I used to hate it when people would tell me about their fitness routines or their diet because the last thing I wanted to do was give up delicious foods that I loved or make puddles of sweat. I used to think that those people were pretentious and full of themselves and pushing their lifestyle on me. The sad part was that I needed the pushing. I was horribly and frighteningly obese.
When my cousin Sarah told me about Whole30 and Paleo, I was intrigued mostly because she told me that she was able to get healthy (and she was already very athletic!) and even lose weight just by changing the types of foods she ate. When I presented this information to Sherry, she told me I was crazy and there was no way she was going to stop drinking milk, eating cheese, and ice cream. I told her, “That’s fine, but if we don’t do this together, I can’t do it alone, and if I don’t do this, I’m going to die way too soon.” Sure, I laid the passive-aggressive guilt on her, but I wasn’t being dramatic. I had reached a point with my health that things were starting to go wrong, and unless I made a dramatic change, my health would pass the point of no return and I would die.
Sherry finally agreed to do a Whole30 with me, but with the caveat that she had to have her milk in the mornings. I told her that would be fine. She began reading everything I forwarded to her about Whole30, and then she began reading about it on her own, doing her own research. We started our Whole30 the day after her birthday, and within three days, she told me she was going to try cutting milk out of her diet as well. Then a crazy thing happened: She found that she had a food allergy to milk.
That made her a believer in the program more than the weight loss or any other health benefit. That her blood work was the best she’d had in years was icing on the cake. The strangest part is she never knew she had the allergy. She was no longer bloated all the time with inflammation.
I began losing the weight quickly, and in my mind, effortlessly. I won’t discount the amount of mental discipline required to do a Whole30 and then to stick with a Paleo diet in the face of social events, going out to dinners, parties, etc, but compared with running, lifting weights, and Zumba classes, I prefer the mental discipline. Sherry, on the other hand, is doing a combination of diet and exercise and it’s working for her. She enjoys the running, and that’s great! I wish I could enjoy running, but I just can’t. I do enjoy riding my bike, but I get bored very easily and it, more than anything, is what derails my exercise efforts. But I digress.
I lost 20 lbs in the first 30 days as we transitioned to the Paleo diet. I know that not everyone loses 20 lbs in their first month of a new diet, but you have to remember that I was a VERY heavy guy. After almost seven months, I’m only now at the weight many people start a diet at when they say they need to lose 40 lbs.
I felt great. I felt amazing. I felt like I actually had a chance at meeting my first goal of losing 50 lbs by Christmas. The best part: I never felt like I was suffering, starving, or being cheated out of delicious foods. Sherry did a great job of finding foods we could eat that tasted great. So much so, in fact, that for the first time in a long time, I would eat a meal and be completely sated. I no longer had cravings to snack or to eat between meals. I know a lot of that has to do with cutting the processed sugar out of our diets, but it was all new sensations that I was very happy to experience.
Over the next two months as we approached the holidays, we were full of trepidation: How were we going to navigate the parties and hosting our own holiday meals? How would we get through meals where nearly everything on the table is “Off plan” for us? Fortunately, with some planning and research, we were able to find out which of the foods were okay for us, and if none of those were available, which were the least evil. We ate food at every party we went to, and some of it was even food we shouldn’t eat (birthday cake, for example), but for the first time in my life, I was very mindful of everything I ate, and I made sure that if it was bad food, I ate only a very little. It worked. My weight loss continued, and I never tanked my weight loss.
Christmas came and the scales rewarded me with 50 lbs lost. I was elated! Looking back at pictures, I remember feeling so much slimmer when in fact, I was still by modern standards, still a very large guy (but I wasn’t THAT large anymore!).
January brought renewed hope for reaching my next goal: weighing 175 by my birthday. January went well (over 12 lbs lost that month alone) but February was the bane of my existence. I went for nearly three weeks without losing a single pound. However, the strange part was that while I didn’t lose weight, I was losing inches off my waist. I went from 40’s at Christmas to wearing 36’s by March. To put that into perspective, I was wearing 34’s the entire time I was in the Marines. I tried on jackets I had in the Marines, and they all fit me now. While I’m heavier than when I was a Marine, I’m almost the same size.
As I approach my second major goal, I still believe I can do it. I am on-track to make 175 lbs by July 5th, and my resolve is just as strong, if not stronger, than it has ever been. Now that I’ve lost over 84 lbs since September 1, I not only feel different, but I really look different now. It’s so drastic that I pause in front of mirrors as I pass them because it is so strange to see the person looking back at me from the other side. It’s a face I remember from long ago, only a little older and grayer on the sides, but a face I’ve missed for a long time. It is seeing that face that makes me want to talk to people about what I’m doing and about my journey. I want everyone who is overweight like me to feel the way I feel when I see my old face looking back at me.
It’s not about vanity or about wearing fashionable clothing (although the latter is pretty darned cool!). It’s about being healthy and liking who you are. I know we all tell ourselves that we love ourselves regardless and that we have to be good on the inside and the outside doesn’t matter. Well, we’re sausages. Even though we don’t see what’s on the inside, the outside is a direct reflection of what’s inside. I know from experience that I was unhappy with myself because of how I looked; it’s not how I felt I should look. On top of that, I felt horrible because of weak knees that were always sore, not being able to clip my toe nails or tie my shoes without holding my breath, and not even being able to sit on the floor because my stomach was so big. This is not how people should live. Our bodies were not designed for this; they were designed to be thinner.
Now that I’m in the last third of my total weight loss journey, I find myself being asked A LOT about how I did it. Did I use pills? Did I have a lap band inserted? Gastric bypass? How often do I work out? Am I doing Atkins? When I answer, “None of the above,” people are incredulous. When I tell them that all I had to do was adjust my diet slightly to avoid all processed sugar, processed foods, and most high-carb foods, they are incredulous. It goes against all the marketing and education we’ve been fed (hah! A pun!) our whole lives, and it’s almost too simple to be believable. I give them the url’s to Whole30 and Paleo. I give them the urls to my blog and toe Sherry’s blog. I tell them to not believe me alone: do the research like I did. Read, read, and read some more. The more you read about Whole30 and Paleo, the more you find that they are rooted in pretty solid science, and that the results speak for themselves. The best part? I feel like I’m alive for the first time in twenty years.
Most people’s perception of radically altering their diet is filled with negative preconceived notions. Diet food has to taste bad. You have to get rid of the best foods, or comfort foods. Diet food is restrictive and isn’t satisfying. Diet food has tiny portions. Well, some of that is true, but only if you’re doing some program or fad diet. Eating good, whole foods that are prepared from scratch with ingredients that are unprocessed and not full of carbs yields delicious and filling foods that make you forget that you’re eating food that is actually good for you. You find yourself eating less because it fills you up faster, and you find yourself not being hungry soon after eating because your body is working hard to digest the good stuff and it’s using the energy more efficiently.
Once people do a Whole30 and go Paleo afterwards, they find that it’s not nearly as hard as they thought it was going to be. Sure, preparing healthy foods takes more time and effort than eating pre-processed foods, but the health benefits are so huge that I can’t imagine eating pre-processed foods anymore. My long-term health is worth a lot more to me than any short-term gain in efficiency or gratification. Besides, I’m finding that I really like cooking, and that I’m getting really good at some basic skills everyone used to have in a time before canned or frozen foods. Even my own cured bacon is getting better every time I make it!
So, when I talk about what I eat, how I’m losing weight, and how everyone who is overweight should do this, I’m not doing it because I’m rubbing it in or bragging. I’m doing it because I was there; I was the fat guy hearing about losing weight and not believing it. I was the fat guy who thought there was no hope; there was no getting healthy. I began to accept the fact I was going to die soon. Nobody should have to do that, especially when there is a healthy way out for everyone who just puts in the work!
Do you have questions? Need some motivation? PM me, email me, or make a comment here!
Current weight status: 205.9 lbs
Total lost since September 1: 84 lbs
Total lost since August 2013: 102.5 lbs
BMI: 32.2% (Starting BMI: 45.4%)
BF: 25.1% (Starting BF 47.4%)