Wednesday, October 29, 2008

the never-ending battle

I've battled with weight for a substantial portion of my life... in 2001 I hit the weight equivalent of "rock bottom" - alcoholics and addicts use this term to indicate the turning point in life where they recognized there was a problem that could only be resolved with some serious life changes.

November 2001. 317 pounds. Three hundred seventeen pounds. It's hard for me to believe I was ever that size, but it's true. I wish I had more pictures of that time - I'd use them as cues, inspirational tools to keep me on track. (If anyone reading this has some, send them my way - you'll be doing me a favor.)

How, you might ask? Several things:

Sedentary College Student Lifestyle
Unlimited Meal Plan in the Dorms
Daily Sonic visits - 44oz drinks = ridiculous, Frito Pies aren't health food.

Combine those with a guy who's already ~30lb overweight at 250 and you've got a ticking time bomb. Wash, rinse, repeat for five semesters and you've got your payload.

In the fall of 2001 I lost a grandfather to a heart attack. He was, by all accounts, healthy as a horse. Grandpa Clay was no gym rat, but he was a wise man that recognized the benefits of a lifestyle that included proper nutrition and exercise... this made the circumstances of his death all the more relevant... if a guy like this, a guy who's doing everything the way he's supposed to can have a heart attack, someone who's in my position at my age doesn't stand a chance in forty years.

It took a couple of months, and I don't even think it was a conscious decision, but I decided to make a change.
I wasn't going to destroy my life before it started.
I would start using my body.
I would stop filling it with garbage that made me feel like crap.
I would find balance.

Balance takes a long time to find.

March 2002. Skiing, Lake Tahoe. You can see it in my face. ~300lb

June 2008, after crossing the finish line at the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon. 240lb.

I'm in the best shape of my life in the second picture. It took me six and a half years, but I did it the "natural" way, no surgeries, no pills. I wanted it, fought for it, and through trials and tribulations made it. It wasn't easy, there were many plateaus, peaks, and valleys... the details of these aren't important, but the lessons learned are - at least to me.

Lesson 1 - short term weight loss goals are not a means to an end. I'm no expert, but I figured out that you can't just keep losing weight gradually over time. it all looks good on paper, but it just doesn't work that way. you get burned out, frustrated, and need to let your body rest in the new shape it's discovered. I didn't take a scientific, nor guided approach to doing this - had I done so, I'd probably have accelerated my timeline. I'd lose some, gain a bit back, lose some more, level off, lose some more, gain some back, and on and on.

Lesson 2 - diets are for quitters. How many people do you know that are "always" on some fad diet or another? Low Carb, No Carb, Beach, Cookie, Drink, Grapefruit, blah blah blah. I'm a marketer, and I think that helps me see the integrated, multichannel campaign that you're eating, one forkful/packet/bar/shake/cookie at a time. There's tons of money to be made in this space - it's evident if you watch off-peak television. I wonder how much money has been made on ab gadgets alone... it's gotta be in the hundreds of millions.

Lesson 3 - this shit isn't easy. It's a struggle. Candy doesn't get less delicious, chicken wings are just as tasty... if anything, those things taste BETTER because you're not eating them all the time. After a long workout, you want to pig out - but you can't. Weight loss doesn't work unless you run a caloric deficit... burn more than you shove in your mouth. It's impossible to out work your mouth (especially my mouth!) at the gym. The human body was designed to feel "full" based on a given volume of food, assuming that food is of a reasonable caloric density. Many modern foods (like mayo) FAR exceed what I call a "reasonable" caloric density.

Lesson 4 - you need to want it. reasonable goals and reasonable timelines are key here. training for an endurance sport is a fantastic way to set a long term goal. I've used the Chicago Triathlon as my long-term improvement metric. in 2006 I finished in 03:13:53. 2007 I cut almost 14 minutes to finish in 02:59:17, and in 2008 i cut off another 2.5 minutes to finish in 02:56:42. I plan to shave time in each subsequent year to gauge progress.

My weight has fluctuated and will continue to - but fat and muscle density vary substantially. The 265lb I am at now is MUCH more lean than the 265 I was at several years ago, and I'm able to athletically perform at a level that I never dreamed I'd get to. I'm thankful for the fact that my young metabolism allows me to make these changes over the course of months, not years. I'm cognizant of the fact that it's only going to get harder, and that's intensifying my efforts.

I'm setting a "stretch" goal for myself now - I want to be under 230lb for xXx's winter camp come March 2009. I've 35lb to lose and five months to lose it. I'm going to start tracking calories, something I've never done before. It'll be hard to resist all the candy in the office, but I need to figure something out there. I want this. I want to not be the last person atop the wall this year. I want to summit Black Mountain. I want to win a cat 4 race, look good in a skinsuit, and not think twice when I take off my shirt to play volleyball at North Avenue Beach.

In short, it's on like Diddy Kong. Let the losing begin.


The Car Whisperer said...

Go get LOSE it, dude!!!

You and I ought to start a foundation or something...we have the same life timeline. I was 265 in 2001...18 months later I was 80 pounds lighter. It was a complete change of mindset. The day I got under got under 200 lbs was one of the biggest days of my life.

The Car Whisperer said...

At least you never did THIS.

Aaron said...


I've known you for, what, 14 or 15 years now, and the changes I've seen physically in you are incredible. It really hit home when we saw you at Escape From Alcatraz. I never stopped to think about why you became so active, or how very difficult it has been for you. Bravo man, I am sure you'll meet your goals. If you are in town during Thanksgiving, lets do some trail running to burn off your mom's cheese cake.

Tracy said...

I know you can do it, babe. You are amazing. xoxoxo

Biciklista said...

You go Erik!!!!

I've been a tall skinny dude most of my life, but after letting myself go for about a year and packing on those extra 10-20 (ok 25!) lbs, I can tell you that carrying any extra weight around should be avoided. You have it figured out in this post, I am sure you will do it.

I am shooting for 185 lbs by march.
And I am still going to eat mayo with my frites.

Tamara Fraser said...

Your story is my story. Just replace beer with mountain dew and Sonic with Wendy's.