work over myself. That’s the hard truth. Tough schedule? I put myself second. Didn’t have time to eat lunch? I’ll skip it and eat later. Recently, I’m noticing a change in my body and fitness, and I’m not seeing as quick a return on my efforts, so I need to shift priorities to make sure that I stay healthy. For my family. For my happiness. And ultimately, a healthy and happy employee can be more creative, productive and powerful.
This year, I’m returning to my roots with the Slow Carb diet, some habits and routines from the Four Hour Body, which I will be exploring here on this blog, and trying to find a healthier me. As 2017 peeks its head around the corner, I’m near 240 pounds and I want to lower my weight to impact my running pace and the stress on my body while running. I want to fit into the clothes I own, and let’s be honest, I want to look trim. I wouldn’t mind looking athletic either. However, my focus is on my health. My goal is to create routines and structures in my life that support a healthy diet and a healthy weight. I’ll keep you posted.