Getting fat is exactly what happened to me. After 1 year away from daily exercise I put on 20 pounds without much thought. I could tell when looking in the mirror that my physique wasn't quite as good as before but I could easily justify it...I was in college and it didn't matter anymore. During my freshman year in school, we had to give a presentation on how to do something. Instead of giving a presentation on how to change the oil in my car or cook an egg, I decided that I would give my speech on how to gain 20 pounds. The speech was a mild success; I was able to get people to laugh and I got a decent grade.
Over the next few years I started skipping classes, worked a few jobs, and eventually left school for a time. During that time, I married my "high school sweetheart" and started living what I thought was the typical American lifestyle. A year or so into our marriage I started a new job which I thought would be great...it was an office job! Sitting at a desk all day and not having to sweat and be outside in the weather was my definition of the perfect job. Heck, I would even have the weekends office to sit on the couch and watch football! What more could anyone ask for, right? During my time working in the office, I looked like a balloon and continued to pack on the weight. It didn't help that we were eating terribly at home. I recall a dinner one night where we ate french fries and macaroni and cheese. If we only knew.
One night on my way home from work I started to feel light headed, but passed it off as having "low blood sugar." After getting home and nearly fainting, I decided that I was going to go to the doctor the next day to have him take a look at me. Doc recommended for me to have a lipid profile completed, which I did. The results aren't all that shocking now, but to a 22 year old who had relatively good health before, this was quite depressing. My cholesterol was sky high (320) and my triglycerides were just as bad (390). HDL was 36 and LDL was out of this world. He immediately put me on a statin, which I begrudgingly took over a 5 month period of time.
At that point in time, I was 5'6'', 208 lbs, but my cholesterol #'s were coming down...life was good. Well, it actually wasn't good. Around this time, I never had any energy, we continued to eat incredibly bad, and we then found out that my wife was pregnant (not exactly planned). Immediately, I was determined to lose weight and get fit. My mindset was: there is no way that I want my child to see me this fat.
To get in shape and lose weight, I got a membership to the YMCA and went to the gym 4-5 times per week; all the while, not paying much attention to my diet. After 2-3 months and a small amount of success (losing 5-7 lbs), I started researching ways to eat "healthy". I started eating "healthy" cereal (whole grains are great for you, right?), cut almost all of the fat out of my diet (turkey bacon, turkey burgers, etc), and loaded up on protein. 2 months into this eating style and I was feeling just as bad as I did before, but I was starting lose pounds, which was all that mattered to me. Before our son was born, I stepped on the scale and felt pretty good about myself, I was 20 pounds lighter and looking good.
To me, losing 20 pounds was awesome, but I still weighed 185 pounds and my triglycerides & LDL were way too high. Shortly after my son's birth I decided to go back to school and finish my degree. My weight over the next few years yo-yo'd up and down. I had a very basic mentality about fitness...your total health = total weight. So, losing 15 pounds meant getting that much more healthy! Or at least I thought. At a point during my last semester of school, I was again weighing 170-175 and thought I was on top of the world. For some reason, though, I couldn't maintain very well and it was very easy to shoot back up to 185. And that's exactly what happened.
I was fortunate enough to have a job lined up immediately following school. Again, this was an office job, but I convinced myself that if I watched my calories and went to the gym then there wouldn't be any problems. A year and a half into my job (July 2011) and I was hovering around 195 pounds. Once again we received the good news that my wife was expecting. And again, I told myself that I'm going to lose weight so my soon to arrive daughter would never see her father look so bad.
To cut weight, I setup an elaborate workout and meal plan (standard American diet low in fat and high in carbs) to keep me on track and provide structure. Most mornings I would get to the gym around 5a, run for 15-30 minutes, and lift weights for 30 - 45 minutes. This seemed to be working for me (remember, I believed weight loss was paramount). From July 2011 - November 2011, I shed 20-25 pounds and improved my lipid profile.
Something strange happened around November, however. I came down with a sinus infection that started just after Halloween. As is typical for me, I didn't go to the doctor for it because I thought it would go away. During this time, I continued to exercise and eat normal. Mid-December rolled around and I continued on with the sinus infection. Thinking that there could be more to my illness than originally thought, I broke down and went to the doctor. He prescribed azithromycin (z-pack), which I took until gone, but the pesky cold wouldn't stay away. Basically, from November 2011 until mid-January 2012, I had some form of cold and/or sinus infection. Even though I had been overweight for much of the past 8 years, I rarely got sick, and if I did it would clear up fairly quickly.
In mid-January 2012, I decided I'd had enough of the job that I was in and went to a different company. My 3 month long cold now gone, I felt rejuvenated, and ready for a fresh start. During this time, I stumbled across some "crazy" people doing Crossfit and eating this weird (and dumb) "Paleo" diet. Really!? Who loses weight and gets healthier by eating fat and getting rid of whole grain!?
After researching the eating habit for a month or so and stumbling across MDA (ask my wife, Mark and I are on a first name basis ;) ), I dove right into the paleo diet and haven't looked back. Unlike my previous bout with getting health (aka - losing weight), I actually felt good this time around. And, FINALLY, I figured out that there is much more to being healthy than that number that pops up on the scale.
Recently, I had my blood work done and I am happy with the results:
Of course there is room for improvement in those results, but I have never previously had HDL above 40 and triglycerides under 200. In 5 months, I've made great strides and feel tremendous doing it!
Now for a few numbers:
Height: 66 inches
Weight: 195 lbs
Waist: 35.25 inches
Height: 66 inches (damn, I still haven't grown!)
Weight: 145 lbs
Waist: 29.5 inches
Although my wife is absolutely sick and tired of me talking about my diet (she's still holding on to bread), she is proud of me for changes I've made. And, yes, I still have people look at me like I have 7 eyes whenever they ask me how I lost weight, "...you eat bacon!?...are you now a caveman!?...I could never give up pastas,etc!...."
While I understand that we're facing an uphill battle in our fight against a terrible American diet, littered with disease, progress is being made.
The hardest part is trying to deflect the constant criticism (mostly well intended) from friends and family. They normally are unable to fathom how eating butter, egg yolks, fats, etc can be beneficial.
What advice (if any) would you give to someone interested in trying a carbohydrate-restricted or paleo diet? Were there any obstacles that you overcame that could help future dieters?
The "diet" has been pretty simple for me. I love eating meat, fruits, and some veggies. If someone is going to start eating primal, then they will have difficulty if they eat out a lot, as there are not a lot of healthy options.