A Fat Man Decides Not To Be

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Well, I’ve been afraid of changin’
‘Cause I’ve built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Even children get older
And I’m getting older, too”
Landslide by Fleetwood Mac

MY JOURNEY

As long as I could remember, I’ve been overweight; it’s what has defined me for my entire life. The earliest I can remember being called fat was in the 4th grade. Being fat has affected my personal life, my daily routines, the clothes I could buy, limited my romantic interests, and kept me from doing things that might embarrass me, like taking my shirt off in public. 

Me a little chubby at 11 but still pretty cute.

I was teased all through my school years about my weight, so much so that until last year I haven’t swam in a pool since middle school for fear of being teased. I even made up an allergy to chlorine to get out of swim class in high school. So instead I had to sit in the poolside bleachers and watch all the other kids swim. It ended up being more embarrassing to just sit and watch than swimming actually would have been. I have carried this lie with me ever since.

Despite this embarrassment, my weight wasn’t something I really cared about until after I graduated college in 2002. That year I hit my highest weight of about 375 pounds and decided to do something about it.

Me in 2001 close to my highest weight of 375 lbs.

I struggled a lot with my weight primarily because of how food is my main outlet of stress relief. The worse of a day I have at work, the worse dinner I’ll have for myself. This is a terrible behavior I have and yet it continued for decades.

A DECADE AGO

After two years of hard work I had reached about 300 pounds on the “Atkins” low carb diet while working out regularly for the first time in my life. Five years later, in 2007, I had another “I need to make a change” moment and started working out and dieting hard. I thusly reached my lowest adult weight of 280 pounds. I hadn’t been this weight since High School. 

Me at my lowest weight in early 2008. I still have this shirt in my closet and I’d love to take a new photo in it.

In the last ten years I have yo-yoed, almost reaching my highest weight again during Christmas of 2016 when I weighed in at 357 pounds. That’s when it hit me that I will turn 40 soon and the future I see for myself now is not a healthy, happy future. I decided I want my 40s to be the healthiest decade of my life.  I want to change myself before it’s too late. I would love to be able to live a long and healthy life so that I can be around for my parents and a possible future wife and family.

My lowest weight graph from 2007 to today.

Because of these insights, I set a goal to lose 50 lbs and opted to do a low carb ketogenic (keto) diet lifestyle change. I cheated often and was not as strict as I could have been. I had lots of “low carb” foods that were not and I still lost weight through the first half of the year. By August of 2017, I had lost 35 pounds and hit my lowest weight of the year at 322 pounds.

Unfortunately a serious back injury in September caused depression to kick in again and I soothed my soul with my favorite comfort foods. I ate out a lot, ordered delivery most days, and ate our office’s snack bar clean of sugary cereal and salty snacks. Gaining weight was the complete opposite thing I needed to do to help my back heal, and I knew this but chose to ignore it. 

When I stepped on a scale in mid-December, I was shocked by what I had done. I ended the year weighing in at 352 pounds, only five pounds less than I had started the year. I had realized I had failed myself and made a plan to break the yo-yo for good. 

My weight roller coaster of 2017.

STARTING OFF 2018

I started a strict keto diet on January 1st and quickly lost 10 lbs over the month. The biggest change compared to the diet last year was strictly sticking to under 20 grams of carbs a day versus 50 grams that I did in 2017. By the end of February, I noticed I was increasing in weight due to being lazy and cheating due to a time of putting my social life ahead of my goals.

After realizing this, I immediately started doing more research and decided to make another big change: I would start intermittent fasting (IF) in addition to keto. Some friends of mine had great success with it last year, and I tried it for a bit but quickly gave up. Many of the experts say it pairs very well with a ketogenic diet, so it was a win-win for me! In mid-February I started by fasting for 16 hours a day and eating only between noon and 8pm. It allowed me to end February with exactly zero pounds gained or lost, far better than the six I had gained by mid-month.

As March started I had gotten used to fasting with few problems and moved to a 19 hour fast with a 5 hour eating window. I added in a once weekly 24 hour fast, usually Saturday dinner to Sunday dinner. Now in late April I have progressed to eating just  one meal a day (OMAD) and I go immediately back to fasting for another 20-24 hours. I don’t find these long fasting periods difficult at all anymore and it’s very maintainable once I broke the “eating often” habit. I just eat when I’m hungry, and I’m rarely hungry.

Many ask me why I’m not hungry all the time? Well my body is adapted to keto so it uses the natural fat stores of my body for energy especially while I’m fasting. I got plenty of fat to burn on and thusly I have MORE energy than I did while I am eating carbs regularly.

Drinking water and black coffee is what gets me through the day with little effort. I often make this salty drink during my fast which was recommended by Thomas DeLauer (who I follow on YouTube for keto and IF tips). I also learned that the little bit of cream I was having in my coffee was breaking my fasts so I cut that out and stick to black coffee only while fasting. I wish I had learned all of this much sooner as all these tips and tricks combined have made a huge impact that I can feel.

One of my weeks of fasting in the Zero app.

My biggest challenge is balancing a social life with my eating windows. If I break my fast too soon it’ll be over before I leave the office, meaning I can’t eat when I meet friends for dinner or if I go on a date. I’ve addressed this by moving my window around day to day based on my plans for the evening. It helps me plan my meals out a day or two in advance and results in a decrease in eating out.

Now, after almost two months of keto along with IF, I can say that not only do I find it manageable, but I feel incredible! I am full of energy, I have a lot less brain fog, and it helps with my emotions as I am more happy and less irritable. As an added benefit, my skin has been really soft and glowing, even in this cold Chicago winter. I can feel myself in ketosis most of the day and the weight is just falling off.

April is half way over and I’ve achieved my first goal: I have lost 33 pounds and I am now finally below 320 pounds again. This goal was set to be a sign that I negated my gains of late 2017 and am now at a weight than I have not been since 2014. I wanted to get to this but had no idea I’d do it in less than four months.

January 2018 (352 lbs) left, April 21st (319 lbs) right.

This lifestyle change has also made me finally break my dependency of food for stress relief. All my cravings are gone and I am finding new ways to cope with stress. I hope I can keep this going forever, as I feel so much better and one reason I wrote all this is to remind myself of how great I feel.

I have two more goals for 2018. The first is to be below 300 pounds, which I hope to be by June. Then by the end of this year I aim to back to the lowest weight of adulthood. Stay tuned for future blog posts updating everyone on my progress through out the year.

Wish me luck.