Exercise & Therapy

How I measure my Diet Regimen with my Computer and other Tools

Exercise & Therapy

I realized that I have never really compiled all of my weight loss journey into one coherent narrative before. So I will try to do that here, and hopefully it can be helpful to others. This journey has been about more than just losing weight to me, but getting healthier overall, both physically and mentally.

Where I was: I started out as a depressed, overweight college senior with substance abuse issues. I had gone through severe trauma as a child and young adult, including both of my parents dying by the time I was 19. They both died as a result of their own addiction issues. My dad was an alcoholic, and my mom was a smoker and food addict (she weighed around 400 pounds).

At this point, I weighed 260 pounds, smoked a pack of cigarettes a day, and had barely gotten out of bed for a year due to debilitating depression, and could barely walk a mile without sweating heavily and getting very out breath.

TURNING POINT

At the beginning of my senior year, I was starting to realize that I would be graduating soon, and would need to start looking for a real job and paying back my loans. I decided to take a hard look at myself and where I was in life. I calculated that I had spent about $10,000 on drugs and cigarettes while at college, and thought of the other, better things I could have done with money like that. So during my last winter break (two weeks), I decided it was time to detox from all substances, cigarettes included. This was the most painful period of my life. The day I decided this was December 18, 2018. I still occasionally crave cigarettes, but I am able to remember how terrible this period was, and the fear of having to go through anything close to this ever again keeps from me starting.

I ran in high school, nothing serious, a couple miles a few times a week at my best. I thought this would be a good habit to start up again. So on January 7, 2019, I went out for the first run I had been on in years. It felt awful! It took me 12 minutes to run 0.75 miles, and I thought I was going to die! But I kept at it. I repeated that process daily for a few days, then decided to do it twice a day. I started to develop a lot of pain.

I went to the doctor, and they recommended physical therapy. I was resistant to this, and decided to do a bit of my own research. I came across many people talking about how important the shoes you wear are when it comes to running. Of course! I was wearing 5 year old shoes. I got myself a pair of new running shoes, and after the pain died down a bit, I started up my routine again. Within a month, I was able to run 2 miles non-stop.

THERAPY

During this process, I was also seeing a talk therapist who was helping me to work through some of my mental health issues, and while I won’t go into deep detail about it here, this part was crucial. My therapist was also a runner, and was able to give me basic advice about running.

At the beginning of April, I was feeling pretty good about myself and decided to buy a scale. I was bitterly disappointed. After 3 months of hard work i still weighed 250 pounds! How could this be? I was up to running 3 miles a few times a week by this point and I felt great. Honestly, I was so disheartened that I almost gave up completely.

I forgot to mention that I had been using a FitBit during this period to track my activity. I highly recommend this. It can be very motivating to see your stats and visualize your improvements over time. However, there was one feature on the FitBit app that I had not been using…the calorie counter. I decided to start using that, and I found what seemed to be the problem. While I was exercising a lot, I was still eating like crap. Unhealthy foods, and way too much of them. I was obviously an emotional eater. I looked up info on that, talked about that with my therapist and read the guide here and that helped. Once I was able to bring my exercise and nutrition into harmony, the pounds began to basically fall off.

THE REAL WORLD

I graduated and moved into the “real” world, got a job, got an apartment, but this also came with a lot of responsibility. I came up against scheduling challenges. As a student, I had a lot of free-time, and could basically exercise whenever I wanted to. But planning around a work schedule makes it more difficult, but not impossible. You just have to get creative with it. Personally, I know that if I plan on going for a run after work, I will not have the energy to do it, and will end up not exercising that day. So now, I do shorter workouts before work, when I have the energy to do it. But I am also careful not to do too much before work, otherwise I will be too tired to work. It’s all about balance.

I got to the point in my running where I was confident enough to run in a race. I did a 5k/10k combo in the summer of 2019, and set new PRs for both distances. I decided to cap off the year by running a half-marathon in November, and set another PR for that distance too. I finished the year at 180 pounds, and have managed to keep the weight off ever since. The journey has continued, but the time period between quitting smoking and running my first half-marathon was the most magical time of my life, and where I think I made the most progress.

In the summer of 2020, I ran two marathons. My body has continued to change. I started lifting weights. I have put on more muscle and lost more fat.

If I could give three pieces of advice, they would be

1- Manage your exercise and your food – what gets managed gets fixed!

2- Set small, attainable goals, along the way to bigger goals. If you can only do a little, then do that little bit, and do not forget to feel proud and congratulate yourself for doing it. A little bit will snowball into a lot over time.

3- Do not give up. It will take time. But, you are worth it.

Thanks for reading.

– Ellison

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