Here's the weight loss story that my blog sub-title alludes to. While I never actually said the words "my new year's resolution is...", the decision was made in January 2007 to start exercising.
I had grown up being fairly slim, cycling quite a bit, including to and from school. Exercise was on/off during university and after graduating, when I lived in China. It was my first years in Canada (2003 onwards) that I was sedentary and ate more and more. I believe too that in one's late 20s, the metabolism also changes. I'd been used to eating anything I wanted, but it gradually started to show. Below is probably the worst I got to - estimated weight 105 kg/ 230 lbs. I didn't weigh myself, part of an ostrich-approach to living I had.
Having got the job I wanted in December 2006, I joined the gym in the basement of the building I worked in. The inner lecture I gave myself went something like: "look at yourself, you're about to turn 30 and you're horribly out of shape, none of your clothes more than 2 years old fit you..."
So I went to the gym 3 times a week for just half an hour each time. Without having read anything about it, I had what in hindsight was the absolute correct attitude for starting off - this is going to hurt, I'll feel worse before I get better so should only even start thinking about how much fitter I might be at the end of the year.
The first workout on the elliptical proved just about the near-death experience I thought it would be.
I'd played some football/ soccer over the summer, but the team winning the "Riley Cup" was little to do with me. This is more to do with having the ball control skills of a cement mixer than fitness, though that too was still lacking at that early stage. What I remember also is A-Chang (my wife) saying how I "couldn't run", though I was slightly better than in 2003 when I'd taken part in a match in Shanghai that featured a couple of retired professionals.
Not having paid attention to what I was eating up to when the above photo was taken, I'd lost maybe a couple of kg up to that point. When I saw the doctor, she told me my cholesterol was double what it should be. I remember the following few months clearly, though I don't have any "during" photos which is a small shame.
From the food point of view, I cut out ice cream completely and turned down all cake, chocolate and all the other nasties. "You are the enemy" I would silently say to such food (it's not really food anyway is a revelation I came to later). At my company's monthly birthday celebrations, I would show up to sing "happy birthday" but forewent even a monthly slice of cake. At dinner time, I often put some in my lunch box for the next day, and A-Chang found our grocery bill plummeting as well as requests for us to have more fish and less meat.
Workouts at the end of the year went up to 5 times a week. In mid-October 2007, the gym scales said 97 kg, then a steady 93 kg over Christmas. About a pound a week for this early stage. Since I already had a base of fitness, I noticed I could go quicker on the treadmill. It wasn't until the new year that it became noticeable though.
In about mid-January I went to 7 days a week in the gym. Somewhere there was a tipping point where weight-bearing cardio workouts get easier, so you go harder, and because of that the body consumes more, and so on. A beautiful vicious circle. I remember getting on the scales at the doctor's office in late January - she put it at 200lbs, and adjusting the smaller slider raised an eyebrow when nothing happened. The solid lump of fat that my waist had been must have in a sense liquefied, as by now my belly became very wobbly and bouncy.
Between new year and the above photo, I lost weight at the rate of roughly 1.5lbs per week. The average human being somewhat passive, it's only around February that many started to notice. As if I'd lost it all in just one week, a few concerned co-workers asked me "are you ok?" I still fondly remember those questions. When asked how, I answered truthfully, "more exercise and sensible eating."
Bumping into a former teammate from the above football team, the favourite question asked of me from that period has to be "where's the rest of you?" A few people I hadn't seen for a number of months couldn't hide their astonishment, and in fact several would fail to recognize me - "thought it looked like you", etc.
Another mainstay of that period was having to adjust to baggy clothes for a while. One time at work, my trousers literally fell down, and I had to hurry back to my office holding onto them with one hand. I then drilled a new hole in my belt. I got quite good at that, I drilled at least 2 more that I remember.
By April I was down to about 80 kg, or just over. The lowest my weight got to was 73.5kg in I believe early August. I felt my energy level declining once I got to that point. One of the trainers at the gym said, " I don't see you doing any weights. You've lost all the fat you're going to lose by now, do some strength training because you now need the muscle power to back up the cardio you do." Since then, I'm generally around 76-78kg, depending on time of year and where I am in a race training cycle.
Summer 2008 I started running, I'd done a bit in my early teens, and my Dad had done quite a bit since the mid-1980s. It took a month or 2, despite being in good shape, to find my running legs. It was just to get myself outside when the weather was nice, as the gym I was at was in a basement.
I had the idea to enter the half marathon distance at the Calgary Marathon in early 2009. This was my first ever running race at the age of 32. It was intended as a "victory lap" more than an ongoing hobby. I was pleased to finish in 1:46:15, 410th place out of 2,800. The addiction took hold in September, when I took part in a 10k. In a small field of 30, I finished 3rd overall. Most of the rest of my races since have been duly reported on in this blog.
My running obsession was borne out of my weight loss and is largely how I keep it going. It is not how I started, though I recommend newcomers try it too. The point though is to do something, and the best and some might say only way to improve one's health is to do so naturally - adjust your diet by eating less and a better composition of foods and exercising more.
It's good to be able to say I'm proud of myself, which I affirm every time I do a race. Not to sell myself short, I still insist that I'm nothing all that special. Persistence and patience is what got me to my present state. A blunt truth when it comes to a sedentary person taking up exercise is that no-one should expect to notice results until at least 3 months down the line, and do not start out too hard. I kept at it, and like others who`ve done the same, one day you notice that you`re not out of breath walking up the stairs and you`ll want more. Give it a try, it`s the best addiction there is :)