A Journey from 321.5 to 205.5 lbs.
Lived by Michael J. Crow
I hope this doesn’t seem too long winded or vain in any way. I merely wanted to tell the full story to the board. You’re help has been greatly appreciated.
February the 19th, 2001
I was on my way to my friend Lee’s house, and my dexterity was a wonder to behold. I believe that even Bruce Lee would have been in awe. For not only was I managing a manual shift vehicle, but I was simultaneously smoking, drinking a 52 oz. pop, and eating a Hostess Suzie Q. All the while, the steering wheel of my Nissan was positioned a mere two inches from my rather large waist.
When I got to Lee’s house, we sat down in his living room and approached a topic which was a frequent one for the two of us. Dieting. Skinny people probably believe that dieting comes up in overweight conversation only every second Tuesday of the 13th month of the year. But, those of you with weight to lose will probably concur when I say dieting is one of the most frequent points of conversation amongst the gravity challenged.
Lee and I were discussing the overall idea of dieting. Lee was standing on the perpetual rock of high-carb, low cal dieting. While I was defending the low-carb diet principal. The argument was vicious, the argument was long, the argument changed my life. For, during this argument, the bet was made.
We were each going to spend one month living our diet ideals, and determine which diet was more effective. I was going to eat low-carb and attend Tae Kwon Do 3 times a week, and Lee was going to use Weight Watchers and work out with Tae Bo. We had a minimum calorie cap of 1500, and agreed no specialized stimulants were to be used. Whoever lost the most weight in one month would win. If I won, Lee would join my TKD classes for one month. If Lee won, I would buy him a Tae Bo tapes, and work out with him. This was a horrifying proposition for both of us. Lee loathed the idea of pushing his pudgy body into a white TKD uniform, and I can’t stand the commercials for Tae Bo, let alone the videos.
After the deal was struck, we immediately went to my house and weighed that night. I weighed 321.5 lbs., and Lee weighed in at 278 lbs. Since Lee was a few inches shorter, we agreed our weight/height ratios were relatively similar. It was that simple. We were off. Both of our smugness/confidence levels would have choked a sports superstar. We were both positive that we could win. Lee’s exact words were, “There is no way you have the willpower to stick to a diet for a month!”
We both worked in office positions at a construction company at the time, and we would meet everyday for an uneasy lunch. One of the other rules of the bet, was that weight could not be discussed. This would keep one opponent from off-setting the other. Food, however, was one way we waged war.
Lee would bring in subs from sub-way and other carb-goodies, then mewl like a cat every time he took a bite. After three days of this, I began to bring in steak and cheese. Lee’s smugness diminished and we eyed each other over our food. Each desiring what was in front of the other, but unwilling to admit such. This is the way of combat.
After the second week, I had weighed and was nearly stunned. I was already down fifteen pounds. I grinned more frequently at lunch and Lee’s glances became less and less sure. I could actually feel his will breaking in hindsight. There is a look to someone’s eyes when they are defeated. It’s a horrifying thing to see in the eyes of your friends. A reason I will never do this kind of bet again.
Lee quit shortly after that. He confided in me that his weight had dropped seven pounds the first week then come back the second. He had then stalled for a week and the combined stress of the stall and the fact that he was one pound down shattered his will and he had cheated drastically.
I had won.
Or had I?
I realized after Lee went down, that I hadn’t won anything as of yet. Though, 30 lbs down the first month, I didn’t look all that different. While looser, I was still wearing the same size of pants and shirt. I was very disappointed. I had lost thirty pounds, a six year old in weight. I should have looked different.
Then I knew, that I wanted more than to merely beat my friend in a bet, or prove the viability of the low-carb system. I wanted to beat myself. I wanted to beat that part of me down that would eat a full dinner, then not more than twenty minutes later would eat something else. I wanted to beat down the part of me that refused to eat body-nourishing foods. I wanted to prove to myself, that I had the strength to make a change in my life for the positive.
It was then that I knew the Bet wasn’t over, and the entire time it had really been with myself. Lee had helped me get motivated, and the bet had allowed me the option to bail on my diet after a month without the typical sledgehammers of guilt. But it wasn’t over. My whole life I’d been betting my health on the way I was eating. At the age of 27, I was suffering chronic knee, shoulder, and hip pain. I was unable to run more than fifty yards without collapsing in a large and unattractive heap on the ground.
The night I won our bet I looked into the mirror while naked. My body was covered in stretch marks. My stomach, my back, my chest. They were huge and purple and ugly, and they were never going away. No matter how much weight I lost, no matter how well I treated my body, they would always be there. I almost quit then. I almost threw it all away in that moment.
In my heart I finally realized something. I was the lowest common denominator. My life had nothing. I was a college drop-out with a crappy job, crappy car, and for the most part crappy life. The only women who would speak to me, were salespeople. And the biggest blow was my body. Circumstances had played a lot of roles in my life, and most of them villains. But my body was mine. Circumstances excepting illness, injury, and death could not be my excuse.
Then I realized something else. To prepare for the past we must be ready in the present to prepare for the future. For the only way to affect our past is to change what we do from this day on. So I took the slogan, “What I do today, will make a better yesterday.”
I renewed my vigor in Tae-Kwon Do, I pushed myself to the limits every chance I got, and I refused to give up. There were times when I almost wanted to cry. Literally. I was so used to getting my only satisfactions in life at the end of a fork, that my lack of ability to do so was crippling. I was hurting on a daily basis. I still had the internal want for gratification, but few if any ways to actually feel it without food. My entire life had been wrapped around my plate. And now that I had rejected the plate as the way to Valhalla, and since results were not forthcoming I felt horrible.
Instead of focusing on that, I pushed my focus to the hope and determination I had that I could succeed, that things would get better. I was going to work this. I had the strength, the power, and the will.
While coaching little league in the spring I began to notice things. Bending to the ground to pick up balls was no longer causing me to grunt in exertion. I could actually run the bases before my relatively inept newbies could throw me out, and best yet, my belt was loose. WOOO HOOO! That night for the first time since I was born, instead of going up in waist size, I went down. From a 52 to a 48.
Tae Kwon Do was also paying off as shortly after this event I earned my Gold belt.
A transformation happened at this point. While still craving food, the feeling was diminishing in importance to the benefits I was receiving. And although working out was still painful and difficult, my body was getting used to the regimen I was putting it through. I was amazed. I was fifty pounds lighter.
I then remembered my slogo “What I do today will make a better yesterday.”
Three months before I never would have thought that I would be fifty pounds lighter that day. I would have never imagined being that slender, I would have sold my soul to Satan for the chance to lose fifty pounds. When I held up my Gold belt and looked at my size 48 pants I knew I had a long way to go, but I had covered some ground. My stretch marks had gone pink as my skin finally got a well needed break. People still hadn’t noticed my weight loss though. How much was I going to have to lose for people to notice. For god’s sakes I was up to a nine year old and people still hadn’t noticed.
The answer came in summer.
That July I stared in the mirror again. By then I was wearing an Orange belt in Tae-Kwon Do and had dropped Seventy five pounds. A junior high girl. People were starting to notice a change. I had finally passed the weight meridian. Those angels in my Tae Kwon Do class, who I never would have succeeded without, began as a group to encourage me in weight loss at this point. My family had noticed, my friends had noticed, and so had the women. Joy!
I was still by no means slender. I had come down to a still Obese, but not morbidly 246. My stretch marks were now light pink, and I could actually see some (pause for intake of breath) muscle definition in my arms and legs. I went out a bought a pair of size 44 pants, and life felt better than it had in ages. It was still tough to fight the daily battles, but by July I was a hardened warrior of the diet circuit and was managing to fling off most of the temptations. Having people notice was worth a lot to me in retrospect. Probably more than it should have been worth. But, it worked. Deep inside we all crave attention and affection.
In September, a day I’d been waiting for a long time happened. I reached a hundred pounds in loss. I had earned my Green Belt in Tae Kwon Do. My stretch marks had faded to white as my skin began to come together. Life was getting better, and the occasional temptation as easy to defeat. There was a celebration at my Tae Kwon Do school for me as well as a sign reading today Mike turns minus 100. It wasn’t a big deal, but I hadn’t been that happy in a long time.
Today I am down to 205.5 lbs. I am down a total of 116.5 lbs. I wear a size forty pant and large shirt (down from size 52 pants and an xxl shirt). My weight loss and Tae Kwon Do accomplishments have slowed down, which has hurt. But, even though I still have about thirty pounds to lose I know that as long as I look to the future I will eventually get there. Then it will be my past. Now when I look into the mirror I can see my muscles under the slimming layer of fat. I have a ton of loose skin and stretch marks and I am ugly to behold naked. I have never been more beautiful
I just have one last thing to say.
If I can lose it, you can. Stick to it. Have hope.
My Ten Rules of Weight Loss
1. No person is an island. Surround yourself with encouraging people. Shun those who would categorize or deflate you. Tell your friends.
2. Do not cheat unless it is preplanned. Even if by only 3 days. If you plan it in advance, you are in control—not your weight. When you cheat, ask yourself if its worth the time you must spend losing back down. If its not space out your cheat days more.
3. Encourage yourself. Develop a slogan and use it. Whenever you are tempted repeat it to yourself as a mantra. It might be your last defense.
4. Find a physical hobby that excites you, regardless of its improbability and do that. If you’re not excited you won’t stick with it.
5. Do nothing half-assed. If you are dieting, be strict. If you are exercising, push yourself If you are cheating, go nuts. Don’t do anything halfway or you will develop the habit of doing things halfway. The number one enemy of the dieter is the attitude of “I’ll go a little at a time.” It rarely works.
6. Do not weight daily. Weigh once a week at first, then once a month later. Constant weigh ins are either really really good, or really really bad. And while really really good doesn’t do a whole lot besides make you smile, really, really bad can get you to quit.
7. Do not tell anyone except for friends and family you’re dieting. Let them see the results. The compliments will mean more that way. People who spend a lot of time telling people how they are going to diet will suck the willpower out of themselves.
8. Learn to like yourself for who you are now, the fall in love with the you that you can be.
9. Eat as basic of food as you can. The more complex foods you eat on this diet will stall your weight loss. Say no to flour substitutes and other things.
10. If some sort of incident happens and your diet gets blow. Grit your teeth and go on anyhow. It is NOT a defeat, just a setback. Roll on.
Thanks for listening