My Back Story

 

 

There are a few types of people who may find this book useful, but there are also a few types of people when it comes to reading books.  Some people will read this section and feel how my struggles and your struggles relate.  You will bond with what I’m saying and you will find this section very useful to you in not only sharing the same struggles as me, but running into the same speed bumps I have along the way.  Another type of person doesn’t want the fluff.  They want the 10 minute answer to all of life’s problems.  Maybe much further down on the left I’ll place a 10 minute roadmap for those of you who this applies to.  However, in my case, it took 40+ years to get to my apex of poor health, and I understood all of my problems would not be solved in 10 minutes.  I think if you’re reading this, you might want to take some time to pull back all of the layers which led you to this point.

When I set out in August of 2016 on my weight loss journey, I had just completed my MBA and the previous summer I had passed my PMP certification.  This is the “Project Management Professional” certification and shows that you are competent to run projects.  All of my life I had been an academic – yet with all of my brain power, I could not figure out the scale.

This is weeks before I made the change….you have to understand, I avoided cameras like the plague most of my life, so pictures I have of me aren’t exactly easy to come by.

Aug2016

My heaviest weight, ever, at 372 pounds.  I felt I wasn’t going to live to 45 and needed a big time change in my life

Early on….

I was an athletic kid.  I was always moving.  Baseball was the early love of my life.  I became the chubby kid on the team, and towards high school, I was the fat kid on the team.  Luckily, I could hit the cover off of the ball.  I participated in all kinds of sports at varying levels.  I even had a cup of coffee at Division III tennis as a freshman at the 4th flight on the team before I got kicked off for pledging a fraternity and missing time.  I wrestled in junior high and high school.  I took karate.  I played softball.  I even could run up to about 4 miles.  Biking was something I did many hours a day from the time I was small.

IMG_2247

This is me running 3 miles at north of 350 pounds.  While the time isn’t great, my effort was 110%.  You can’t judge a 350 pound person’s efforts by its cover.

“Eat less and move more”.

This is what I heard my whole life.  People would look at me as lazy.  It put a massive goddamn chip on my shoulder from the time I was really small.

People would look at me and make snap judgments on who I was.  Obviously I was incapable of complex thought because I was fat.  It was obvious to them I had character flaws…because I was fat.

Yet I was athletic.  I went through the whole NCAA athletic screening process at around 255 pounds.  Below is a picture of me just before freshman year of college somewhere around 230.

 

“Eat less and move more”.  “Put down the donuts and eat a salad”.

I was trapped in someone else’s body.  When I dreamed at night, I was doing things like running – not away from anything, like running for enjoyment.  My whole life I’d go to sleep at night and pray I’d wake up 100 pounds less.  This gets emotional.  Day after day you pray for a lower weight.  And it keeps going up.  You are stuck in a fat suit and hungry, all the time.

If I would just try harder.

Behind every fat person probably rests 100 times where they have tried to lose weight.  Maybe you lose a few pounds and a holiday comes up and you get derailed.  “I’ll start back on Monday”.  Maybe you lost 20-30 pounds and then suddenly, the weight loss stops, you start gaining back, and then get injured?  Maybe that weight you tried to lose for 4 months comes back on in 2 weeks and adds more to it?

I think the general public thinks massively overweight people eat 6,000 calories a day and do nothing – every day.  I can attest to the fact that I might have spend 8 out of 12 months each and every year for 28 years dieting.  And exercising like a son of a bitch.

 

The scale hit 372.  I was 40 years old.  I had a wife and a child.  I was hurting every morning.  I felt that if I didn’t make a change, and soon, I would be dead.

But it wasn’t so simple.  What about stress?  What about sadness?  What about celebrations?

To understand the root of obesity, let’s go back to my childhood.  A couple of things to understand:

  • I felt obesity was genetic.  My parents were overweight, so there’s nothing I could do about it, that’s the way I was supposed to be.  I feel now that it isn’t necessarily genetic, but you’re eating the same foods as your parents, and you learn that behavior.
  • We celebrated with lots of food.  Birthdays, Christmas, report cards – we’d go to buffets and feed.  One Christmas when I was maybe 12, my dad took me to Burger King and I could eat whatever I wanted.  I think I ate 6 double cheeseburgers.  Another year 4 cheesesteaks.  Yet another year, there was a half gallon of ice cream put on a plate for me and my brother (we each had one).  I ate all of it.
  • We used food for comfort and stress.  My parents fought over money a lot.  They loved us dearly.  Whenever there was a bad one, someone would run to DJ’s in Birdsboro to get cheese steaks.   When we were down and out, a pizza would be delivered.
  • We were not well off.  I’m not saying you have to be rich to be thin.  What I am saying is my parents worked their asses off and often our foods were carbohydrates that were cheap and quick to make up.  For example, my dad might have made a vat of macaroni, sauce, and some ground beef and my brother and I would eat it all week by nuking a big ass bowl.  Maybe I might eat Ellios or French bread pizza.  The treat me and my brother had was every Wednesday, we’d walk to the pizza shop a block away and share a $4 large pizza.  I’d eat 4 pieces and eye my brother’s 4th slice.
  • I was the pickiest eater ever.  My meats included hot dogs and hamburgers.  My vegetables were potatoes, corn, peas, and lima beans.  Any health things my parents could have made for me, I would have refused.
  • Exercise was zero issue.  In summers, from the time the sun came up until the time the sun went down, I was out and about.  Biking, running, baseball, tennis.  I’d slim out in summer and gain a TON of weight each winter when I couldn’t go outside.
  • Family feeding zones.  It seemed every holiday there were 10 desserts, coupled with starchy vegetables. I didn’t eat turkey until I was like 26, so Thanksgiving would be 2 giant plates of mashed potatoes, corn, followed by several desserts.  Peanut butter pie was my kryptonite!  But, even if some of the other desserts were a bit of a miss  at times, you still ate it all.  I almost felt bad for NOT eating some of the stuff.  Then, my grandmother would haze me into a piece of pie.  Not everyone in my family was obese, so obviously some people had better self control than me.

If you see above, you see:

  • I exercised a LOT during warm months and would slim out
  • I exercised rarely during winter and put on weight
  • Food was a reward, especially high carb foods
  • Food was a coping mechanism for down times
  • Food was used in celebrations
  • I didn’t eat a lot of different foods
  • My parents did the best they could with what I had to offer them
  • Obesity was not necessarily genetic, as I slimmed out during the summer.  I’ve come to see it as learned behavior and not destiny

So my parents had their work cut out for them.  As an adult, it’s up to ME to understand my issues and solve them.  It’s so easy to parent in the rearview mirror and criticize people, but make no mistake, one item up there that was not listed was how bull headed I was about being picky.  This is the wildcard here.

If you are an adult reading this, look in the mirror.  THAT person is going to solve your problems and find the answers.  I’m just going to point you in a certain direction to look.

Dating

Going back to my early childhood, I remember having these crushes on girls and realizing that there was no way they would ever find value in me.  My brother was called “cute” and I remember going to get “husky” jeans during school clothing shopping.  What happens is you look around, and feel like the ugliest person in the room.  Your clothing you bought a month ago are tight.  You look around at the guys the girls like, and you just defer to them.  You don’t get the cute notes.  You don’t get Valentine’s cards.  You don’t get invites to go out with people.  You don’t go to the dances.  You are in real fear that any and all advances you would ever have towards a girl would be rebuked.

You end up watching others enjoy their lives.  

This provides a huge element of sadness, and one that cannot be underestimated in the obesity equation.  THIS does not show up on the calories in, calories out equation.  THIS can be a cause for eating as well.  Thin people might not get it.  Maybe they do.  Friday nights you are all alone – maybe you had gone to rent a movie, order a pizza in, and “treat” yourself after a hard week.  No one is coming over.  You aren’t going on adventures with anyone.  You end up developing “relationships” with “mood food”.  Friday afternoon you start thinking about how that pizza is going to taste and how good those two movies are going to be, and maybe you get some ice cream for between movies.  This is a glimpse into a weekend life of someone who is single and morbidly obese.  The rest of the week they may have hit 1800 calories a day, but NOW…NOW they need a “treat”.

As a child, this puts you in a bubble.  You tend to understand what sadness and loneliness is from a very young age.  You know that when you are feeling bad, that the cheesesteak will taste SOOOO good!  You smile.   You are happy!  Your parents saw how sad you were and the only thing they could do to make you happy was get you your favorite food.

About an hour after you down that cheesesteak/pizza comes the guilt.  A few times in college I did some power heaves after eating too much.  But, generally speaking, bulimia wasn’t my thing.  What my thing was, was calorie deprivation.

If I wasn’t hungry, I wasn’t losing weight.  Remember this for later.  It was a form of self flagellation.  I didn’t fast, per se, as someone I knew growing up had some sort of issue and died from it.  No, I didn’t want to die.  I wanted to punish myself for being fat and be reminded that I was fat.  No better way of doing it than forcing yourself to be hungry all the time, and then shame yourself if you ate because you couldn’t deal with the pain that everyone else was going through.  Little did I know at the time that “normal” people probably didn’t get hungry like me.   What most of you probably don’t see when you see people with a larger waist is a larger appetite.  You view it as a character flaw, and I know better today.  I have “cured” my hunger issues.  But 90% of my life, the hunger I had was insane.  It would literally make me angry.  Kind of like those “diva” commercials with the candy bar.  Yeah, more on that later with the insulin and leptin.

At times in my life, weight would just come off, like those summers off from school.  But over the years of taking off 20 pounds each summer and putting on 30 pounds each winter had me at 5’7″ and 257 in 9th grade.  By the time I broke my foot as a junior in HS, I was then 5’9″ and 295.  You see, when exercise is your primary means of keeping your weight in check, and you can’t exercise, you blow the F up.

I just had a conversation with my mother yesterday (3/17/2019) about my weight gain and loss, and she mentioned how I’d grow up, then out…then thin out, then up, then out…then thin out.  I have some pictures when I was younger to show.

 

Pictures

So in wrestling in high school, I sucked.  I only did it to stay in somewhat decent shape for baseball.  In my junior year, I broke my foot and this really blew me up.  I entered my senior year at 295.   I didn’t go out for wrestling as a senior because I was 295 and the weight limit was 275, so I was embarrassed and didn’t want anyone to know my weight.  The previous summer I played baseball and hit close to .400, but being close to 300 pounds didn’t help me.  Halfway through my senior year, I had a situation around Valentine’s day.   Ughh.   Face palm.  That’s for my sequel.  For the next 2 months, I was eating 600-1200 calories a day and running 2-3 miles every day after school.  I was supremely hungry.

I remember going from 295-227 in a matter of 2 months.  When I graduated high school, I was at that lower end.

HS Graduation picture 

College had me then gain 115 pounds in 4 years.  Freshman year I ended around 255.  Sophomore year around 270.  Junior year, around 285.  Then my senior year, I shredded my ankle and was on crutches for 5 months.  This put me at 342.  I drank a LOT more and at a LOT more my first 3 years of college, but when activity stopped, the pounds FLEW ON!!!

 

Graduation picture

I’m not going to go through every diet and run I’ve ever done, but I will summarize my fluctuations….

342 college graduation at 22

311 when I was 26 and moved back to York

335 one year later after being unemployed the whole year

295 one month later on atkins

At 29, 338.  My dad died of lung cancer that year.

At 30, 355

At 30, 295…held that for 4 years.  Atkins

At 34, blew up to 355.  Had a tough year.

At 37, “slimmed down” to 330 for my wedding.

At 40, back up to 372.

At 43, 219.

 

Suffice it to say, the weight has moved LOTS over the years.  But it also has moved down significantly since I’ve been 40.

I have obviously demonstrated that I can lose weight, as I’ve done before.  Usually, weight loss happened after some sort of traumatic event for me.  I’d get in this mind space of maybe eating 800-1200 calories a day for months on end.  Eventually:

  1. Weight loss would slow
  2. I’d be tired and hungry 24/7
  3. Weight would come back on, despite eating less
  4. Injury would happen
  5. I’d return to eating 2000 or so calories a day and I’d rapidly gain weight back
  6. Maybe 4 months after I started, I’d have not really overeaten more than a handful of times and all of my weight would return.

Those people who did calorie math, I wanted to punch in the throat.  You smug sonofabitches never lived my life of punishing myself to make the scale go down.  I was pretty gifted in math growing up.  I’d make up Excel sheets of what I ate versus what I exercised and maybe the calorie math would dictate 5 pounds of loss in a week, and I’d get .5.  Or maybe 2 pounds projected, and I’d gain 1.

Something was terribly wrong with the math they were telling me.

I am the definition of someone who ate less and exercised more, yet my weight most of my life was out of control.

What was I doing wrong?

Yes, I must have been weak.  I must not have heard them correctly.  My character was deeply flawed.

I’ll start again on Monday.

I’ll join that stupid gym again.

On New Year’s Day, I’ll have another resolution.

 

I’ll have a piece of that pie, please.