A Little History…

Maybe you have been reading for a while, maybe you just want to know who I am and why you should read anything I say, either way, I think a little background may be appropriate here.

I was born in York, England and grew up there in the 80’s. My family left to come to Canada in the late 80s and I have been here ever since. When I was a young lad I played football as most of us did in England (soccer if you don’t realize the difference) but as I hit puberty and sprouted significantly I fell into playing rugby as a loose head prop. It was the one sport that I found that I was both really good at and really enjoyed. When I hit 16 or so I discovered weigh lifting and spent the next few years getting stronger although the knowledge and the equipment were pitiful. Weights were regarded as unnecessary and certainly nothing to do with “fitness”. Big people in the muscular sense were regarded as unusual, a little weird and unfit. Of course, being young and at boarding school the rugby team mentality was drink first, ask questions later and the team spirit that prevailed was not one of athletic achievement but rather one of “suffer the game to reap the rewards”. As I left England to come to Canada, I was already tipping the scale at 17st7lb or 245lbs and at age 17 that was pretty large. Although I considered myself strong (and I was) my cardio was still good enough to see me through a 90 minute rugby game plus 6 days a week practicing. I was, however, not healthy according to anyone’s standards. I remember having sausages, eggs and bacon for breakfast with fried bread and french mustard. For those of you who have never had fried bread, imagine wonderbread soaked in bacon fat and fried until crispy. Mmmmm… heart attack…

I ended up in Canada facing a new start. I was back at home with my parents for the first time in a couple of years and found myself once again drawn into the rugby scene at school. Fortunately, we had some great coaching staff and I also played with the Oakville Crusaders who had several Canadian National Team members on the roster. The atmosphere of health and fitness was immediately apparent when I arrived. Gone was the notion that a prop should be like an angry rhino lumbering around the field content just to push people around in the scrum and I was introduced to the notion of strong cardio fitness and speed. I also fell back in love with weightlifting and by the late 80s in Canada the gym scene had really taken off and I was able to work out at a nice club with lots of weights and showers and fresh towels! I was in heaven! My weight dropped significantly and I found myself during the summer before University at 190lbs and in great physical shape for the first time in my life.

Since then, things have been volatile when it comes to my weight and fitness. Although I have always  been keen to keep in shape, it hasn’t always worked and now I am a product of several different stages in my life, all of which have their own set of consequences. I went to University at Western, rated the #1 Business School in Canada but also (I was unaware) the #1 Party School in North America. In fact, the residence in which I was to become a Residence Advisor and eventually a Don was rated by David Letterman as the #1 Party Residence in North America! I had some great times at Western and at Saugeen-Maitland Hall and once again, played rugby all 5 years that I was there. I also managed to develop an interest in fitness for the sake of fitness, becoming a certified fitness instructor and (don’t ask) a certified aerobics instructor. I was able maintain my weight at around 200lbs for the duration of my stay at Western once I had been through 2 of my most significant developments as a young man. First, in my second year, I got mono from the rugby guys, since we all shared water bottles at practice, 6 of us got sick. I dropped down to 174lbs and suddenly realized that being 100lbs lighter was not all that it was cracked up to be. I felt frail, weak and emasculated. Second, when I got back to school I decided that it was time to give up the lifestyle that had been the bane of my health for years and on New Years Eve 1989 I quit drinking for good. For those of you with the math skills that means I recently passed 20 years sober. I don’t miss it, I don’t even think about it but I know I am better off for it.

The remainder of my time at University from a physical perspective was spent in the gym. I had learned to love working out and proving my strength to myself. I was encouraged by the fact that for once I was far better than the vast majority of people at something. I remember tipping the scales at 190lbs my last year and according to the composition testing we took part in for the med students I was around 11% body fat. I was in a bubble, as most of us were. Able to work out whenever we wanted, spending hours rollerblading around campus and town, hanging out with friends playing touch football and basically being outdoors every day. I even spent a year on an intramural basketball team and although I was never able to dunk a basketball, I was able to dunk both a tennis ball and a volleyball and still consider that time to be the time I was in the best shape of my life.

Eventually the bubble had to burst and within a few years of leaving University I had ballooned to over 270lbs living alone in the suburbs, driving around all day for a sales job, feeling disconnected and upset that real life was failing to live up to my expectations. I remember coming home from work, the gym a  distant memory, going through the Taco Bell drive through ordering $15 of food (6 burritos at a time with more!) and going home, sitting on the sofa watching TV in the basement and as a final insult ordering an extra large pizza. There were times when I would “treat” myself to packages of lady fingers and dip them in a carton of cake frosting, sometimes going through a carton in a night. I was in a dark and dangerous place both physically and psychologically and mostly because I had stopped working out, had given up on myself physically and couldn’t find a way back. One evening, I had a conversation with the sister of an ex-girlfriend on the phone that changed the way I thought. I am not sure why it had such an effect on me but I was suddenly pushed out into the light so I could see what was happening to me. It was time to change but it was years before the home fitness craze started so I got a gym membership and hit the weights again. I would go late at night, sometimes 2 or 3 in the morning trying to exorcise the demons that tortured me and on the way, moved back to the city from the suburbs and rediscovered my youthful vigor. There was a gym in my condo, I had a membership at a local chain gym and my workouts were long, brutal and productive however along with my strength came a (completely inappropriate and undeserved) ego.

For several years I crested the wave of my ego trip, blasting my body, building the bulk that I still carry to this day. I worked as many part time jobs as I could, made money training clients and committed fully to the fitness lifestyle. I went from a fat, depressed salesman to a 200lb personal trainer in a matter of a short couple of years. It was not, however, the first time I had lost a lot of weight and I was giddy with the memories of that first weight loss after coming to Canada. For about a year, I tried to see how far I could push myself in the gym, benching, leg pressing and shoulder pressing incredible weights and managed to build 40lbs of muscle on my frame. I was now a 245lb monster, filled to the teeth with self-importance and swagger (as are most 20 something men) and ready for anything. It felt good, I can’t deny. Going into the gym and frightening the other members with the weight I was using, looking at myself in the mirror and even with my muscle dysmorphia I was actually impressed with myself. Then, of course, the cycle repeated itself as it does.

This time, it was once again education that stood in my way. I chose to go to Toronto School Of Business to take some computer courses, namely the Network Administrator course that they offered, gaining Unix, Novell and basic networking skills. I followed that with my Novell CNA exam, a course and an exam for my MCSE and an exam for my Cisco CNA during the following few years which led me to my current career. However, during that first stint at TSB I was short on time and allowed myself to get caught up in the daily grind of school and neglected to care for myself. The problem was that I was getting my happy fix from somewhere else and relied less and less on the gym to fulfill myself. My weight drifted upwards but this time I was starting from a much higher point than before. It was a short fall, I managed to catch it well before I was into the 270s but the problem was that I was finding it hard to balance the enormous amount of work it was taking to stay “fit” with real life. Although I had the education in Personal Training, my knowledge of nutrition was taken from my own investigations into what the bodybuilders were doing.

I managed to keep my weight under control for a few years until I had my first back problems when things started to go downhill. Every few months I would pinch the nerve in my back and be off my feet, sometimes for a week at a time. It was distressing, I felt like my body was betraying me. Of course, had I not been leg pressing 11oolbs when I let the sled come down on me I probably wouldn’t have had as many problems, but the ego is a powerful thing and too often I overworked myself in order to impress the (oblivious) onlookers. For the next few years, my weight and my fitness were a constant battle. However, I seemed to be able to find a balance with my work, my future wife and my health. Unfortunately, one of them would betray me and I would find myself being stuffed into an MRI machine as I screamed bloody murder after the final, painful and destructive episode with my back.

The surgery went as well as can be expected, I was up and about in a few days, walking in a few weeks and back at work after a few months. I walked with a cane for almost a year, my right leg had lost about 50% of it’s muscle mass due to the impingement in my back (it is still visually noticeable) and my weight was once again rising quickly. I did what I could to rehab myself, was back in the gym working on my legs and trying to figure out what I was going to do with myself from then on…

Since then, I have had ups and downs for the last 8 years with my back and my weight. My wife and I have a baby and life has certainly moved on quite nicely. For the most part, I have been able to balance the gym with everything else, helped by my fitness fanatic wife who was almost a fitness model until the baby interrupted, is a certified personal trainer and is gifted with a metabolism most people would kill for. We both took a certified nutritionist course which was based on the lies and myths of the Canada Food Guide and the useless food pyramid and lead a lifestyle which is pretty health oriented. How, then, can I explain being a happy meal short of 300lbs only a short couple of years ago? I am not sure that I can. I know when I got comfortable in our new home north of the city that I got a gym membership right away, fearing my weight would slip. I spent 3 or 4 years around the 265-275 mark, still working out, enjoying (if I am honest) being the “Big Guy” dwarfing most people I knew.

My weight yo-yo’d for a while, starting at 260 in April of 2005, to 275 in July of 2006 then up to 280 in January of 2007 at which time I decided I wouldn’t be a fat pig in my wedding pictures in August of that year. My wife and I both went on a diet and exercise kick (after finding out from the Naturopath that I was gluten intolerant) which even included a couple of months of being completely raw vegan. It was a typical weight loss, battling for every pound, going to Weight Watchers so as to embarrass myself if I slipped. By the wedding I had managed to (literally) force myself down to 252lbs knowing full well that on our honeymoon cruise I would be gaining some of that loss back. The problem was that the only way I knew of getting weight off me was to exercise it off. I still, even through the vegan malarkey, hadn’t been able to isolate what it was that would enable me to control my weight through diet alone, regardless of what I was eating. Had I thought about it, I would have remembered that during my first summer of working in Canada I had documented everything I ate and it was protein, potato, vegetables and fruit. That was the only time I had ever managed to lose weight and not feel starved. One year later, after only 12 months of marriage I was at my heaviest of my life. The “official” weight according to the scale was 294.8lbs. That was after a week of starving myself before I had the guts to weigh in, I guess I knew it was going to be bad:
July 2008 (1 week before our England trip). This weekend was an eventful one, not in the fact that we did so much but for the fact that I realized I was going to have to go to England overweight and not only that, but I was probably going to end up going back to Gymnastics overweight too, something I had sworn I wouldn’t.

Not only that, after we returned from the England trip, even before I had seen the yellow shirt pictures that I use as my “before” shots, I had written this:
I am obviously unable to coach myself in any realistic way.
So yesterday we bought a blood pressure monitor since my doctor told me last week when I mentioned my numb face (from the England Trip) that I have high blood presssure and we both recall that the last time I was there he said the same. I am not sure how long it is going to take for me to realize that I am not young any more and that my health is at risk by my weight. I am hoping sooner rather than later – and certainly not post-heart attack later.
So, here I go again. Only this time I am a MASSIVE 290lbs, regardless of the weight I wanted to lose before coaching began which is one week today. All I can do is the right thing and let time do the rest.
Here I go, doing the right thing.

It was obviously time for something to change. I was, for all intents and purposes, a 300lb man wobbling around pretending that I was something I wasn’t. I had convinced myself that my size defined me and that losing “too much” weight would not sit well with me psychologically. I therefore made up my mind that I needed to convince myself that if I didn’t get things under control I would not only have a severely diminished quality of life but in fact, I may end up with no life at all.

The 300lb scare was what I needed to get going. I joined Weight Watchers, and by the end of 2008 I had dropped 30lbs, got my 10% keyring and my 25lb keychain charm and was in a much better place. My weight stayed around 260lbs while I worked out at the gym during the winter and into the summer, remaining there despite all attempts to force it lower. At some point, I think I resigned myself to the notion that I was going to be over 250lbs forever, no matter what I did. That apathy immediately translated into weight gain. Once we started gymnastics coaching again in September of 2009 I was up at around 265lbs. That isn’t the worst part. The biggest surprise was that after starting my P90X blog in June of 2009 I managed to GAIN almost 10lbs. No wonder there are no before and after pictures!!!

Ironically, it was immediately AFTER my first round of P90X that I realized something wasn’t right. I had not been following the nutrition guide, thinking I would be OK doing my own thing and that was my problem.
One more note. I am not following the diet. I know, I know, each time I come across a site where someone says that I think “you idiot, diet is the key, THE KEY DAMMIT” but in my case I have a legitimate excuse. I am studying to be a certified nutritionist and I am designing my own program.

Yes, and I am an idiot and I am designing my own downfall.. The fortunate thing was that I immediately began to feel the sting of jealousy that other people were able to get such amazing results with P90X and I wasn’t. That sting was pride messing with me and in the words of Marcellus Wallace “Pride only hurts, it never helps.”. I continued with P90X, Insanity and hybrids of both until I got to my 4th round of P90X based workouts and was still gaining weight. This was ridiculous, and I was still happily working out and pushing myself hard, and even blindly considering myself to be fit while tipping the scale at 282lbs. My pride was indeed hurting me. My jealousy was becoming an obstacle, preventing me from doing anything for myself and endlessly comparing myself to others in loathsome hatred for their gains. In a final betrayal of my own motivation I had failed at 2 huge goals I had set for myself. 240 by 40 went by completely unnoticed and my goal to be a fit dad BEFORE the baby was born only ended up in frustration.

It was a fateful trip to Huntsville with my parents and a conversation with my Dad and Uncle that finally hit home in October of 2010. I returned home, ashamed that my parents had seen me in such an overweight state and decided I was going to take some nutrition advice for once. I investigated the Paleo Lifestyle and the lightbulb came on in my head. It was almost exactly what I had done years ago when I had my most successful weight loss. It was out with the grains and sugar and in with whole food. In retrospect, the best thing for me was not eating sugar and grains. My body was so overwhelmed by the sugars I was eating that as soon as I stopped I saw dramatic results.

I am not saying I am done, I am still around 230lbs and on my way down to my goal weight which is somewhere below 220lbs. Once I get there, I may see if I can get down to my University weight of under 200 just to see where I am happiest but I am glad to report that for now, I am able to set my weight without feeling hungry, without having any cravings and without preventing myself from enjoying what I love to eat… meat!

*Update: It’s now July 2011 and I am sitting at around 235lbs with 18-18.5% body fat. This was a part of the entry for the day I posted those results.

At my heaviest back in 2008 (on my 1st wedding anniversary!) I was for all intents and purposes 295lbs at a whopping 30% fat. That meant I was approximately 200lbs of person and 100lbs of fat. If I wasn’t disgusted enough at myself before I sure am now!

My latest numbers are a little more encouraging but still a little off base. I am down to approximately 18% fat at around 235lbs which means I am 195lbs of man and 44lbs of stored energy 😉 Given those stats and knowing I should be about 12-15% fat, I should be aiming at a goal weight of around about 218lbs-224lbs. 





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