For the last few months, I have dropped hints about changing my diet, and how much I think that it has done for my overall health and well being. I have always talked about writing a post about it, but have never gotten the stones to do it until now.
Here is my main problem. I have never been “overweight”, and when I was near that point for my height (6′, 180 lbs) I was bumping up against that point because I had spent the last few months in the gym and was starting to pack on some muscle, bringing my total body weight up.
I have always been thin, but after high school, I started to pack on a bit of weight that conveniently parked around my midsection. I started high school less than 100 lbs (I wrested 98lb weight class sophomore year) and probably finished my high school career in the 140 range (I really have no clue). At 6′ tall, there were never any weight issues with 140 lbs stacked on my frame.
As the years went by, I slowly gained weight and probably put on approximately 6 lbs per year from 2003-2009. This put me hovering between 175-180 (depending on what I ate that day) and I was semi satisfied with that. I was still fairly skinny, and by no means did I think I had a weight problem. I wasnt happy with the way I looked, but it could have been way worse.
Because of all this, I didnt really feel like I should talk about it. I’m a regular guy, I didnt do anything awesome like lose 100+ lbs or more. I just realized that I didnt like the way that I started feeling and wanted to change my eating habits. I didnt think I had anything to add to the conversation, and I didnt really think that people would resonate with my story. Like when I was turning around my finances, I felt like a lot of people could understand – I had 55k In debt, they probably had some too. Maybe not as much, maybe more, but still some. I never had a weight problem, I never looked like I had a weight problem and I most certainly never acted like I had a weight problem.
Because of all these things, I didnt feel like anyone would agree with me – they’d just feel like I had first world problems and leave it at that.
However, i did feel like I needed to get my eating under control. Im not an overeater, but I do possess those tendencies – I once at 2 whole burritos from Qdoba for one meal. I can routinely polish off a pizza (medium). I know these things are not good for me, and I dont even do them because I am hungry. I mean, who is hungry after eating a burrito from chipotle/qdoba?!
So after I knew I had a tendency to overeat, but still I let it go. Finally, I started searching around for things that would help me get in better shape and not overeat in the fall of 2013. I tried a whole bunch of shit, but a lot of it just didnt work. I tried eating 5-6 smaller meals per day, but that just became a pain in the ass. I had to make sure to pack food to eat at work, and I forgot a lot of the time. I also was always hungry, so it didnt seem like it was working. I gave paleo a shot, but it was really difficult to stick to for various reasons at the time. I tried using my pregnant wife as an excuse, by saying we are changing our diet (when it was just a cover for when she was early on and real tired all the time). Unfortunately, none of them stuck and I always seemed to migrate back to where I was before, except bad habits were coming back harder.
I didn’t used to eat pizza a lot before I tried to change my diet, but after I did and I would go off track for one reason or another, I started eating pizza 2x per week, and a whole one at that! I had never eaten a whole pizza before I tried to change my diet.
After thinking about what was going on and where I was, it really reminded me a lot of 2009-2010 where I was with my finances. It seemed like 1 step forward and 2 steps back back then, but there was nothing that I really could do but keep on going because my goal (debt freedom) was more important than cable tv or a trip for a beer with coworkers after work. It was all about willpower then, and it is all about willpower now – I just have not found the end goal to focus on quite yet for this journey. Even so, I kept trying and when I really wanted to get serious about it, I decided to channel my inner Dave Ramsey and use the “stick of dynamite” method and make a radical change to my eating habits.
I had found the whole30 program in late 2013 and had been toying with doing one for quite a while, I had just never pulled the trigger on a start date. A few friends of H and I did one in january and they really liked it, so I spent the first week of february planning my menu and had planned on starting Monday, Feb 10. I had my menu for the next 2 weeks all planned out, and then our daughter decided to say what’s up, and I had to put my plans on hold for a week while my wife and I organized our lives for that week and the next 11 weeks. I decided to scrap my plans for the week and just start the next week. what I was going to be eating was the last thing that I needed to be occupying what little space was left in my head. I was tracking my progress on fitbit (sort of – I didnt remember all the time and I stupidly didnt record my weight or body fat when I started).
Once I did get started though, I found that I really enjoyed it. I certainly had a lot of the problems that you see in the beginning with the massive diet change. I started to get headaches and just felt tired for a few days, but eventually the fog wore off and I started to feel better and better as the month wore on. I ended up feeling really good during the entire thing, and was able to drop about 15 pounds over the course of 30 days – I honestly was pretty shocked. As stupid as this sounds, I had absolutely no idea that what I was eating would have that much of an effect on my weight and how I felt. Prior to this, I thought that working out or lifting weights would yield weight loss results, and diet would be secondary. I knew it would be a pareto thing (AKA the 80-20 rule), I just didnt realize I had been spending the last 5 years thinking the wrong thing was going to get the best results. Just to be clear, I thought that my results would come from working out, and a little bit from eating healthy – so I focused on working out and ate whatever I wanted. That was 100% ass-backwards. It wasnt until I changed my diet I started to see the results that I had been after for the last 10 years.
So what did I do after?
Well, after my whole30 ended, I really liked how I was feeling, but I had the sneaking suspicion that I didnt know exactly how good I felt. I thought that as I started to feel better, it was a gradual improvement so I didnt notice how much different I felt. I proved this assumption right a few days after my whole30 ended and I decided to have a beer. I drank one 22oz beer on a wednesday night, and still felt awful until midday on friday! After that, I decided to keep going with my whole30 until I could figure out a reasonable plan for my diet going forward.
Unfortunately, it all fell apart. When my wife & daughter moved back home, I totally lost control of what I was eating. There was no prep going on, and ease totally trumped all the food that I had been eating beforehand, and it was back into my old routines harder than ever (though I have managed to stay away from beer). I’ve indulged (and over indulged) in pizza, hot wings and ice cream on a far more frequent basis than I did before I switched my diet, which left me wondering if I was actually doing myself any good. I could stick to a good eating plan for a while, but once it was over I just went crazy and ate far more bad stuff at an increasing rate.
It went on like that for about 3 months – me eating good most of the time, but then having bouts of days where I ate absolutely terribly felt awful afterwords. It was a rough time, but I was still adjusting to the new lifestyle – one of the few comforts that I found was that this same thing happened to me when I was turning my finances around. There were a lot of good tries and a lot of false starts before I found a noodle that stuck to the wall.
Even through all this craziness, I have managed to keep up my healthy eating habits (for the last ~2 weeks) for every meal but about 3 during that time. It has not been easy, but I have found that with proper prep work it can be done – even with a new born and a job that is much more demanding than the one I previously had. I have been doing so well lately that I actually got the low carb flu the other night (but then I totally freaked out and ate a bunch of food that I shouldnt have), so I know things are trending in the right direction for me.
I havent been perfect and there are a lot of ups and downs on that chart as you can see, but I’m feeling good about my journey at this point – I know what I want to do and I know how to do it, all that is left now is execution – just like the situation I was in in 2009 with my finances. It has not been easy – making a change this big never is, but I think it’s totally worth it, and will probably spur more changes in the area that would have been unthinkable 6 months ago (like giving up alcohol).
Readers: do you feel like it’s beneficial to focus on your health after your finances or make health your 1 priority, or are you comfortable doing multiple big things at once? Also, what is your preferred eating style?