They’re the legendary 5% of people who have lost weight and actually kept it off for the long-term.
before/after photos at the end of the post!
Today is the big day, today marks the 3rd year anniversary of when I decided to step on the scale and re-evaluate where my life was going, a decision primarily brought upon the feeling that a number gave me; a feeling that I was heading in a dangerous direction with my weight.
As a society of people so enculturated with numbers of weight loss. Yes, it is primarily about vanity; how do we look. Skinny is important, toned and muscular puts us in a different place than everything else. Those who have better bodies get treated better and overweight people are second class citizens. It may seem like an overstatement, as with most forms of discrimination, they appear in the form of microaggressions. The point I am making is that I felt like this my whole life. It may not have been because someone pointed and said, “hey there, fat kid” (although I had plenty else to fall victim of in the way of feeling like a social pariah), but it was all around me. The fat kids weren’t popular, they weren’t in your favorite TV shows, and they were not favored citizens. Although I didn’t feel these pressures my whole life due to the fact that my family was overweight and like any behavior in a household, overeating (and unhealthy eating) was normalized.
It wasn’t until I got to high school that I just accepted the fact that I was bigger. I was by no means the biggest kid in our class, who did get flack, so ridicule didn’t drive me to lose weight (or gain more weight). But whenever I got home, there were always treats and for dinners McDonalds, pizza, or some other unhealthy, delicious food. I never weighed myself when I was young, as weight wasn’t a focus (despite knowing my family was bigger – aside from my brother who ate like a garbage disposal and never gained weight). Aside from getting weighed at the doctor’s office, I never knew the numeric shame of being overweight until I was a late teenager and my overweight (just for added irony to view our cultural perspective) physician said I could stand to lose a few pounds. This advice, coming from a woman who was clearly over 300 lbs. did not sink into my teenage brain (as most things don’t).
In early January 2011, I stepped on the scale to read that I was 275 lbs., and for the second time in my life, I felt defined by the numbers and pressures of a flat-stomach society.
The reason why I felt so ashamed seeing this number is because 2 years prior, I had joined a weight loss program at the gym (where I lost 12 lbs. over a 4 month period), and after that figured I could do the rest on my own. 2 years of sedentary lifestyle set back in, unhealthy eating, and a weight gain of over 30 lbs. All the work that I had done was nullified and amplified. Many thoughts went through my head wondering what my future would be like at 300 lbs. Both of my parents had diabetes and I was next in line to become just another obese member of my family (both sides).
I decided it was time to venture back to gym and rejoin the weight loss program. Luckily, a few friends were interested in joining the program.
A lot of the background of “my story” is here at this link: My Story , so I don’t want to rehash the entire background (and I will update that page as well)
What I want to focus on for this post is a celebration of where I have come from. The way we measure our lives (in brackets of days and years) is somewhat arbitrary, but, at the same time, gives us reference to change that occurs. I’ve always celebrated my “healthiversary” in years, but when you put into perspective other numerical values, it shows that a lot can be accomplished in not a lot of time whatsoever. 1,095 is a LOT of time; it’s 26,280 hours. If we think about the time we spend at work, watching TV, and Facebooking in 1 year (which is 8,760 hours) and we spent just 1 hour doing something active a day, that only equates to 365 hours a year. In the last 3 years I’ve lost 110 lbs. 10 pant sizes, 4 shirt sizes, 14″ from my stomach. But when you lose all of these things, you gain so much more: 600 miles ran, 450 gym sessions, years added to my life, but what I have gained can never truly be defined by numbers. It shows work input and results output to a degree, but it can never measure the amount of self-confidence, esteem, and feeling that has given me new purpose in life.
Over the last 8 months, I have been weightlifting. CrossFit enhanced my life greatly, and something I need to get back into, but I felt like it was time to work on building some muscle and tightening up some of the remaining fat in my body. So, I looked into the personal trainers at CrossFit Bangor and connected with Tony who gave me a very decent rate for 1 on 1 training. After about a month, I was lifting weights for the first time in my life (aside some of the intro stuff we were able to do at CF). For the first few months, I felt like I was on fire. The regiment was set up so that I was continually setting new records to reinforce the work I was putting in. Eventually that tapered a bit, as expected, but I am still pushing forth and making new records over time. The cross-section of this story comes with the stressors that was 2013. From August to recently, my life has changed in a variety of ways which has left stress, depression, and difficult transition around much of my life. Aside from a few rescheduled sessions, I still made a commitment to attend my weight sessions (mainly because I was still paying for them and I felt obligated). Even though the sessions felt increasingly difficult, I knew I was still working hard and even though it felt like my body was resisting every moment of it, I still forced myself through the workouts. Time and time again, I thought “I can’t possibly do another round or rep”, and yet, I still did it. Even though this didn’t bring me the same overwhelming satisfaction as some of the other accomplishments I have felt, it made me feel good that I was still putting in the work, despite feeling like I couldn’t even make it out of bed some days.
Weight lifting for me has been kind of a funny and ironic journey. I remember when I first stepped into the gym a few years ago and would look down to the weight room and think, “Those guys are boneheads” (which some of them are, undoubtedly), but associated it purely with “okay, you can lift heavy things”, but it feels badass to lift heavy things and moreso than that just that you can say you can (I honestly don’t even know what all of my numbers and PRs are half of the time, I just know I am getting better at it). I went most of my life as the pale, sickly, asthmatic kid in the corner who was overweight and in most aspects of my life, felt powerless. I felt powerless in my home, I felt powerless at school, I felt powerless with my health, and I felt powerless socially. The only place I felt like I had a place with any grit was the classroom, which I held onto my entire upbringing. Weightlifting makes me feel powerful, and not just because I am using the strength of my body, but because I am defying the weaknesses I feel like I have. To throw an extra plate on the barbell and lift it, when one less plate 2 weeks before felt impossible is a measurable feat of personal improvement and demonstrates the ability to accomplish a new goal.
Over the last 8 months, I have been excited to see where my numbers go, especially when I hit the point where I could deadlift my old body weight of 275 lbs.
That’s what this journey has been for me; regaining power and control in my life.
The loss of power and control
Power is a funny thing because we all have it, but we feel like it must be given to us. In some arenas in life that is true, but food is something that most adults can control. Yes, money sometimes limits our options, but what and how much we consume is up to us. Ironically, for most of my life, I never felt in control of my eating; binging was commonplace. Even over these last 6 months of stress; knowing what I know now, having the new habits I have, I have had some of the worst binging than I have had in the past. Knowledge is power, but loss of control in other parts of your life can create the excuses that put you where you were in the first place. Health education has become very important to me, and passing on info to friends and family (which can be a touchy and sensitive subject) is something I truly feel passionate about. Eating is about control. It is not uncommon to hear people who are significantly overweight and are on a weightloss journey to talk about how eating was the only thing they felt like they could control in their lives. In some ways, I feel like that was true for me, but overeating is a dependency connected to so many different facets of a person. I was just saying yesterday to a friend: snacking is great when you are bored, or watching TV, or stressed, or depressed, or hanging out with friends; it’s an anytime pastime.
For me, losing the weight was about gaining some semblance of control back into my life. Although I didn’t necessarily feel out of control at the time, I was amazed at how much control I really lacked when I ate or binged.
Gaining Power, Losing Grip
Although losing weight can help you gain control in your life, undoubtedly it will dig up other psychological pieces of your life that were buried deep beneath the skin and fat. It feels like an overgeneralization to say “Everyone who is overweight has some issues”, but it has been my personal experience, experience of those whom I know personally, and the countless stories I have read and seen over the last few years. This isn’t to say if you are 10 lbs. overweight you are suffering from some deep traumatic childhood trauma, but at 100 lbs. overweight, there is a reason that someone is not taking care of themselves. Legitimately, eating addiction is a serious medical concern, but I would say that eating addiction is part of what stems as a coping mechanism for someone.
Not that this blog is meant to be the ultimate form of catharsis, but I have spent the last 3 years really reeling over what my “shit” is and trying to fix it to lead the best life I can. Shedding the weight; sure it gives you a longer life and a more attractive body, but those things don’t matter if you are still holding onto the things that made put you deep into obesity in the first place. There is never a reason for a person to be 300 lbs., and you may call me judgmental, but I was mere months away from hitting that point, and although the reasons were not because I was dealing with the stuff going on inside (I didn’t know about all of it at that point), I know I would not have kept off the weight had I not come to terms with certain aspects of my life. Part of that was forgiving and letting go of things that happened in my childhood. Letting go of the bullying, the alcoholic parents, the isolation, and all of the other stuff. I don’t know that we ever truly abolish the cruxes of our past, but recognizing that they do affect us is important. The last 6 months of my life, I have made some big changes and made some decisions to live my life the way that I should have a long time ago. Hiding in fear, behind whatever walls (physical, mental, or emotional) prevent us from living the fullest lives we can. Sure, every day isn’t perfect, but we have the power inside of us, with the right commitment and motivation to change for the better. I know the changes I made this past year, I would not have done had I not lost the weight, so for that I am thankful that I have opened new pathways to happiness and exploration of who it is that I am.
It’s amazing how much of a metaphor being so big has on what you have buried inside. I am sure I still have a lot of work to do on the inside, but having 3 years of formed habits, experiences, and knowledge, I know that I am able to conquer the next 1,095 days.
1,095 days is a long time. Our lives can change in a matter of moments, fastened together to create experiences, thoughts, feelings, hardships, successes, and so much more. 1,095 days ago, I made a step that would change the course of my life, a step that was made up of strung together moments that brought me to the realization that change was needed in my life. A change I knew, somewhere deep inside, that I had to make, but never took as seriously as I should have. On this day, 3 years ago, I stepped into the gym for my first workout. That day would change my life in a way I wouldn’t know until much later. I would meet a trainer and eventual friend. I would run a mile with what I would consider (for me) a terrible time, and I would start the process that would change my identity indefinitely; from fat to Matt.
Before all the before and after shots, I really want to say thank you to the following: Tony Sutton & CrossFit Bangor for showing me my own strength, CrossFit Black Bear for helping me realize that I, too, can be “elite”, Kay Dizzle for Facebook support and being a fitness twin, Jamie Purnell for an adventure buddy, Nikita Gagain for always being supportive of me in whatever I do (and going to CF hella early sometimes) plus is a good meal buddy. Kristin Thorp who I would has gotten me through the majority of all work related stressors and has become a great friend. Amanda Coburn, who has become a better friend, confidant, and hilarious de-stressor! Kaila Williams, CF buddy turned donut buddy, races, relationship talk, and great texts. Central Maine Roller Derby & All my friends from the team, For being fierce women who inspire me, help me become a better skater, and give me strength to improve myself in new and different ways.
Most of all I want to thank Katie Norwood because without her I would not be sitting where I am today. I would not be a runner, I would not be an athlete, and I would not have a great workout partner. I went from not being able to run a complete mile to running a marathon because of Katie (we ran our first marathon together). As a trainer she taught me the moves that changes my life and helped me understand who I truly am.
Also, I want to thank Bethany Brophy because the things I have changed in the last 6 months of my life were already isolating and difficult enough, to be who I truly am, but she was my rock in the hardest of times, which I will never forget for the rest of my life.
Lastly, I want to thank everyone who has supported me in the last few years. The first couple of years, my Facebook was filled with posts about the gym, running, what I was eating, etc. and I am sure it got sickening to some people, but the likes, the comments, and everything else helped motivate me, so you are all part of this journey and can all claim victory for part of my success. It is an isolating journey, one that everyone must go alone; even with support networks, but when you know you have people in your corner, it gives just a little more purpose to the work you are doing.
Anyone I forgot, I love you!
Although there is a lot to be said about weightloss, the most obvious of perks is a difference in how you look, so today I took some new photos which I will share at the end of the post, but take you through a journey of photos from Fat to Matt
Before Photos taken from 2010 – 2012
This is the first photo I ever took shirtless. I had already lost about 50 lbs. at this point. I wish I had ones from before to see the improvement, but being shirtless was something I was not fond of.
After Photos // 2012 – 2014
January 26th, 2014