It is said that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. My journey over the past three years has been one that tested my will to succeed. Growing up I never paid much attention to my health and never considered the adverse effects that could result from a diet high in saturated fat and carbohydrates. I lived my life carefree always consuming the foods I enjoyed most, without much physical activity. By the time I was 18 years old I was close to 210 pounds, and realized that my weight made me a target to people who chose to use my weakness for their enjoyment. Although I felt somewhat self-conscious as my waistline expanded, I continued to eat uncontrollably and used food as a means of calming whatever anxiety or fears that I had. By the time I entered my freshman year of college I was 220 pounds and over the next four years of college I climbed to 286 pound at my heaviest, with a waistline measurement of 48 inches. The constant badgering by others about my weight grew louder and people began calling me names such as “whale boy,” “Big D,” and “Big Guy.” Although I never showed any outward sign of dissatisfaction, I was dying on the inside. Every time someone called me by one of the aforementioned labels, I would go home and cry my pain away. In fact, not only did I cry, I turned to food yet again to make me feel comfortable. My nightly ritual included (and I mean nightly) a 20oz bottle of Pepsi and a king size Sneaker bar. After consuming my chocolate covered candy, I would instantly turn my lights out and went right to bed. There was no effect from the caffeinated drink.
Over time as I got bigger I found it harder to find clothes that fit at department stores. There would be the very minor occasions where I came across a pants with a 48 inch waist at Old Navy. As shopping for clothes became more difficult, a friend referred me to Casual XL where I could find clothes for the larger than average sized individual. To my delight, upon entering the Casual XL store I discovered that my struggle with weight was not an isolated case. In fact, finding a 48 inch pants was considered one of the smaller sizes. As I shopped in the store, my best friend who was significantly smaller than I was, decided to entertain me with the fact that he would use the displayed t-shirts as comforters as he demonstrated that he could wrap himself in a triple X shirt two times over. Almost immediately my heart sank and I realized that I did not want to be big for the rest of my life. Despite all that I had accomplished, my weight remained the one struggle that seemed to define who I was as an individual. I once had a friend ask me “why do you live so close to your kitchen.” What many people do not realize is despite the saying “words will never hurt me,” I have discovered the contrary. Words do indeed hurt, they have the power to take away your self-esteem and reduce you to tears. Not even my close friends realized just how much their “fat jokes,” got to me. I would usually smile and continue as if nothing was wrong.
I remember vividly going home some nights and look at my reflection in the mirror, most times grasping my fat and crying at the fact that it existed. I felt disgusting, I felt ugly, and I constantly wished for a different life. On a few minor occasions I contemplated ending my own life, because I believed that a “normal” life was out of my reach. The images on television and those promoted by Pop Culture told me that I was an anomaly. It told me that I was not good enough, it constantly reminded me that I was too fat for anyone to love. In the Spring of 2002 I decided to attempt to gain a spot on MTV’s Total Request Live which was taping several shows in Key West, Florida. To my surprise my friends and I received 4 free tickets to get a spot on the show. Finally thinking that I had made it, MTV transported all the selected participants on a charter bus and drove us to Key West. Upon reaching Key West we were told to disembark the bus and separate by gender. All the guys were then asked to remove their shirt, a request I ignored, and one by one an MTV representative selected the guys who would be allowed to sit within direct view of the television cameras. It was no surprise that the guys with totally fit bodies, and six-pack abs were the ideal candidates. They each were selected and given oil to caress their bodies in preparation for the videography of the event. For those of us that were not so fortunate to be chosen, we were told to create the backdrop by playing volleyball in the sand by the beach.
I tried to convince myself that I was not ostracized due to my weight, but as I continued jealously watching the perfect bodies in front, I noticed another thing. MTV provided barbecued food for all the persons they asked to sit in direct view of the cameras, while the rest of us had to wait until shooting concluded to get any form of refreshments. This event demonstrated to me that I was indeed different and that life at most times can be superficial. No matter how much I tried to convince myself that I looked good despite my weight, I would never succeed. Everywhere I went I was reminded that my weight was a part of me. Eventually I would begin to experience weight related illnesses, and constantly went to the doctor for foot pain which I later learned was plantar fasciitis, a condition made worst by my overwhelming body weight. To make matters worst, in 2004 I had a health scare after discovering a huge lump in my lower back. My general practitioner immediately recommended that I do an ultra sound to determine if the mass I discovered was cancerous. Thankfully, it was not. What the doctors found was what they termed as a fat mass that was not harmful and could decrease in size with adequate weight loss.
Determined to lose weight I consulted with a professor at my university, Dr. Slovak, who was a former football player. I asked Dr. Slovak to develop a work out plan for me to assist me in losing weight. Dr. Slovak told me that he would, but only after I did one thing. I asked him what I needed to do, and he asked me to make going to the gym a habit, “I want you to go to the gym everyday, and if all you can do is 10 minutes a day, then do 10 minutes a day. They key is to make it a habit. Once you have developed the habit to work out and make it a lifestyle, come back to me and I will give you an exercise plan.” I immediately began going to the gym, and I promised myself that I could dedicate at least 30 minutes a day to exercise. Everyday for the next two weeks I did 30 minutes of moderate walking on the thread mill, in addition to limiting my caloric intake each day. Within 2 weeks I lost an astounding 15 pounds. Elated, I continued my habit of working out, and overtime increased my exercise time from 30 minutes, to 45 minutes, from 45 minutes to an hour. Eventually I was spending as much as 5 hours per day doing some sort of physical activity.
Regarding my daily calories I started to limit my intake to roughly 1200 calories, and my fat intake to no more than 15 grams of fat per meal. When I started my journey at 286 pounds I started taking the Ali diet pill, when I decreased my weight to 250 pounds, I decided I wanted my weight loss to be on my own merit. I realized that to lose weight and keep it off was about a lifestyle change. Whatever I did to lose weight I had to be willing to do it for the rest of my life. Consequently, I did not plan to be on diet pills forever. Overtime my weight loss slowed to about 1 to 2 pounds per week, however with each pound lost I commended myself and committed to keep working harder. To make a long story short, I was able to reduce my weight within 2 years to 186 pounds, and decrease my waistline measurement from 48 inches to 32 inches. I was amazed at what commitment could do. Weight loss taught me that I could do anything I put my mind to, it taught me that the only person I could depend on was me.Weight loss also taught me that I had to keep exercising as a part of my daily routine.
After about a year of my drastic weight loss I began to workout less, and in about 6 months I had a weight gain that saw me tipping the scales at 205 pounds. The realization that I was sliding back into my old habits is what prompted me to write this blog. I want to take you with me on a journey, the journey to self discovery, the journey to weight loss, and a commitment to being healthy and making lifestyle changes that would add quality years to our lives.
I want my story to help others realize that no matter how long you have been overweight, you can change, you can lose weight, and you can do it without diet pills or fad diets. You must start by believing in yourself. If your purpose to lose weight is for someone other than yourself, don’t do it. Losing weight for others will never work, you have to want it for you. As I begin on another journey towards weight loss I want to invite you on this journey. Each week I will post what I have been doing and what dietary choices I have made, and hopefully it will assist you on your own journey. Please feel free to contact me should you have any questions.
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