Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Less of Me to Love

After 15+ years of weight-gain and generally being significantly overweight, 2010 was the year that I finally started moving in the other direction. It's been going on since April or so, so I figure it's past the point of being a fluke or a temporary thing. I really am on my way down at long last. I figured it was time for a little retrospective analysis.

As a kid, I was as skinny as they came. I remember my pediatrician telling me, "eat something!" I never thought much about food, really. I was a somewhat picky eater, but nothing compared to my own kids. I ate all sorts of pasta, burgers, hot dogs, meats, cheeses, soups, even a few vegetables. As long as it was reasonably American, I ate it. I just didn't gain weight.

Until I hit puberty. Then I slowed down and bulked out. I didn't play outside nearly as much, preferring instead to hang out in my basement eating Pringles and reading comic books. I started to put on weight to the point of being chunky if not outright fat. I started to suffer some self-esteem issues, but I didn't really know what to do about them and I apparently wasn't sufficiently motivated to figure it out.

By the time I started college, I'd decided I'd really like to try one of those "girlfriends" I'd been hearing so much about. And to my credit, by the time I was 20 I'd gotten myself into pretty good shape. It took me about a year of weightlifting, ab workouts, pushups, and regular cardio on a Nordictrack, but I definitely pulled it off. I got my weight under control and put on a fair amount of muscle. It worked, too - I met my one-day wife when I was about 21. She was pretty fit, we even started running together as she trained for her nidan (second-degree black belt) in Goju-Ryu karate. One of our favorite workouts was to put on the gloves and spar together, which we did for several years. I was also practicing Aikido at the time. Aikido classes don't have much of the "aerobics-style" activity of many karate schools, but the practice itself is so intense that it's a pretty awesome workout, anyway.

Sadly, I didn't stick with any of it. I got married, started a career, and moved into apartments where the sort of workout I was used to wasn't practical. I was just plain busier than I had been as a college student. And, let's face it, I was no longer missing the female companionship that had been a major motivator for me. It was all a recipe for sloth, and slothful I was. Starting around 1994, I gained quite a bit of weight, climbing from a "fit-peak" of about 170 to a high of 225 over the next ten years, and then staying there until early in 2010.

I did make a few abortive attempts to get my weight under control between 2004 and 2010. I bought a treadmill at one point, and used it religiously, 20-30 minutes a day for a couple of months. I literally didn't lose a pound. Haven't touched it since. There's $1,000 down the drain, but then spending money always was easier than working out. I tried prescription Meridia, too, but it didn't do squat for me. It's supposed to be an appetite suppressant, but I found that I'd lose 5 lbs of water-weight and then that was it. Again, I didn't lose another pound, and once I quit taking the Meridia, it came right back. The stuff wasn't covered by my insurance anyway, so I bagged the whole idea of better weight-control through pharmaceuticals. I tried calorie-counting a couple of years ago, but it didn't really help, either. I probably did eat less, but without some exercise it wasn't enough less to make any difference.

And that was it until 2010. In April, my whole family started to practice the martial arts together. I was getting high-energy workouts 2-3 times a week. I also started trying to "eat healthy," which didn't necessarily reduce my calories or intake by much, but at least substituted nutritious foods for the junk I'd been eating before. Finally, I started counting calories again and this time it made a big difference for me. I wasn't just counting them this time, I was using the process for portion-control. The karate alone moved me from 225 to 215 lbs between April and September. Since then, I've used calorie-counting and portion control to drop below 210 for the first time in about ten years. Apparently I've found the combination I really needed to be successful - the regular, intense exercise several times a week combined with controlling my diet. The holiday season is going to be really tough (freaking fudge has 135 calories in each little stinking piece!!), but I'm finally moving in the right direction after so many years. There will no doubt be challenges and I may very well level off a lot sooner than I'd like. It would be intensely frustrating, for example, to hit 195 and then get stuck there no matter what I did. My supposedly "optimal" weight is something like 150, which is laughable. I'd look like a hospice patient if I weighed 150 lbs. I think if I were a healthy, reasonably-muscular 170 that would be absolutely awesome, so that's my tentative goal. I'll see how I look and feel when I get down around 175 or 180 and reassess then.

Regardless of my "final" weight, which will of course fluctuate somewhat for the rest of my life, I'm sure, the upshot is that the results of my bloodwork at my last regular check-up in September were amazing. Easily the best they've been in the last ten years - cholesterol, triglycerides - you name it - all were right where they're supposed to be in a perfectly healthy person. THAT's the sort of thing that will help ensure I'm around to play with my grandkids some day. I'm looking forward to 2011 and the continued improvement in my health and weight. There will be less of me to love, and I love it.

(Note: that picture of me was artificially fattened by the latest computer technology.)

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