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Guest Post - My Son, Sam!

Posted Jan 14 2013 6:00am
Sam has recently made a major life change by losing a lot of weight - I saw him for the first time in months on Thanksgiving, and was amazed at his appearance.  He's thin!  He's muscular, thanks to hitting the gym!  He's feeling great about himself, as well he should.  Jeff and I are very proud of all the hard work he's done to achieve a healthy lifestyle, and on a funny note, a couple of weeks ago when we went shopping, we would occasionally get separated, and every time I looked for Sam, I couldn't find him...because I didn't recognize the thin, fit and handsome young man standing a couple of aisles over!  I asked him to write a guest post, to give a twenty-something's version of weight-loss to my readers.  Here it is: 
Sam, November 2012

I started my "journey" in the very last week of July of 2012. After years of starting and stopping diet/exercise I finally snapped and decided that enough was enough and I needed to take action.

I've been big for the majority of my life. In middle school I was chunky and in high school/college I was fat. I wasn't happy with my appearance but that did not spur me to do anything about it. I remember in my sophomore year of college I was on a gym/diet spree (it started January 1st!). I lost an "ok" amount of weight (I went from 255 to 225). I had no idea what I was doing either. I just ate healthier foods (in part thanks to the healthy cafeteria at school). My gym knowledge was terrible. I just made sure to go three times a week. I did a poor combination of elliptical and weight machines. But what happened? I stopped going. I was pretty consistent for a good two months but that died off very quickly. Once you make the decision to not go that morning, or to start eating unhealthy foods (WHATABURGER I HATE YOU SO MUCH), it become that much easier to do it the next day, and the next day after that.
Left:  Sam with his college roommates at Whataburger; Right:  Sam after he'd lost some weight, sophomore year.
From then on I didn't really do anything. I went back up to the 250 range (I think 260 was my highest) for the next four years. I wasn't miserable but I was pretty unhappy with myself. Every once in a while I would run or workout for a week and then would stop. I don't know about most of you, but the "start and stop" process of diet/exercise got really old.
 Left:  May 2010; Right:  Christmas day, 2010.
In May of 2011 I graduated college and started working full-time as a technical trainer. My job has me travel 85% of the year. Usually I leave Sunday/Monday and come back Friday/Saturday (depending on the class). It's a rough schedule. Couple that with the fact that I have a near unlimited budget for food makes it very easy to over-indulge. Because the job has me on my feet for most of the day, I did not gain as much weight as I thought I would. I wasn't any healthier though, that's for sure. In fact, my heart rate and blood pressure were generally high (stressful job and terrible diet) and I felt fairly crummy. I had enough energy to do the job and that was it.

With the combined work schedule and bad eating habits, things just kept getting worse. In June I had an infected sebaceous cyst on my chest that had to be removed surgically. I panicked, not because of the surgery, but because I had to be weighed. This was something I've avoided for several years. I thought I would be 280 (I certainly felt like it) but I only weighed 246. Holy crapola that seems like a huge number now.  I had the surgery in early July and everything went well. Toward the end of July, I asked a girl out (ok, big motivation to start losing weight) and also was sick of feeling run down and of the way I looked. I thought if my mom could do it, if my dad could run a half-marathon, if countless other people were able to do it, I should be able to as well. So I used that to be the kick in the pants I needed to get started.
Left:  July 2012;  Right:  January 2013
I went cold-turkey with everything. I do not suggest this. I dropped diet sodas, fast food, carbs, sweets...pretty much everything that tasted so damn good but was terrible for you.

My diet is clean. I eat mostly non-processed foods, lots of vegetables and protein. I kept my total calories to about 1200-1400 a day. That's pretty low and I don't recommend it. It hurt sometimes and I probably should have eaten a little more, but the amount of protein that I ate kept me full for the most part. If I had to break it out it would look like
  • Protein - 200g (whey and lots of 99% lean turkey and chicken breast)
  • Carbs - less than 100g (first 3 months I did less than50g)
  • Fat - 25-50g depending on if it's a rest or lifting day
I truly believe that fork put-downs are the best way to lose weight. I've heard the saying that weight loss is 80% diet, and I believe that to be true in my case. So if you are worried about gym time and everything else, work on your diet first. You will see big changes!
Favorite foods include 99% fat-free turkey, avocado, sweet potatoes, steam-fresh vegetables (non-frozen kind, you can find these near the salad section in most grocery stores), chocolate roast/cinnamon roast almonds, oats, Optimal Nutrition Whey (cookies and creme tastes pretty great, same with strawberry), mustard (for my turkey meal) and natural crunchy peanut butter.  I'm a creature of habit so I end up eating lots of the same thing over and over again. I don't mind, but I do try and spice things up a bit every once in a while.

Now, not only did I change my diet, but I tracked everything. In fact it was the tracking that got me on the right path. I used myfitnesspal.com to do it. It's a great app. I loved scanning all of my items and it really opened my eyes to how many calories I'm putting in my system. This is probably one of the greatest tools I've used in order to lose weight.

Along with the massive change in diet, I also wanted to go to the gym. I decided to join 24-Hour Fitness since I have one that's pretty close to where I live and I also can use while I travel. I became interested in weight-lifting, and after reading online I decided to try a program called Starting Strength . This is a basic barbell training program that has you do only compound lifts to gain strength. After my first week on this I wanted to die. My chest hurt so bad I could barely move. But after a couple weeks of going it got better and better. This is what I am still doing today and I still love it. It's intense (the weight is very heavy) and I feel like I had a great workout after I'm done. Not only has this been great for fat-loss, but I've put on some decent muscle too. I have biceps! I have quads! I have pecs!  And I can do pull-ups (never in my life could I do those)!

I've also taken up running (because if my parents can do it, I should too!). I'll try to get in 2-3 runs a week at around 2.5 - 4.5 miles. I want to do a half-marathon this year so I’m starting to run longer and longer distances. So far, running has been great. I also try to swim/bike at least every other week with the running. My endurance has shot up tremendously from this. I can run! I'm not winded going up the stairs! I don't sweat all over the place!

I've stuck with this for quite a while with very few cheat days. Sure, there are times when I couldn't get to the gym or when I was sick. Sure, there are times when I eat a little bit unhealthy. But I haven't gone crazy when it happens. That has been a huge factor in keeping the weight off so far and sticking with the program. I am in control for the first time in my life. If I want a piece of pie, I’ll have it and fit it into my diet. It's an awesome feeling being able to do that.

This has completely changed my life. In the short amount of time I've been doing this, I’ve lost 73 lbs. I now weight 173 lbs and have never felt better. I dropped from size XL to medium in shirts and size 42 to 32 in pants. I have more confidence and more energy. I don't feel lethargic. It's hard work doing this but the benefits are HUGE!! I'm kicking myself for not doing this sooner...if I would have known I'd feel this good with some life changes, I would have done this years ago.

Inspirations/Helpful links- My mom (damn, that girl can keep her weight off!)
- My dad (damn, that dude can run!)
- www.reddit.com/r/fitness
- www.reddit.com/r/loseit
- www.reddit.com/r/running
- www.myfitnesspal.com
- www.startingstrength.com

Thanks for reading my story!
 November 2012...looking mighty sharp, my son!
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