Last week I posted on Facebook that I have lost 25lbs in the past three months, and a lot of people offered words of congratulations and encouragement. I want to thank them for that.
The truth is, I have struggled with my weight for the past twenty years. Since before I got out of the army I have been gaining weight, and have not had the willpower to really reign it in.
When I was engaged to my first wife I started at Weight Watchers, and had some pretty good success with that. I was also jogging – a lot – and that helped too. However after she left me, I was in a terrible funk; I went to a Weight Watchers meeting and they told me I had gained a couple of pounds, and I said something like ‘screw this.’ I dropped my tracking card into the trash bin and walked out. I remember that nobody tried to come after me, nobody tried to call me and see if I was okay, and I was done losing weight. It wasn’t their fault, it was mine.
Early in my relationship with Theresa she and I tried to lose weight together. We joined Weight Watchers, but she and I were not cut from the same weight loss cloth, and it just didn’t work out. I think the truth is that I need things to be a lot more structured and regimented with regard to weight loss, and she was more fluid with it. Especially when I was traveling as much as I was, dieting was just not something I was good at.
I joined Master Kim’s Oriental Martial Arts College.
While my joining OMAC did not do anything in the immediate, over the years it would be extremely important to my weight loss and overall health status.
In April, 2010 Master Beis and I decided that I should train to achieve my Black Belt in June. I told him I was going to work my ass off (which I did), and that I was going to lose weight (which I did). For seven weeks I did not eat meat, I deprived myself of a lot of the foods I love, and only under his careful supervision did I cheat a little. I lost 35lbs in that time frame, and when I tested for my belt I was feeling great. The problem was I was depriving myself… it was a temporary solution. That night I went out with some friends to a pub in Oakville, and for the first time in nearly two months I ate (beef) ribs, chicken wings, and drank beer. It was only supposed to be a one night splurge… it did not work out that way, and over the next eighteen months I gained all the weight back… and more.
In January, 2012 Master Beis and I decided I should train to achieve my Second Dan Black Belt that June. He told me that I needed to lose a lot of weight, and I dedicated myself to doing so. Unfortunately I fell in with a bad crowd – I knew that any diet that involved meal replacement powders and that crap would ultimately fail, but she sold me on it, and Theresa tried it too. I actually did pretty well on the program – it was easy to do while I was on the road because I took all of those packets and supplements with me – but as Master Beis warned me I was doomed to fail because the minute I stopped following that program I would gain back all of the weight. As is usually the case, Master Beis was right. I lost nearly fifty pounds using that program, and when I tested in June I was the slimmest I had been in five years. Six months later I had gained back twenty pounds, and after a car accident in December I gained back the rest… and more.
In August, 2013 I made the decision to speak with my doctor. Although he was and continues to be a great support, the most important thing he did was to refer me to a weight management clinic. I started going that month, and with the exception of the time I was in Japan, have gone every few weeks ever since.
I lost some weight when I was in Japan, and I was feeling great. It wasn`t that I was following the program that I had learned from the WMC; it is just that living in Japan (as long as you like Japanese food) it is very easy to eat properly, and because I loved to walk around it just was easier.
Unfortunately (for many reasons) when I came back to Canada my marriage came to an end. The life that I had grown accustomed to and comfortable in ended quite abruptly. I became very depressed, and (as we discovered when my first wife left me) when I am depressed I tend to eat. I started to gain the weight back, and by the middle of May I was within 8lbs of where I had started (I weighed more than I ever have in August, 2013). I was still going to the appointments at the WMC, but I was slipping backwards.
In May the doctor at the WMC suggested I consider bariatric surgery. Someone close to me had very good results with it, and swore by it. I told them I would consider it. I sat down and had a very long, hard think. I looked at myself in the mirror and hated what I saw (both physically and otherwise). I made a few decisions that I hope will affect the rest of my life.
- I started following the weight management plan. It is not a diet; it is an alteration of my eating habits that should stay with me for the rest of my life. This involves tracking the food that I eat, so if you ever eat with me you will likely notice that I track everything in my smartphone (using an app called My Fitness Pal).
- I returned to Taekwondo. The sedentary lifestyle I had been leading was not conducive to losing weight, nor living healthily. I told Master Beis that I wanted to work toward my Third Dan Black Belt, but not in November (which was certainly doable) but for next June. I was going to tell him that I wanted to lose at least 75lbs and hopefully more before I tested, but he beat me to it – he told me that he would not let me test unless I lost a lot of weight.
- I have once again begun to live my life remembering that I am a Black Belt, and there are serious discipline implications to that. I believe there is a difference between people who have a Black Belt and people who ARE Black Belts. The discipline that I need can be found in that, as can the will power.
- When I was asked by Master Anthony Godoy if I was interested in teaching, I jumped at the chance. I was apprehensive at first for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that at my weight then (and still) I do not LOOK like a Taekwondo instructor. I suspect there were a few students and parents who looked at me with a very hesitant eye, and I have worked hard every class to make sure I can not only allay their fears, but surpass their expectations of what they expect in an Instructor.
I am sure that anyone who has ever been severely overweight knows that there will be people who give them no end of grief about their weight. In my experience those people, who are trying to help, are doing anything but helping. I have told my parents (and several other people) that I do not want their input on my weight, even as I am losing weight. Honestly, the people who stressed me out with their grief as I was gaining weight, will continue to stress me out even with their encouragement. So there are fewer than five people who have the right to open a conversation about my weight with me, and trust me reader, you are not on that list. In most cases it is nothing personal. In some cases it is. However let me be clear: my being fat is personal, so live with it.
So what does it feel like to lose the first 25lbs? It feels good, yes… but for everyone who asks, it is probably not something I want to talk to you about. When I comment on Facebook that I am wearing pants that I have not been able to wear for eighteen months please feel free to offer words of encouragement. However it does not mean you can talk to me about how I am dodging a bullet, and lecture me on all of the negative health effects of being overweight. I think most of you know I am a pretty smart guy, and I know what the health implications are. You are not helping, and I would sooner not have the conversation with you.
For those of you who have been encouraging, I thank you. But think back since you have known me: if you have ever said to me anything along the lines of ‘you should lose weight’ then kindly refrain from saying anything more than ‘keep up the good work!’… I don’t want to hear it.
Along the same lines, please don’t ask me how much I have lost, what my goal weight is, how I did it, do I ever get tempted, or anything like that. Don’t ask me how much I weigh or how much I weighed when I started. Unless I decide to share any of that with you, it is none of your business, and yes it will bother me when you ask.
If you see me eating something I shouldn’t (and yes, occasionally I indulge) don’t say it. If you are going to temper it by starting your sentence with ‘You know, I probably shouldn’t say, but…’ THEN DON’T! Anything you might say after that will piss me off, and if I respond either loudly or snidely then you deserve it… If you know you shouldn’t (as you said) then don’t. Period.
I am not looking to be an inspiration to anyone… I just want to be a better person, and a better martial artist. If you want to encourage me, and I am still on the right path by then, ask if you can come watch me achieve my Third Dan Black Belt. If you’ve never watched a Black Belt testing, you don’t know what you are missing!
(And yes, you can buy me a drink afterward!)