Friday, May 14, 2010

Becoming One of the Beautiful People

Following is a guest post from Chris Cole. Chris posted here on Cincinnati Losers a few months ago and is STILL going strong.  I think you'll agree his journey is inspiring!

Hello again, Cincinnati Losers! The last time you heard from me was in February when Shannan asked me to submit something. At that point, I had lost 63 pounds and was feeling pretty good.

Today, I’m down 101 pounds and feeling great! My last submission was titled “The Tipping Point,” and as each day passes it becomes clearer to me that what separates successful weight-loss efforts from the countless unsuccessful ones is just that – a tipping point. A moment when you decide, once and for all, that you’ve had enough. Enough of the aches and pains of everyday life. Enough of the dread of going to certain restaurants or sporting events or getting on an airplane because the seats are too small. Enough of losing your breath walking from the car to the office. Enough of growing out of expensive clothes you purchased just months earlier. Enough.

So you change. It starts slow with little things. Frankly, early on you have no idea what you’re doing. You start counting calories. Maybe you get a gym membership. You go and you look around at the machines and it’s all overwhelming and intimidating. You see beautiful people. Everywhere. They’re lifting the big weights; they’re sprinting on the treadmills faster than you could run if a bear was chasing you – and they’re not even sweating; they’re living beautiful people lives, and that in and of itself intimates you. You pick out a machine that doesn’t look too complicated – maybe a recumbent bike – and you hop on. You start pedaling. You ride until your butt is just too sore to continue. You burned 250 calories. Is that good? You have no clue. You’re too sore to go the next day, but the day after there you are again. With the same damn beautiful people. (They go every day.) You hop back on that same bike and you go again. You crank up your iPod with some up-tempo music you love now but will soon come to detest because of its Pavlovian effect on you. This time you’re able to burn a few more calories, but you still have no clue if its even worth the effort. Two-hundred and seventy calories sure doesn’t sound like that much. And how can the human butt get so sore so quickly?

As you pedal on, the miles turn into weeks and the weeks turn into muscle. You’re amazed. You never noticed your quads before, but hmm…there they are. And you don’t get as sore as you used to. Oh, and you’re burning closer to 500 calories each visit now. And you’re not as sore the next day, which is good because that means you can think clearly enough to do some Googling and you find out that burning nearly 500 calories isn’t that bad. And you realize how important it is to keep an eye on fiber and sodium and fat too. You see references to net calorie burn and other scientific-sounding stuff, but that’s all a bit much for now. It’s enough of a challenge for you to just track the calories, pedal the bike and not kill the beautiful people.

After a few months, you’re bored with the bike. So you hop on the elliptical machine and holy hell. How can something that looks so simple cause such misery? It’s everything you can do to last three minutes. But you notice that in those three minutes you burned more calories than five minutes on the bike. So the next day (you’re able to go to the gym back-to-back days now) you do the bike awhile and then hop back on the elliptical. Eight minutes this time – SCORE! The trick, you figure out, is to bend your knees a little and get into a rhythm. In no time at all, you’re master of the elliptical. You can go 40, 50 minutes. Granted, you sweat so much you literally slip from time to time on the puddle gathering below you. You begin to think, “If I can do this, surely I can go join the beautiful people on the treadmill.” You do. At first you walk. Slowly. And flat. Over time, you speed up and begin to work at an incline. Soon you’re running. Damn – you haven’t run since…the 1980s. Literally. Your day-to-day aches have been replaced by sore hips and joints from running and ellipticaling, but it’s such a good feeling.

You’ve lost some serious weight at this point and you start to think about things you’ve never thought about before. You’re sitting in your office, daydreaming about the run you’ll get in tonight. It’s sick, but you love it. Your body is feeling great and you realize there is nothing you cannot do. You do some more Googling and decide that you’re going to start training for a 5K. You think back to before you started this madness when you didn’t even know what 5K meant – it’s 5,000 something, but it might as well have been miles. Now you’re planning. Next year, you’ll do some version of the Flying Pig Marathon. Probably not a 5K – you could do that now if you really worked hard. Nah, half marathon at least. Maybe the full 26+ miles. Why not? You’re getting stronger – much stronger. The comments and compliments are coming pretty regularly now. It’s all a bit embarrassing, but at the same time it fuels you. And you finally feel comfortable venturing into the weight training area of the gym. You realize the beautiful people are actually quite welcoming. They show you how to use the crazy-looking machines. You start small. On some of the machines, you don’t even use the weights – you can only manage the weight of the machine itself. But you do it. Then the real muscles come. You begin to notice things like biceps, triceps and collar bones. You have collar bones – who knew?

As frustrating as it was to grow out of expensive clothes in no time at all, you’re now thrilled to shrink right back down through those same clothes. The shirts you wore at your previous job 10 years ago…now too big. The T-shirts you wore in college begin to hang off of you. You keep the belt you wore before your tipping point as a reminder. You’ve been poking holes in it for awhile now and it’s getting ridiculous. There are 15 new holes in the thing and it wraps halfway around you when you put it on. You bought a new belt last month, but you’ve already started to poke new holes in that one too. It’s a nice problem to have, but it’s a problem nonetheless. You need new clothes, and the realization hits you that for the first time since you were a teenager you don’t have to shop at some specialty store. You secretly cry in the dressing room the first time you get an XL to fit you – the same way you did the first time you realized a 5XL fit you.

Just when you start to think you have this thing beat, you hit your first real, stubborn plateau. It’s like quicksand. You work hard – real hard; you eat healthy – real healthy. But nothing. You lose one pound this week but gain two the next. You start to get frustrated and so you work even harder. You up your weekly gym visits to eight (one each day and twice on Saturday). Still nothing. As quickly as things got started, things have stalled. What do you do? You ask the beautiful people. Their advice is all over the board – lift more, lift less, take supplements, mix it up, stop working out completely for a week. Hmm…given the exhaustion, this last option seems like a good one! So you do it. And it takes everything you’ve got not to go to the gym for a week. Your body heals and the rest does wonders for those sore hips. A week later, there you are back at the gym. You’re shocked how much you actually missed the beautiful people. You hop on the scale, full of fear and dread for the first time in months. And to your utter amazement, you’ve lost 7 more pounds. Seven. How in the hell did that happen? You get your workout in (four miles on the treadmill, 30 minutes on the elliptical and 15 minutes on the rowing machine) and then head home to once again work the Google. You begin to realize just how complicated the human body can be. Ahhh…that must be what makes weight loss such a challenge, you conclude. It’s half art, half science.

Back on track, you decide that it probably is time for you to mix things up. You’ve been using the same three or four cardio machines for months now and while you’re not completely bored, you’re ready for something new. A coworker tells you about a class he’s thinking of taking – something called Muay Thai (back to the Google). Wow. It looks serious. It’s like kickboxing on steroids. Something the beautiful people would do, but probably not for you. After a few days of heavy persuading, you agree to give it one shot and so you go. Great…more beautiful people. But these are even nicer than the ones at the gym. Once they realize you’re taking it seriously and actually want to improve yourself, they welcome you with open arms. Soon, you’re kicking the bag so hard your shin will look like a medium-rare ribeye steak the next day. Your left big toe is blistered from pivoting on the mat, your right big toe is bruised and swollen from kicking the bag wrong and your ankles aren’t thrilled with you either. But you love it. The next week, you’re the first to arrive.

You’re down 101 pounds and your life is literally changing every day. What once seemed completely impossible (running, taking mixed martial arts classes, shopping for clothes at the mall) is now your day-to-day life. And you know to an absolute certainty that you’ll reach your ultimate weight loss goal. You’ve really known it since your tipping point, but now others look at you and they know it too.

Yep, as I said in February, life is good.

Chris Cole

Starting Weight – 370
Current Weight - 269