Suddenly Everything Has Changed…

18 Nov

When the things you’ve steeled yourself against go away, you have to then figure out what to live for again.  Andrew Sullivan


From my earliest memories, I recall being a child who was much larger than my peers.  The first memory of being on a scale was when I was seven years old. I weighed in at 107 pounds while most of my peers were 40 or 50 lbs less. That was the opening salvo of my long war with the scale. So traumatic were my yearly physicals that I remember my ages during my preteen and teen years by how much I weighed that year. Twelve years old: 216 pounds; Thirteen: 237 pounds; Fourteen: 265; Fifteen: 282; sixteen: 310. By the time I graduated from high school I topped out at about 350. The weight continued to accumulate even though all through high school I played football and lifted weights regularly.  My parents did what they were supposed to do with such a big problem on their hands. They took me to my doctor too see what was wrong. I was hoping the doctor would tell me that I had some rare disorder that could be treated with a shot or some magic pills, but after a thorough examination it was determined that I had no thyroid problems or other glaring clinical issues that would cause my weight to be unnaturally high. They then took me to a nutritionist who gave me a list of foods to eat- the infamous food pyramid was my new bible and calorie counting was supposed to be my religion- and told me to not exceed 2000 calories a day. That didn’t work out too well because I was hungry all the time, so by the time I was ready to get out of high school my parents and I were frustrated as to how to get me down to a healthy weight.

The summer before I was set to go to college the best thing possible happened to me: my hours at my summer job were cut. So to fill up the idle time, the day after graduation I decided to start running in the mornings. Every morning I would get up at 6am and go up to the neighborhood elementary school and run around the soccer field. Since I had a solid athletic background from playing football, it didn’t take long before I was running several miles a day 5 days a week and the weight melted off. In the three months from my graduation up until I started classes in the fall, I lost about 60-70 lbs from running and playing basketball. I didn’t stop once classes started and by the time my first semester was over I’d went from 350 down to 250- 100 lbs in a 6 month period. During this time, nutritionally, I was eating better than I usual(did I mention that job that cut my hours was a bakery?) but the level of activity was the driving factor. So all through college, I lifted weights, ran and ate a pretty sensible standard American diet(SAD) that kept my weight between 235-245 at about 22-24% body fat, which was decent considering I had a heavy musculature genetically and until that point carried a body fat percentage in the high-thirties.

After college, I started the typical 9-5 where I sat at a desk all day, ate carry-out for lunch and no longer had the convenient access to a gym. Within eighteen months I had ballooned back up to 320 pounds. I joined a gym near home to try to start getting my weight back down but it was different now because, at 24, it didn’t just melt off like it did when I was 18. After months fighting a war of attrition with the scale, on a recommendation from a person in passing, I gave the Atkins diet a shot. It worked great. With a bit of running and weightlifting, f60pounds melted off my frame in 3 months and I was back down to about 260 which was a much better point from which to fight a defensive battle. These were the trenches from which I battled my weight problem through the rest of my twenties.

When I got to 30, my body was beginning to break down from years of running and chronic cardio that I performed several times a week to keep the weight from getting too out of control. Around the same time, the Atkins diet didn’t work as well as it used to and I started to feel powerless to stop my waistline from expanding. In the beginning of 2010, at over 290lbs and climbing, I started searching for an answer to a simple question: How can I lose weight with minimal exercise, without being hungry and have that weight loss be sustainable over the rest of my life?

After a lot of researching, I decided to give the Mark Sisson’s version of the paleo diet a shot. Having had experience with low-carb diets prior to going paleo, it was not hard doing a low-carb version of a paleo diet. The results of making this switch was immediate and staggering. The weight loss I expected but the change is focus and mood was totally unexpected. All of a sudden, the fog was gone and everyday it seemed as if I was noticing something noticeably improved in my body- most things i didn’t even realize were not quite right. About 4 months in, I began to up my starch consumption, which I was very wary of doing coming from my low-carb background. To my surprise, I kept losing weight. Almost two years later the weight has come off and stayed off. At 34 years old, I now weigh 218 lbs@16% body fat- a weight I haven’t seen since age 12. My transformation was great but the thing that I’m most proud of is my parent’s coming on board in January. They’ve made amazing progress in the 10+ months they’ve been paleo and have adjusted to the lifestyle change better than I ever expected.

After 30 years of looking at the scale in fear, as part of my routine every morning, I weigh myself. No longer is there a sense of dread or nervousness. Just a quiet knowing that part of my life is now under control and I can spend my time concentrating on other things.

5 Responses to “Suddenly Everything Has Changed…”

  1. Meredith November 18, 2011 at 7:08 pm #

    You are such an inspiration! It is my goal to get buy-in from family as well. So great!

  2. breeziee November 18, 2011 at 7:14 pm #

    I LOVE your last sentence – brought tears to my eyes!

  3. Aravind November 19, 2011 at 1:34 am #

    Amazing story of hope and courage Derrick!!!

  4. roseannamsmith November 22, 2011 at 9:17 pm #

    What a great story, Derrick! And I’m so glad you got your parents on board.

  5. Primal Kitchen's Family Grokumentarian November 22, 2011 at 11:02 pm #

    Amazing that you have convinced your parents to join in!! Wonderful to read your story.

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