Originally posted 2015-10-22 17:00:41.
My name is Noble Brown, and I’m a fat guy.
I say this as someone who has lost about 85 pounds and has achieved a modicum of fitness over the last year or so, but at the age of 41, I’m wise enough to understand that you never really stop being vulnerable to your most deadly vices. Recovering alcoholics still call themselves alcoholics, even after years of sobriety. Drug users call themselves addicts, even after being clean for a decade. And so, as one overcoming morbid obesity, I will always identify as a recovering fat guy.
In some ways, I think the smokers and drinkers and junkies have it a little easier. You can quit those things cold turkey, and be rid of the chemical addiction in weeks. And if you tell someone you’ve quit, nobody in their right mind encourages you to cheat a little now and then.
(Yes, I get that the actual act of quitting takes work, and is not easy – stay with me here)
Fitness takes more work in the long run. You don’t get results right away. You have to change everything about your eating and activity, and you have to do it for months before you or anyone else will really notice. And the temptation to fail is not only real, it’s encouraged in polite society. Your own mother will hand you a thousand calories on a plate and screw your diet with absolutely no malicious intent whatsoever.
And that’s the hardest part – the ease with which you can cheat for a meal. A day. A weekend. I had to overcome excuses. Enablers. My own terrible laziness. And this does not make me special. Everyone who is fit has done it, and everyone can do it. It’s not about special pills, or expensive diet programs, or fancy equipment. It comes down to will.
For me, step one was diet. I had a six-pack-a-day Mountain Dew addiction. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s 170 calories and 46 grams of sugar, per can. 1020 calories a day, 276g of sugar, just from the soda I was drinking.
By comparison: Today I stay under 2100 calories and 50g of sugar, total, per day.
The point is, the soda alone was killing me. I did nothing else with my diet or exercise and lost 30 pounds in a month, just by switching to water.
It wasn’t easy; your body becomes addicted to sugar, calories, and caffeine just as it does any other chemical substance, and I was miserable for a good two weeks after stopping cold turkey, but it was worth it. And I knew I had to do more.
So I started tracking calories more closely with an app called MyFitnessPal. And I decided to get some exercise.
Now, my knees are shot. Especially my right knee, which has ligament damage from decades ago that I’ve never had repaired. So I figured I’d go low-impact, and use the elliptical machine I had sitting in my home collecting dust. I got on. Started moving.
The machine groaned.
It felt like I was going to break it.
I read the fine print on the warning label:
I was still well over 250 pounds. I was too fat for the machine.
I’d like to think that was the moment. The moment I decided to stop accepting any more excuses at all, and in my angry indignation over being told I was too fat for a low-impact home fitness machine, I did the last thing I wanted to do:
I started running.
I was terrible at it. I’d shuffle along for about 30 yards, and then have to walk another 50, before trying to jog a few more. But I made myself go at least a mile each time. It took a while. My knees, hip, ankles, and back always hurt afterward. But after two months, I could run a 5k uninterrupted. Now, a year later, I can go 6 miles before I really start to feel it.
I’m still slow. A good pace for me is about 11 minutes a mile. But I can call myself a runner, and that’s not something I ever thought would happen.
When the summer months rolled around, I faced a new problem, living in the state of Arizona:
It was just too hot to run outside.
I didn’t want to quit. And I didn’t want to get on the elliptical machine that had scorned me once before (even though I was now light enough for it to accept me). I had been reading all sorts of running magazines on the value of adding strength training to running, and as a middle-aged man, lifting heavy weights is also a good way to prevent muscle loss, keep up bone density, and stave off low testosterone.
So I started lifting.
I found a simple program called Stronglifts 5×5 (I’ll write more on this later), and embraced it. I spent all summer lifting weights in my garage or the gym at my office.
I’ve seen results. I’ve hit plateaus. I’ve found ways to tweak my diet and routine to overcome them. I’ve gone from obese sloth to almost skinny gym rat in a year, and it’s improved my health and energy levels immensely.
So now I want to share. Not because I’m done – because I’m far from done – but because I’ve come far enough to know what it takes to get started and stay committed. I had a lot of help along the way, and giving a little back will not only pay it forward, it’ll keep me accountable.
So, if you’ve been thinking about starting a diet and fitness program, or are already on one, and want to share ideas, please get in touch. I want to help, I want to keep learning, and I want us all to keep improving.
You can reach me on Twitter at @NobleMighty