My Personal Fitness Story, so far…

When I was a young kid, I was thin. I was so small my dad nicknamed me “Twiggy”.

Then something changed. One summer I just got FAT.

My Mom will teasingly (but lovingly) confirm this fact whenever given the chance; I can trace it back to her Russian Tea Mix, and lots, and lots of Kool Aid, soda, and other sugary drinks.

Thinking back, I can remember just bingeing on sugary drinks for much of my life. I have dental bills, and years of bad teeth to prove it too! To this day I still crave sweet drinks, like Kool Aid.

Today, instead of sugary drinks, I buy those little lemon juice bottles – the ones shaped like a lemon – and I drink water with a squirt or two of that lemon juice. I drink coffee with the fake sugar stuff, or sugar free vanilla syrup.

*I am not sure if the sugar free stuff is much better, so that is not a nutritional tip. I just don’t want sugar because it is a drug for me! Sugar seems to be pretty bad for a person the more I learn about it. 

I really think that massive sugar intake as a kid changed my metabolism. Since then, my weight and body fat have increased at a pretty steady rate, except for the times in my life when I have taken action to cause a change.

When I was 12, we moved to a new town. I was chubby. As a new kid, being chubby was not fun.

I had already been picked on by kids in my old town. I remember running down the street one day, as I often did, and the neighborhood bully driving by with a car full of punks, yelling “Thuuuuunderthighs and earthquaaaaaake” at me. Trying to exercise and getting picked on… Kids were brutal.

That first year in a new town, in a new school… pretty much sucked. I did make one really great friend, and that made things suck way less. Still, I had a few kids who picked on me.

I played soccer this year, a game I had never played before, the coach had me play sweeper – a position I didn’t know too much about except that I was basically the last line of defense before the goal tender. 

Parents of other kids would say things like I shouldn’t be on the field because I was too fat. One of the goalies was my primary bully. He tried to punch me once, I took it with little effect. He was no where near as tough as he thought. He turned the incident into a fat shaming thing later.

So after weeks of fat shaming I got pissed off. I got tired of it. I had had enough and wanted to make a change.

I started doing sit-ups. I made myself do 100 sit-ups every morning. Then it became 200. I added leg lifts and matched reps with sit-ups. I got a weight bench. I lost a lot of weight and really reshaped my body. Through my 8th and 9th grade years I was really fit. However, I never really changed what I ate.

Being that young I, and in sports, I was pretty much able to eat anything. As long as I did work, I would burn it off. Fast food was common. I still craved my sugary drinks. By this point I had graduated to Mountain Dew. 

I shudder to think of how many tablespoons of sugar were in my bloodstream from drinking Mountain Dew – from age 14 until 28! I still sneak one, once in a while… less and less frequently though!

Through High school I gradually got heavier. I was about 170lbs as a freshman. I was fairly fit. I played football through high school which helped me keep in shape. I got to play the “new kid” role two more times while in high school. When I was 15, we moved, and I was a new kid my sophomore year of high school. Then we moved the next year, when I was 16. I was a “new kid” again my Junior year of high school; two years in a row starting all over in high school was not fun. I weighed about 195lbs when I graduated.

After high school, I gained more weight, gradually until I was about 23 years old, and weighed about 225lbs. Turning 21 and starting to drink alcohol was not good for my body either. I was terribly out of shape. I wore big baggy clothes that I thought hid it. I was really going through a hard time then, trying to find my way in life. Eventually, I decided to get in shape.

I started running on a treadmill. I got down to about 195lbs in about four months.

Then one day while running on that treadmill, with the incline up to really push hard, I took a step that landed with a crash. I actually broke the treadmill I was running on. I was renting a room from my Aunt at the time, and it was really her treadmill.

I was completely embarassed that I broke a treadmill. My negative mind actually turned this event into a fat shaming thing on myself. I felt guilty about it and beat myself up, pretty bad. “Nice job, you fatass”, and “that’s what you get, tubby…”. I hated myself for this.

In reality it was an old, Sears store brand, treadmill. It was pretty poor quality. It was 15 years old, and probably made more for walking than running. While my running on it did break the thing, it wasn’t really because I was a huge fat person like I told myself. It was just a crappy, old treadmill.

The best thing that I took from this period of time was that I started to pay attention to my diet. I started learning more about eating better. I learned to enjoy eating more vegetables. I started cooking more. I stopped eating foods made with white flour as much.

When I was 25, my life changed dramatically with the death of my father. I pretty much stopped working out. I didn’t eat very well. I just sat around all the time. I was Depressed. It sucked! 

I went from having a warehouse job, that was very active, to having a desk job, that required me to sit all day. I would sit at work from 7am until 4:30pm, most days.

**Side Note – About two years ago I got a sit-stand work station. If you have a desk job, I highly recommend getting a sit-stand desk setup. It has done wonders in my life. My back feels better. I think my Psoas was constantly sore when I had to sit all day. Now I stand at least half the day, usually more. It is awesome!

At 28 years old, I took what I thought was a bold step. I went back to college. I started taking online classes.

With this, my life of sitting got worse. I got up at 5am every morning and would read until 6:30, before work. Then sit at work from 7am to 4:30pm most days. Finally, I would end my days studying from around 6 to 9, or sometimes later. Not every night, but many nights.

*My last few years of school I worked it out with my manager to work four 9.5 hour days, and then have only 4 hours, half days, on fridays. This arrangement was AMAZING. I wish I would have asked for it when I started school. That half day of free time helped keep me from burning out.

Then I would study all day Saturday, until all my work for the week was done. Often sitting the whole day, from 5am to midnight. My goal during this time was usually to have sunday off. I would try to have all my homework done by Sunday.

I didn’t always achieve this goal, but I did more often than not.  I would try to get out and do something active every sunday.

One Semester I took a Nutrition class.  It opened my eyes to the effects that different types of food and diet, can have on health, attitude, and life quality. This class sparked my love of food science.

My life from age 28 to 34 was studying for an hour and a half every morning before work and I studied almost every night after work. I was sitting the whole time. All that sitting had some pretty bad effects on my body. I gained weight, even though I ate good, nutritious food. At my heaviest, I was 245lbs. At about 5’5″, I was FAT. I was in denial about how fat I was. I wore size XXL shirts! I was rounder than I was tall!

One day I bought an exercise bike online. I remember the day I got it; I knew it was going to change my life.

I looked up some youtube videos about bike workouts. I started doing HIIT bike videos on youtube.

One of the best formats was 30 seconds of hard work, followed by 30 seconds of rest, then repeat for a period of time. I started with 10 minutes and increased the time gradually as I got fitter. HIIT workouts worked for me and are still my go-to cardio style format. They burn fat and give me energy like crazy!

It took me a few months to really get motivated on the bike. I would ride it everyday for three days straight, then not touch it for a week.

That was when I found Eric Thomas and Les Brown; along with other motivational speakers: Jim Rohn, Tony Robbins, Joe Rogan,  Will Smith, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Mel Robbins, Brian Tracy, Norman Vincent Peal, and websites like Fearless Motivation. Youtube is full of motivational videos. I watch youtube videos, or listen to playlists on spotify, of motivational material every day.

I will never forget the first time I listened to Les Brown in Atlanta, at the Georgia Dome. Two words changed my workout life forever – “It’s Possible”. If you have some free time, or want a really great motivational boost, look up “Les Brown, It’s Possible”. One of the videos you will find is Les at the Georgia Dome; that is the one that really changed things for me!

Equally I will always remember listening to ET talking about ….”When you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe…”

I had already been studying motivation. Norman Vincent Peal and the Power of Positive Thinking was a pinacle book for me. But finding youtube videos and all the motivational material online really opened my world.

Those new ideas in my brain got me to set my first big weight loss goal. Losing 50 lbs.

Reflecting on Les Brown, I remember thinking…

I can’t say “Yes, I know I can loose 50 lbs…. But I can say that if I at least try to lose 50lbs that ‘it’s possible’ for me to do it. As long as I try to put in the effort, anything is possible!”….

“It’s Possible” soon became like a motto to live my life by. I applied the “It’s Possible” motto to my schoolwork too. That pushed me to earn the distinction of Summa Cum Laude on Bachelor’s Degree!

Armed with motivational material as a workout aid, I soon went from about 240lbs to about 200lbs, and kept on going.

I would play Les Brown and Eric Thomas videos, or some other motivational speaker on my phone, Listening with my headphones, then ride along with GCN HIIT cycle workout videos on my laptop, riding my stationary bike. I still do this today.

Another important thing that I did, was I entered a program called Omada. It was offered through my health insurance, at work. Omada is a Type 2 Diabeties prevention program.

Omada helped me nail down some science behind nutrition. And I got a free scale and resistance band. I used Both all the time! 

Omada introduced me to the idea of keeping a food journal. A food journal is a critical tool in any fat loss program. It is a way to hold yourself accountable. It is also like a reward book!

This was the first time I had ever realized how much food I ate everyday. I had a bad habit of “grazing” all day long. I would not eat large meals, but would eat small amounts of food, frequently.  I thought at the time this was a smart way to eat. My idea was to “keep the fire always burning”.

I don’t know if that way of eating is good or not. I did go from 245lbs to my current weight of 165lbs. I have been about 165lbs for close to a year. Much of that was working out and just diet change.

That’s where I am today. I think I am at an ideal “weight” but not at an ideal body type yet. I have been studying some interesting things like ketogenics lately.

My newest goal is to start time phased eating. I want to start with a 12 hour window, since I was previously an all-day grazer. So far, I have been doing well, I have cheated a little a few times, but mostly been eating within my given 12 hours.

I start eating at 8am and finish eating for the day at 8pm. I drink water any time. I drink coffee at 5 am when i get up.

My diet is really just eating veggies and fruits more than other food. I try to limit carbs. I eat carbs, but I limit them. Or get them from natural sources, like fruits and veggies.

I don’t really eat much white flour, it holds little nutritional value.

I try to avoid processed foods, although will give in to convenience from time to time.

I eat meat, fish, and nuts. I eat hummus, although I am learning that commercial hummus might not be great for you – looking into making my own; i think it’s just garbanzo beans and some flavoring. Need to research more… 

I try to avoid the middle aisles at the grocery store. Although I have been buying a lot of Birdseye Steam bags lately, in the frozen section. (steamed veggies with some sort of sauce or other side, like rice)

I think a good rule for nutrition is about discipline, not total restriction.

Just like when people talk about diets, I don’t ever “diet”. A diet is a limiting mindset. It’s a healthy lifechange. A diet ends. When the diet ends, the weight often comes back. When you make life changes it goes beyond the concept of dieting. It’s a mindset. 

Some people use the 80/20 rule for food; 80% of the time eat good stuff, 20%  of the time you can eat other, not so healthy things. I think my ratio is probably closer to a 90/10. I think having discipline to eat good 90% of the time gives me the freedom to enjoy those “guilty” pleasures the other 10% of the time, with no guilt associated!

I get up every weekday around 5am and exercise before I got to work. It helps set my mind, body, and attitude up for success for the day.

Then I always do a lighter workout every evening. Usually disc golf, or walking around a hiking trail, or riding my stationary bike for 30 minutes at a moderate pace. I find the afternoon workouts really help me relax after a stressful day at work.

Lately though I am trying to go a little harder than that. I have been running intervals a few days a week.

*Running intervals = Run as hard and as fast as I can for 45 seconds, then jog for 45 seconds, then walk for 45 seconds, then repeat.

There is trail near my home that is about a mile around. It’s a perfect track. There are lots of trees, and some wildlife, a lake. It’s nice!

I have been doing three laps of intervals, then finishing with a dead sprint up the steps at the base of the trail. OOhFTA! : ) … worth it! 

That is my fitness journey so far.

Ultimately, I just want to be better today than what I was yesterday. It took a lot of work to get to where I am now. When I look back, I just put my head down and made up my mind that I needed to get fit.

Anyone can do it! Make up your mind to do it. Start small, take baby steps. Put one foot in front of the other and repeat!

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