One year ago today, I weighed 62 pounds more than I weigh now. Like a lot of people, I needed to lose weight and I made a New Years Resolution to do it. We were in Florida for the last 2 weeks of 2013 and the first seven days of 2014. When we returned, I stepped on a new set of scales that I got my wife for Christmas. The Withings Smart Body Analyzer. I was shocked at the number on the scale. It was 241.6! How had this happened? Here’s the story of how I lost the weight.
I was diagnosed with Graves Disease in 2007 and had radiation treatment to destroy my thyroid before it destroyed my body. I had a hyperactive thyroid that was causing my heart to beat at about 130 all of the time. At that point, I was 195 pounds. I began taking synthetic thyroid medicine and immediately began to gain weight.
So when I saw 241.6 on Jan 10, 2013 I became very depressed. I think I ate even more food because of how depressed I was at seeing that number. My 37th birthday was coming up on Jan 21. I set that as my jumping off date. I would eat what I wanted until then, but after then I was going to change. This time the change was going to be for real. I needed to do it mostly for myself. But also for my family.
After a long birthday weekend, I stepped on the scaled on Jan 24 and saw the biggest number I have seen in my adult life. 242 pounds. This would be the heaviest I would weigh, this would be the number I would look back on and never see again.
I started off like most people, I went out the next morning and ran (I mostly walked, mostly) 2 miles. I did this again the next day too. This would be the last time I would run for three months. I was just too uncomfortable to go. I could barely make it 1/4 mile without being completely winded. This wasn’t going to work. I needed to change my diet.
The first thing that I changed was to stop using coffee creamer made with artificial sweeteners and partially hydrogenated soybean oil. I switched to Coffeemate Natural Bliss which is made with real cream and real sugar. I should stop using creamer altogether, I know. But I needed to make changes that I could live with. Not changes that I just suffered through for the moment. These changes would stick. Along with the coffee creamer, I stopped drinking all soda made with artificial sweeteners. Again, I know I should stop altogether. Baby steps. I also stopped drinking all alcohol.
So with my Withings Smart Body Analyzer and my no-artificial-sweetener diet, I started. Two months went by, and on April 30 I weighed 223 pounds; I had lost 19 pounds with just this change to my diet and no exercise. With these new scales, I was able to track my weight and pulse using the HealthMate app on my iPhone. Without these metrics, I wouldn’t have been able to keep track of how the changes in my diet affected my weight.
But then we went on a Disney Cruise through the Panama Canal. On Disney Cruises, every food item is all you can eat 24/7. Even room service is free! I dieted and exercised on the cruise and managed to only gain six pounds. So I began the next phase of my diet.
The New Rules
For June through September I stuck to these rules:
- No artificial sweeteners
- No alcohol
- No red meat
- No pork
- No bread
- No pasta
- No ice cream
- No fun
I didn’t talk to a dietician, I just knew these things weren’t healthy. I slowly put together a list of menu items that I could live with eating regularly. This can be especially hard when you’re trying to make dinner not only for yourself, but also for your family.
My menu consisted of:
- Grilled Chicken Breast marinated in Kraft Roasted Red Pepper Italian Dressing (35 calories for 2 TBSP) over spring mix/spinach.
- Fresh fruit
- Occasional Mexican Coke (made with real sugar)
- Turkey lunch meat
- Grilled Salmon with Kraft Roasted Red Pepper Dressing over spring mix/spinach.
- Scrambled Eggs with no butter
- Chicken Stir Fry with very little stir fry sauce in a lettuce wrap
- Mounds of Broccoli
- Dole No-Sugar-Added Mandarin Orange Snack Packs (40 calories)
At least five times a week, I have the Southwest Salad with Grilled Chicken from McDonalds. It’s 290 calories without the dressing, 390 with all of it, which is too much dressing. I’ve never been a salad guy, but this one is great. Spring mix with grilled chicken, black beans, corn, a little cheese, some tortilla chips and a wedge of lime. The dressing is a little spicy with a hint of lime. I know a lot of people are anti-McDonalds. But I say “The best healthy meal is the one you have access to”. I don’t have time to grill chicken and make a salad all of the time. This salad is always the same at any McDonalds, costs about $7, and is available anytime after 10:30. Sometimes I pick up two; one for lunch and one for dinner.
My wife and kids were out of town for 20 days in September, and during those days I stuck with this diet. I was even able to cut out the coffee creamer. Because I just wouldn’t go buy more when I ran out. And during those 20 days, I lost ten more pounds, and never gained them back.
On September 26th, I weighed 199. I had lost 43 pounds with diet alone! This was the first time I weighed less than 200 since my thyroid problems. This diet was working! On September 28 I decided to give running another try. I didn’t warm up, I didn’t take it easy, I just ran out the door. Big Mistake. For the next few days I could hardly move. I was so sore!
Running, death, and nose surgery
On October 3, I decided I was going to give running a try for real. I was going to go as often as I could and I would challenge myself to do better every day. Armed with my Nike Running GPS app, I took off for a 5k (3.1 miles) run. I did this for just a few days. And then my grandma Watts passed away on October 6. I stopped running for a couple of days and then we traveled to West Virginia for the funeral for 5 days, When we returned, I had a scheduled Turbinate Reduction Surgery and a Septoplasty. I never felt like I could breathe how someone should be able to breathe. The surgery kept me not running for 2 weeks. After I healed, I really felt great. I can breathe better than I ever could before.
I went for a few days after I healed, and then at the beginning of November I started going regularly. About 5 times per week. I became addicted to that feeling I felt after running. I used that last “fat” picture of me with my grandma to push me to go further. My pace increased from 12:30/mile to 10:00 mile. I signed up for a 5k race and ended up doing pretty well. I finished 17/88 for my age division and had an average pace of 9:29!
I had to find all of the things that worked for me to keep me running. The right shorts, the right shoes, the right shirt, and headphones. I had to figure out when and what to eat to avoid getting sick (like I did at that 5k race). I don’t eat anything within three hours of running, and I don’t drink anything within 2 hours, otherwise I’ll find myself running for a toilet.
The iPhone has played a huge part in all of this. I used the Nike+ Running App for most of the year, but have recently switched to Runtastic Pro. Runtastic works with my bluetooth heart rate monitor and gives me constant feedback while I’m running. You can select what you want to hear, but I have my distance, pace, time, and heart rate every 5 minutes. I can set goals for myself within the app and the voice coach helps me stay on track. It records all of my GPS coordinates and shows me a map of my run with pace changes overlaid with elevation changes.
And of course on top of all of that, I have my running playlist that keeps me going. I have a lot of old school hip hop, and a bunch of high-tempo pop songs. “Hey Ya” by Outkast is just the perfect tempo for a 9:00 pace for me. And I’m not TOO embarrassed that Taylor’s Swift “Shake it Off” just happens to be around that same tempo. What can I say, it’s catchy! You’ll see me running around Makiki lip-syncing to my music, along with playing air drums.
As soon as the 5k was over, I signed up for the Great Aloha Run on February 16, 2015. This one goes from Aloha Tower to Aloha Stadium and is 8.1 miles. I immediately began training for it and now I can run the full 8.1 miles without stopping! There’s no way I could have done this before. I think my grandma would be proud of me.
- In September, I only ran 1.6 miles. That’s like nothing.
- October was 15.71 miles
- November was 38.81 miles
- December was 52.02 miles
- January so far is 20.55 miles
The ideal weight range for my height and build is between 160 and 185. So I originally set my goal to be 185. I really never thought I would get to 185. But now I have passed it. This morning, I was 179.9. I barely got in there, but that’s the first time I have seen the 170’s since eighth grade. I’ve always had weight problems, and I’ve never been “skinny”. My goal now is 170. I’ve got more weight to lose in my belly and legs before I’ll be satisfied. At that point, I’ll try to turn what’s left into muscle.
Here is what my weight loss looks like on a chart.
I have stuck to my diet, even though that was very hard around Thanksgiving and Christmas. There are so many sweets and breads around during those holidays. But we are past that now and hopefully I can keep the weight off, and try to improve other parts of my well-being in 2015. Here’s to a great New Year!