Thursday, December 31, 2009

Impossiblity... is impossible.

It’s that time of year again when many people reflect upon the previous year, wondering what could have been, and contemplate the year ahead, dreaming of what could possibly be. While I’ve never been a huge fan of resolutions (mainly because I’m no good at keeping them), two years ago, I promised myself I would try to make a change that would last a lifetime.

Two years ago, I was a 435-pound man.
And for the last time, I resolved to get healthy.

And while I had tried almost every diet, gimmick and trick out there, I was not thoroughly convinced that surgically wrapping an elastic band around my stomach was going to be the solution to my problems. Why? Well, it wasn’t modern medicine’s fault that I was a morbidly obese. Over the twenty previous years prior, I made a series of bad choices in terms of my eating habits and my inability to manage my emotions. So while I didn’t resolve to go on a diet, or read yet another self-help book in search of the secret to happiness and weight-loss success, I did resolve to do one thing very differently. I made a resolution to hold myself accountable to my own choices.


I chose to live my life differently. Quite simply, I chose to live.

Because 20 months ago, I used to pray at night that I wouldn’t die in my sleep – feeling the weight of 200+ extra pounds, depression, sadness, disappointment, and anxiety pressing down on both my body and my spirit. And I made a deal with myself on April 19, 2008 – that if I woke up the next morning, I would not only choose to make a change, but I would actually do it.

And I haven’t looked back since.

I hired an amazing trainer, and surrounded myself with people who motivated me.

I actually applied everything I had learned from 20+ years of dieting, to fuel my body in healthy and wonderful way.

I learned to enjoy sweating…running, indoor cycling, and kickboxing. I’ll try anything now, and in the process, likely grow to love it.

And most importantly…

I’ve dropped over 200 pounds of body weight -- the old fashioned way

I’ve lost 7.7 feet (yes, feet!) of fat from my body’s girth measurements.

I’ve learned to take control of my life, and forgive myself for the consequences of negative choices.

I learned that the problem with all of my previous resolutions was that they weren’t about making a change in how I think, or how I see myself in the wonderful world around me. They were focused on changing something that existed externally to who I am as a person, in hopes that changing that one condition alone would create an imbalance in my already chaotic life that could prompt much-needed change. I was so intent on blaming so many things around me for why I was so overweight that I had completely lost touch with the fact that I was a grown adult with the capacity to make choices. And more significantly, I was a grown adult with the responsibility to hold himself accountable for his choices. So, it didn't matter how many times I told myself that I was going to change my behaviours -- I still hadn't committed to changing the person that I am.

And that's been the most challenging and compelling part of this journey.

So many people -- fitness experts, health gurus, diet programs -- say that success is about making changes in your eating and exercise behaviours. Now, while I don't totally disagree, what the fitness industry doesn't spend a lot of time telling you is that success hinges most significantly on your ability to critically examine who you are as a person, and decide how you want or need that person to change. Unless you make a conscious choice to examine, understand, and transform the person within, you will never realize success in transforming the person on the outside.

And doing so is a process. A long, long process.

It's a daunting and somewhat frightening prospect when you think about it. But unless you attempt to understand why you make negative choices, which lead to negative behaviours (over-eating, not exercising, over-drinking, etc.) you will never even scratch the surface in truly comprehending where things went wrong in the first place.

Now, I admit that I didn't dive into critical self-examination off the start. The beginning of my journey was indeed about making incremental changes in my behaviours. It was also about learning to make good choices, and about understanding that I don't have to beat myself up over making bad ones. Eventually, I began to question why I was making negative choices in the first place... which led to a desire to more fully understand who I was as a person on the inside. And once I began to understand what makes me tick, what makes me trigger, and what makes me want to ravage a plate of nachos or a large pizza without coming up for air, it got easier and easier to make good choices. It was easier to convince myself to engage in positive, constructive behaviour. And it was extremely liberating to forgive myself for everything I didn't do in the 20 year prior -- the 20 years of resolutions gone bad -- and free myself from the limitations of my own thinking.

It helped me to accept that the idea of impossibility was... well... impossible.

So reflecting back on this amazing year, I consider the fact that I have conquered so many things that I once thought impossible. And I know laugh in the face of any challenge ahead that would have one forced me to retreat into the safety of my own self-doubt and trepidation. As I sit here, 3 hours from the turn of the new year, I realzie that the resolution that mattered the most – the best one I ever made – was about not feeling victimized by my bad choices, but instead understanding that the most powerful thing I have as a person is the power to choose. I can choose to live my life in whatever way I wish. And once I made the choice to eat more healthfully (I still eat burgers!), exercise daily, and forgive myself and others for everything I had been hanging onto for so very very long, I drew more strength and motivation from that choice than I had ever found before.

So, in 2010... I can choose to do many many things.

I've chosen to do a 600km bike ride for charity with some fantastic new friends.

I've chosen to become a certified indoor cycling instructor.

I've chosen to run a half-marathon to celebrate my 37th birthday.

I've chosen to become a certified fitness lifestyle coach.

I've chosen to live life. To it's fullest. With all of its highs and lows. With all of its love and laughter.

That's my choice.

And I'm going to stick by it.

Because I realize now more than ever... that the only way I'm going to make the changes I want is if I choose to do it. No one else is going to make it happen. Except for me. Lots of people to support me... but I have to do the work. ALL of it. And that includes forgiving those who I felt I've needed to forgive... it includes drawing myself closer to people I want to be closer to... and also requires that I let go of everything that has ever held me back before... to create space for new and exciting things.

(Thanks for that one, DP)

May 2010 bring you the same power and inspiration – from your own power to choose.

Kia kaha.
Stay strong.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The only way to never go back...

I've done it once again. Six months ago, I set a goal to lose another 50 pounds in 6 months -- an ambitious goal, yes. But not an impossible one. Why 50 pounds? Because dropping 50 pounds in 6 months would bring me to a very special place -- to a monumental moment in my journey when I would have achieved something that twenty months ago was completely inconceivable -- to lose 200 pounds.

And tonight, I did it.
In fact, I lost 201.6 pounds.
And I've still got three more weeks to go before the 6-month mark.

When I first started training with Sebastien, he told me that this was going to be a 5-year journey -- and the thought of taking five years to lose the weight that I've wanted to get rid of for so long was completely daunting and almost impossible. But as of tonight, I weigh less than I did in high school. I wear a large t-shirt (not a 4XL like I did 20 months ago). And I can do absolutely anything I put my mind to. Again -- it was truly inconceivable. But I made it happen.

I made it happen.

That's what Sebastien reminded me of tonight as we sat in the office at the gym, after a killer workout and realizing that I had once again achieved my goals and conquered my fears. I did it. I did the work. I made the sacrifices. I am responsible for every drop of sweat, every tear, every grunt and every moment when my determination surpassed my doubt and made all of this possible.

I made this happen.
And that's what feels so unbelievably incredible.

You see, when I built up enough courage to seek out the help I so desperately needed, I thought I was beyond help. I was at my rock bottom. I used to pray at night that I would live through the night. And I promised myself one night that if God let me live, that I would take the necessary steps to take control of my own life. But I was fully expecting to find someone who would figure it all out for me. And at the end of the day, one of the biggest challenges was having to figure it all out for myself.

Losing weight is a powerful experience. Facing your fears is scary. Accepting your own truth and your own responsibility for what you do in your life is perhaps the most intimidating thing of all. And a few days ago at the spinning studio, a fellow member asked me what the toughest part of all this has been -- was it the food? The exercise? My response, plain and simply was -- getting up every day believing that I can do this and knowing that I'm the only one who's going to make it happen.

And I did. I made this happen.

As I've learned over the past 20 months, and as I've often written here, so many of us are looking for answers and solutions. We're looking for secrets to success. We're looking for inspiration. We're looking for truth. And once you take the courageous step to cut through all the noise, all the crap and all the fitness propaganda, you quickly realize that everything you're looking for is pretty beautifully packaged in one very special place -- within yourself. Accepting that your soul is the place where your own possibility lies can be very difficult to do, especially when you've got baggage, emotions, and body weight to get through. But over time, at each step along the journey, you can't help but expose yourself to, well, yourself -- and quickly learn that everything you've been looking for has been within you all along.

Sometimes all you need is someone or something to help you figure that out.
And I am fortunate and blessed to have had that chance.

As regular readers of this blog will know, Sebastien my trainer has, and always will have, a very special place in my life. He helped me unlock and open the door to my own potential -- a door I had barricaded with my fears, sadness, anxiety, ego and lack of self-esteem. He helped me find the key, unlock it, and march on through. And it was a slow march at first. Tonight he reminded me that when we started working together, that I could barely last 45 seconds on an elliptical machine before I thought I was going to collapse. Tonight, I nearly broke the damn thing because I was working so hard on it! Twenty months ago, I could barely walk a few kilometres on a treadmill without gasping for air, and dripping in sweat. Tonight, I cranked out a 15-minute run (not a jog... a run) as a warm-up to yet another intense and gratifying workout. My trainer.... my friend... has helped me to realize the limitless possibilities of my own potential, and has uncovered a machine... someone who now wakes each and every day wondering what sort of activity he's going to do. And sometimes it's hard to decide... so I do more than one. But that person didn't exist twenty months ago. Twenty months ago, my own depression wouldn't have even let me get out of bed.

And it's a pretty amazing feeling to look back on that now and realize that...
I made this happen.

Another tremendous source of encouragement has been Andy and the folks at Legacy Indoor Cycling -- my new addiction. The energy I draw from my fellow riders is phenomenal. The level of investment that Andy has shown in my progress over the past few months has been remarkable -- and I believe has helped me push through these final last few pounds and realize a goal that I thought would never ever happen. And if nothing else, the promise of our favourite meal at our favourite greasy hamburger joint was always fantastic motivation... ;) Square Boy Hamburgers, here we come!!!

So now that I've achieved this goal, what's next? People have asked me "When will you be done?" My answer: "Never." This is me for life. Sure, I think from here on in, my focus will be less on weight loss, and more on further developing muscle and training for new and exciting things. My life from here on in will be less about dreaming of being 200 pounds lighter -- but more about imagining the possibilities (and realizing them) of what a 235 pound man can do. A 600km bike ride? Sure! A half-marathon? Definitely. A triathlon... don't underestimate this guy... I'm already figuring out when I'm going to re-learn how to swim!!!

All that said, one of the things I'm going to have to figure out in the months ahead is how to keep all of this momentum going. Yes, I have made many sacrifices, and am surrounded by people in my personal and professional life who afford me tremendous support and flexibility. But at some point, things have to re-balance. And with that need to re-calibrate my priorities and what I spend my time on, comes the occasional glance of doubt, where someone around me, or even myself, will ask... "How long is it going to take for him to put it all back on???"

Right now, I don't think that's ever going to happen. I won't let it happen. I can't let it happen. But I'm human. I'm going to screw up. I'm going to make mistakes. And in the difficult task of re-balancing my life, things may not happen as easily as I wish. However, through it all, I have to remind myself of the fact that the only way to ensure that I never go back, is to keep looking forward. Even at times when what I want seems so very very far away and out of reach, at least I know it's there. Not behind me... in front of me. And with every step, every stride and every pedal stroke, I will always move closer and closer towards a re-imagined and renewed reality for who I am in this world.

And above all else...
I will make it happen.
I've done it already.
I will do it again. And again. And again.

Kia kaha.
Stay strong.

PS. New before and after pics coming soon!!!!