Thursday, May 17, 2012

How I lost over 30lbs! (or, my bday gift to myself and my LORD (or, an attempt to bring things up to speed: Part 3))

     One of the coolest wedding gifts Kaitlin and I got last year was a Nintendo Wii with Wii Fit (courtesy of my brothers and sisters, who are awesome!). On the last day of our honeymoon, we opened it, plugged it in, and tried it out. For anyone who hasn't played, the first thing that you experience after you make your character and everything is a body test that measures your weight and your posture/balance. I didn't really care that my balance was 2% off, but being 30lbs overweight (and 50lbs over my "ideal weight") was just unacceptable to me. I had always known I was probably overweight, but I had no idea how much I had gained over the years. My "freshman 15" turned into my senior 40! I knew that if I didn't change something soon, I would regret it down the road. 235 pounds may not seem like a lot (and didn't really look like a lot on me since I was so tall), but it was enough to wake myself up and motivate me to do something about it.

     The waking up and motivation took about 6 months to get going. It started out as one of my new years resolutions, and has turned out to be one of the most significant achievements I have made this year. I decided that reaching my healthy weight range (150-200lbs) would be my birthday gift to me, and accomplished it a little over a week early, when I weighed in at about 198. The same game that gave me a hard pill to swallow gave me a sense of pride in myself for my commitment and of gratitude towards God for pulling me through when I saw this:

     It was a relief on multiple levels, because not only does it give you that fancy BMI meter and reading, but it also verbally lets you know what's going on, which before meant hearing "That's overweight!" every single time. Depressing, right? Almost as depressing as when your little Mii character slowly gets fatter and fatter as the meter goes up to where you really are. Needless to say, this game is done putting me down! Not that I ever took anything personally, but you know. 

     The first question people have asked has been what I've been doing different, which is mainly three things:
  1. Running/Jogging
  2. Eating lighter
  3. No more sugary soda
     And honestly, there have been countless days when #2 probably didn't happen, but 1 & 3 usually made up for it and then some. Has it been a smooth course? Nope. Even now, there are days when I feel like I still have a million miles to go and won't ever get there, but I am encouraged when I think about how healthier I am now and how I am doing my best to glorify God with my body. If you are thinking about taking on a journey like mine or are in the middle of one and just need some encouragement, feel free to contact me with any questions! Here are some tips, things to avoid, and just general good-to-know stuff that I have picked up along the way:

1. Do it for the right reason! I have heard countless stories of people who starve themselves or pay for expensive surgeries to lose weight just in order to improve their looks. It is almost never healthy, in my opinion, to try to lose weight solely to "look better." Before you try to change anything about yourself, love yourself for who you are, and try your absolute best to adapt a positive self-esteem. Being more athletically fit, looking slimmer, etc. should all be by-products of your journey, not the main reason for it. We are all told to love others unconditionally, and we should exhibit the same kind of love for ourselves. Love yourself with the possibility of never being able to change those things that you sometimes wish were different about yourself. I know it isn't easy, because it's a mindset I had to work towards too (and I'll admit sometimes I don't feel like I'm completely there yet). God designed us with purpose and love, including our bodies. Part of loving God back is loving His creation, including ourselves (including our bodies). Love yourself first, and out of that love for yourself (and the LORD), strive to adapt healthier habits which lead to weight loss. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 6:20 that we "were bought with a price," and we should "therefore honor God with [our] bodies." Let that be your reason, above everything else.

2. Walk by faith, not by sight. This doubles as just a great Bible verse for everyday encouragement! (2 Corinthians 5:7). Do not judge your progress based on your looks or your own perception of how much you've lost (also, see #1). There are two main reasons why we tend to not feel like we're losing anything. Primarily, the weight we tend to want to lose is ironically the last weight we tend to lose. I can only really speak for myself as a guy, but I know from studying Anatomy & Physiology that this is true for females as well. The first place the body stores fat tends to be the places I don't want it (i.e, the belly). It's where my body wants to have extra cushion/protection/insulation, because that is where most of my visceral organs are. Makes sense, doesn't it? The body strategically tries to burn fat in other areas first before sacrificing it in areas that it prefers it. Another reason we seem to look like we're not getting anywhere is the fact that while we are losing weight, we're losing it fairly proportionally. Up until you get into a normal weight range, you will likely look proportionally the same as the way you started, even if you really have significantly lost weight.

3. Set healthy goals. Losing 50lbs in 2 weeks probably isn't healthy at all. In fact, losing 50lbs period may not be healthy for you. Know where you are, where is healthy for you, and how long it needs to take following a healthy rate. 1lb a week, I've heard, is a healthy goal. Every pound of fat is equal to burning about 3500 calories. So, a pound a week requires cutting back 500 calories a day. It's best not to count calories, because that leads to a whole mess of associating food with guilt, but if you're a numbers kind of person, this is a good place to start. Be comfortable with the idea that this may take a while, because it will. It needs to. Your body doesn't want to let go of fat without a fight. It takes some major convincing.

4. Consider investing in a pair of these:

I've never gone on a run so far without them. Despite everything your mother and/or peers may tell you about Vibram Fivefingers, they are beyond healthy for your feet (exceedingly more so than conventional shoes). Besides strengthening your feet and lower leg muscles, improving your balance, and being ridiculously comfortable, these shoes are pretty fun to wear and look cool! They come with a hefty price tag, but nothing is free, right?? These were thankfully a gift from my best friend and best wifey in the whole world, Kaitlin, but if I had an extra $100 lying around, I'd buy them over again in a heartbeat. They are great for running in, and come in plenty of colors/styles (even for youth!). If ever in your life there was a time to get some, now is that time!

5. Work out. Not only does working your muscles burn calories, but just having muscle burns calories. It takes more energy to maintain muscle than it does to maintain other tissues in the body. Also, when you are burning calories, the body destroys muscle before fat. So, if you are exercising your muscles, you are more likely to conserve/build muscle while getting rid of excess fat. Don't go overboard with this though and consider it an alternative to everything else. Not only is cardiovascular exercise (running/jogging/etc) vital to your well-being, but over-working your muscles does more damage than good and could actually lead to an outcome opposite to what you desire.

6. Find a partner. Having someone to support you along the way makes it a million times easier and more fun. Kaitlin is well within her healthy weight range and doesn't need to lose any at all, but runs with me anyway. It has become a part of the time we spend together, and is a great way to fellowship and catch up with each other. Since I have given up sugary drinks, we've started to drink less of it as a family, which helps tremendously. Little things like that, when shared with people close to you, make a huge difference.

7. Give yourself breaks. There are going to be days when you don't feel like running or working out or even eating healthy. Accept that this will happen and let it happen every once in a while. Don't deprive yourself of a well-deserved break. It really wont hurt you to eat a big dessert every now and then or spend a day or two resting. Think big-picture lifestyle change, not small details. Unless eating that Molten Lava Cake from Chili's is a part of a habit you're forming to pig out every single night, or unless your nap signifies your transformation into a sloth, it will not hurt your overall progress to indulge every now and then. Remember, you're doing all of this out of love for yourself, not condemnation. Be loving toward yourself! Don't let yourself slip away from your path towards better health, but also be careful not to deprive yourself of joy!

     Seven is the number of completion, so I'll end it at that. Above all else, lean on the LORD. A friend of mine recently prayed Ephesians 3:17 over me, and it has been an extremely powerful prayer in my life, and one that will give you the strength and power to overcome every obstacle in your path:
"I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge —that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." - Ephesians 3:17-19
      Christ's love gives us the power to do all things, and the ability to live life to the fullest extent of God's purpose for us. Part of that is being free from everything that oppresses us and keeps us from experiencing God's joy. If that happens to be the need to shave off some weight, I hope and pray that God may have used me in some way to shed some light in that area of your life. If that's not where you are right now, I still pray that you may be rooted and established in his Love, so that no matter what obstacle you are currently facing, you may be freed from it by His power and love in you.

Until next time,