14 October 2015

Australian Men's Health "Gutless Wonder" November 2009 = Me

Australian Men's Health Magazine - November 2009. That's me on the right. 
This story was published (and trimmed to fit the feature format) of Australia’s Men's Health Magazine. In 2009, to combat a bit of writer's block while in university, I wrote my weight loss story as a Facebook post. It was pretty well received, and some even joked that I should send this to Subway to try and scores some free sandwiches. Being subscriber of Men's Health at the time, I instead submitted the story for their "Gutless Wonders" monthly feature. The purpose is for real people to share their weight loss stories as a means to providing inspiration and advice. Amazingly I was chosen, and aside from getting a free pair of Asics 21s, my story, and photo was in the November 2009 issues. The original story as a wrote it and sent to Men's health is below.

There are a few moments I have experienced or achievements I have made
that I am quite proud of and will remember forever. Some were rather
memorable like being a apart of the National Championship baseball
team when I was 13. Then there are the ones taken for granted like
graduating from high school and getting my college degree. Initially I
was going to bullet list them here but it just looked too gaudy, even
for me. So, I'm going to jump right into what is literally the thing
that I have done that I am the most proud of--losing weight.

In my younger days I was always quite active. I am living in Australia
now, but grew up in Canada and played top level baseball successful at
the Provincial level for many years. In high school I also played
varsity basketball, some of which I served as the team captain and
MVP. In the 12th grade however things changed quite dramatically. I
broke my ankle in the summer and spent the entire first semester on
crutches. This is when I pretty much hit the wall in terms of health
and fitness. I pretty much spent all 6 of those months watching TV and
eating. Once I got the cast off I started playing again, but having
lost so much ground, I lost a lot of the competitive edge that kept me
going in the past and became more of a casual sportsman who rarely
broke a legitimate sweat. At the end of the 11th grade I weighed
consistently between 195-200 lbs [89-91kg]. One year later I was
closer to 220 lbs [100kg].

Throughout university the trend continued. 4 years of burying myself
in books, eating cheap fast food every day, poor sleeping habits, a
terribly painful on-and-off relationship spanning a couple of years,
and paper-thin athletic activity slowly but surely brought my weight
up to over 120 kilos. I was a mess. Socially and in school and at work
and such I was still fine, it didn't really affect any external aspect
of my life, but internally I was in a real bad way. I did all of the
typical things overweight people do to look less fat such as grow out
my facial hair to hide my chins.

I received my degree in Economics in 2007 and during the summer of
that year my friends and I drove down to New York City for the weekend
to watch some live professional baseball and championship boxing. We
also took the time to tour around a little bit. It was a good weekend.
Anyways, back at home the next day upon looking through the photos, I
came across this one [see attached - photo 1]

This is me on June 16th, 2007, outside of the world famous F.A.O.
Schwarz [think Tom Hanks dancing on a piano in the movie "Big"]. Upon
seeing this I was honestly disgusted. The boobs, gut, and the "I'm
fat, give me a pizza" expression on my face were absolutely repulsive.
Heinous. If you look like this, make no mistake about it. You look
horrible. I know that looks aren't everything  and you may be happy,
live a great and successful life and be in general a wonderful person,
but don't be mistaken, you look horrible. Not to mention the fact that
because of how unhealthy you have let yourself become, the tail end of
your life will most likely be very very painful. I know this may be
quite mean, but these are the thoughts that motivated me. I did not
like the person I had allowed myself to become. And it was only when I
accepted that I was in this rut because of me did I realise that I
could actually climb my way back out.

Within the next few days I printed off that photo, framed it, and
drove to my local gym. I bought a 6-month membership [as I was leaving
for Australia in January], and purchased 4 weeks with a personal
trainer. Oh, and I weighed myself. 274 lbs [124 kgs] and wrote it down
at the top of a blank sheet of paper that I would leave beside the
bathroom scale. June 19th 2007 - 274 lbs [124 kgs]. I would then weigh
myself every single morning and record the weight and track my
progress. I called this "Project 196" since I had officially started
on the 19th of June and there were 196 days [by my count, I only
counted once, so I might have been off] until the beginning of the
next year. Workout regimens were pretty basic. My trainer and I agreed
that what I wanted to do involved long-term changes, so we took small
steps with light circuit-oriented weight routines and modest yet
constantly progressing adjustments to my nutrition. As the as the year
ended the single sheet of daily weighing became a small booklet, but I
remember what I weighed at the end of the Project, 215 lbs

I felt good. Losing close to 60 lbs [27 kgs] in less than 6 months
isn't bad at all. As far as how I did it, what the experts say is
true. Losing weight and being healthy isn't about diets or hardcore
workout regiments, it's about making a long-term change in your entire
lifestyle. I worked out regularly, ate much better, and relaxed on the
alcohol intake. Sure enough, the weight melted off, clothing fit
better, and blah blah blah. To really emphasis the transformation, and
because I thought it was funny, I put on the same clothes and took
another photo. Take a look [97 kgs] [See attached - Photo 2].

Over the next year and a bit my life continued on even more changes.
In January of 2008 I moved here, Australia--the city of Townsville to
be exact, in the heart of "tropical North Queensland". Such a change
has had [and continues to have] a seemingly infinite amount of impacts
on me, but I know I've been rambling, so I'll stick to those related
to health. In a nutshell, I've managed to not only maintain my status,
but improve upon in quite a bit. Yes, I kick arse.

Here's a brief rundown of why. With the weather so nice and my wallet
so empty, I knew another gym membership wouldn't be well-suited for
me.a So, I took up running--thanks in part to the atmosphere of my
part time job at The Athlete's Foot running shoe specialists. It's
become a pretty regular and significant part of my life. Health
benefits aside, I get the best thinking done while running. In most
cases, it was not a productive day if I did not run [given it wasn't
an OFF day]. Obviously there has been ups and downs over the past year
and a half, but on average, I would say I am good for a bare minimum
of about 20 kms a week. "Being able to run 5 kms a day, 5 days a week
routinely" was an item on my bucket list. Some weeks I clock more,
some less, but regardless, I am happy to say that that has been
confidently crossed off. Also, being on my own enabled me to eat what,
how and how often I wanted. This covered, for the most part, the two
main areas of this journey--nutrition and exercise. Factor in the
beautiful scenery, the heat and humidity, the weekly races by a local
group "The Townsville Roadrunners", my inability to afford a car and
thus having to cycle or walk everywhere, the inspiration of a loving
girlfriend, my aforementioned distaste of fat people, and all the
ample space to run and cycle and I have all the motivation I need to
keep going.

Long story long, I am still making these moves. Today is August 8
2009, 781 days since I have started, I am currently weighing in at
about 85 kgs [188 lbs]. The last photo is one of me taken yesterday.
I had finished the 10.5k event for the
Townsville Running Festival. I ran the same event last year in 56:50.
My goal this year is 47:59. It was quite ambitious to try to take 9
minutes off of my time, but you know what they say about shooting for
the stars. I finished the course this year in 50:55 so I didn't come
anywhere close to my goal, but hey a 6 minute improvement in one year
is still pretty good. I even get to cross another item off my bucket
list [being able to maintain a sub-5 minute pace over 10 kms]. So I
may not have done as well as I hoped, but I did my best which was
still pretty damn good and still have something to work toward. It may
sound petty, but I don't really care. This is a major aspect of my
life that I felt was out of hand so I made strides to take control
over my life. No lie, just know I chose my own fate. I ran by the fork
in the road and went straight.