How I Gained and Lost 50lbs

by Dec 29, 2019Health

“I’m never going to do sports in high school”. Those are the exact words I said to my Dad in eighth-grade. I hated sports. I didn’t hate people in sports (many of my friends in high school played football, baseball, or wrestled). I just never had fun with sports. I was always just bad at them. Now did I try super hard? Nope. So did that have a lot to do with it? Signs point to yes. 

Gaining Weight

I swore off sports, and with it, all physical fitness. So much so that I found a way to count my “The Movement in Theater” class as a PE credit. Spoiler, you’re not breaking a sweat whilst learning how to fake a punch (though it is super cool). This attitude continued into college where I was introduced with a new problem, near-unlimited food.

Additionally, I was struggling with some stomach issues and my doctor, at the time, decided that because there are a lot of nerve endings in the stomach and since I’m an anxious person, that a simple anti-depressant could help. How is this relevant? Well if you look up “SSRI side effects” you’ll quickly find “Impact on appetite, leading to weight loss or weight gain“. I’m not blaming the drug, I am the one that decided to eat endless french fries. Regardless, it didn’t help. 

Over the next three years (2014 – 2017) I would gain a little under 50lbs. Honestly, I just didn’t care. I was doing a lot of really cool things in college, but when it came to my health I had pretty much just given up. I had grown content with just being overweight saying to myself “This is all you can ever be, fat and unhealthy”. By around August 2017, I had gotten to my heaviest at 260lbs. I would struggle to breathe up a flight of stairs, couldn’t really run further than a quarter-mile, and still had stomach issues. Something had to change.  

Flywheel employee photo

In August 2017 I would get hired at Flywheel as a Happiness Engineer. I was ecstatic. I loved everything this company stood for and felt like I had truly “won” at life. In September of that year, I would visit a new doctor who suggested I try cutting out sugar, milk, and oats (sequentially). Turns outs I just can’t handle dairy or sugar super well. 🤦‍♂️

I started to ween myself off of the SSRI and while at a company retreat with Flywheel, would forget to take it altogether that week. I was free from this drug and had a new positive outlook on life. But my attitude still hadn’t changed, until I saw my company photo. I looked terrible and for the first time, I realized I didn’t want to be that person anymore.

The Start of Getting Healthy

It’s way easier to gain weight than lose weight. Where would I even start? The gym terrified me, my nutrition knowledge was zero, and without any sports training or knowledge of how to “work out” I was pretty much in shock. I decided that the first thing that had to change was what I ate. My roommate at the time had mentioned the keto diet before but I didn’t pay much attention at the time. But now, I was very intrigued.

Keto ended up being perfect for me, for several reasons. I needed to lose weight fast. I had a little spark of motivation and I knew that if I didn’t see results quickly that flame would die. Further, keto kept me away from most of the foods that were causing problems for me (see french fries). It also was something I could easily focus on, that is, increase fats and decrease carbs. I would do keto for about 5 months, during which time, I’d lose about 20lbs (240lbs). This was super encouraging, but not sustainable (I like french fries).

I would try a few things throughout 2018, but nothing would work. I was able to maintain my weight, which was a huge win. But I wasn’t where I wanted to be and not where I knew I could be. 

Getting Serious

It’s funny how something as small as an offhanded comment can kick off a whole series of events. In November of 2018, I was talking with my Dad in and mentioned that I wanted to start exercising but I didn’t know where to begin. My Dad said, in a casual and somewhat joking manner, “Why don’t you just start walking? Begin at ten minutes, and add a minute per day”.

So I did. I started just walking, exactly as my Dad had said. By the end of December, I was at 30 minutes of just walking. It sounds simple, even pointless, but for me, it was a mindset shift. It got me into a gym and it showed me that I could make incremental improvements to my physical fitness. It also reminded me of a program I had heard about, the Couch To 5k program, which scales people up from, well, the couch, to running a 5k.

I tell people this a lot – go to the gym, and just sit there, and read a magazine, and then go home. And do this every day. Go to the gym, don’t even work out. Just GO. Because the habit of going to the gym is more important than the work out. Because it doesn’t matter what you do.

Terry Crews, Reddit AMA

For the next four months, I’d train for three days a week inside and outside, working towards running a 5k. This was excellent, but it wasn’t quite enough. I still ate pretty poorly, or at least, pretty indiscriminately. Nutrition is hard.

I couldn’t tell you how I found them, but I started (and continue) to work with OnPoint Nutrition. They’re cost-effective, motivating, and have helped shape my eating into a lifestyle I can maintain throughout my life. Working out is important, but if you’re eating poorly it won’t make a difference. I’d never been where I am now without them and without changing my nutrition. 

In April, I ran my first 5k. I had lots of friends supporting me and finished in 33 minutes. I was so happy. It was the first time in my life that I had pushed myself to achieve something I didn’t think was possible! It also felt like the very tip of the iceberg. If I could do this, what else could I accomplish?

Justin and his friends at the end of the 5k
My friends and I at the end of the “Cookie Chase 5k”

While I was motivated, I was also in a period of change. I was getting ready to move apartments and start a new job, two big moves that happened literally within the same week. It was a lot. Health and fitness fell by the wayside. July through September would be some turbulent months, and health just wasn’t the priority.

In October I began to focus on my nutrition again and started to lose again some of the weight gained during the summer. Further, I began to start training for my next 5k, the “Freeze Your Buns Off” in February. Finally, in December, I committed to working with NerdFitness to start strength training. Today, I’m at about 215lbs which is a 45lbs loss

Summary and Future

I included a lot of detail in this post. More than probably most would and to the point of making me a little uncomfortable. I wanted to provide this much detail because I know that there is someone out there that’s just like where I was. I know that someone needs to hear that even this sports-reject, theater-nerd, student-council, tech-boi can defy stereotypes and past-hurt.

If you get nothing else out of this post, just know that you’re worth fighting for yourself. You’re worth every dime you spend to get yourself well. You’re worth every drop of sweat it takes. You’re worth it and no matter the obstacle, you can (and will) overcome it. It won’t be easy, but to have your body in a healthy place comes with so much joy and freedom. 

Justin in 2017 versus 2019
2017 vs 2019, also Bad hair day vs Good hair day

My work isn’t done. Arguably, it’s just beginning. In 2020 I’m hoping to lose around 10% body fat, which is doable, but very hard. I’m still meeting with my nutritionist and am now further emboldened by my physical trainer as well. I’ll be sharing more frequently about my health journey and would love to hear about yours! 

Disclaimer: I talk about SSRI’s earlier in somewhat of a negative light. I want to be clear, if you struggle with depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts, and have been treated with an SSRI, I fully support that. My case is rare and it just wasn’t the right treatment for my symptoms. But it may be the right one for you, and that’s an extremely positive thing.

Please call or chat with someone if you’re struggling with suicidal thoughts or depression: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

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