April 9th, 2019.
That’s the day I stepped on the scale and saw the highest number I’ve seen in my life. That number isn’t everything, and I’ll get into that more later, but for me it was indicative of the poor decision-making I’d been employing for a long time. The hurtful habits I’d created for myself.
It took me a long time to get to the point of actually doing something about it. In fact, several months earlier I had grabbed a journal and scribbled my weight from that morning in the upper right-hand corner, fully intending to start my journey back to a healthier me that day. Instead, I gained another 17 pounds. SEVENTEEN POUNDS. It’s embarrassing. It’s pathetic. It’s shameful. Those are the thoughts that were constantly banging around in my head, so why couldn’t I get it together? That’s the first thing I learned.
Be kind to yourself. My eating was a coping mechanism and, as harmful as it was to my health, it served it’s purpose for that time, otherwise why would I have done it? With that in mind, I’ve chosen to shake off the shame and have instead accepted that I was hurting and that was what helped me not hurt as much. Again, it makes me sad, but I’m choosing to be gracious and understanding to myself, just like I would do for a friend. I know I tend to be much harder on myself than on those I love. Maybe you find that you are, too. Resist that temptation. Dig deep to find out why you think you are where you are, but do so with a tender heart. You deserve that. And then…
Start where you are. That’s all you can do. I know that sounds really simple, but it’s true. And the fact is, starting where you are can be completely overwhelming. 60 days ago honestly feels like an eternity now, but I vividly remember trying to do 8-minute abs on my living room floor and maybe making it 30 seconds before I started feeling the dread and shame of the truth of where I was physically. And it friggin’ hurt! I couldn’t touch my elbows to my knees. Not even close. I was tired and breathing heavily just from walking around. In fact, let me tell you what happened less than two weeks into all of this.
Easter Sunday. April 21st. Day 13. I went to church early to help setup and I agreed to man the camera for our live stream that morning. I had worked out the day before and apparently not had enough water, so towards the end of the service, as I was filming worship, I could feel my abs start to lock-up. Then my back. I tried to stretch out, but it wasn’t working. I fell out of the room and crawled on my hand and knees up to the balcony where I writhed around in the worst pain I’d experienced that I could remember. My back and abs had locked up and I couldn’t breathe. I was terrified, honestly. I texted my wife and kids for help, to bring me water, but I knew everyone was going out to the Easter egg hunt and probably wouldn’t see my messages. And I didn’t want to bother anyone. I was embarrassed. And scared. Eventually they brought me water and as I hydrated, things slowly went back to normal, but I’ll never forget that feeling. That feeling of helplessness and fear.
That experience showed me that I must approach this journey carefully. That I need to wake-up every morning and say, “Ok, where am I today?” I need to start where I am, every day. Which is the leads me to what I have found to be the most important part so far…
Be mindful. One of the first things I did was download the Lose It! app on my phone. At its core, it’s simply an app wherein you log what you eat during the day to track your calories. You input your height, current weight, what weight you want to get to, how many pounds you want to lose per week, and it gives you a target to hit for every day. I’ve used it 60 days in a row. It works for me. It isn’t perfect and before you lecture me about how it’s not all about a number on a scale or a certain number of calories you ingest a day, let me say that I agree with you. But here’s why it’s been helpful for me.
Before I started using it regularly, I was eating fast food nearly every day. And not just a cheeseburger and fries. I bet I’d eat 1,500-2,000 calories per meal. Easily. I mean, think about it. Go to McDonald’s and grab a cheeseburger, a McChicken, a medium fries, a couple apple pies for a buck and a large soda. That’s 1820 calories. 71g of fat, which is more than you should eat in an entire day. And that was a common meal for me! What the Lose It! app did for me was help me see the truth about my eating habits.
And you guys, I’m ruthless with it. I’ve literally tracked every single thing I’ve eaten and imbibed (I hate the word “drank”) for 60 days. There have been two nights I went out and totally regretted my decisions…and logged every calorie. It’d be foolish not to, right? I mean, it’s not like they disappear just because I don’t log them! So, I’m honest about it. And if I don’t know the exact amount, I guess higher than it probably is. Again, I realize there’s more to it than counting calories, but for me it’s been really helpful in establishing a healthy mindfulness around my eating habits. Find something that works similarly for you and I think you’ll find that it will help tremendously.
Ok, here’s a bonus thing I’ve learned…
Establish healthy habits. All the research says that diets don’t work. I think we all know that. And goal-setting hardly works for most people, either. New Year’s Resolutions anyone? That’s why it’s so important to establish healthy habits and what has helped me the most in this area has been James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits. Just a brilliant, incredibly practical and helpful book about how to establish healthy habits and eradicate harmful ones.
Now, I have health goals. I have a target weight. But, what happens when I get there? And what happens if I don’t meet that goal when I intended to? What happens if I don’t meet it at all? Healthy habits will last past your goals. They’ll serve you when things get hard. Because they will. I’ve been working out more in the last month than I have in the last three years. And it feels amazing. But, there are days I’d rather sit on the couch and watch TV and eat a Snickers. But, the habits I’ve developed help me to workout anyway because that’s just what I do now. I’m a person who works out. I’m a person who eats healthy food. I’m a person who buys two Snickers bars because they were buy-one-get-one-free and then leaves them on the counter so long his kids ask him if he’s ever going to eat them. That happened this morning.
I can’t tell you exactly why April 9th was the day where it clicked-in for me. But, it did. And I’m grateful. And I’m excited. And I’m confident. If you know me at all, this won’t come as a surprise, but when I stepped on the scale this morning, which I do once a week on Fridays, and saw the number that popped up, I got really emotional. I’m down 26.7 pounds in 60 days. But like I said before, it’s not just the number. It’s what it represents. It represents good decision-making. Something that had been lacking in my life for a long time. It means I’m going the right direction. It means I’m getting healthier, not only physically, but mentally and emotionally and spiritually.
And I’m not going to lie.
That feels really good.