I have been at my lowest weight for over two years. It took me 18 months to lose 390 pounds and I haven’t looked back since. Recently, I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube videos of people who are struggling with weight issues. As someone who was once 625 pounds, it is fascinating to me to see how others are dealing with similar problems.
After watching quite a few of these videos, I have noticed one common theme throughout: there is an overwhelming sense of hopelessness. A sense of futility that no matter what they do, these people will never be able to get healthy and lose weight. When they see others who have lost weight, or people who seem like they have just been healthy their whole lives, they see something that is impossible to achieve.
Meditating on this, I put myself back in my own shoes four years prior. I was morbidly obese, depressed, alcoholic, and had completely given up. I lived day to day and never planned for the future. I didn’t have anything to look forward to. After being healthy for years now, it is difficult for me to try to remember what that was like. Just the thought of it makes me uncomfortable.
I remember the envy that I had for others. I would go on social media and see all of the posts from my old friends from school. Most of them had married, had kids, developed careers, travelled the world, gone sky diving, and done all of the things that I had only dreamed of. Seeing these successful people only seemed to reflect the pointlessness of my existence. At the worst part of my depression, I considered myself a waste of space. All I did was eat and sleep and drain the rest of society. I had no purpose.
I used to fantasize about meeting a beautiful woman and getting married and having kids. I dreamt about becoming a politician, or being an athlete and setting a world record. When I was younger, these fantasies were something that could have been achievable. In my mind, I could have been anything I wanted to be. The older I got, the narrower these possibilities became. All of the things I wanted to be seemed to diminish and reduce. Depression, obesity and alcoholism were all that I had left.
After being able to share my story with many people, I get asked many questions about how I did it, the most common being what did I eat, and how did I exercise. These are practical questions, and given the chance, that’s exactly what I would ask myself! I lost my weight through portion control and gradually increasing my exercise. Because I had high blood pressure, I cut back on my salt. Because I was borderline type 2 diabetic, I cut back on my processed sugar. I counted calories and used Runkeeper to track my exercise. I didn’t take meal shakes, or do any crash diets. I didn’t have bariatric surgery, and I didn’t follow any specific diet plan.
Watching testimonials of other people dealing with weight issues, it makes me think about what I did that was different. I’m realizing that all of the healthy eating and exercise habits were incidental to something even more important. My state of mind. I remember the first day that I quit drinking. Aside from dealing with the pains of withdrawal, something fundamental changed in me. Something deep rooted inside me began to shift, and I realized what it was.
I began to hope.
For the first time in as long as I could remember, I began to hope for something better. I no longer wished for death to come and take me out of my misery. I began to long for a better life. For once, I believed that I was capable of doing more.
Today, nearly four years later, I have lost 400 pounds. I have run half marathons, gone on TV shows, traveled to Europe, met amazing people from around the world. Life has never been better, and I am still surprised daily at the new wonders I get to experience. I consider myself lucky to be alive. If I hadn’t decided to change when I did, I don’t know if I’d be here writing about it today.
If I could go back and tell myself one thing, it would be to never give up hope. Losing weight and starting a healthy lifestyle are not easy things. In fact, they were the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do. I think even more important than the process of becoming physically healthy is developing a healthy mindset. Before attempting to change your lifestyle, you need to know that it can be done. It is absolutely possible, and if anyone tells you otherwise, they are lying to you. Being what you want to be in life doesn’t have to be a dream. It can be achieved. It is possible.
Perhaps even more important than knowing it can be done, is developing a thirst for it. A drive to want to better yourself. For me, it was the possibility of living longer. Meeting someone halfway around the world and being able to travel to see them for the first time. This is what drove me to keep pushing myself. For others, this can be the need to be healthy for your kids or loved ones, to get that career you always wanted, or just to look good in a bathing suit. Figure out what drives you. Find it and hold onto it. Nurture that motivation and feed off of it. It will take you places you never dreamt possible.
Most importantly, never give up hope.