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The New Me

I’ve lost a lot of weight, rapidly, this year. On Tuesday, September 6, I weighed in at 185 pounds. On Saturday, March 5, I weighed 240 pounds. So a loss of 55 pounds in six months. My goal, which I set in March, was to lose 2 pounds a week for six months, and I’ve managed to do it, averaging 2.1 pounds or so over this period.

I’m aware that this is a rapid weight loss, and some of the articles I’ve been reading, such as this rather depressing one from the New York Times, says that rapid weight loss is often followed by rapid weight gain. So that’s a risk, I guess, but I wanted to lose it quickly, because it would have been psychologically much harder for me to remove it slowly.

I didn’t just lose weight, I addressed a whole slew of health issues, but the weight loss is the most obvious thing. I exercise frequently now, and in general spend a lot more time thinking about, and trying to understand how my body works. This may seem like a perfectly sensible thing to you, but it is an astoundingly new thing for me, having spent most of my life trying to pretend my body doesn’t exist. Here’s a picture from July of 2015, when I was attending a math conference, and here’s a picture from a month ago, when I was in Santa Barbara, approximately a year later. My waist size has shrunk by 8 inches since February, although I still wear the same awesome socks.

Before and After photos

Photos of me taken about a year apart – late July 2015 to early August 2016.

So you may be wondering how I managed to do it, and I’m going to tell you how, over the next few blog posts. I haven’t blogged in a while, so I thought this might be a good topic to chat about for a while. I don’t think I have anything startlingly new to contribute to the topic, but I gotta tell *somebody* :)

I can, and definitely will, tell you precisely what I did. What I can’t easily do is tell you why I did it. Why, after it seeming like an impossible, or at least massively unpleasant task, I suddenly undertook this course correction. I’m not sure. There was no specific trigger. I just suddenly had a strong desire to fix things, and I found that once I started, it wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it was going to be. I knew, logically, that I could make a lot of progress in six months, and suddenly, six months didn’t seem like a lot of time.

I can tell you how I felt before I started. So let’s start with that.

I felt old. I felt tired. I felt invisible. When I looked in the mirror, I felt fat (I still do sometimes, even though I’m not). At times, I felt like my life was nearly over, and that I was wasting space on this planet. I knew that my paternal grandfather died at 50, and I was 53, and I figured my time was just about up. I thought maybe I had another ten years in me, and then I would probably die of a heart attack.

I felt that when young people looked at me, they looked right through me — that I was invisible. I still sometimes feel that way — its an age thing, but I definitely feel more attractive. It’s certainly debatable whether I *am* more attractive, but my self confidence is definitely higher now.

I felt sick. I had a chronic cough that had started as a seasonal thing 2005, and which no amount of asthma meds, antacids or caffeine reductions could cure. I limped on my left foot. I had frequent back issues. I felt frequently dizzy when I stood up. I got leg and foot cramps a lot. I snored. I had heart palpitations and was taking medications for high blood pressure and acid reflux.

There were certain clothes I didn’t look good in, and didn’t wear. I wore a lot of aloha and cuban shirts, and a lot of relaxed fit pants.

I had essentially no control over my eating. When I was at parties with a buffet, it was a huge struggle not to constantly pick at it, even though I felt like I was making a public pig out of myself. I constantly ordered Big Macs from McDonalds, even though I knew they packed a huge caloric wallop. It was a struggle not to get chocolate shakes at In’n’Out. I could polish off a half-gallon of ice cream in one sitting. I would often skip breakfast, and then have fairly massive lunches and dinners. I often snacked well into the late evening hours.

And the thought of reducing my eating was torture. I remembered being on Weight Watchers when I was approaching my 40s, the last time I lost a significant amount of weight. I remembered eating a lot of carrots, celery and tasteless high-fiber bread. I remembered how boring the food was, and how, over time, I grew sick of it. So when I reached my target weight, and it was time to “maintain”, it was super-easy to start sneaking in a few better tasting higher calories items, which gradually became a torrent, and then a few years later, I was back to my original weight, if not higher.

Even harder than the thought of reducing my calories was the thought of significantly increasing my exercise. I had managed to spend my entire adult life without setting foot in a gym. I grew up as a nerd, hating sports and associated it with the bullies who had tormented me in elementary school. The only exercise I got were walks and hikes, but I didn’t do this too often.

Now, all this might make you think I was unhappy. But I wasn’t. Because I didn’t let myself think about it. I spent huge amounts of time sitting in front of a computer, barely conscious of my physical body. The few times each day I passed a mirror, I was depressed by what I saw for an instant, so I would push it out of my mind. My intellectual life was a reprieve from the physical world, which held little interest for me.

I spent hours immersed in logic puzzles, computer chess, computer music and other intellectual activities. I loved this time; it was precious to me; and I was afraid that if I started exercising a lot, I would lose this time, there wouldn’t be enough time to do this stuff, and I would lose an essential part of myself.

But early this year, something changed.

Next: The Change

One Response to “The New Me”

  1. Kenny M. Says:

    Great job JIm.. I look forward to reading more about your journey to a healthier you.