You know the sound a manual scale makes when you step on it? Clink-clunk!
Sometimes you can tell when the scale isn’t going to be your friend that day. That’s what happened to me when I visited my family during Thanksgiving the first year after moving from my hometown.
After college, I stopped being active. Years of working three jobs, seven days per week had finally paid off. I nabbed a job in my field the week I graduated from college.
I had made it; fall of 2010 I worked Monday-Friday and had weekends off for the first time since before I started working at the age of 16.
As a child, I was always skinny. I don’t recall reaching 100 pounds until I was in 7th or 8th grade.
The only activity you could consider to be working out was playing pickup games of basketball. However, my metabolism ran at 100mph. I could eat four meals a day, drink soda, and still never put on a pound during this time.
As I matured I believed I was still that kid who could eat anything and not gain a single pound. Life comes at you fast when self-awareness hasn’t hit you yet.
In those four years between graduating college, I don’t think I touched a scale until that night I went back home for Thanksgiving in 2014. That’s four years of blindly eating everything I wanted, binge drinking, and soda consumption.
There was a point in my life between age 24 and age 26 where you probably wouldn’t notice me if I didn’t have a drink in my hand.
I realized I had picked up weight over the years; I didn’t notice it was an unhealthy amount of weight for my size.
So there I am, in my Aunt Debbie’s bathroom, half-awake from consuming an ungodly amount of food and drinks before we went Black Friday shopping.
Clink-clunk! I could feel the scale shift under me. When I looked down, I was shocked.
Granted, I was wearing my winter clothes so that accounted for a couple of pounds too. Reality set in at that moment. I looked in the mirror and didn’t recognize myself. I was this bloated version of me and it was all my fault.
I can’t recall making a healthy choice in four years. The only thing healthy about me at that point was never picking up a smoking habit.
If you think things changed for me that night, well, you don’t know anything about me.
One of my favorite past times is thinking about all the things I want to do, yet never executing any of them until months down the line because of my crippling need to procrastinate everything until the absolute last minute.
I’ve been an anxious person my entire life. I probably have anxiety but I’ve never been clinically diagnosed so I don’t want to make that assumption.
Talking to myself and actually applying those changes took until my 28th birthday before I began to seriously apply them (five months between climbing on the scale and my birthday). I remember the last person to call me on my birthday was my little brother.
In contrast, my brother is the total opposite of me. He’s the fittest person I know and graduated with a degree in Exercise Science. Meanwhile, I was a soda-chugging, fried food devouring Communications graduate with a focus on Electronic Media.
I remember feeling like crap that night, partly because I had eaten a 3-piece spicy tender meal from Popeye’s for lunch (treated by my program director) and a chicken tender tray from Cook-Out with double fries, a soda, and Reese’s milkshake (treated by my roommate). And I remember telling my brother how I felt terrible and wanted to begin living a healthier life.
That conversation, though I don’t remember much, sparked my desire to finally lose weight and live healthily. I was also excited by finding some old NBA jerseys I had kept that fit me in high school.
I’m not sure how much each played into it. Actually, to be honest, it was the vanity of being able to wear something that I wore when I was in high school.
The Process of Losing 40 Pounds
The very next day following the conversation with my brother, I started my journey to live a healthier life. I began eating soup for lunch instead of carb-loaded leftovers. I cut my soda intake from 3 cans per day and allowed myself to have one only a couple of times per week.
I still made dinner like normal, but I started cutting my portions in half. I even began eating yogurt and fruit for snacks and going for a walk/jog around my neighborhood in the evening after work.
This all took time to develop and stick though. I didn’t miraculously make all these changes and begin to lose weight immediately. It took a couple of months before I even began to notice that I was losing weight.
It’s hard for me, and most people, to continue doing something if we don’t see that we’re making progress. Losing weight and getting healthy can be discouraging because the results aren’t instant, especially now that we live in a world that requires immediate results.
During the first month of exercising, I transitioned from walking to jogging around my neighborhood (running on pavement isn’t great on your body and I have the knees of a 55-year old MLB catcher).
This led to me signing up for free trials at a few of the local gyms in the Augusta, GA area. After I tried out a few gyms, I settled on Planet Fitness during Memorial Day weekend. Now, it was time to discover how my body could handle actual workouts.
The first few weeks of working out sucked. I never liked lifting weights when I was younger.
I was always active in sports and even after my “glory” days of little league and youth basketball I still enjoyed playing pickup games of basketball with friends and co-workers. I began to notice a slight difference in my appearance after those few weeks though, so I kept pushing.
Then one June weekend while I was helping one of my roommates move his belongings back to the house (Sidenote: I lived with a married couple and the husband went to music school in Atlanta for about 9 months), a pain that I’ll never forget began agitating my mouth.
At this time in my life, I would get this pain every few months, pop some Advil, rub whiskey on my gums, and be fine after a day or two. This pain would not give up though and I had to have my wisdom teeth removed.
Why do I bring this up? Well, for a week the only foods I could manage to eat were liquids or soft foods. I spent an entire week eating yogurt, soup, and drinking water. I lost five pounds that week, even without being able to go to the gym.
After roughly two months of eating better, working out, and this freak accident caused by my wisdom teeth, I had dropped roughly 20 pounds. I say roughly because I never weighed myself when I started but just assumed I weighed 175 pounds.
Regardless, I was beginning to notice an increase in my confidence. I could now begin fitting into those old basketball jerseys I had saved from high school. I liked looking at myself in the mirror for the first time in years. I knew that I had to keep going though. I wanted to see how far I could push myself.
Creating A Routine
I’ll be the first person to admit that I’m a creature of habit. I take the same routes to my destinations, eat the same thing when I go to a restaurant, and I even walk the same path to get my groceries in the grocery store, going up and down aisles like a mad man.
Routines are everything to me; I think that stems from not having many stable routines outside of school as a child.
I set my schedule to allow myself two rest days each week. This is what my week looked like:
Saturday-Monday: Remain on diet and go to the gym
Tuesday: One cheat meal (usually with a soda) and off from the gym
Wednesday & Thursday: Back on diet and go to the gym
Friday: One cheat meal (usually with a soda) and off from the gym
I lived my life like this for months. Sure, I had weeks where I didn’t abide by this schedule if something came up. 95% of the time, this is what my week looked like.
Once I was in this routine, I felt out of place if I missed more than a day of going to the gym or if I ate a couple of bad meals in a row. It felt nice to finally be in a place where I didn’t make a decision based on an absent mind, deciding to eat pizza and fries for every meal.
Even when I felt tired from a day of working and posting on my indie hip-hop blog, I still made myself go to the gym. My schedule at the time allowed me to hit the gym at 10 pm, get home to shower by 11:30 pm and still have time for anything I wanted to do since I didn’t have to be at work until 10 am.
I became obsessed with working out though. My boss and I entered a 5K for work in October 2015, the first race I ever entered. I won the Men’s division, no donuts (this race was one where you could eat donuts in the middle; I opted to not want to barf at the finish line).
That same night, I went to the gym. It wasn’t good enough that I won my first 5K. I needed to keep going is what I told myself. I needed to work harder if I wanted to reach my goal.
A couple of months later, I entered a 10K for work. I didn’t think I could win but I wanted to push myself as far as I could go. I only stopped running a couple of times during the race and finished in the Top 100.
However, in the process of pushing myself as far as I could, I injured my left leg. It hurt to walk for a week.
When I tried going to the gym, I couldn’t run because I was in so much pain. I had to take almost a month off from the gym in order to allow myself to heal properly. From that moment on, I knew my limits and allowed myself to rest more when I needed it.
Once I was able to return to the gym, I actually had a healthier relationship with working out. It enabled me to drop even more weight and set myself up for the future to continue my lifestyle change.
In my first full year of working out and eating healthier, I lost 40 pounds. I went from roughly 175 pounds to 135 pounds.
And just because you lose weight doesn’t mean you’re healthy. I didn’t look healthy after losing 40 pounds. My obsession with losing weight went too far and I lost more weight than I should have lost.
The Process of Gaining 60 Pounds
New Career = New Stress
In May 2016, I started my first position outside of radio broadcasting. I worked in an office managing social media accounts for a company that, at the time, seemed like it would be a good fit.
I never worked a job where I had to be at work at 8 am; the last time I had to be anywhere that early on a regular basis was high school.
In my first week, I had a panic attack in my car during my lunch break. I saw the amount of work I would be tasked with completing and it got to me. This was the beginning of my downward spiral to losing the healthy habits I had built.
After a couple of months of maintaining my workouts and keeping with my diet, I felt drained. The next big goal for myself was to begin toning my physical appearance and gaining abs.
My stomach was nearly flat but I still couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong to not have made any progress toward having this physical trait that television and movies fetishize with their characters.
Caving to the stress and my unrealistic goals, I started to slowly undo my healthy lifestyle. I would go for a walk on my lunch break and grab a soda and candy bar.
“I deserve it”, is what I told myself. “To be honest, I lost too much weight.” That’s how I justified my bad decisions.
This increased from one day a week to two. From two days per week to three. Before the end of the year, I was back to drinking soda almost every day.
Throwing It All Away
In six months, to end 2016, I had gained back half of the weight I lost. The new clothes I had bought for work were becoming snugger by the day. I kept telling myself that I would get back into shape. I could do it. I did it once before, and I could do it again.
To kick off 2017, I decided what I needed to do to get myself back into the routine of a healthy lifestyle was to stop consuming soda for an entire month. New Years Day 2017 I consumed my last soda for the month.
It took quite a bit of restraint but I was able to hold off the entire month without consuming my sugary drug of choice.
However, after that month was over I just came back to it even harder. I started drinking multiple sodas each day.
I would consume half of a meat lover’s pizza for dinner and take the other half for lunch the next day. I
would go to the mall across the street from where I worked and treat myself to a greasy chicken strip meal with a large soda in the food court almost every Friday.
I lost control and I didn’t know how to find the path once again. And I never found the path.
In a game of hot & cold, I had traveled miles from the path; I was in the Antarctic, devouring everything I could find to help ease my stress.
In July 2017, I officially gained back almost all of the weight I had lost in 2015. I had to begin buying new clothes to hide my growing stomach and thighs. My face was becoming round. I hated myself but couldn’t get back in control.
I saw my boss as I was walking to the bathroom one day and he mentioned that I had picked up some weight.
That’s when I knew it was noticeable. For months I had been telling myself that no one really noticed and that you can still get back into the gym and make the right choices.
That moment right there didn’t serve as motivation; it took my car and careened it into the guardrail that protects you from driving off of a bridge.
I barreled through and dove further into a depression.
But Wait, There’s More
I got fired from this job not long after that interaction with my boss. I wasn’t happy with my career and I began to get sloppy with my work. This helped torpedo me even further away from all the hard work I achieved in 2015.
A month later I was hired by a company I thought I wanted to work for; about four months later I was even more stressed and doing the work of three people.
I began spiraling even further, stopping to get donuts and a soda for breakfast on occasion. At lunch, I would walk to the convenience store and get a soda and M&M’s.
My eating habits were out of control because I had never experienced this amount of stress in my life. I began using food to cope with my anxious thoughts and by the time I left this job, I had regained all of the weight I lost in 2015 plus some.
At the time of writing this, I’m now the heaviest I’ve ever been at close to 200 pounds. I notice the difference in my body every day and hate looking at myself in the mirror some days.
Then I have other days where I tell myself, “c’mon man, you did it before. You can do it again. You just have to try.”
Telling yourself that you can change and doing it are two different tasks.
“Things Are Changing Come Sunday”
During my teen years and most of college, I worked at a local Pizza Hut franchise in my hometown. My Aunt Sandy managed this particular store for my entire life up until she retired a few years ago.
Whenever we would have a new product to sell or need to go over “housekeeping”, she would hang a poster on the corkboard where we clocked in. Anytime someone started slacking off that week, she would say, “things are changing come Sunday!” and walk off.
Sunday would come and we would get yelled at for a little bit about not using the proper tools to make pizzas (to avoid going over costs), being lazy on the clock (she loved saying “if you got time to lean, you got time to clean”), or anything else that needed to be addressed.
Things would change and everyone would be on their P’s & Q’s for a week or two. Then things would go back to how they were and we would have this cycle of meetings over and over again.
I bring this up because it’s easy to change your habits for a few days. I can’t tell you how many “last soda’s” I’ve had in the last four years, only to go right back to it after a few days.
You see, you can’t change yourself for somebody else. That desire to change has to come within yourself. You have to be the one to decide that you’re ready to change.
Five years ago I made that change.
Four years ago I lost it.
Three years ago I threw it out the window and have been chasing it ever since.
Change doesn’t happen overnight. You have to find the right mindset to prepare yourself and actually make the right habits to change.
I hope I find that mindset in the near future because I’m ready to change.