There are times when OCD is a detriment, and then there are times when it works to my advantage. Years of social and environmental conditioning contributed to the fact that I see most things as black or white. This drives some people insane; sometimes it drives me pretty nuts, too. However, there are the times when this works in my favor—namely, any time I need to make a decision of any type. There are only two ways for me; either I do something all the way, or not at all.
There was a time in my 20s where one could have called me in excellent shape. This didn’t last long, and by the time I hit my 30s I was happily boycotting doing things I “had” to do. Like most people in this boat, my reasoning made absolutely no sense, but worked like a charm to perpetuate the cycle of blame, denial and laziness. Alas, with each passing year I gained more weight. But because it was gradual, I didn’t really notice it at first.
There’s an interesting dynamic that happens in the brain as you start “expanding.” Your clothes start getting tighter, at first, which you eagerly blame on hormones. Finally the clothes won’t fit, and you think “whatever” and go buy the next bigger size. It’s also pretty astonishing how long one can attempt to squeeze oneself into clothes that have become too tight. The thought is simple: “As long as I can fit in this, I AM this size!” The next thing you know, you’re on your third or fourth round of changing your wardrobe. I think the jig was up when I returned back to Germany after eight years and was promptly greeted with the words “wow! You’ve gotten fat.” Of course, this didn’t stop me. I was in my early 30s and could lose the weight as fast as I put it on.
By the time I reached my mid to late 30s, I had reached “maximum density.” At 5’4″ I weighed 165 lbs., and was wearing a size 14. According to society, it was easy to lose weight; just start working out and change your eating habits. What all these books, blogs, experts and websites won’t tell you is that there’s nothing easy or quick about it, at all!
The hardest thing to change for any human being is the mind. The brain dictates our reality, and signing up for a gym when you are overweight, feeling shitty and have zero stamina or strength amounts to jumping out of an airplane without a parachute. There are all these voices in your head, telling you that you are fat, ugly and that all the “beautiful” and thin people will just sneer at you. You feel ashamed and so you keep making excuses like “I don’t have money,” “I don’t have time,” “my metabolism is different than anyone else’s, which means I won’t lose the weight anyway,” and so on. I had all the same voices in my head, and then some. I knew that it was my head that needed changing, so I went to hypnotherapy. The power of suggestion worked like a charm. I DID walk into that gym, I DID sign up with a personal trainer and I DID feel like crap, ashamed and intimidated.
Fast forward eighteen months. I have achieved the impossible. The ultimate couch potato has transformed into a fairly strong, fit and healthy person. But before I share the results, I want to share some of this journey by reporting the obstacles and the thought processes throughout it all.
I learned that it takes a long time to go from completely out-of-shape to being an athlete. It also requires a lot of time, will-power and commitment. I chose trainers for many reasons. First of all, I wanted to make sure that I didn’t injure myself. Secondly, I needed and still need someone to motivate me and hold me accountable. And lastly, I really need someone who knows what they’re doing to guarantee my continued success without plateauing or giving up. Leaving it up to me how often I should go to the gym, what to do there and for how long to stay had never worked for me in the past. I’d be energized for a month and then would simply stop going.
Trainers have also helped me putting meal plans together. They told me what to avoid, how often to eat and what to strive for. One of the tools I can recommend is 24 Hour Fitness’ BodyBug. Not only does it count the calories you consume (of course, you’ll have to log everything you eat), but it also counts how many steps you’ve taken and how many calories you’ve burned. The equation for weight loss is simple; you have to burn more than what you consume. Trainers and the BodyBug showed me how to do that.
Why did I not give up? Well, there are a few changes that occur rather fast. For one, there was an increase in energy, i.e. I wasn’t constantly tired and exhausted, as well as the subsiding of all my aches and pains, especially neck, shoulder, back pains and headaches. This motivated me to keep going. Meanwhile, my trainers made sure I wouldn’t start slacking or sabotaging.
I currently have two trainers, with which I train four times a week for an hour. In addition, I do between 2.5 to 3.5 miles on the treadmill five times a week. My trainers keep changing my workout each and every session, which ensures that my body doesn’t get used to any particular routine.
I still write down what I eat and drink every day. I make sure that I drink a lot of water (about a gallon), and because I hate the taste of plain water, I mix a sport nutrition powder in that has only ten calories per pack. I make my own food (yes, I actually prepare food these days) and I substituted my breakfast and dinner with protein shakes, to which I add fresh blueberries, raspberries, oats and half a banana.
I eat about every two to three hours, but small portions, like a cup of pasta, a non-fat yogurt, an orange or a nutrition bar. I do not drink any alcohol at all, no sodas and I don’t smoke anymore.
Yes, I’m aware that this may seem obsessive to some. But at the end of the day, I had to make a decision about what I wanted for myself. Being physically healthy, fit and strong was on the top of that list. I was willing to do whatever it took to reach this goal. I guess one could say that I was sick and tired of feeling fat, unattractive and weak; I was also tired of my own BS and my excuses. Of course, being who I am, I did it backwards. Instead of starting all this when my body easily changed and my metabolism wasn’t at turtle’s speed, I waited until I turned forty. Instead of getting in shape to find a husband, I found the husband first, made sure he truly loved me for who I am and found me hot, and then decided to go the extra mile to make him proud of me. The stubborn part of me had to make sure that he wasn’t another superficial douche, and when I learned that he was not, I mustered up the will-power to really wow him.
My results have been slow and gradual, and yet nothing short of a small miracle. I look in the mirror and barely recognize myself. The fat rolls are mostly gone. My arms, legs, shoulders and even my stomach have started showing clear muscle definition. I’m inching towards a size six these days. My workout pants used to be a size XL and are now a size M. My waist has shrunk more than six inches. I used to have 38% body fat and now have 25%. I am aiming towards 20%.
My balance, strength and stamina have more than quadrupled. When I started, I could run for 30 seconds only and lasted a mere 5 minutes on the treadmill. Now I can run for 15 minutes and spend 45 minutes on the treadmill. I couldn’t lift anything heavier than 5 lbs. Now I can lift 15 lbs, while balancing on a Bosu ball. I can also do pushups on that thing, and I do sit-ups almost with ease.
The thing is that I never thought that any of this would be possible for me. Once I stopped looking at it as a chore I hated and as an insurmountable task I would never be able to accomplish, I was able to succeed. I literally do this one day at a time. I have my goal set and I won’t stop until I reach this goal. It no longer matters who’s with me or not (turns out, no one was with me on that one) and I don’t notice anyone else in the gym anymore. I don’t care what people may think about me. I’m there to work out and get in shape. I have a purpose and I fulfill that purpose. I have nothing to prove to anyone but myself.
I have only one regret, and that’s that I didn’t start any of this earlier. Alas, rather late than never.