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A Change of Lifestyle

At some point last year, while I was traveling back and forth between Miami and Puerto Rico, we decided to make a significant change to our diets. We keep kosher, so that overrides everything, but beyond that, we made a conscious decision and effort to start eating both locally and organic as much as possible, both for our own health and for the general benefit of the world. When we moved to our new apartment, among the things we downsized in order to make the move easier and get rid of some clutter, was the microwave. That was in November and rarely in the last seven months have we honestly wished we had one; breakfast may take a little longer to prepare, and I’m probably one of few who has four burners going at 7 AM, but it’s not an impossibility. We’ve learned that we enjoy a lot of foods we used to microwave a lot more now that we actually cook them. Along with this switch we decided to do our best to increase our rate of exercise, though this one has been a far more inconsistent resolution.

However, the simple truth is that in the last year I was at one point at the heaviest I’ve been in my life, clocking in at 360 lbs. I am not that weight right now, but I’m also not that much better: I’m 346 lbs as of Wed, June 30, 2010. Clearly something needs to change.

I’m choosing today to mark the start of that change.

The first thing I’m doing is posting my weight publicly, something I have never done before. In doing so, I cannot hide, and simply have to own up to my reality.

The second is that I need to modify my eating habits. Now, contrary to what many may think when they see a fat person, I actually don’t eat that terribly. Because I keep kosher, I have not touched fast food fare in the last 7-8 years. It’s not that I haven’t had burgers and fries, but when I do these aren’t the McDonald’s-type burgers, but more restaurant/deli fare (and please understand, I’m not claiming these are pinnacles of healthy eating, but there is a difference). I still have pizza and fried chicken at times, but again, I can’t go to the corner to get 2 large pies and a bucket of wings for $10, I have to go to a restaurant and pay around $20 for either, so it seriously limits my intake of these foods. That said, I aim to reduce my consumption of these foods as much as possible, once or twice a month at most.

I know I need to watch my portions, and eat a better selection of foods that will fill me up with less quantity and keep me full for a sensible period of time so I don’t oversnack. Even when I eat well, I err on the larger portion size, so I know I have to watch this.

More than anything, more than any other food issue, my biggest problem is that I am addicted to sweets. Addicted. I crave sweets. As I type this I am craving something sweet. And not fruit-sweet, but candy/chocolaty/pastry/cakey sweet. I absolutely love sweets, and I am addicted to them the same way a drunk is addicted to alcohol. And these are making me fat beyond belief, regardless of any other improvement I make in my life. And it needs to stop. And it stops today. Cold turkey. As of today I am giving up all sweets. Well, let me be realistic: I am allowing myself only one sweet per week, and only one sweet. And if I screw up, I will admit it publicly, out loud, and make amends for it by counting it as the sweet of another week. So if I eat three donuts in one sitting, that’s a month till I get to have another sweet.

Along with these changes in eating I will also endeavor to do more exercise. I hate exercising, I really do, but I love riding my bike, for example, so it’ll be a matter of finding incidental ways to get active. It’ll have to wait till I get back from my vacation next week, as I discovered yesterday my bike’s seat had been stolen (Grrr) but I’ll do this.

I have to. I am 346 lbs (and that’s after having lost 10 pounds over the last 4 weeks, BTW). My wife bought me the Wii Fit for my birthday two years ago and I have not been able to use it ever because it has a weight limit of 330. At one point I was very close to that goal, and then stress overtook my life and, emotional eater that I am, it all went to hell. But that’s it. I am studying to join the field of Health as a Nurse and I cannot go in weighing 346 lbs.

So here goes, probably the hardest journey of my life. I will update my info as I go along, I will keep myself honest by owning publicly my mistakes and triumphs, here and on Twitter. I will do this.

Starting now:

July 1, 2010 – 346 lbs.

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  1. July 1, 2010 at 1:18 PM

    Good on you, Daniel. I’ve wrangled with weight for awhile and am actually doing very well these days thanks to finally finding an eating plan that works for me. (Down 40+ lbs. from my high of ~250.)

    My one bit of unsolicited advice is keep it simple, by which I mean cut your calories down. As a general principle, losing weight is math not chemistry. You’ve got to burn more calories than you take in. Don’t starve yourself, just try cutting down the quantity of what you eat, and you’re halfway home. Easier said then done of course. One trick I use is putting aside part of the food on my plate that I decide in advance I’m not going to eat, e.g., a quarter of the chicken breast, the bun off the burger, etc. Start focusing more on what you are _not_ eating.

    Good luck.

  2. Berin Kinsman
    July 1, 2010 at 1:29 PM

    Good on ya, brother, and if there’s anything I can do to help, let me know.

    After losing weight steadily for months, I’ve plateaued and have gained a couple of pounds back. My problem is 3-fold: first, most of what I eat at home is vegetables and protein, no carbs. Sounds good, but I’m not eating enough calories, so my body’s started holding on. The second problem is that my major caloric intake comes in the form of fast food 2-3 times a week. I run from the day job to a game session, or from work to a meeting, or from a meeting to work to gaming. no time to run home to work, and carrying a lunch (especially in the heat) isn’t practical. Even making the best choices from available options, I’m taking in too much fat and sodium. Problem three is asthma; while I’m doing better, I can still only do so much cardio without keeling over dead.

    So, I feel ya.

  3. July 1, 2010 at 1:29 PM

    Danny,

    This is a huge step forward (speaking in general terms, as admitting you have a problem – any problem – is the first step towards overcoming that problem).

    If there is anything I can do to help and encourage you on the blog or on twitter or over email, please let me know. Set smal goals, be consistent, don’t beat yourself up when you fail, just accept it and move on, and celebrate the successes.

    We don’t have a microwave either and rarely miss it. If you need recipes for any particular food or meal (lunches, snacks, etc) just let me know.

  4. July 1, 2010 at 1:34 PM

    @Justin D. Jacobson
    Thanks, Justin. I failed to mention breads and their ilk among my kryptonites, but yes they fall in there. So that’s one place where I look to be doing some of my greater calorie reductions. Overall, I intend to keep your advice in mind.

  5. July 1, 2010 at 1:39 PM

    @Berin Kinsman
    Since my wife and I started making lunch at home, and especially bento-style lunches, we have found both that it is possible to carry food and have it not be bothersome, cumbersome or inconvenient. Do a Google search for bento, and read a bit on the philosophy of packing a bento lunch. Even with a regular plastic container, it is possible to apply the ideas. And since these are eaten at room temp, spoiling due to hot/cold is greatly reduced (cold packs and a small thermos take care of the rest). I’d be happy to talk to you more about this, and help you plan lunches that you can throw in a backpack with little fuss.

    As for the cardio, I face the same issue due to weight. Bicycling, I have found, is perfect, as it is more about the long run than the quick sprint, and I can maintain my heart rate up without getting out of breath.

  6. July 1, 2010 at 1:42 PM

    @Patricia Eddy
    Thanks, Patricia. Though I left it unsaid, it is actually your (you and John’s) influence that kickstarted us into a conscious shift towards more healthy eating. 🙂

  7. Wifey
    July 1, 2010 at 2:06 PM

    I am so proud of you, love!!!
    And I too am resolved to join you and help you make this change in our lifestyle (I say “OUR” because obviously what you eat or don’t eat at home I will eat too). We’ll make this happen, step by step!
    xoxoxo

  8. Marta
    July 1, 2010 at 2:47 PM

    I am very proud of you, Daniel. Like you, I am addicted to sweets, specially chocolate. What works for me is not having them around me. Only on very special occasions I indulge. I am trying to cut sugar completely, slowly substituing with agave instead, this has helped me curve down my cravings for sugar.

    You know you’ll have my support, always. Love,
    M

  9. July 1, 2010 at 4:44 PM

    @Wifey
    🙂 Love ya.

  10. July 1, 2010 at 4:45 PM

    @Marta
    I’ll be working on some of those changes as I go along.

  11. Dan Grabowski
    July 2, 2010 at 1:54 PM

    Keep up the work. Losing weight takes time. To be healthy, you should honestly lose at the most about 2 pounds a week.

    I have been doing the same thing for myself ever since I gained about 60 pounds since graduating high school, bringing me up to about 240. I really want to get myself to about 190 with a good portion being muscle.

  12. July 2, 2010 at 2:29 PM

    Regarding plateaus… for general advice, I’ve found whenever I’ve been on a serious plateau, what is most helpful to me is to really switch things up. So if I’ve been on a veggie kick for a while, I’ll add back in some bread or good fats like nuts. Sometimes taking a day or two and letting yourself relax (while not slipping back into bad habits) is the key.

    So when I was on my hardest plateau of the past year, I took two days off and had a second serving for one dinner, a larger lunch with a roll (that I wouldn’t normally eat) for one lunch and bought some non-traditional snack foods like oven roasted chickpeas (a very calorie dense food, but healthy), and nuts. Calorie wise, I was probably 500 calories over per day, but that shake up was what my body needed. They were almost all good calories, but the extra boost got my body’s attention and the very next two days I lost 3 pounds and have kept it off. I’ve plateaued again and I’m just about ready to do the same process again next week. Hopefully it’ll have the same results!

  13. JJ
    July 7, 2010 at 8:37 AM

    Daniel, you are not alone. Like you I’ve struggle a lot especially the last few years to get my weight under control. Like you I have a supportive wife eager to live a healthier lifestyle. Maybe all together we can get to that place of balance that we’re looking for. I’m right there with ya.

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