Almost 19 months ago my wife, Cheryl, joined Weight Watchers trying to lose some weight. At the time I was supportive but not on a diet myself. She started tracking her food and our dinners got a little healthier so I was eating healthier food but was still eating a lot of it. I still enjoyed my excesses at breakfast and lunch when she wasn’t around so it didn’t really bother me too much.
After the first month she was doing well and started talking about joining a gym. Again I supported the idea but wasn’t really wanting to be bothered. As she looks around for a gym to join in our area of town, at the time there were only a couple of options to choose from, one of the options was the YMCA. Price wise it wasn’t bad for both of us to join vs just her joining so we went and joined the gym in November of 2013. Little did we know that decision would fundamentally change us for the better.
Very few times since that day have I talked about that first day in the gym. The fact that I couldn’t walk up a flight of stairs without being winded or that my back hurt most days didn’t seem to bother me. What caught my attention was finally stepping on the scale and for the first time seeing myself like the rest of the world did. Luckily the Y has a pretty nice scale because the first weigh in was 401 lbs. Yeah, I was shocked too!
Until that moment I always knew I was a big guy. I was fat and ok with it but 401 lbs was a wake up call. Cheryl and I decided that we had to make this a lifestyle change and not a “diet.”
Instead of minor changes to what we ate we made sweeping changes. Gone were the cookies, crackers, chips and ice cream. Replaced with fruit by the bushel full. We gave up eating potatoes and casseroles to reduce the starchy and fatty foods. The so called empty calories of sodas replaced with water. We ate salad at least once a day but tried to watch the amount of cheese and dressing we used to keep down the calories and fat.
Cheryl stuck with Weight Watchers but I started using MyFitnessPal to track what I ate each day. It was enlightening to track my calories. I had convinced myself that I didn’t eat too bad but daily tracking revealed the truth. I was probably consuming between 3,000 – 4,000 calories on a average day without any exercise or much activity at all. Until you track you don’t realize that chicken wings are about 800-900 calories for 5 pieces. It was nothing for me to eat 15-20 for dinner with fries as a side. That works out to over 3,000 calories for dinner not counting a drink or two!
We stuck with the gym going 4-5 times a week. Slowly we increased the amount of time and the intensity of the workouts as we slowly started to get into better shape. As the days, weeks and months passed both of us continued to see the numbers on the scale trend lower. Around May of 2014 we bought bicycles and started riding to change up our exercise routine. Cheryl enjoyed riding for fun but I used it exercise on almost a daily basis. I bought a heartbeat monitor to make sure I was getting the proper intensity in my rides. Slowly the speed and distances increased until I was riding over 20 miles in under an hour and half in the heat of a Louisville summer.
Toward the end of the summer we took a weekend vacation to Gatlinburg and began hiking. A few years ago, we walked to the top of Clingman’s Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains and it almost killed both of us. We decided we would use it as a gauge of our progress so on the morning of September 4, 2014 Cheryl and I walked our way up Clingman’s Dome trail and to the top of the observatory. I won’t say it was an easy walk but we made it without a lot of effort. We decided to try a little hiking in the park that day. We looked for a nice trail to try. We found one that sounded interesting so our first official hike in GSM was the Kephart Prong trail. A couple things we discovered that day was the length of trail post in the official park guides are wrong by about half a mile and when choosing a trail pay attention to the elevation profile. A 1,000 feet of elevation gain doesn’t sound like a lot but when you are continuously walking up the hill it does make thing a little more difficult. On the hike we found park Rangers replacing a log bridge toward the end of the trail so we had to cross a freezing cold creek without shoes and socks to make it to the end but it was refreshing on our feet and ankles. Even though it was only 4.5 miles round trip we enjoyed it enough to hike to Abrams Fall, Grotto Falls and Laurel Falls. We got to see beautiful landscapes and enjoyed seeing the different a few waterfalls in the park.
By the end of our week in Gatlinburg we had been hooked on hiking and continued hiking at a couple different spots around the Louisville area. We’ve booked a trip back to Gatlinburg to try a couple different and harder trails this year.
Today we continue to eat better and exercise. Cheryl joined a group to train for running her first 5k. I still go to the gym 4-5 times a week and added a little running to my routine. With the warming temperatures I got back on my bike and I’m slowly building up my stamina again. I still track my food on a daily basis and watch what I eat. I still weigh in each day to check my progress. Overall Cheryl and I feel healthier and better. The two of us still struggle to look at pictures of ourselves from a few years ago.
Since we started I’ve lost a little over 145 lb and Cheryl is down over 110lbs.
The one thing we’ve learned from this experience is anyone can do it. Cheryl and I didn’t look for a magic bullet. It really comes down to eating correctly and exercising. Our couch and TV probably feel abandoned at times since we don’t use either one like we did in the past. I believe that considering it a lifestyle change instead of a diet played an important part in reminding us that it was a long term change and not an immediate result. Given what we’ve gone through and the changes we’ve made it’s hardened me to people that make excuses about their weight. For the majority of people issues with weight come down to eating too much and not having enough activity in their life. I know some people have medical conditions that make it hard to lose weight but these are rare exceptions.
Cheryl and I will continue to work to lose weight and get healthier. I find it ironic that according to the BMI scale I’m still obese (at least it isn’t morbidly obese anymore) but I feel healthier than I have in years. Whether I will ever hit my BMI target weight I don’t know but I keep trying and keep getting healthier everyday.