I think any post about health, weight, diets, food plans and the like needs to be prefaced with history and experience.  How can you listen to someone speak about dieting if they’ve never had to diet?  Sure, they may be experts in nutrition and know the most perfect food plan to a healthy body.  They may literally be THE MESSIAH OF FOOD when it comes to eating right. But if they haven’t walked a mile in my fat shoes, then I have a hard time listening to everything they say.  Jimmy Hendrix asked “Are You Experienced?”, and so do I.

I was never, and never will be, skinny or thin. Well, I was thin once for a few years, but more on that shortly. I clearly remember being 8 years old, and my parents taking me to Macy’s in Brooklyn for a new winter parka. I was standing in the kids section, looking up at the big sign that said HUSKY.  That wasn’t a brand, it was a category. I was husky. Gee, thanks for that label.  Why not just say “Fat Bastards” or something. I also clearly remember the thin kids teasing me saying “Fat Matt The Water Rat” in grade school.  I’d chase them and they’d run knowing I’d never catch up to them. Dumb kids never realized they’d have to slow down in school eventually. I got even. I digress.

I grew up in a typical dysfunctional family. I don’t think there’s more than 2 or 3 of us that aren’t overweight. We were much like every other family, overcooking for holidays, over serving for meals, overeating for no good reason. Food was comfort. Hurt yourself, have a treat to make the tears go away. Failed a test, have a lasagna. You get the idea.

My best friend from age 7 through 18, and even to this ripe age of 38, was Craig. Craig came from a sports oriented, thin, fit family. He tried his hardest to get me moving, and was often successful. We played ball all the time. We rode our bikes everywhere, too. If only he would have wired my jaw shut, I’d have been as thin and fit as him. I was eating Suzy-Q’s for breakfast as we walked to school, and it was gastronomically down-hill from there.  While I was, luckily, not morbidly obese, I was always heavy and overweight. I did manage to shed some tonnage and was around 200 lbs through most of college.  Looking back now, that wasn’t a bad weight for me, given I’m 6′ tall. I’d be grateful to be back at 200 now!

A pause for my readers. Some of you may be heavy. Some of you may indeed be morbidly obese. I recognize that my high may be half of your low in terms of weight. I am not trying to put anyone off, make anyone feel out of place, or feel bad. I’m merely sharing my experience, strength and hope. More on THAT later. If you are heavy, I am just like you. I may be lighter or heavier than you. But only a number separates us. Nothing else. Please, keep reading.

I came back from college and was a hefty 240 or so.  At the time that was my top weight, and I was miserable. A family member had joined Overeaters Anonymous and was
Matt @ 165 lbs
 successfully losing weight and keeping it off. OA, and other a 12 step program, wasn’t foreign to me. Another family member had been in AA for 4 years. I understood the premise and value to a 12-step program. I had decided that I too would join OA. I stayed in the program for a few years. I successfully lost 80 lbs, getting down to about 162 lbs. That was when I was skinny. It was short lived, maybe a year or so total.

I learned a lot in OA. I learned the triggers that caused me to eat. I learned how to get help and refocus before I ate. I learned that specific events caused me to seek comfort in food. Those events were being happy, being sad, being angry, being stressed. Through OA I learned that I could listen and lean on other’s experience, strength, and hope. People in OA would share their stories, both of being in “recovery” and before, which would help me deal with my own life issues and weight. The lessons I’ve learned in OA have stuck with me, and even 17 years later I refer to them now-and-again. I may have a new high weight, but I haven’t forgotten what I learned.

Over the ensuing 9 years I slowly crept up to a top weight of 280 lbs. I can’t imagine getting 
Matt @ 280lbs w/ The J
any bigger than that. Not that I COULDN’T get any bigger, but looking at the photos, and thinking about howI feel now, I can’t imagine being bigger. Perhaps the lessons I learned in OA kept me from going further. Perhaps Divine Intervention. Doesn’t matter, I am grateful for that. I can’t, and won’t, blame any one thing for my weight gain.  

In Q3 2004 I started getting thin again. I quickly lost 80 pounds using Weight Watchers Point plan. I liked the flexibility of the plan, which allowed me to eat healthy while still having ice cream each night if Matt @ 200lbs w/ Robin 5/05I wanted. In addition to the very structured food plan, I was exercising 90 minutes a day 6 days a week. I do not believe I could have lost 80 pounds in about 5 months on the plan alone. I worked out pretty hard to get those results. I don’t specifically endorse the food plan, and think that each person needs to consult their doctor before starting any food plan and exercise plan.  Again, just MY experience, nothing more.  

I had started a new chapter in my life in 2005, recently divorced and meeting Robin and then moving in with her. I continued my workout through most of 2005, and eating healthy as well. Unfortunately, demands of work and life began to take a toll, and I soon stopped exercising completely. I also began eating poorly as a result of those demands. For the next 2 years I slowly crept up from 202 lbs to 262. Robin, madly in love with me, always told me I was cute, sexy and she didn’t mind. However, I began to mind, and in April 08 I started Weight Watchers again.

Matt @ 262

With just the food plan I lost about 17 pounds in 6 weeks. I was feeling good, wearing almost a full size smaller clothes. The food plan was just as manageable as it was when I started in 2004. I unfortunately found 7 of those pounds during my 2 week lake house vacation. I could have followed the plan had I wanted to. Self Will Run Riot! .  

So where does that leave me right now? As I write this, I am on my fourth straight day of 60+ minute workouts. I went right back to my food plan the day I returned from vacation. The scale hasn’t moved a notch since Sunday, but that doesn’t matter. Physically I feel better, and mentally too. I am intent on continuing this lifestyle.  That is how I will leave you. Continuing this lifestyle. It’s not a diet. Diets don’t work. Changing your mindset and your lifestyle does. 

One last thing. That stuff I opened this post with about not listening to people who don’t have “fat experience”. Please note I said I have a hard time listening to EVERYTHING they say.  I am not foolish enough to think for a second that professionals and hobbyist alike with knowledge of both healthy eating and fitness can’t help me on my path. I refer to them constantly. Even if they are simply sending a twitter tweet to me encouraging my workout, or giving me a healthy eating tip, I still listen to MOST of what they say

Take a second and share your experience, strength and hope below. Leave a comment and let me know this voice in my head was heard!

 



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This entry was posted on Thursday, June 26th, 2008 at 9:15 am and is filed under Health, Life Lesson. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

17 Comments so far


  1. Heidi @ Carolina Dreamz on June 26, 2008 9:26 am

    WTG in the mindset of this. I agree that its easier to listen to those who know fat, personally.

    The JC tv commercials talk about “size right” (not sure their exact lingo) and not categories that we can’t relate to.. I think they are on to something..

    Great post. Way to be brave!

    I hear the voices in your head.

    Hugz,
    Heidi

  2. Melissa on June 26, 2008 10:01 am

    Great post!

    As someone who has traversed the sea of obesity what you’ve written has rung true in so many ways. It’s great to see that you’re looking back at your path and incorporating what’s worked into your present.

    Bravo! :)

  3. girlymom on June 26, 2008 10:43 am

    I so hear you, Matt. My number may seem small to some people but it causes me great distress everyday. I blame a lot of my weight problems on 3 pregnancies, no time to exercise b/c of the kids, and the fact that I’m short (petite sounds better but implies I’m little all over; I am not).

    It finally hit me that I was fat when I saw a picture of myself several years ago in Jamaica. That picture is forever ingrained in my head. It motivates me to put back the chocolate or push a little harder when exercising. I don’t want to see Jamaica Connie again.

    I’ve lost the weight slowly (it has taken several years to lose a few dress sizes). I’ve never dieted b/c I don’t have the willpower to stay away from certain foods. So I exercise as often as I can (an hour some days, 30 minutes other days). And I’ve tried to cut back on (but never eliminate) the unhealthy stuff and watch my portions.

    I get really discouraged sometimes because I don’t see more progress. I’m definitely thinner now, but I’m not where I want to be. It has been a long, frustrating battle.

    I criticize myself too much about my looks. My husband, like Robin, says my weight isn’t a problem. I’m thankful for that. But I feel better about myself and I feel like I’m doing something for him if I try to look my best. I still have a little more poundage to drop and a few more muscles to tone. But I’m in it for the long haul.

    I wish you only the best on this project. You’ve proven you have the willpower so I know you’ll be successful. That just seems like who you are. Best of luck!

  4. Tattooed Mommie on June 26, 2008 11:26 am

    WTG! I have friends who are overweight and when I mention that I’m starting to count my calories and trying to work out again, they laugh and say I don’t need to lose weight, but for me, I do.
    I don’t do diets.. let me say that again.. I TOTALLY don’t do diets. I tried Atkins once and my husband told me to get off of it before we got a divorce.
    I’m very ironic that you posted this today as today I signed back up on http://www.sparkpeople.com which is how I lost my weight 2 years ago. I love the site, it’s free and it gives me absolutely all the tools one needs to make a lifestyle change and to stick with it.

    Maybe it will help someone else too!

  5. Vicky H on June 26, 2008 12:55 pm

    I am SO PROUD OF YOU! :-)

    I hope that all of us just keep moving forward, falling off the wagon, picking ourselves up and moving forward.

    Life’s too short.

    I know it’s cliche’, but it’s true. I am *trying* to not worry about yesterday, but concentrate on today & look forward to tomorrow.

    You can @eeUS anytime you need to talk, need encouragement, feel like crap, or just want to babble.

    Keep up the good work!

    Vicky H

  6. Lisa Molson on June 26, 2008 12:57 pm

    I was pretty much skinny all me life, however, post children things changed. No longer could I eat whatever I wanted, and for the very first time in my life I had to diet to lose a few pounds. The kicker was I have an identical twin sister who NEVER had this problem, and she would constantly barrage me with advice. Drove me crazy because just like you, I found I couldn’t relate to her 100% (for the first time in my life).

    Anyhow, WTG and I agree it’s all about a lifestyle change.

  7. k.d. on June 26, 2008 1:09 pm

    err, i don’t know *anything* about diets & stuff… so i better don’t comment on that.

    thanks for sharing all these pics – all i have to say is that i’m as hairy as you. LOL!

    next time i’m in florida i have to meet you – and mr. hall. for sure. =)

  8. Anna on June 26, 2008 2:04 pm

    I hear you, Matt. I have always struggled with body image, not so much weight, but many of the things you talked about rang true to me. In middle school I was very chubby, and I remember getting teased. You are 100% correct – happiness and being healthy is a mindset, and diets do not work. Now I eat what I want (watching portions, of course) and I exercise almost every day. I feel happy and comfortable in my skin, and I wish you the best of luck in your pursuit of a more healthy lifestyle. :)

  9. Graziella on June 26, 2008 5:39 pm

    I enjoyed this post, and although I understand where you are coming from,I do disagree with you a bit. For us professionals who have studied about nutrition and fitness, there is something to be said for an educational background…it has history in itself, which is why the material is taught. I have never personally been “fat,” but somewhat larger than I had liked to be on my 5′3″ frame weighing 130 lbs. The minor experience with losing about 11 lbs did give me some great insight as to how difficult it may be to lose more, and I did have quite the hard time losing that 11. Weight is relative to each individual, and each of us has a unique body chemistry. With that, I encourage everyone to work with a fitness/nutrition specialist but always listen to your own body and use your intuition.

  10. Bex on June 26, 2008 7:42 pm

    Thanks for sharing your story. It is so much like mine! My family was all about food and loafing. I didn’t play sports and I remember thinking that my thighs were fat when I was in elementary school.

    I yo-yo’d big time through my 20’s and most of my 30’s. I was 230 lbs. when I started losing for the last time. I finally got my head in the right place. Two realizations that I made were crucial. A number on the scale, I size of clothes or being “skinny” doesn’t make one a different person. Also, I stopped thinking like a child. I had to get over that it wasn’t fair. It’s not fair that I gain weight easily and have “fat” genes BUT it’s my truth.

    I HAVE to exercise and eat right. And I do. I love to help people do the same. I’m a personal trainer now.

    Keep up the good work Matt!

  11. Jason Falls on June 26, 2008 9:09 pm

    Dude, we are so much alike it’s scary! Thank you for sharing the story and revealing so much. That takes guts (and boy do we have plenty of those … heh).

    I’m sitting at about 275 now. Down from 283 for an all-time high recently. My Twit2Fit thing started as a fluke but has inspired others, which has inspired me. Sometimes it takes the strangest things to keep us on track. And sometimes the strangest things knock us off.

    Let’s just agree to keep trying every day. That’s all we can do. I just keep looking at my children and thinking, “I can’t not see them grow up.” That’s a pretty strong motivation, if I do say so myself.

    You’re awesome, dude. Thanks for sharing this.

  12. Gabriella on June 27, 2008 12:02 am

    Craig,

    I like your post because its honest and sincere, which is incredible, but I don’t know if it addresses the core of the issue. There has much talk among European wine bloggers as to why there has been a perceived increase in alcoholism and binge drinking as of late. And although there hasn’t been any one consensus, there has been an interesting push towards moving away from useless “no drinking” campaigns to more holistic approaches of teaching choice and consequence.

    Whenever we’re not taking “care” of ourselves emotionally (primarily), mentally, physically and the rarely spoken, psychically, addiction will follow. We all have this addiction whether it be to self-pity, fear, anger, etc, which then translates overeating, not eating, devotion to work, to wine, to Twittering, etc. By finding the root of the cause, of the choice, and facing it, slowly, you can begin experiencing positive consequences for embracing different choices. We can take your 4th day of feeling fabulous after exercising as an example.

    Over-eating is just one way, of many, that we use to fill the emotional hole. Therefore, maybe its not dieting we should be focused on, but how we can listen to our gut, our hearts, to not only make balanced choices, but heart filling choices.

    Just a thought

  13. Mark Salinas on June 27, 2008 9:19 am

    I like your site…great story!

  14. susanna on June 28, 2008 5:41 am

    I would think some people have a stronger addictive behavior within them. I come from a thin, bland food, inactive family. Non drinking mom, social drinking dad only in the last 20 yrs. My siblings and I do drink alcohol, in moderation here and there. Food intake goes in rages as far as choices.

    Got to wonder to some extent if overweight in some comes easier for some than others?

    I see most of my clients struggle with overweight and then I have 2 women trying to gain weight. Both are equally hard.

    One move would be to adopt a different rewards system, or comforting system. Manicure or new outfit works for some lady clients, but may not for men…..

    So many factors to consider, no easy cookie cutter solution.

  15. Scott Tousignant on June 29, 2008 8:26 am

    I love it when I see people lay it all out there. There are many lessons that we can learn from your challenges and successes and I truly thank you for sharing your ups and downs. I believe that by opening up, it will increase your chances for success.

    You are right on the money when you say that changing your mindset is a key to fat loss success. Mindset and motivation is my area of expertise and it has been proven time and time again with my clients as well as myself that when you develop a powerful mindset, your chances of succeeding greatly increase.

    I’ve got a great free audio that you can listen to on mindset and fat loss at…

    http://www.UnstoppableFatLoss.com/motivation.php

    I would love to hear your feedback on it and if it helps you along your journey.

    I do disagree when you say that diets don’t work. Actually Diets really do work. It’s the people that don’t work the diet.

    Once again it all comes down to mindset when you go on a ‘diet’. Most people have the mindset that they will fail on the diet before they even start.

    Others will consider the diet a failure if they have one bad night of eating and then throw in the towel.

    It’s striving for perfection that doesn’t work, not the diet.

    No diet is meant to be followed for life. If you can eat a certain way for life, you won’t lose weight on it.

    I totally hear what you are saying when it comes to learning from people who haven’t been fat before.

    I’ve been lean and athletic most of my life. I’m very educated in health, fitness, the mechanics, physiology, and the psychology of the human body. My education and experiences of helping others burn fat and get into great shape have always been great assets to help others get into great shape.

    But it wasn’t until I opened a gym, worked 16 hour days, became stressed and depressed and put on 35 pounds that I truly realized what my clients were going through.

    Yes even fitness professionals can get fat. We’re not genetic freaks.

    You can see my before and after pictures here…

    http://unstoppablefatloss.com/blog/fat-loss-photo/

    You are doing one thing here which ties into mindset… you made your goals and intentions public.

    Public accountability is huge. And with you talking about your workouts and nutrition on Twitter, it adds another element of accountability.

    Not to mention social support. We’re all rooting you on now. We want to see you succeed. You can count on me checking in on you and giving you a pep talk when needed, or simply congratulating you on all your efforts.

    It’s great to see you focusing on your #1 asset… your health.

    Keep up the great work!

    Scott Tousignant
    http://www.UnstoppableFatLoss.com

  16. Sean on July 16, 2008 11:02 am

    Wow! I wasn’t the only kid shopping for Huskies! In retrospect, they could have had a better name, one that wouldn’t stick with kids forever. Hell, maybe ‘athletic fit’ would have worked!
    Damn, you could have wrote my bio with that post. And from reading the comments, there’s more people than you would think that are/were in the same boat.
    I catch myself trying not to become the hyper vigilant nazi food-Dad when my kids make their food choices. I want the kids “to be kids” but I never want my son or daughter to go through the same issues (if I can help it).
    Worse than being fat as a kid was being fat with asthma and being allergic to grass/pollen. Fat and can’t breathe sucks!
    Anyway, looks like we’re in the same boat now!
    Weight is under control –as long as I do cardio every damn day! But being healthier and thinner makes it all worthwhile.

    Oh well, off to the gym…

  17. Zameer on August 6, 2008 6:40 pm

    Hi, Thanks so much for sharing your story. I’ve struggled with my weight so much. Its been an up and down roller coaster. Coming out of high school I was probably around then toward then end of college I was back down to 200 and then after a few years of tough life events I ballooned to 320. I have a friend like Craig – but the struggle has been intense. I’m now at 295 trying every day to get things under control and get my health on track. Tougher than people realize, which is why our post was motivating. Thanks.

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      Spawned out of my love for Twitter and talk, I've decided to create a blog. This is the chance to allow the voices in my head to speak. I have thoughts on wine, music, cigars, life, death, work, and everything in between. Here is where I'll share those with you.

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