A funny thing happened to me when I lost 250 pounds — call it an epiphany.
While stuck in a rut at 420 pounds I would go long stretches between meals, skip breakfast and gorge until my gigantic stomach couldn’t fit another bite. Even then I would often shove another forkful or two down my gullet. And the food I was consuming wasn’t even really food! It was greasy, high-calorie, highly processed garbage and a first-class ticket on the express train to my early grave.
Naturally, I entered many diets with a “me against food” mentality. I took a hard-line approach: I wasn’t going to give in, I wasn’t going to eat and if I did it would be begrudgingly.
So many times I tried to diet using that mentality. And do you know what? It never worked!
I would lose some weight, put it all back on and then some. It was the dreaded yo-yo dieting!
It wasn’t until I changed my approach that I finally had long-lasting success and was able to keep the weight off.
I learned on my journey that food was not the enemy! It wasn’t me versus a breakfast, lunch or dinner. It wasn’t a battle against the mid-afternoon stomach rumblings.
It was me versus the quality of food I would eat. I was woefully addicted to processed, greasy, high-fat, high-sodium and fast foods. It was an addiction that was quite literally going to kill me.
It’s easier said than done, especially given the results of a medical study which showed a morbidly obese person’s brain reacts the same way to high-calorie foods in the same way as a drug addict’s brain reacts to their “fix.” I will touch more on that topic in a future column.
In direct contrast to my previous lifestyle where I would go long stretches without food, I discovered my body actually thrives on eating something every two to three hours.
It is a phenomenon that I still laugh about because it seems so counter intuitive to what you’re trying to accomplish! How is a person expected to lose weight when they are constantly eating?!
The answer is simple – metabolism.
I recently had a co-worker in the newsroom ask me how it was I stayed so thin when I was always eating. As she put it, every time she turned around I was chowing down on something.
Not only did this double me over with laughter, but it gave me pause later in the day. I was no longer ashamed to eat in public.
Outside of the large lunch I would eat every day at the chicken restaurant across the street from my office, I would hide my “consumption of mass quantities” behind closed doors.
The six items off the roller at the convenience store I would get every day? I would eat them in my car while driving. While at a red light I wouldn’t dare take a bite for fear someone might see the morbidly obese man gorging himself to death.
The pizzas, buffalo wings and cheese sticks get down with at night? I was eating them alone in the basement. I could not and would not eat in front of others.
I was ashamed to let others see what was truly going on.
If I was forced to eat with others, perhaps at a work function, I would always eat a salad. Everybody else in the room was much thinner than I was, but I was the one eating a salad! Boy, wasn’t I pulling the wool over their eyes?!
At the very least I was hoping to plant the seed of doubt that I had a problem with my thyroid or something. I suspect that a lot of overweight people with perfectly healthy thyroids use that excuse. I remember it being quite a popular one.
Of course that’s not to say there aren’t those who truly do have thyroid issues and that comment is not meant to belittle their medical issue. I simply say it to point out that many severely overweight people will come up with any excuse they possibly can to justify their ever-expanding waistline. In my case, I was really just hoping I would start to believe my own lies.
Eventually I realized I wasn’t every going to buy my own bull and made a radical life change.
No longer am I eating in the basement or in a quickly moving vehicle where it would be impossible for someone to catch a glimpse of me feeding my addiction.
Instead, I’m openly eating… and frequently at that!
The fatty foods have been replaced by an abundance of green leafy vegetables, fruits and lean proteins. I live for that stuff!
The same taste buds which once craved the burritos, cheesesteaks, pizzas and the like now go for the kale, spinach, carrots, bananas, chard and whatever other produce I can get my hands on!
I actually think I’ve taken it to a bit of an extreme. I consider eating a salad from a chain restaurant a cheat meal because it’s not organic and I don’t always trust the quality of the chicken or caloric content in the dressing – just ask Washington Redskins defensive end Adam Carriker. He and I dined out regularly after we taped our radio show and was astonished by my diet.
Then again, I wouldn’t expect an NFL player to be able to perform at that level and maintain their size by following my diet.
I will address the significance of that show in a future column. For now, I will say that losing the weight sent my confidence into overdrive and enabled me to pursue all of my dreams. Thus, I am writing to you today in hopes that you too will be inspired, make a change and live your dreams! Life if short and you deserve to get the most out of it.
What I discovered it that it is critically important that we constantly fuel our bodies.
When I say I’m eating every two to three hours it does not mean I’m sitting down to the table ready to feast.
Instead of skipping breakfast as I did at 420 pounds, I make sure that I eat something within 30 minutes of waking up.
A couple hours later I’ll have a little snack. Flash forward another two hours and I’ll eat lunch.. The process continues through dinner.
Here is a sample daily menu of what I used to eat versus what my diet is now.
* 1 piece millet bread toast w/ sunflower butter
* 1 banana
* Frozen mango
* Spinach salad with chicken, bell peppers, tomatoes and mushrooms.
* A handful (or two) of unsalted nuts.
* Greek Yogurt (plain) with fresh fruit mixed in
* Kale salad with kimchi and hard boiled egg
* Pita and hummus
I realize that menu may sound disgusting to a lot of people. At the very least, more than a handful of you just rolled your eyes and chalked me up as another new-age hippie!
At 420 pounds I would have done the same. But let me assure you I don’t wear tie dyed shirts.
The bottom line is that it’s about finding what works for you. These foods just happen to work very well for me.
If you are thinking about starting to lose weight or get healthy, you need to find what works for you. It is a VERY personal thing and it wasn’t until I started thinking outside the box and stopped listening to everyone one else that I was able to have success.
Again, this was the route that worked for me and enabled my dreams to come true. It is my route. What is yours? You’ll never know if you don’t do some exploring.