The Spark

I was asked a very interesting question by someone whom I greatly respect. He’s one of the wisest, kindest, and most genuine people I know on this planet, and the question he asked is not one I’ve confronted either privately or publicly.

So, the question simply is: “What made you change?” I see that for some folk Crisis (health alarm, death of a friend…) can be the catalyst, and sometimes a sudden change of environment can kick off change. But, is there any hint you can offer to convey what the seed of your transformation was?

There were many factors that all came together to form a perfect storm, so to speak. (This goes long, because I am working through my answer as I write this.)

  • I was growing tired of being tired. I live in a two-story house, and just the thought of going upstairs was enough to make me sweat.
  • I couldn’t bend down to tie my own shoes, and it was not only embarrassing, but physically uncomfortable.
  • I hated how I looked in the mirror. I used to be thin, and in my mind’s eye, I was a thin person trapped in the body of a fat man.
  • I was becoming more and more of an introvert who didn’t want to go outdoors and do things requiring physical activity. This is the opposite of who I was as a young person.

I had reached a point where I didn’t want to be disappointed in myself anymore. I had let myself go. I was a Marine who failed at the simplest of missions: stay healthy.

It is true that I was facing medical crises, but these, in and of themselves, was not enough to force me to change my ways. Even when faced with mortality, I felt powerless and unable to make a change necessary to give myself a chance at a longer and healthier life.

Then, between conversations with my friend Matt and my cousin Sarah about food and exercise, something was made clear to me that offered me a chance at changing my life in a way that seemed to make sense to me. These two people, one an amateur nutritionist (whether he admits it or not) and the other a recent graduate of medical school and a physician’s assistant both told me the same thing: losing weight and being healthy is 90% food, 10% exercise. They also both told me that I could eat delicious, nutritious, and filling foods that are good for me and would bring my health back.

I had been looking for something to help me get healthy for years. I never would admit it to anyone, but I was reading online every night, trying to find a path that I could travel in a sustainable manner. Something I could do for the rest of my life that made sense. Surgery, pills, powders, supplements, patches, and even extreme workout plans didn’t seem to make sense to me. None of these things seemed to me to be a long-term solution to a problem that doesn’t go away when a person loses a set amount of weight.

The spark, for me, if I had to pinpoint it, was the logic and clarity of eating simple, whole, good organic foods. My grandparents both lived into their 90’s, and they ate bacon, eggs, lard, butter, and other fatty foods. What did they eat in strict moderation? Breads, desserts (hardly ever, actually!), and pastas. My grandmother knew more about nutrition than many of today’s diet experts.

While there were many factors involved in my decision to get healthy, what has kept me going and what has made it easy for me was the simplicity of a diet that consists of whole foods, natural foods, organic foods, and in staying away from processed foods. It takes a lot more time to make, but it is worth it when I feel so good all day with loads of energy. I think I feel emotionally stronger and happier, as well.

As for what made me feel empowered to change, I’d have to say that was the love and support of my wife and my family. While they all accepted me as I was, and my son has even told me recently that it’s hard for him to see the physical changes in me because he still sees me as “Dad,” everyone was so supportive of my new eating plan. Even our friends have been champs by putting up with our early experiments in Paleo cooking. I know some of the meals weren’t as good as they could have been otherwise, but our friends were awesome and smiled as they forked down the latest trial dinner.

My wife, who was quite vocally against this in the beginning, came on board rather quickly after reading the same information I read. She had come to the same conclusions: eating good, whole foods was far better for us than the pre-processed junk we were eating. She gave Whole30 a try when I did it, and she helped me ease into a Paleo lifestyle. Now, she’s the expert I turn to when I’m not sure of whether something is okay for me to eat or not.

Emotionally, we lean on each other. We each have times when we need support and strength because we just don’t have it in ourselves to go about doing it alone: that’s when we turn to the other for strength. Neither of us wants to let the other down, so neither of us lets the other slip or fall. It’s a good arrangement, and is a key element in my success.

Ultimately, it came down to not wanting to sit around and wait for whatever ailment to come and get me. Not necessarily a fear of death or any specific malady, but just not wanting to take my lack of action sitting down, so to speak. The time for inactivity had passed. It was time for me to do something about my health, and with the information given to me by Matt, Sarah, and the reading I did on the Internet, I was ready, willing, and motivated. I set my mind to it and never looked back. Eight months later, I’m 88 lbs lighter and much healthier than I’ve been in nearly 20 years.

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