Posts Tagged ‘healthy-living’

You are what you eat…

August 1, 2012

Recently, while cleaning my workspace I noticed a picture of myself from 10 summers ago.  The picture was taken without my permission, right after a midnight skinny-dip in a lake with some friends.  Luckily (for all of us), I had the sense to grab some clothes and cover my privates before the flash lit the night.  The picture has endured for years, moving with me from home to home.  It serves two purposes: one, as a reminder of good times with friends; two, as a reminder of what I looked like when I was at my prime physical condition.

At the time, I was very disciplined with my health.  I was eating smart and working hard at the gym.  It showed.  I looked good and I felt good.  One of the greatest feelings was that people were noticing.  It was nice to hear people say: “have you been working out?” and “you’re looking great!”.  I had no trouble taking my shirt off at the beach because I had a body I could be proud of.  Call me vain, but I enjoyed the feeling of noticing other people noticing me.  I was young and carefree and it felt as if the world was my oyster.

That was then.  It’s hard to imagine my best years are behind me, but it may be a reality.  When I look at the picture now, I can’t help but feel a sense of shame wash over me. We can’t stay young and vibrant forever, but that doesn’t give me permission to let myself go.  10 years later, I feel embarrassed to take off my shirt at the beach, so much so that I avoid going.

Ok, let me be clear.  I’m not morbidly obese or anything.  In the last 10 years I’ve fluctuated between 195-244 pounds, gaining and dropping weight so frequently I’ve earned the nickname Oprah (not really).  The entire time, I’ve remained athletic and continue to participate in recreational sports.  I can climb a mountain, bike 20 to 30km and play hockey, although, not in the same day.  I’m what you call ‘skinny-fat’.  Parts of me are thin and athletic looking, but my spare tire (belly and love handles) makes me look 7 months pregnant.  It looks as if I’m smuggling a volleyball under my shirt.

I joke, but I consider it a serious problem.  It’s not healthy to fluctuate in weight so frequently and it’s disconcerting to feel shameful about your body image.  I can’t buy into the idea that I should be “happy with who I am” when I know deeply that it’s my fault I’m overweight.  I wasn’t born ‘big boned’, I’ve just been too weak to eat healthy.  I choose the comfort foods over the healthy alternatives.  I’ll choose the hamburger with fries over the salad, or the chips and chocolate over the yogurt and fruit.  The consequences are extra pounds and a sense of guilt.

A little over a month ago my wife and I celebrated our wedding in front of 230 friends and family.  Although it was a joyous occasion, I couldn’t help but feel guilty that I didn’t have the willpower to work hard enough before the wedding to look the way I wanted to.  My wife was exercising 3-4 days a week and eating healthy, but I barely changed my lifestyle.  For months, I tried several times to get into the habit of exercising and eating healthy, only to give up within a week or two.  Even worse, between the wedding and our honeymoon, I put on 12 pounds.  When I returned, I weighed 228 pounds, and was disgusted with myself.

The day we returned I made a decision that I hope will resonate for the rest of my life.  I decided that I needed to make exercise and healthy eating a must, an absolute priority.  Since returning, I’ve been eating healthy and exercising regularly.  I’ve been frequenting the gym or enjoying the summer weather by hiking or biking.  It has been just over a week and the recent surge of healthy eating and physical activity has already helped me lose 6 pounds.

The best feeling is that eating healthy and exercising gives me a sense of integrity. I have had several opportunities to eat unhealthy foods and avoid exercise, but I’ve had the will to choose otherwise.  I feel good about myself knowing that I have the willpower to choose right and it’s only a matter of time before I start to enjoy the results.

I’ve decided to display the photo of me from 10 years ago where I can see it daily.  It will serve as motivation for me, a reminder of what I am capable of.  I realize that I may never look the way I did 10 years ago, but that is not my intention.  Instead, I wish to be reminded of what I felt like at the time, strong, healthy and confident, and that this feeling is completely within my control.