In December 2011, I was not a healthy person. I was eating crap, drinking crap, and the life of a video game journalist not located in a major city isn’t exactly rife with opportunities to do healthy things like running, walking… getting up out of your office chair.
At my heaviest I weighed 170kg. Even with my giant 6’6″ (198cm) frame, that’s 45kg north of not-gonna-drop-dead-any-minute. Something had to be done, so I lost 36kg.
OK, it’s a bit more involved than that.
It’s hard to keep the weight off when you’re a food lover with a primary hobby that involves staying seated for as long as possible. My day-to-day activities consist of waking up, cleaning whatever mess the children might have left behind the night before, and then sitting at my desk for nine or 10 hours (a modest estimate). After work I’ll play a game for review, feed the children, maybe squeeze in a quick shower if babies permit.
And I eat.
I enjoy eating; it keeps me from not being alive. My wife-creature also enjoys eating, though she has a job that keeps her on her feet all day, so when she and I would order a Chinese food feast from the people that keep leaving flyers in my front door, she’d eventually work it off, whereas I would pack it on.
At my heaviest, it wasn’t pretty. Sitting up made me out of breath. I couldn’t cover a trade show without something aching or hurting. I wasn’t sleeping through the night, the extra tonnage invoking sleep apnea, causing me to stop breathing in the middle of the night, scaring the hell out of anyone nearby.
That’s Christmas of 2011. Where the hell is my neck?
I was fine with looking and feeling like that. I had the love of a good-ish woman; I had my video games. If I was going to die, at least I’d go with the taste of gravy on my lips.
But then the children came.
There’s a running joke in our twisted little family in which I say I want to be an anime father. I’ll live long enough to get a picture taken of me with the children on my shoulders, my face mysteriously shrouded in shade, and then I would die. Years later that picture would be on the dashboard of the giant robot they pilot to save the world, serving as inspiration. Perhaps I would come back to life and reveal myself to have been their grizzled mentor the whole time. “I’ll be dead by the time they reach four”, I would joke.
But what if I was? I’d really like to see what Seamus and Archer Fahey look like when they grow up without having to fake a missing persons report to get my hands on that cool police age-imaging software. At the rate I was going, that was becoming a less-likely prospect every day.
So I decided to drop a few kilos.
I started in January of this year at 170kg. Triple extra-large shirts were getting tight, my waist was a size 46.
As of right now I weigh 132kg, 8kg from the target healthy weight of someone of my height and build. Double extra-large shirts are roomy, but I need them for the length. Size 40 pants slip off without a belt.
I did not undergo surgery. I did not completely stop eating fast food. I did not exercise regularly.
What did I do? Let’s go over it in a series of simple steps that anyone can follow.
1. See Your Doctor Seeing the doctor when you’re grossly overweight is no fun whatsoever. The only thing worse than someone making fun of your weight is someone making sense of it, something doctors do with frustrating regularity. They understand the health risks. They’ve seen the damage done. They may have even had patients die because they were too big.
So when they bring the full weight of years of experience to bear on you with that disapproving look, own it. There’s a reason you’re disappointing your doctor, and there’s a way to make them happy.
My doctor was extremely helpful once he finished glaring at me, giving me the key component of my weight loss equation: How many calories I should be eating.
In my case, maintaining a healthy weight would require the consumption of 2200 calories a day. That’s for a man with my build at 125kg. I shudder to think how much I was consuming to reach 170kg.
If your doctor isn’t comfortable giving you the number, see if he can refer you to a nutritionist. Whatever you do, don’t look the number up on the internet. We’ve all got different bodies, so going off a generic chart is a recipe for failure, disaster, or weight loss that isn’t nearly as healthy as it seems.
2. Grab a Calorie-Counting App MyNetDiary for the iPhone is my constant companion these days. Armed with my calorie target and the fitness app, my eating habits have transformed from stuffing my face whenever I can to “How much can I fit in this 2200 calorie box?”
It’s a game, essentially. I eat breakfast, enter in the calories (MyNetDiary features a handy bar code scanner and a built-in food look-up), and then get a figure telling me how much more I can eat that day.
There’s strategy involved here. Do I go for the 250-calorie McDonald’s Snack Wrap, saving more calories for a bigger dinner, or do I make a couple of pretzel bread Hot Pockets, knocking out 500 calories all at once?
This method has had the odd side effect of me actively searching for foods with caloric content that’s a multiple of 100. They’re the line piece of this eating Tetris. I’ve a drawer full of 100-calorie snack packs ready to fill in a gap at a moment’s notice.
3. Change the Way You Think About Eating Easier said than done, right?
For me this is less of a step than it is a side-effect of the entire process. I used to eat what I wanted, when I wanted. I am a grown-up, I have the income, why shouldn’t I?
Well, not only is that unhealthy, I was denying myself one of the best parts of the dining experience: the anticipation. Looking forward to the next day, when I would have room for a couple of slices of pizza. Planning a date on the weekend to go out to a nice restaurant.
Eating is an event now, instead of an automatic process. It’s exciting. I look forward to it every day. It sounds ridiculous, but it’s true.
And that’s really all I’ve done. I set aside one day a week to cheat; half the time I don’t even use it. I watch the kilos go down. I enter them in my application. I watch the stats drop. I play the game.
And it’s worked for me.
There’s still a long road ahead. I’ve got 8kg to lose. I’ve got to maintain. And yeah, I’ve got to start exercising if I truly want to be healthy.
Now I’ve got the energy to get that done. During E3 earlier this month I was so excited by how awake, alert and just plain alive I felt that I’m sure I infuriated everyone I met with talk of weight loss and dieting and such.
Hey, at least they’ll remember me as the tall chatty guy and not the heart-attack-waiting-to-happen. That I can live with.