For as long as I can remember, I’ve been overweight. When I was young, I remember shopping in the “husky” section at our local clothes store. All of my friends were small compared to me. But I was good at sports and had a good sense of humor and had lots of friends, so I didn’t think much about it.
Then, when I was in fourth or fifth grade, I started to realize that weight was one way that others judged you. I started to become more self-conscious of how big I was. But I was still good at sports and had a good sense of humor and had lots of friends, so I didn’t think much about it.
Enter junior high school–that time in life when “image” becomes really important. Maybe not coincidentally, it was about this time that I became interested in dieting. I wanted to lose weight quickly, and rather than change my poor eating habits, I looked for fast fixes. I lost weight, but inevitably, I always gained it back. And even though I was still good at sports and had a good sense of humor and had lots of friends, I started to think about my weight more.
Fortunately, playing sports year round (along with a hefty dose of puberty) had me growing up more than I was growing out. I certainly wasn’t thin, but I probably pulled off “husky muscular” fairly well.
Once my upward growth came to a halt, though, my poor eating habits eventually caught up with me. I still had a good sense of humor and a lot of friends, but my sports performance started to suffer. One instance, in particular, really sticks out in my mind.
Throughout high school, I was on our varsity hockey team (and it’s probably vital to mention that we won the North Dakota State Hockey Championship my senior year . . . but I digress). I was proud to have made the team as a sophomore. But during my junior year, my increasing weight slowed me down so much that I wasn’t able to make plays that I had always been able to make.
The day before one particularly important game, my coach told me that I would be playing in the junior varsity game the next day. I was crushed! The next day, I played in the JV game and then immediately went home without watching the varsity game. I was embarrassed and hoped no one would notice my absence during the big game. After that, I worked extra hard to make sure I was on the varsity squad for the rest of the year. The season ended with us taking 4th place in the state tournament. Even though we had done well that year, I vowed never to be on the JV team again.
It took me awhile to tackle my weight issue, but early during my senior year in high school, I started dieting in an attempt to lose weight before hockey season. Once again, I wanted a quick fix, so I adopted a very low-calorie diet and upped my exercise (I played varsity football during the fall, which helped a lot). By the time hockey season rolled around, I was about 25-30 pounds lighter than I had been the previous year. I remember feeling really good when my coach complimented my weight loss and said that I was playing well. That definitely motivated me to keep going. Maybe not surprisingly, I had my best year of hockey ever. I was in the starting line-up all year, and our team won the state championship. To this day, it’s still one of the highlights of my life.
I lost another 15 pounds after hockey season ended. I was the lightest I had been in years, and I felt amazing. I even started to think of my body in a positive way. For the first time in several years, I was able wear clothes without being concerned about whether they effectively hid my fat rolls.
The following fall, I headed off to the University of Minnesota for college. At first, I did a good job of exercising and eating healthy food. The ‘U’ has a huge campus, and I walked miles every day. But eventually, the “fun” of college caught up with me, and I started to gain weight once again. By the middle of my sophomore year, I had gained back every pound I had lost during high school along with about 30 pounds more. I was well beyond husky, and my confidence plummeted.
Then during my senior year, I decided to lose the weight. I adopted another low-calorie diet and started engaging in intense exercise. Over the next few months, I lost about 60 lbs. I was starting to feel good again, and my confidence sky-rocketed.
After earning my bachelor’s degree, I took a year off and then decided to go back to graduate school to work on my master’s degree in psychology (at St. Cloud State University). After that, I began working on a PhD in experimental psychology (at Auburn University). Academically, I was happy, because I had found a career path I enjoyed. But the busyness of graduate school and a mantra of “work hard, play hard” brought the weight back once again.
While in my third year at Auburn, I came across a program called Body-for-LIFE. I was intrigued and decided to give it a try. Importantly, I thought it was something I could follow without getting overly extreme about things. I exercised and ate well 6 days per week and then had one “free” day every week to take care of my cravings and to rest.
After several weeks, it was obvious: The program was working!
Over the course of a year or so, I ended up losing about 80 pounds and gained a good amount of muscle. More importantly, I felt amazing! I was able to tuck in my shirts without having my stomach “roll” over the top of my pants.
I vowed never to let myself go again…
I finished my PhD and took my first academic position in the Department of Psychology at Stephen F. Austin State University, in Nacogdoches, Texas. I dove in with both feet and was soon working 70-80 hours per week. Although I tried to exercise consistently, the long hours made for less-than-healthy eating habits. I would frequently convince myself that I didn’t have enough time to cook healthy food. Instead, it was easier to take a quick walk over to an eatery on campus and wolf down some junk food. And as you might guess, within a relatively short period of time, I was gaining weight once again.
The next few years–which included a move to James Madison University–consisted of yo-yo dieting. Mostly, though, I was able to keep my weight in check. I even lost a good amount before getting married in 2006.
In July 2008, my wife and I welcomed our first son. As any new parent can attest, the next few months were rife with sleepless nights. (And as many of you may know, lack of sleep is associated with weight gain.) In addition, I was taking on more work in an attempt to further establish my career. Ever so surely, my weight began to creep up.
I eventually came across a blog post that talked about the Paleo diet. I was intrigued. It made sense, so my wife and I decided to give it a try. I spent a month “going Paleo” and felt fantastic. I was sleeping better than I had in a long time, and I had energy for days.
But the bane of my existence has always been lack of consistency. When I am following the Paleo diet, I feel great and inevitably lose weight, but too often I convince myself that I need a “free” day to deal with my cravings. And more often than not, one day turns into two or three.
In March 2011, our second son was born. Having two sons was (and continues to be) amazing, but it also made for a busy life. In between work–which continued to consume more and more hours–and home, I was getting stressed out. And what better way to combat the stress to than to engage in emotional eating? When I was tired or stressed out, pizza and ice cream tasted so good. After my wife had been Paleo for awhile, junk food began to hurt her stomach. I, however, had no such luck: When I ate junk food, my body said, “Hey, that’s pretty good. Let’s have some more.”
Although my weight has gone up and down over the past couple of years, it’s overall trajectory has continued upward. I am once again heavier than I want to be, and I am not happy about it.
Maybe more importantly, though, I’ve realized that my health habits have the ability to greatly impact my family. My wife takes good care of herself: She eats healthy and does CrossFit a few times a week. She’s emotionally strong, and if something happened to me, she’d eventually be okay.
But my boys.
There are so many ways my bad health habits could impact them. What if they learn bad eating habits from me and have to struggle with their weight the way I did? What if I get so big that I can’t run around and play baseball or football with them?
What if something even worse happens?
I couldn’t handle that, and I don’t even want to think about it. It’s more than I can stand.
So, today is April 1, 2015, and it’s time to make a change. It’s time to put myself “out there.” It’s time to do something where I’m held accountable for my actions.
Which is why I’m making this public and promising to provide updates on my progress.
One of the biggest things you can do when you are trying to change your own behavior is to make a public commitment. Let others know your plans; let them help you. It’s not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of strength–you’re taking advantage of the power of social support.
Knowing that others are watching my progress motivates me to make the changes that I know are necessary at this point in my life.
So I can lose weight. So I can be around for my family. So I’m happier. So I have more confidence. So I can tuck my shirts in.
Enough is enough.Share