The next few weeks I am going to document how I lost over 50 lbs in 2010- this is what worked for me- but it begins with 26 years of failure. I hope you are encouraged. Because there is some background here- let me give you the January goal- don't diet yet- eat normal- but SLOWLY begin to get your body in shape. Fuel your body while you build cardio endurance, muscular strength, and flexibility. Your strict diet will not begin until April- so gear your mind for a LONG process and it will happen.
My Life Long Weight Struggle and Recent Success
Intro: I have had a losing battle with weight for 26 years. I guess I have had a food issue since I was very young. I had the typical 'teen skinniness' helped by a lot of sports and I even was underweight during the spring of my senior year.
But the look of my body did not tell an accurate picture.
#1- Even though I was an athlete- I really did not train/eat/hydrate properly. I can’t say enough how I would like to see what it would have been like to go through our football program today ( and even if I could last). Coach Ryan McSwain has developed the best strength and conditioning program I have ever seen.
But my life as a football player does have distinct weights recorded in my brain, so I can track the decline. I tried my hardest to gain weight during my high school football days to no real avail. (Now I know that I just did not know how to really do it right. Gaining weight is EXERCISE and eating more of the good stuff- losing weight is EATING and exercise with the bold words being the most important and hardest.)
My senior year (fall) I had pushed it up to a whopping 165 lbs! But I remember weighing around March that same year and because I had stopped lifting (and in those days it meant bench, incline bench, and arm curls for the girls) and had withered to a very puny 150.
Then something strange happened- I hit the ‘man’ phase. I am not talking about puberty…. But there is something different that happens when a boy hits that 18-21 year old body. You see it most commonly as a boy moves from his Jr to Sr year. I still regret that I was so young for my grade. I was an August birthday. (I did not turn 16 until the summer of my Junior year and some of my classmates had been driving as freshmen.)
It started when I spent the entire spring semester at the Sports Medicine and Fitness Institute as an exercise technician and getting school credit as part of the Birmingham School System Executive High School Internship Program (that was a mouthful. Basically, I worked and they just gave me A’s in all my spring classes).
At SMFI, I began to work a little harder. Russ Polhemus was the first one to push me more distance running. I had never been over a mile. He gradually built me up to 4 or 5 miles. He also began getting me more consistent on a total body weight lifting program- squats ,cleans, lat pulls..etc.
In May or June, I decided to walk-on at Alabama and remember stepping on a scale at SMFI the next day and I weighed 178 lbs! I was pumped. But it is that man thing, even without SMFI I would have gained a lot of that. (OH! to have played my Senior year at 185 lbs.. it would have been sweet!)
My first day at Alabama I weighed in at 185.
Now, I loved my time at Alabama. I wish now I had been a little tougher and ‘big picture minded’ and I totally did my summers wrong (note to all college athletes- go to summer school and lift with the team in the strength coach’s program, yes it is hard, but you cannot do it better alone).
But to live as a college athlete means developing some habits that you have to transition out of or you are in TROUBLE.
Here’s what I mean:
#1 EATING- When I started eating at Bryant Hall, my guess is that I began consuming about 3,000 calories per meal. And listen, I was a world class eater! From my 7/8 year old days until now, I never had anything left on my plate after a meal. That has been a mental cue for me in this latest battle. (When I go out to eat now I will leave food on my plate and call it a victory. I also want to split a meal with my wife when we go out and still leave food on my plate.)
Those ladies at Bryant Hall could cook. They were the sweetest women I have ever known in my life and they loved stuffing us like turkeys. We had mandatory breakfast, gourmet lunches, and dinner for Kings. I had the pleasure of making the ‘Scout team training table’ every week under Coach Ray Perkins and had Steak, Shrimp, and occasional Lobster all the time!
We then had 10PM snacks. I would eat 2 or 3 sandwiches made with this peanut butter and honey mixture- chocolate milk.
#2 EXERCISE- All the eating was burned either in football or worse the dreaded off-season workouts (which just about killed me, but was really the first time in my life that I truly worked).
I remember my first off-season with Coach Al Miller. Because of a quirk in my school schedule, I had the 6AM weightlifting shift on MWF and the running shift on Tues/Th afternoons. I could do the running- I ran high school track, so 200’s, 400’s, 800’s and mile runs were no problem. The fact that he put us on the stopwatch was a problem because it meant I couldn’t fake one or loaf.
But those 6AM weight workouts….. we would lift 3 sets of 10 (and parallel squats 3x10 will make you wish you had never been born) based on a 10 rep max. But after a while- you did 3x10 OF YOUR 10 rep max!
This is the honest truth….. I woke up one morning around 3:30 AM. My legs were so sore and in such pain that I began crying… and then I realized I had to workout in about 21/2 hours. It was the single most period of dread in my entire life. But I survived. I even remember pushing through and actually making every rep.
(Now this is way too long and I’m the only one who I’m doing this for) but one last note- I wish I had handled my down time better at Alabama. I made my grades, etc. But I used a 'woe is me, tired dog attitude'- to allow me to lay around and rot way too much. I would have adjusted fine to what I was doing if I had rested a little, studied, and gotten out and done fun things, more activities, more people oriented things. That was a habit forming thing too.)
OK- the problem was not when I was playing. Bryant Hall eating plan and Al Miller’s death camps resulted in me getting to 195… muscled, lean, and fast. Not nearly good enough to actually play at Alabama, but I could go toe to toe in practice and feel really good about myself.
Then…. I stopped the playing, I quit the exercise… but I kept the eating.
In the late Spring of 1984, I accepted Coach Perkins’ generous offer to become a Student Resident Assistant at Bryant Hall which paid room and board. That meant I was no longer a football player.
In one year’s time, I went from 195 lb’s of muscle to 212 lb’s of out of shape sluggishness. I distinctly remember putting on my sweat pants one morning and realizing that they fit way too snug. I went over to the athletic complex and weighed… 212! I was in shock. It was the first in a series of these deep gut feelings of disappointment and shame.
I went out to the fields and began jogging. Alabama was in spring drills and Coach Perkins asked a trainer who was jogging around the field. He said “Jay Mathews” and Coach Perkins told the trainer to go over and tell me I had gotten fat.
I’m peddling along.. and this trainer jogs over to me. “Coach Perkins sent me over here to tell you that you have gotten fat.”
So from 1984 until Jan 2010 (26 years), I had had an ache of feeling this complex variety of feelings, moods, small successes, and bitter defeats with weight gain.
One quick note- I don’t look at that trainer’s comment or Coach Perkins in any ill way. At the time, it hurt, because I knew it was true. It wasn’t said in a mean way. It was just a brute fact. One more interesting note- I don’t know why (and this isn’t 100% - but it is 85-90%)- but former football skill players, backs, Qb’s tend to get fat after their playing days and Linemen tend to trim down. I have said for years, backs get fat. And they do.
My freshman year at Alabama, Major Ogilvie returned to watch a practice. I worshipped that guy! At the end of practice, Coach Bryant called him over to talk to the team. Coach Bryant mumbled something about Major being a ‘Helluva back’ but now would have to play guard and we all laughed. But even then I noticed that Major just chuckled and now I know what he felt that day.
For the record: 1984 (212)- 1987 (I lost down to 205)- 1988 ( I got married at 218)-
1991 ( I remember getting up to 225 and sometime around 1993 or 94 I lost back to 218 again). But in 1991 I started coaching football which was a general run of gaining 10 lbs during the season and losing 5 in the off season.
1995- 225 net 1996-2003 – fluctuated between 228 and 231- I remember being so appalled at anytime I pushed 230 that I would starve myself for a few days.
I also remember doing Atkins at some point twice and weight watchers once.
Atkins the first time- huge early success 15 lbs off in no time. But I never transitioned right and my wife despised it (fatty red meat and no volume reduction).. so it fizzeled.
The 2nd time I was in my 30’s and I was undergoing some big digestive changes biologically- I spent 2 or 3 years getting diverticulitis twice and having to be hospitalized for 3 or 4 days. Atkins #2 led to a colitus bout and I dumped it again.
Issues with my experience of Atkins- your body has a nasty rebound. Once you swear off bad carbs, it means you should not go back in my opinon.
Weight watchers makes a lot of sense- you have a limit- you can have more volume if the food is better. But it is a lot of counting- no real commitment to exercise or food restrictions- and I found myself going to meetings with all women and feeling way out of place.
2004- my mom passes away, I change jobs, move to Nashville, take stress and pressure to food comfort- keep exercising (in fact I am a much harder exerciser now than ever in my 20’s or 30’s)- but I slowly kept the plus 10 minus 5 decline.
Somewhere between 2007 and 2008 I hit 245 for the first time and it about shocked me to death. I had been doing some heavy weight lifting and felt healthy and strong… yikes!
2008 had a physical and my doctor told me I had one last chance to get my weight and blood pressure down- I was borderline to going on blood pressure medication. I weighed 248 that day.
The winter of 2008 I am afraid that I got in the high 250’s- none of my clothes fit.
Jan of 2009 I had a good new year’s resolution start and dropped down to 238.
I went into the football season of 2009 at 242.
And that season was the first break of a 26 year cycle and movement to real change.
Next post: psychological and spiritual factors and how I begin to see real change
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