When you’re a fitness addict like myself, it’s easy to see fitness as “black and white”. Either you’re making healthy decisions to eat right and exercise, or you’re overweight and being lazy, choosing not to make the right decisions.
I never understood how my clients could be making such poor choices when being fit seemed so easy to me. At least that’s what I used to think.
In May 2011, I made the radical decision to let myself go. For six months, I stopped exercising and ate the standard American Diet (“SAD” Diet) of refined, processed foods. Though I would indulge once a week doing an excessive food challenge (voted on by my followers), I mostly ate what is considered every-day foods to most families.
So it was a surprise that within a 6-month period I went from 6-pack abs to what my 2 year old called a “food baby”— 75 pounds.
I will admit that eating anything I wanted felt exciting in the beginning, a break from my normally strict nutrition regime. I’d be lying if I said that the sugary cereals, soda, burgers and chips DIDN’T taste good. They tasted amazing!
I quickly came to find some of my favorites such as Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Zingers, and Mountain Dew were a daily addiction that I couldn’t live without. I was even partially prepared for the quickly mounting physical effects of my experiment—including plummeting energy, lower levels of testosterone, and the challenge of even putting on my shoes or clipping my toe nails.
What I wasn’t prepared for was the emotional and psychological challenges. I became self-conscious (especially in front of my wife). I struggled to play with my energetic 2 year old which made me feel like a failure of a father.
I started to dread having to go back to the gym and became comfortable in my new lifestyle. I craved foods in ways I never had before—to the point where it controlled my moods. What started in my mind as a physical experiment transformed into an impactful and eye-opening emotional journey.
I felt like less of a person the bigger I got, as if I’d lost a bit of what made me….well, me. I realized that being overweight wasn’t all about the waistline. It was about self-worth, and the reality that the world looked down on you without even knowing your story.
And that’s when I realized that losing weight wasn’t as black and white as I had thought. The principles of fitness are simple: eat right and exercise. But just because they are “simple” doesn’t mean they are easy.
In fact, losing a substantial amount of weight and changing your lifestyle is anything but easy. It’s an emotional, mental and physical journey that most people don’t know how to tackle. And through this journey, I realized I wasn’t teaching my clients what they really needed to know to gain the self-worth they needed, to become accountable, to overcome addiction, and to become healthy.
So at the peak of my weight gain (75 pounds in 6 months) I devoted the next six months to losing the weight: sharing my meal plans, exercise strategies, and most importantly the techniques to overcome some of the mental and emotional aspects that come with losing weight.
I learned some crucial lessons that I hope will help people all over the world that are struggling with their weight, including:
- You need both encouragement and a kick in the pants in equal parts.
- Public declaration of your intent to lose weight is vital because of the fear of accountability.
- Overall goals must be shared and spoken. Others will sometimes need to supply honesty and belief.
- You will lack motivation during your weight loss journey. Your own motivation is not enough—you must have an established support network.
- When a diet plan is too restrictive, it becomes the enemy (like strict parents).
- A plan that offers no flexibility or detours, where every ‘wrong’ choice feels like a loss, will be impossible to stick with.
- Being overweight affects your whole family—not just the individual.
- It’s important to plan for meals and snacks with the right foods. The reason people grab fast food is because they are unprepared—it’s just easier to stop at fast food places.
People may look at my experiment and think I am nuts for putting my body through such turmoil. But for me, it was worth it. I finally understood what my clients kept telling me: Stepping away from a lifetime of bad nutrition and poor choices was not just a question of making that first decision.
And I had to walk a mile in their shoes to find out the true answers that would then help thousands of people lose weight and become healthy.