I didn’t always look like this.
I didn’t always feel like this.
I reached my adult height at 14 years old. I was a string bean.
I was an athlete – a baseball player. As an athlete, I wanted to GAIN weight and muscle. Not be a skinny kid. I wanted to be strong.
That’s what happened. I gained 30 pounds over my 4 years of high school.
After a shoulder injury ended my college baseball career before it ever really started, I did what most freshmen in college do, I put on 15 lbs. It wasn’t enough weight to keep me from being active and involved in sports, though. I lifted weights some. I played basketball. I played Ultimate Frisbee with my friends. I played intramural sports. My jobs were always active, on-my-feet jobs.
But all of a sudden one summer, I put on 10 lbs without even realizing it. Seriously, I didn’t know. I was working at a camp from May to August, and we didn’t have a scale.
So I came home 10 lbs. heavier. And I stayed there.
Well, college ended and I moved away to Boulder, Colorado. Beautiful place. Long-distance running capital of America. Trails everywhere. Did I use them? Nope.
Got engaged, then got married.
To this point, I had stayed reasonably active. I had kept a membership at the local rec center, where I played one-on-one hoops with a buddy, but I eventually gave up the membership.
Anyway, within 6 months after getting married, I had put on 10 more lbs. I really don’t remember doing this, but I did. So 15 pounds here, 10 pounds here, and 10 more there, and I’m looking at 35 pounds of extra weight on my frame. I now, for the first time, really started to FEEL heavy.
One aggressive planting of my left foot in an attempt to avoid being tagged in a touch football game later, and I was laid up with a torn ACL. Did the extra weight contribute to my injury? Since no one had touched me, I tend to think so.
A surgery and a recovery later, I was an additional 15 lbs. heavier. So I’m now at 50 extra pounds and doing less physical activity than I had ever done before. I felt horrible. My clothes didn’t fit. Some people started to make comments to me about my extra weight. It didn’t feel good at all.
I had never attempted to lose weight ever. I didn’t really know how.
Sometimes you need a coach to walk you toward change, and sometimes people inspire you to change without them doing so intentionally. Sometimes fortunate circumstances help you too. The latter was true for me. While I was getting heavier, my friend Jeremiah had trained for and run the Chicago Marathon, dropping considerable body weight in the process. Now I wasn’t all of a sudden inspired to go sign up for Chicago, but I did hear that Knoxville was starting its own marathon (and half marathon). I figured that if Jeremiah could do it, I could do it too, and hadn’t the physical therapist encouraged me to run too? So I signed up with my wife Katie for the Knoxville Half Marathon.
After training for three months, we ran the race and finished. Afterwards, I was less than 10 pounds lighter, but there was something more drastically different about me. There was a major change that had occurred. I had become a runner.
A few years and two marathons (and a few more half marathons) later, I was at the weight I had been on my first day of college.
What did it feel like? AMAZING. I was proud of myself. I still am proud of myself for making the change.
So what did I learn about how to change?
1. Claim a new identity.
I wasn’t a runner. I didn’t run. I became a runner. A runner runs, so I did. Over and over and over. And it worked.
2. Choose the goal that motivates you the most.
When I started running, I knew that I needed to finish the race. I wanted to lose weight and get in shape too, but it was finishing the race that drove me to train. I knew if I didn’t train, I wouldn’t finish, and I wanted to finish, so that was my focus.
3. Get some skin in the game.
For me, it was financial and social skin in the game. I paid for the race, which was motivating, because I didn’t want to waste the money. I trained with Katie, so I knew that she was relying on me, and I didn’t want to let her down. I also told plenty of other people that I was running, and I didn’t want to flake out and fail, so that kept me going too.
Did I make this change permanent? No, but that’s a story that we’ll save for another day. For now, start YOUR change. Claim a new identity, choose a motivating goal, and get some skin in the game!