Hey guys! Here’s the second installment of my series of requested guest posts. This post comes from one of my favorite friends from college and I just know you are going to love it and him!
Hi, my name’s Ryan. Kaitlin and I went to college together. We had a lot of classes together and I love her to pieces. When Kaitlin put out the call for guest bloggers I offered to write her a little something about my own experiences with weight loss and healthy living.
(FYI if you ever meet Kaitlin in real life be sure to mention how much you love Beauty and the Beast, she’ll dig it.)
I like to eat and I gain weight very easily.
These two traits have made my life rather difficult. If it was just one or the other I think I could’ve really cruised. If I’m honest with myself I admit that the latter is really most likely caused by the former: if you list “eating an entire sleeve of Oreos” as a hobby on Facebook you can only avoid loosening the belt for so long.
I first gained weight when I was in middle school. At the time I was doing theater and was really into Star Wars, so getting glasses and gaining weight just seemed inevitable. Albertsons, the grocery store in South Florida, had a $4.99 8-piece fried chicken deal that was, without hyperbole, my favorite thing on Earth.
Nothing, not my family, not my friends, not the fact that Rachel Goldberg and Allison Alt had started to grow boobs could compare with the feeling I got when I’d ask my Mom if we could stop off before home and return to the TV room triumphant. What exactly I’d triumphed over was unclear (healthy eating? common sense? living to a ripe old age?).
Was I eating because I was unhappy? Maybe, but I was 13; everyone is unhappy, not everyone consumes half a birthday cake just because they’re bored. I had a pretty normal childhood, we moved around a lot but other than that my parents loved each other, I had friends, I just really liked eating. Perhaps I was trying to fill something up in myself, perhaps I just never understood the consequences but whatever the reason I got big.
That changed in high school when I went out for the track team. What began as a desire to kill some time between 3pm – 5pm and bulk up the activities resume became one of my favorite things about high school. I wasn’t a spectacular runner (the term “passable” is probably a good way to think about it) but I made a lot of good friends and running helped me shave off most of the excess weight I’d been carrying around and sped up my metabolism so that I could eat a lot and wouldn’t really feel the consequences. I slimmed down which was great for me because I was really into punk rock and the tight t-shirt look was in.
Artist’s rendering of what I looked like while running
Unfortunately the transition from high school to college taught me one extremely important lesson: a bad habit always catches up with you. When I was running competitively I ate like a runner: lots of carbohydrates, large quantities of food before and after races but since I was usually running it off my fascination with junk food, intact since my fat kid days, never really affected me.
That changed in college. I stopped running, also stopped doing any exercise of any kind but still ate like a marathoner. It didn’t help that I gained a reputation as something of a party animal/eating machine. Numerous students at Connecticut College at the beginning of the 21st century will remember me as the guy who ate 50 Chicken Mcnuggets in one sitting or the guy who ate 12 lobsters at our school’s lobster night (I had a lot of vegetarian friends). Before long I’d started gaining weight again but, to my detriment I had no idea how much I’d gained.
Generally my fighting weight is around 185lbs – 195lbs (I’m 6’ 2”). I knew I’d gained weight but since I didn’t have a scale I had no idea how much I weighed. However I was on Spring Break in Louisville, Kentucky visiting a friend and we went to the Kentucky Derby museum. While there I saw a scale at an exhibit on jockeys. The exhibit explained that jockeys generally weigh between 120lbs – 140lbs and invited us to weigh ourselves to see if we could make it as a jockey (The exhibit seemed geared at children but whatever, I was in a new city). I stood on the scale. To my horror it informed me I was a cetacean 240 lbs. I had thought I was a jockey carrying his saddle, in reality I was a jockey who had eaten another jockey.
Pictured: Myself Junior year of college, standing hungrily with my friend Tim (I’m on the right..you know, in case you can’t tell)
This was too much. I’d be used to being described as “big” or “stocky” since I’m just built that way, but this was different. This was fat. I was a fat guy. The line had been drawn in the sand: on one side, cake and ice cream; on the other, feeling good about myself, not needing to nap after lunch and being attractive to women who meet my impossibly high standards. It was a hard choice (especially when I figured out you can put cookies ON cake) but I eventually decided I was too young and just too damn handsome to be out of shape (both were later confirmed by several female relatives and people who agreed to go to the dance with me “just as friends”).
Pictured: The Enemy
I began the long, slow journey towards being in shape. It’s hard, especially if you’re really out of shape. Where once I could breeze through a six mile run, now I wheezed and coughed and croaked my through three. I endured the humiliation of asking the dude who ran the fitness center where the 10lbs. dumb bells were. I did yoga and when the woman asked me to put my legs behind my head I passed out. I ate salad.
In time the weight began to go away. It was gradual. I didn’t wake up one day and was suddenly thin. There were relapses (the occasional late night Wendy’s run, housing a box of Oreos whilst watching Gremlins etc.) but in time the weight faded. 240 lbs. because 200 lbs. I graduated college and started training for a 5k. 200 lbs. became 190 lbs. I started doing a lifting routing I’d read in a magazine, 190 lbs. became 180 lbs. I felt lean, lost the X in my XL shirts, could answer the front door without a water break, life was good.
Pictured: Me achieving my fitness goal of loosening the sword in the stone for some lucky child to remove right after me…whatever that thing’s rigged anyways
It’s not easy, there are days when my commitment to not consuming entire racks of ribs for old times’ sake is truly tested, but I must say that by and large, I wouldn’t change the way I feel for the way I felt for all of the Snyder’s Pretzels in the Shaw’s snack food aisle.
I still struggle with my weight. It’s hard, because I love to eat, and don’t particularly like to exercise. Still, from my journeys from big to, well, less big I’ve learned some important lessons:
- Just do it – I can’t stress this enough. It’s very easy to decide to get healthy and then set a date in the future. Making lifestyle changes is hard and must be made gradually. Just throw on the gym shorts and go outside. If you get really tired on a run, walk a bit and then work on making sure you don’t stop. Nobody begins anything as an expert, you need to build up to it. The sooner you start though, the sooner you’ll be great.
- Identify the things that make you want to eat – People have triggers about food. For me it’s TV. Watching TV, especially in marathon form makes me want to eat. Think about the times you snack and figure out a way to combat it. For me it’s just sheer boredom, or a desire to do something with my hands. As a result I try to have my computer nearby, or have my phone so I can keep myself busy without going to was on my emergency stash of Cape Cod chips.
- Be social – For me the best motivation is that I work out with friends. I also like to engage in a little friendly competition. My friend Jon and I are in a race to see who can bench 300lbs. first. Neither of us are sure how this got started but we’re both totally committed to it.
- Remember you are hot, you’re just getting hotter – Seriously, look at you!
Is he great, or what?