For the record, I don’t see myself as thin. I still feel like a big guy. Heck, I weigh in the neighborhood of 165 lbs most days, and that’s not thin for a 5’7” guy. I do have a lot of muscles from all the running and push ups I do, though, so there’s that. However, lots of people call me thin now, and I guess as compared to the average 50 year-old guy, I am pretty thin. So, with that said…
Life as a newly returned thin guy is weird. I know, I use the word, “Weird” a lot when referring to my body image, experiences, and even the way I feel about weighing 150 lbs less today than I did nearly two years ago, but the fact remains: it’s still weird to me. I used to be thin my entire young life. Regardless of what or how much I ate, I remained pretty thin. This was due to two things: youth and fitness. When you’re young, your body is growing, and it uses a lot of energy to do that. Also, most kids back in the 70’s were very active; I definitely was. Not only did I play outside every day after school and on the weekends, but I was also a swimmer and avid bicyclist, riding an average of 20-50 miles a day. I could barely eat enough to keep up with the calories I was expending!
That continued through most of my 20’s as a young Marine. Running 3-5 times a week, being very active, and working not only my full-time job as a Marine but also part-time as a software sales guy at Egghead Software kept my weight mostly in check. Of course, my Eastern European genes were catching up with me, and by 27, my weight started to pack on as my metabolism and fitness levels declined. By 30, I was about 25 lbs overweight. By 40, I was 125 lbs overweight. By 48, I was about 150 lbs overweight. Then, thanks to Whole30, Paleo, and the later addition of running, I got back down to 165 lbs.
Life as a big guy was hard. I’ve written about it in the past. It was filled with pain, embarrassment, and difficulty. That all became the norm for so long, I forgot what it was like to be healthy and fit. I mistook that feeling for youth. I now know that when you can get up, feel energetic, and be able to tackle any task requiring physical activity with nary a thought toward limitations, it is the feeling of being fit.
Now, I still get the 50 year-old man aches in my joints in the mornings, but they go away rather quickly. Being able to sit up out of bed easily and without any kind of muscle pain is still a new experience to me, and it always starts the day off for me with a smile. I also look down at my legs and see the muscles flex as I place them on the ground. I’m always amazed at the definition and how thin my legs are now. They are a healthy thin, though, and very strong (due to all the running I do). As I dress in the mornings, I marvel at the small clothing I am about to put on. I think as I grab a shirt or trousers that they are too small for me, yet when I put them on, they fit perfectly. I remember not too long ago picking up clothes for me to wear, and they were massive and heavy. They had to be to fit over my large frame.
I eat a breakfast that consists of either two eggs sunny-side up with three slices of sugar-free bacon or a slice of an egg casserole that Sherry makes for me that has eggs, bacon, pulled pork, and apple in it. A cup of coffee (black) caps it off, and I take a travel mug with me for the drive in to work. Throughout the day, I’m able to go up and down stairs, perform any task required of me, and walk long distances to and from meetings when necessary, all without having to think about the physical toll it would have taken on me as an overweight person. I used to dread stairs when I was heavy. Now, I look forward to them.
Lunches are pre-prepared by my wife Sherry for four of the five work days each week. They consist of recipes she has posted on her site, and she packages them in little microwaveable containers that I just pop into the microwave and heat up. They are delicious, filling, and all made with clean, Whole Foods. On Fridays, I have a standing lunch meeting with my best friend, and we typically go out for a steak.
When I get home, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I change into my exercise clothing and do my push ups and run. If I don’t run, I get cranky and I feel like I’m missing something important. It’s become a very important part of my weekly routine now. While I may get off schedule (like this week where I’m running Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday or Sunday), I always make sure to run a minimum of three times a week for a minimum distance of three miles. I also have a minimum set of push ups: 80. I try for 100+ every time, but 80 is my minimum.
Dinner is usually something Sherry makes for us, once again, with clean and wholesome foods. Every now and then, we do go out for dinner, and it typically consists of either steak, seafood, or other protein-heavy dish with a side of grilled vegetables. Sometimes, I may get a salad, but it’s always with vinegar and oil and without cheese or croutons (or olives; they are evil!).
Throughout the day, I see overweight people looking at me. Something I never expected was the judgmental stares I get as a thin person. I don’t remember that when I was younger. That’s probably because most young people are expected to be thin, and if someone did look at me that way, I didn’t recognize it or pay attention. When I was overweight, I remember seeing some thin people look at me with sadness. I never understood why they looked at me that way, but I do now; It’s how I feel when I see obese people. I don’t find them disgusting or ugly; it just makes me sad because I know how it feels to be obese, both physically and emotionally. But these people who now stare at me judgmentally tend to be overweight or obese, and I think they are thinking that either they are sad that they aren’t thin like I am, or perhaps they think I won some sort of genetic lottery that they lost out on. What makes me sad about the latter is that it’s so untrue, and if they just knew what I did, perhaps they could do it too and get healthy!
Maybe I’m reading too much into the stares. Maybe they aren’t staring at all, and I’m just more self-conscious now as a person who used to be very heavy. However, every now and then, people feel compelled to say something to me about my physcal stature. “You thin people don’t have to worry about getting fat,” or “You can eat whatever you want; you skinny people seem to have an endless ability to chow down.” No. Neither of these things are true. I’m thin because I don’t eat whatever I want, and yes, I do have to worry about getting fat; that’s why I eat good foods and run. At the doctor’s office once, a lady told me, “You’re so lucky you are skinny. I’ve struggled with my weight all my life and no matter how much exercise I did or how well I ate, I always stayed overweight.” I asked her what kind of foods she ate to stay healthy, and she said, “Oh, I only eat oatmeal, whole wheat toast, and cereals. Rice and beans for lunch and dinner with low-fat margarine and turkey meat.” Literally the worst possible diet, yet this is what our health industry has pushed as a healthy diet. Of course an industry would push that; she had spent a lifetime in doctor’s offices trying to get healthy and to lose weight all while following their advice. It’s sad that she truly believes she can’t lose weight. If she ate Paleo, there’s a good chance she would lose a lot of her weight and regain much of her health.
Going from fit to fat to fit has been a strange journey, but one I am glad I made. I don’t ever want to be fat again, and I continue to do everything I can to remain thin. Sometimes the scale shows bigger numbers and I know I need to reduce serving sizes or be more careful with the amount of carbs in my diet. As long as I stay protein-heavy and eat high-fiber carbs, I tend to do alright. Life on the Paleo Diet has been very rewarding, and being able to re-join the military as a National Guard Staff Sergeant has been one of my proudest accomplishments of the past 10 years alongside my weight loss and my fitness. The list of things that are different when you lose weight is pretty long, and I’ve gone into that before, but what I never said before was that it is worth every bit of effort to get here. It may be simple, but it’s not easy, yet every moment of difficulty is worth it when you feel as good as I do now. I guess that’s why I get so stressed when my weight goes up; I never want to go back to feeling badly like I did when I was overweight again.