It was one year ago today that I looked in the mirror and didn’t like what I saw. And later that day at lunch with our CFO – a very fit, active guy – I said “that’s it. I’m making changes. I’m going to get fit.”
As of this morning (after I shoveled snow for a workout because the gym was closed!) that conversation was 366 days and 68 pounds ago. It hasn’t always been easy but the truth is, it’s not that hard, either. You just have to want it. And I did.
I started walking on the treadmill every night and as the weather improved I took it outside. In July I joined a gym. The last calendar year has been nothing but change for me and I have had moments of elation, despair, failure and success. But I know I’ve changed.
I was way overweight. My diet wasn’t horrible (at home it was quite good) but it wasn’t terrific overall. Like many people I had fallen into a rut of a couple of beers after work every day; some easy, comfortable snacks before dinner and on weekends and no exercise. Empty calories and bad, lazy habits, and generally self-destructive living.
I’m not trying to sound dramatic but candidly, I was on a path to something bad happening. (Something bad could still happen but now it’s more likely to be from a dumbbell falling on my foot or getting crushed by a truck on my bike. At least now I’m trying.)
For a lot of reasons it doesn’t feel like a stand up and cheer moment today but I’m sharing the anniversary for a couple reasons.
First, I hope that if there’s anyone out there unhappy with the state of their fitness and they feel overwhelmed, I want them to know it’s never too late. If I did it, so can you. I’m down almost 70 pounds and probably, that’s close to “done” for me in terms of weight loss. Becoming stronger, more flexible, faster, more active … those will continue to be goals.
I’ve gone from a 44-inch waist to a 34-inch waist and 15 per cent body fat, which for an old guy is pretty good, if I may be permitted a humble brag. My only regret is that I didn’t start sooner.
Seventy pounds isn’t a universal barometer for success. Maybe for someone else it’s 10. Or maybe it’s just getting up and walking three times a week. Your mileage will vary.
Second, I have learned that what I eat is far more important to how I look and feel and what I weigh than how many times a week I work out. And I work out more than most people. But even an obsessive/compulsive gym rat cannot outwork an iffy diet and an affinity for Keith’s Amber Ale.
So, if you want to get thin, start at the dinner table, not at the gym. Eat more plants, fewer burgers, and drink less beer.
Ideally, with your doctor’s blessing, you can add the gym to your routine. My counsel is to get expert advice from the outset so that you know what exactly you’re working on and why, and you don’t end up wasting your time and you don’t hurt yourself.
Laura fed me well and gave me good advice for a long time. I didn’t always listen. I listen more now and we eat healthier than we ever had. To be precise, it was more what I ate away from home that made me fat – touring the food courts of the Toronto financial district is not a good habit.
Third, what really helped me is the outstanding group of people I train with five or six times a week at The Athlete Training Centre. They make me want to come every day back and a number of them are now good friends. They text me when I’m not there or when they see me post a good workout. I hear from some of them almost every day. You can succeed without that type of support but having it is better.
ATC boss/head trainer Richard Clark has been the voice in my ear for six months encouraging, pushing, cajoling, tormenting, and at times reining me in. He kicked me out for a week in August for training too much. He occasionally makes us crazy but he’s also making us better. People at ATC say he cares more about your health than you do, and they’re right. So I listen and learn.
And most of all Laura has tolerated/supported the eccentricities of much of this journey even if she suffers ATC fatigue. The current marathon lifestyle challenge — yes, it’s still going — at ATC has upended some of the family dietary patterns, but she has not complained. Well, rarely.
“Let me get this straight: for almost 30 years I can’t get you to eat avocado, but because Richard tells you to eat avocado now it’s on the dinner menu?” Luckily, she loves avocado and says stuff like this in good humor and she didn’t actually throw that knife, she just pointed it. Playfully. Sort of.
Where to now?
Six months ago when people congratulated me on weight loss my standard reply was “talk to me in March.” I felt if I had managed a year of taking off weight, keeping it off, working out regularly, eating better, drinking less beer, and trying to be a better person all around, then I might have accomplished something and there would be a finish line.
Well, it’s March and this is not a special diet or a fad. This is how I live now. I do it because I enjoy it, I enjoy my new friendships, I like how I look and how my (new) clothes fit. I like measureable success; I like all of this better.
But accomplishment? Yes and no. I’m thinner but there’s no finish line. It’s not a diet you stop or a workout regime you declare “done.” It’s change.
This is a journey, not a destination. My sense is that if I ever think I’m there, then I’ve probably missed the point of the trip. Like everyone, I’ve got things to work on. Lots of things.
I’ll just keep on doing it for now. Ask me next March how it’s going.