Someone asked me recently when and how I finally decided to do something about my weight and overall unhealthy lifestyle. Looking back, I’m not sure I can pinpoint a singular come-to-Jesus moment where I stood in front of the mirror, and said, “Fatty no more!” More likely, it was of the drip-drip-drip variety—a series of little “is this really what I’ve become?” moments. Like the first time I realized I could use my stomach as a handy snack food shelf while watching television. Then, the times I broke out in a sweat after strenuous physical activity, like breathing.
I never was particularly athletic, and always tended to carry around a few extra pounds, but things really began to take off (or get put on) about five-and-a-half years ago when I quit drinking. Two years after that, I quit smoking. Well, take away booze and cigarettes from an addict, and what’s left? Food. Junk food. Lots of it. Pints of Ben & Jerry’s Chubby Hubby, bag after bag of Chili Cheese Fritos with jars of microwave chili cheese dip, and countless Stuffed Crust Pepperoni Lovers pizzas with extra garlic dipping sauce.
By putting down the vodka tonics and the accompanying train wreck, I saved my life. Overindulging in food seemed a minor, even pleasant side effect. Besides, I never have eaten a box of Ding Dongs, and woken up seven hours later in bed with a complete stranger. And I’m confident no amount of Double Stuff Oreos could make me dance sans pants down Hennepin Avenue.
Nonetheless, my newfound love of all foods fatty finally began to catch up with me. By the fall of 2006, I topped the scales at just over 240 pounds, with a 38” waist. I suffered from breathing trouble, severe acid reflux, and chronic heartburn. I frequently overslept, yet remained tired and listless throughout the day. It goes without saying that my self-esteem was in the toilet, as the shame and self-pity spiraled out of control. I was a beached whale who’d lost its bearings. Similar to my experience with drugs and alcohol, I had hit rock bottom, and was ready for something different.
Then one day, a little angel floated into my life. Actually, a very big, muscular, former competitive bodybuilder angel careened into my life. His name was Erik “The Viking” Fromm. He was a personal trainer, and became a sponsor of my podcast. As a result, I began training with Erik in December 2006. Little did I know that over the next six months, I would drop 60 pounds, lose six inches around my waist, regain energy, restore confidence, and fundamentally change my life.
When people see you making amazing progress toward a goal—like losing weight—they will want to know your recipe for success. They long for a tidy, succinct summary of the methods you employed to achieve fantastic results. Would that it were that easy. Anybody can lose weight and get fit if he or she puts his or her mind to it, but no secret formula or magic routine works for everyone, always. However, I’ve come to learn some basic truths over the last year-and-a-half that I think would be helpful to anyone looking to lose weight or get fit.
Set realistic goals (and then be willing to exceed them). Seems to me most people doom themselves before they ever begin. “I saw this guy on Oprah last night who lost 150 pounds by eating Japanese radishes, and running 20 miles everyday!” Two days later, you’re defeated, with nothing to show but shin splints and a refrigerator full of Japanese radishes. With the help of my trainer, I crafted a workout plan that was realistic. Over time, I increased the frequency and complexity of my workout, consistently challenging myself to push a little further past my comfort zone.
Over the next few weeks and months, I’d like to share with you some of the other things I learned along the way here in the magazine and on my podcast. The journey has been a spectacular roller coaster of emotions, personal triumphs, and gifts too numerous to fit within the confines of this one article. I could write 10 pages alone on my love affair with chicken breasts and sweet potatoes.
There are also the stories of and lessons learned by the friends who joined me along the way. Indeed, if I’ve learned anything over the last year-and-a-half, it’s that friendship and teamwork are perhaps the most essential components to achieving any goal. The only thing more important was faith. If I hadn’t believed in myself, and placed trust in those willing to help me, I would have given up long ago. And I probably still would be eating Ben & Jerry’s Chubby Hubby off my shelf belly.