This is advice given to people in regards to careers, professions, sports, and perhaps even when it comes to personality traits or skills. However, one area that this is often not mentioned is health and weight loss. Subconsciously, it’s why I ignored thin people for decades when they tried to lecture me about weight loss, but when I heard from people who had successfully lost weight and kept it off, it planted a seed that grew and welled up within me until I could no longer ignore it.
I was speaking to a soldier this weekend about weight and fitness. In the military, we are held to height and weight standards, and if you cannot meet them, you are discharged from the military. It’s pretty serious, and for those planning on making a career of the military, it can be devastating. This particular soldier is currently overweight, and on his last physical fitness test, only made the standard through what is called “Taping” which is when body fat is calculated using a tape measure, measuring the neck and the waist. He very barely passed his physical fitness test as well. He was happy to get past it, but has since let his weight balloon and has not been running.
I don’t lecture soldiers about their weight, but I do offer advice. I want to plant the seed. I want to let them know that I was once fat and I overcame that and regained control of my health through diet. I show them photos of me when I was overweight, and they can see that I’m no longer anywhere near being beyond the height and weight standards. They also know I have a solid APFT score (my last one was 273 out of 300), and that I’m fit.
This particular soldier exemplified what is so wrong with our nutritional education in this country, and it was extremely frustrating. He told me he had a diet approved by a certified nutritionist who had a master’s degree in nutrition. His diet included diet drinks, diet smoothies, all the fruit he wants to eat, and low-fat meats. His dinners were sub sandwiches.
I wanted to scream.
This poor guy is working his tail off, buying a bunch of diet products, and doing what he thinks is the right way to lose weight and get healthy while not losing any weight at all and doing the exact opposite. On top of that, he’s joined a gym and is working out for an hour or two every day, and yet, he’s not losing any weight. He’s frustrated, but he was adorably optimistic. He told me he’s not losing weight, but that he’s building muscle mass, which is better.
I tried to tell him his diet was wrong. I tried to tell him you can’t exercise away a bad diet. I tried to tell him, as gently as I could, that this nutritionist who approved his diet may not have the latest information available about nutrition. It all fell on deaf ears.
And so, I will likely see this poor guy not make his height/weight standards, he will likely not make the taping standards, and will likely be discharged because of it. And it breaks my heart.
If you want to lose weight, emulate someone who has walked the same path as you. They know the in’s and out’s, the pitfalls, the shortcuts, and the path to success. If you don’t trust me, find someone you do who has lost the weight and kept it off. Avoid people trying to sell you stuff, because their motivations are typically more about the money and less about helping you get healthy. You don’t necessarily have to avoid people who have never been overweight, but there’s comfort in knowing that someone will completely understand your journey in a way only another overweight person can. If I can be that person for you, I’m honored to do so.