Fitness Goal: Achieved

            Back in about October of my senior year in college, I had decided I had enough.  I believe I was studying late at night, when I said to myself “Fuck this.”  I then went outside and began walking around the beautiful campus, coming back to my dorm about an hour later.  It had a great calming effect on me, so I decided to do it the next night, and the night after that.  From that moment, I had a new routine—to simply walk around campus, and get at least some exercise in my daily schedule.

            It was at this point that I decided to head to the gym and weigh myself, to see what I had let myself get up to. The scale read 330 pounds.  I decided I had some work to do.  I would begin slowly, but I decided at the very least to have a long-term plan for myself.  I checked my driver’s license, and saw the weight I had listed at age 16.  My long-term goal was to someday reach that weight of 225 pounds (a number which was lower than my actual weight, for the record—I hadn’t weighed myself for a long time before getting my license, so I picked a number out of the air that seemed reasonable; it turned out that I was actually 250 pounds).

            So from that day forward, I slowly changed my diet and made exercise a part of my routine.  Nothing drastic, and all changes were gradual.  First it was to get rid of all sugary drinks and any fried food—no longer would French fries be a part of any meal.  If I wanted meat, I had chicken or turkey, and ate more salads and fruit.  I limited any snacks.  By the end of my senior year, with just these few changes, I had dropped below 300 and was around 290.  My graduation photos looked a lot better than my senior photo, and not just because I shaved off that ridiculous beard.

            Since then, nothing matched the speed of those first few months, but I continued to gradually attempt to lose weight in a reasonable fashion.  I had read that often people could lose huge amounts of weight, but they would always pack the pounds back on.  I had to commit—this was a different lifestyle.  So I approached everything with this mindset: I wasn’t on a “diet”, this was just how I would eat from now on.  I would slowly phase out certain items, and pay close attention to calories and fat content, making substitutions as necessary.  Gradually, my tastes change, and frankly I prefer a lot of these “healthy” options taste-wise.

            And I slowly started adding things to my exercise routine.  I live in a hilly neighborhood back home, so it made it difficult to jog.  To accommodate for this, I set up a system where I would run up hills and half the straight-aways while walking down the hills.  Not only did it work different muscles, but frankly it was safer and would put less stress on my knees.  I started weight training again, because I figured that if I would at least look the part of a “big guy”, I better have some strength to back it up.  (Here’s a great Onion article which explains how this can be a problem: http://www.theonion.com/articles/fat-guy-mistakenly-thought-of-as-strong,5635/)  And when I went to law school, I tried to be as physically active as possible with my classmates, joining as many pickup basketball games as I could and scheduling racquetball games as often as possible (and consistently participating in our flag football league, though I probably undid a lot of those gains with our after-game trips for beer and free wings).

            I also had to work on gradually changing my exercise routine as well, and here’s where I think I can give the best advice.  When I started, I could not do a single pushup.  But I kept at it, and now I can do a set of 50 relatively easily.  I had never been able to do a single pullup all my life, until in law school, where I had my friends Sean and Graham actually physically help me with them.  I then realized how close I was to actually to reaching the necessary strength to achieve it on my own, but I wouldn’t have been able to realize it without their help.  I can now do 10 on my first set on a good day.  I also was unable to benchpress the bar when I first started—now I can do a couple of sets of 190.  But it took a long time, and it meant never getting frustrated with early failures.  Because when you keep working at it, you are guaranteed to improve.

            And I kept up with the walking.  My best summers for losing weight were when I was living in D.C. and Holland and had to walk/bike everywhere.  It really does help a lot.  Just throw an album on your iPod and head out there, and take advantage of the beautiful scenery.  For those of you who wonder how I can constantly find new bands, well an album a day is a great way to do that.

            A few weeks ago, after several years of effort, I finally reached my long-term goal of meeting my driver’s license weight of 225 pounds.  I think this is all the more impressive since I grew five inches taller since that license was issued.  Unfortunately, I reached this goal after I got my license renewed, so I’ll just have to be content to have people say, “You don’t look like you weigh 250.”  But it’s been three weeks since I first hit that mark, and I’ve consistently been below it since then, so I can confidently say that I’ve accomplished my primary long-term goal.

            But I’m not done yet.  225 was a lofty goal when I first set it, but it’s clear I still have work to do.  But I’m glad that I’m a lot healthier now, and that I have a lot more energy to do all sorts of physical activity.  And I want to thank all of my friends that stopped to offer me words of encouragement along the way; though I try to brush it off, it really means a lot to me.*  But to those who say that I’m looking “good” now, I will still correct them—I’m looking “better”.  Because I still have more work to do.

 

*I live in a neighborhood with a lot of old people, and it’s surprising how many of them that I’ve never met who will stop me to offer their congratulations because they’ve seen firsthand the progress I’ve made over the years.  I know they’ll never read this, but I really appreciate them nonetheless.  

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